Online Computer Engineering Degrees

For computer engineering studies, the electronic nature of the subject lends itself to online learning. The virtual classroom relies on technology such as lecture-capture and video streaming. Digital learning systems, for example, Blackboard and Desire2Learn, offer a variety of features and functions such as discussion forums. Students can often submit specs, papers and other engineering-related work via the web. Depending on the school, distance learning programs may facilitate the completion of lab assignments online through specialized software. Some online computer engineering schools offer hybrid programs, which combine on-campus lab activities with web-based coursework.

Courses for online computer engineering degrees come in two forms: self-paced and real-time. The self-paced, or asynchronous, format allows students to complete assignments and work toward a degree at their convenience. Real-time, or synchronous, content delivery involves logging in at predetermined times for scheduled interaction with peers and professors, and submission of materials by specific deadlines.


Many online programs require that students have access to certain equipment. The basics include a computer, broadband connection, up-to-date web browser, word processing programs and the ability to view videos. In computer engineering, however, the minimum technological requirements can far surpass the norm. For example, online computer engineering students need access to a more powerful computer, specific hardware, software creation programs and so on. Before beginning an online degree program in computer engineering, contact the department administrator for a list of the must-have tools of the trade.


A computer engineering major allows students to learn aspects of both electrical engineering and computer science. At the associate level, students can gain basic skills and knowledge in areas such as programming, electronic circuitry, digital and analog electronics, and information acquisition and organization. Bachelor's degree programs in the field dive deeper into these domains and cover more advanced concepts, including object-oriented programming and data structures. Graduate students experience even more in-depth study, often focusing on a single aspect of computer engineering to hone specific skills or contribute to the academic community via research.


Ben liked computers and working with electronics, but didn't know which major was the right fit for him. After taking introductory courses at the associate level, he decided to complete his two-year degree and move on to an online bachelor's degree program in computer engineering.


The online associate degree in computer engineering is a two-year credential designed specifically to give students a solid foundation in the field. Year one combines early core requirements such as mathematics and English with more degree-focused courses like the essentials of programming. Year two rounds out the program with classes that may include calculus, physics and microprocessor design.

Online associate degrees are available in majors such as electrical and computer engineering. In addition, brick-and-mortar colleges may offer some courses for a computer engineering major in a hybrid or online format, while requiring students to attend other classes and labs on campus. The following table illustrates a typical two-year curriculum in computer engineering:

First Semester (Freshman) Credits Overview
English Composition I 3 An introduction to reading and writing critically, understanding argumentation and context.
Pre-Calculus 4 Advanced algebra and trigonometry to serve as a foundation for calculus. Learn properties of linear, exponential, logarithmic and trigonometric functions.
Electrical Circuits I 4 Basics of circuitry and other electrical components. Also learn about resistance, voltage, current and nodal analysis.
Programming Constructs 3 Basic computer literacy, problem solving and structured programming techniques. Arrays, linked lists and core languages.
Second Semester (Freshman) Credits Overview
Computer Programming I 3 Learn how to read, write and run programs in common languages. Emphasis on software development and structured programming techniques.
Electrical Circuits II 4 Study includes capacitors, inductors, AC mesh and nodal analysis and network theorems.
Scientific Writing I 3 An intro to scientific report writing and techniques.
Discrete Mathematical Structure 3 An intro to mathematical theories pertinent to computer science. Formal logic, set theory, matrix algebra, Boolean algebra, graph theory and more.
General Elective 3 An optional class for students.
Third Semester (Freshman) Credits Overview
Digital Electronic Design 4 A first course in electronics design, including logic gates, latches, integrated circuits, shift registers, memory elements and more.
Object-Oriented Programming 3 A natural method for designing software systems building upon data abstraction, information hiding and modularity.
Elements of Economics 3 For non-econ majors. Focuses on basic economic analysis, the market system, and basic macroeconomic theory.
Calculus I 3 Focused on functions and limits, as well as the derivative and its applications.
Fourth Semester (Freshman) Credits Overview
Intro to Microprocessor Design 4 Introduction to the microprocessor from both the software and hardware sides. Covers stored programs, modes, sets, bus operations and implementation of algorithms. Labs and simulators part of most classes.
Data Structures 3 Design, use and programming of data structures. Discusses binary trees, linked lists, queues and stacks, as well as sorting and searching methods.
Calculus II 3 The integral and its applications. Inverse functions and general principles of calculus.
College Physics I 4 Introduction to physics, energy, momentum and motion. Lecture + labs.
General Elective 3 An optional class for students.


During her freshman year, Amy decided to major in computer science, gravitating toward the hardware side of things. By her junior year, she was fully entrenched in her computer engineering major with a focus on microprocessor design. To supplement her online studies, she sought out an internship with a major tech company in California. The online program allowed her to manage school, work and raise her daughter Beth.


