Master Your Master: How to Complete an Online Engineering Degree while Working
Engineering degrees can help you take your career to the next level, regardless of whether you look into specializing your skills further or are looking to branch your skills across to prepare yourself for an entirely new set of roles. While not every degree can or should be completed online, the recent surge in investment and innovation into online education has opened many new doors for those looking to make a significant change to their career.
Engineering is a prime example of how you can transition from specialist roles into leadership or business ownership with the right degree. As a specialist, you will have plenty of unique, important skills and still find those are not enough to move forward into managerial or other leadership roles.
An online management degree, particularly in management or business, can help bridge your knowledge and skills so that you have what it takes to really take your career by the horns.
Online degrees don’t always allow you to work while studying, but when they do, they offer exceptional benefits and the ability to make significant steps forward with your career. In order to have it all, however, you need to master your master. This guide will help you choose the best master for your goals and help you juggle your career with your degree to get more out of both.
Why Choose an Online Degree?
Online degrees have not been the go-to option for those looking to further their career until very recently, and for a good reason. Until recently, online degrees were notorious for a rather poor infrastructure. When it came to the quality of your education in the past, you were almost always better off taking time off or going to a good night school option.
Of course, taking time off is not often an option or a great idea for your career. Similarly, you don’t want to be restricted by what night school opportunities are near you.
You want the best degree available for your goals, at its most flexible. Thankfully, that online degree has come a long way, thanks to massive investments. The entire world went into lockdown, and millions of university students around the world needed a better online approach to education.
What this means for everyone now is that online education has never been better, nor has it been so attractive for working professionals. Though not every distanced degree is meant to be completed part-time and around your career, most today are.
This means you can achieve your goals on your schedule, both professionally and academically. When you work in a thriving and often fast-paced field like engineering, you want to be available for all the opportunities that come your way.
How to Choose the Right Master’s Degree?
There are multiple online engineering degrees, and you’ll want to apply to a few to increase your chances of being accepted. This doesn’t mean you can’t have a top choice, but it does mean keeping your options open so that you can guarantee a greater chance of being accepted.
When it comes to narrowing down your list of top programs, you will want to start by checking that the course in question ticks the following boxes.
Suits Your Situation
Online degrees are a great way to juggle your career with your degree, but only when they are designed for it. Check in advance, and if in doubt, always ask the admissions advisor directly to ensure that it suits your academic and career goals.
Accreditation isn’t always important, but many top business and management schools are accredited, so looking for accreditation is simply an easy quality-check method that you can use when creating your shortlist. The best schools will even be triple-accredited.
Covers the Content You Need
Having a great idea of what you want out of your career and what skills you will need to get there can vastly improve your program selection process. If you don’t know what skills you will need, look to the job boards. Find the roles that interest you and take note of the experience and skills that they are looking for. Make a list of what you need to learn and get experience with, and use that when comparing the courses in a program, as well as outcome goals.
Don’t be afraid to get in touch with that admissions advisor, either. By going over what you want out of your degree, you can better understand the pros and cons of the course – and whether another option would be a better fit.
Allows You to Customize Your Degree
It would be best if you always had some choice when it comes to a degree. Knowing what area you want to focus on and that you can customize your degree to build up those specific skills is a very important trait for any quality program to have.
For example, every top MEM Master of Engineering Management program should cover essentials like engineering management, accounting and finance, management and leadership, and project management. To get the most out of your MEM, however, you will also want to be able to focus on a particular area, like data analytics or operations management, depending on your own specific career goals.
You don’t even need to know for sure what specialization you want to focus on, either. There are departments and advisors available to help you choose the best options based on your individual goals, so you can go for the most strategic approach and get the most out of your degree.
Quality Check Tests
There are so many different ways that you can test the quality of the degrees you are looking at. Start first by looking at the faculty and their own resumes and qualifications. More often than not, those who will be educating you will have a similar career path to your own. Many go into teaching later on in their career, especially in engineering, so you will have professionals that have excellent credentials leading you towards the next phase of your career.
