Published: March 30, 2020

Since the emergence of online education programs decades ago and with their continued popularity and expansion in the years following, one audience, in particular, has taken advantage of the value delivered by online learning—working professionals.

But even with the clear benefits of convenience, flexibility and the possibility of bolstering credentials without having to put a career on hold, there are still a number of misperceptions when it comes to online education, especially at the graduate degree level.

What is it Like to Attend an Online Engineering Master’s Program?

Among the biggest myths regarding online degree programs is that it’s a lonely, isolating experience that culminates in a degree that isn’t as respected in the eyes of employers as one earned through a more traditional, on-campus format.

However, that’s far from the experience of students in CU Boulder’s Lockheed Martin Engineering Management Program (EMP).

“I found that all of my online classes at CU Boulder provided ample opportunity for me to engage and interact with my professors and classmates,” says Bob Burns, Vice President of Patriot Machine and graduate of CU Boulder’s online engineering management master’s Program.Bob Burns

Technology has erased many communications barriers, and that’s no less true of online education. The “virtual” classroom isn’t much different from the on-campus one. EMP students interact with one another and with faculty through group projects and assignments, discussions during classes streamed live, and in online forums and discussion boards. Additionally, students not able to attend a class through live video can watch a recording of the class at a time convenient for them. This option is also available to students who attend the class live and simply want to revisit the material to strengthen their knowledge and understanding.

That’s one misperception erased. What about quality?

Is There a Difference in Quality Between an On-Site and an Online Engineering Management Master’s Program?

While Burns is a graduate of CU Boulder’s EMP offering, he also employs students who have gone through the Program, so he can speak to its quality from the perspective of both student and employer.

“I don’t believe all online programs are the same nor do I believe all on-campus programs are the same,” Burns says. “However based on my 40+ years of continuing education experience, I would rank the Lockheed Martin Engineering Management Program as the best of the best. I would hold in high regard anyone with a degree from this Program.”

The structure, curriculum and course material in the online engineering management master’s Program intentionally mirror that of the on-site offerings, says Kendra Thibeault, EMP advisor at CU Boulder.

“Since we operate as a hybrid model, with both in-class and distance students meeting together, the instruction and curriculum are the same,” Thibeault says. “The instructors do adapt some of the assignments or participation to be slightly different for each group of students. For example, it would not be fair to assess an in-class student’s participation in the same way as a distance student who was viewing lectures after the class and not able to participate during the class session. The instructor may have those students post something to a discussion board instead.”

Do Employers Respect Engineering Management Online Degrees as Much as Degrees Earned On-Campus?

The top priority for most students enrolling in online degree programs is using the experience, knowledge and academic credentials they achieve to advance their careers. So the question of how employers regard a degree earned online in comparison to one earned through a full-time, on-campus experience is a critical one—students look for ROI from their educational commitment.

“The degree is the same whether a student completes on campus or online and it appears the same on their transcripts,” Thibeault says. “So unless the employer is specifically aware that a student completed the degree online, they would not know from the transcript. Students that graduate from our degree Program have the same knowledge and opportunities for growth and promotion—whether they complete the degree on-campus or online.”

Convenience + Quality. What About Career Impact?

The proof of the quality of the degree is, of course, in the outcomes. “We have received very positive feedback from our students and hear about how our Program enabled them to get a better job or promotion,” Thibeault says. “Even just being able to participate or understand more of what is happening within their company helps them grow in their position and eventually move upward. We receive many alumni referrals, which says a lot about our Program and the pride our students have in their degree.”

As an alum, and as an employer of students who have worked their way through the engineering management online Program at CU Boulder, Burns has seen firsthand how it can empower the career of engineers and technical professionals.

“All things equal, I rate highly any graduate of CU Boulder’s online Program who has a good GPA,” Burns says. “Their Program is truly amazing and I would highly recommend it to anyone who wants to advance their education and broaden their horizons.”

EMP at CU Boulder: A Proven Leader in Online Graduate Education

If you would like to learn more about CU Boulder’s EMP options, you can speak with an advisor or request more information. Visit the CU Boulder EMP website or contact: or call 303.492.0954.