Students can typically complete a bachelor's degree in computer engineering in 4-5 years. Coursework covers specific programming languages, advanced engineering principles and mathematics. Many programs also require a senior project. Years three (junior) and four (senior) of a bachelor's degree in computer engineering may look like the following:

Fifth Semester (Junior) Credits Overview
Microprocessor Interfacing 4 Advanced concepts with the programming and interfacing of microprocessors and microcontrollers. Advanced architecture, I/O peripherals and more.
Technical Computing w/Java 3 Use of Java to solve engineering-related problems. Programs and Applets with emphasis on structured programming and software development.
Intro to Instrumentation 3 Analog and digital circuitry, design, testing, and signal transfer.
College Physics II 4 Thermodynamics, hydrostatics, electricity, magnetism and more. Combination of lecture and laboratory work.
General Elective 3 An optional class for students.
Sixth Semester (Junior) Credits Overview
Microprocessor Engineering 4 Development cycles and methods for both hardware and software, as well as integration and debugging. Study of recent developments in the field.
FORTRAN 3 Major programming constructs of the language, including loops, statements, arrays and file processing.
Operating Systems 3 Main elements of an operating system, including process and memory management, hardware behavior, resource sharing and more.
Linear Algebra 3 Linear equations and matrices, vectors, eigenvalues and applications.
General Elective 3 An optional class for students.
Seventh Semester (Senior) Credits Overview
Computer Networking 4 Major topics include media standards, Internet protocols, network theory, and other electronic hardware topics.
Senior Project I 3 The first leg of a senior project related to the student's academic focus. Completed in two semesters of coursework.
Technical Elective (Based on Specialty) 4 A technical elective that allows the student to learn a skill or explore an interest in the technical field but not necessarily aligned with the major.
General Elective 3 An optional class for students.
General Elective 3 An optional class for students.
Eighth Semester (Senior) Credits Overview
Senior Project II 3 The second arm of the senior project. Often a time for gauging progress with a professor and working toward completion before review.
Computer Architecture 3 Study of the computer processing unit (CPU). Also covers arithmetic logic unit, control unit and other topics related to memory units and busses.
Technical Elective (Based on Specialty) 4 A technical elective that allows the student to learn a skill or explore an interest in the technical field but not necessarily aligned with the major.
General Elective 3 An optional class for students.
General Elective 3 An optional class for students.


Paul earned an online bachelor's degree in electrical engineering, yet became far more interested in the computer-related aspects of his major. An online master's degree in computer engineering allowed him to build upon his undergraduate studies, learning more about the computer aspects of engineering.


An online master's degree in computer engineering typically involves two years of extra coursework in the field. Students choose between a handful of program styles designed to guide them along a specific academic or career track, based on both current and future interest. For instance, those who wish to move on to doctoral study often opt for the thesis option, and focus on a long paper or project for review by a board of professors. More career-minded students might select a non-thesis option, which can entail completion of a comprehensive examination covering all course material over the two-year span.

Graduate "tracks" vary by subject, school and department. Before enrolling in a program or any classes, it's important to consult an advisor and choose a track that fits with academic and professional goals. Due to the variety of program options, it's difficult to list a standard master's curriculum for computer engineering -- or for any subject, for that matter. However, the following table represents a sample of core classes graduate students may find in a program:

Master's Program Core Courses Overview
Algorithm Design & Analysis Basic techniques for the design and analysis of algorithms. Graph search, algebraic problems, lower bounds and probabilities.
Operating Systems System structures, scheduling, computation models, memory management and security, buffering, streams and more.
Advanced Compiler Design Advanced materials in translator systems and programming languages. Code optimization, compiling and debugging interpreters.
Principles of Computer Architecture Fundamental concepts in the field, including pipeline hazards, dynamic scheduling, branch protection, cache architectures, bypassing and more.
Intro to Syntheses Methodologies Architectural level syntheses, hardware/software co-design, bus sharing, encoding and retiming, among other pertinent topics.
VLSI Test Design for testing economics, defects, failures and faults, fault models, memory and more.
Fault Tolerant Hardware Design Scan path design, test point insertion, SOC test design, self-checking circuits and more.
Computability & Complexity A general computability review, including decidable sets, halting problem, and general relations between various classes. L, P, PSPACE, NP
Advanced Complexity Poly-time hierarchy, IP=PSPACE, Application of PCP to approximation hardness. Complexity of proof systems.
Computer Communication Networks Network concepts, architectures, protocols and design methodologies. Layering, error control, quality of service management, mobility, naming, security and more.


Doctoral degrees in computer engineering represent the highest level of academic achievement in the field. Graduates of such programs have spent at least four years completing post-master's coursework and researching a theoretical or empirical topic under the guidance of an advisor. Most PhD candidates must submit and defend a dissertation in order to finish the degree.

Coursework for PhD students in computer engineering can be almost the same as in master's programs. In fact, many doctoral candidates complete a number of master's level credits to meet their core PhD requirements. The difference is in the number of classes they need to take, and the amount of research they need to conduct before dissertation defense. Graduate students often customize their program, choosing a topic of interest for in-depth research.