You should also look for recent graduates. This can easily be done on job and professional sites like LinkedIn. Simply search for the department and school you are considering, and then find those who have recently graduated to send them a message. You aren’t guaranteed a response, but you’ll find many recent graduates will be happy to answer a few questions about their experience and what they liked and didn’t like about their degree.
Not only is this a good way to create your list of top options, but it is also how you can get insider knowledge about the degree and how to get the most out of it.
How to Complete an Engineering Degree while Working
Engineering is a highly competitive career choice, and on top of a heavy workflow taking on a degree can seem impossible. While you will need to adjust your career schedule if you physically cannot take on a degree, there are many ways to cut corners and improve your ability to successfully take on a degree while working full time.
Yes, online education has made it possible, but online education can only go so far. In order to see a big difference in your efforts, you will also want to get started on these tips:
If you want to learn while committing yourself to a very challenging career like engineering, which requires a fair bit of creative problem solving and technical experience, then you need to be on the top of your game. From getting consistent, deep nights of rest to eating healthier, there are plenty of ways to feel more alert and to get your body to work with you instead of against you.
Big health changes can be stressful. If you don’t eat well and switch to a healthier diet you will likely experience withdrawals that can range from cravings to energy crashes. Over time you’ll start to feel the difference, but it’s always better to get started earlier than later.
Not only will your body need time to adjust to a new health routine, but you will also need to figure out what works for you and what doesn’t. The ultimate goal is to feel energized and productive throughout the day.
Break Up Your Day
When it comes to actually managing your degree and your career, consider breaking it all up. This works particularly well if you have a bit of flexibility in your hours. By breaking up your goals and tasks, you can make steady progress on both ends.
How you break up your day between your responsibilities will ultimately depend on your time management and your job. If you work nine to five, then you can start your day by listening to a lecture or a talk. If you take public transport to work, you can use that time to do some of the readings. After work, you can spend an hour or two on your degree and then have dinner. After dinner, you can finish up your day by writing notes.
Breaking up your day like this makes every task less daunting. It also helps you manage your energy and your motivation. It’s easier to stay focussed on reading one article or one chapter than it is to try to speed through an entire section or do multiple readings in one session.
Always avoid large chunks of commitments. Not only can these be stressful, especially if you try to play catch-up later on, but it’s also harder to actually absorb the information that you learn this way. Breaking up your efforts makes it easier and your efforts more effective.
Staying motivated and productive throughout your day, every day is something that everyone typically finds challenging. Taking productive breaks is a great way to avoid fatigue and stay motivated day after day.
However, just stopping work and sitting on your phone does not help. You need a productive break.
Instead of staying at your desk, get up and walk around. Have a snack, drink water, stretch. If you have time to do something else during your break, try to do something that engages different areas of your brain. If you were working on something analytical and technical, focus on something creative. If you were reading, do something physical.
Engaging a different part of the brain during your break can help reduce mental fatigue and help you feel more rested than sitting and doing nothing but staring at a screen, especially if you tend to veer towards social media and its endless content.
Know the Tools Available to You
Every university has tools that extend beyond the curriculum. You should have a student success advisor, access to your department, access to a careers service, and more. Know what tools there are available and use them as much as you can. This is how you get the most value out of your degree.
Use Your Peers
One of the downsides to remote and online education in the past was a lack of access to your peers. Other students can help you learn, are a great place to vent your frustrations and struggles, and who you can turn to when you need to band together to solve a problem with your degree.
Get in touch with them and see how you can even split up the work and readings. Share your notes, and generally stay in touch so that you have a support group that knows exactly what you are going through and the challenges that you face.
Put What You Use to Work
Reaffirming what you learn at work is great for your career and also for your degree. Most online degrees with a strong career focus (as opposed to an academic focus) are built in a way that allows their students to start putting what they learn to work quickly and efficiently.
The great news is that this is also how you will showcase your new skills and values to your supervisors and how you can avoid the pitfalls that many new engineering managers go through if you were recently promoted before you were ready.
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