New EE Majors, New Engineering Degrees: Interdisciplinary, Digital, and Microdegrees in 2018

September 17, 2018 by Chantelle Dubois

Here are a few ways in which the future of education and training may look different for future engineers.

As the industry changes, so must the education that forms the engineers who build it. Here are some new degrees and education methods that you may not have heard of—and which you may want to pursue for your own continuing education.

It’s that time of year. Students are back on campus to start a fresh new academic year, ready to take on another semester of calculus, physics, and other engineering related courses. 

While the majority of highly qualified professionals most likely received their education through traditional means (going to college and receiving a degree/diploma over a four-year span), the changing demands of the 2018 industry are also changing the demands for 2018 education. 

Here are a few ways in which the future of education and training may look different for future engineers.

Interdisciplinary Programs

Some of the most cutting-edge industries are highly interdisciplinary by nature. While there is still certainly a place for a deeply knowledgeable domain specialist, the specialized generalist is also becoming important in bringing together the big picture.

An example of how this is changing education is the University of Calgary’s Wearable Technology Research and Collaboration (We-TRAC) specialization. We-TRAC, which was introduced as of 2018 in partnership with the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC), combines engineering, kinesiology, data science, and even entrepreneurship into a thesis-based masters or doctoral level program fro the Faculty of Kinesiology.  

The program partners with wearable device companies in which students will get a chance to gain work experience, and will have access to data from real athletes for their research.


Image courtesy of the University of Calgary.


When students complete the program, they will have broad insight into the full scope of the wearable device domain. It is expected that the wearable device market will be worth $6 billion by 2023, making career prospects very good for graduates specializing in this track.

Online Advanced Degrees

So how about if you got your degree before wearables were a major?

Receiving an advanced degree can have benefits to an engineer’s career and help them become more specialized in their field.

But how can practicing engineers further their skillsets without leaving their practical jobs? For many who are already established in their careers and life routines, it can be hard to take time off to return to college. Even the flexibility of evening classes still sometimes isn't enough to fit around a work schedule. Even for those who maybe aren’t yet locked into their lives, the idea of returning another few years to sit in a classroom can be daunting when they want to get their hands dirty in the field.

Fortunately, there appears to be a number of ABET (Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology, Inc.) accredited graduate-level degree programs offered by established institutions that can be completed online.

You must meet assignment deadlines but otherwise can watch lectures when it's convenient. When you graduate, the degree you receive would generally be the exact same one that a student who completed the program on campus would get.

One such example is the Johns Hopkins University Whiting School of Engineering which offers course-based degrees that can be completed 100% online. Some programs include: applied biomedical engineering, electrical and computer engineering, space systems engineering, and systems engineering.


Image courtesy of Johns Hopkins University.


Courses are offered online and lectures can be watched as a recording at a convenient time or attended via livestream. The university does its best to facilitate peer and professor interaction through online communication and tries to incorporate the best educational technology available.

Micro/Nano degrees

Micro and nano degrees are credentials that are hyper-focused on specific skills that are in high demand in the tech industry, today. They get rid of the electives and heavy generalized theoretical courses so that participants can get right to the essentials of whatever domain they are learning about, and spend less time and money receiving certificates.

This model of education is challenging the idea that a four-year degree is required to work in tech (especially with many self-taught individuals finding success in hardware design). For those who are already degree holders from a traditional institute, pursuing micro/nanodegrees can build up skills or help with a career transition.

Some institutions offering these programs have partnered with tech companies or well-established colleges to ensure their programs are relevant and high quality. However, it remains to be seen whether employers in this technical industry will embrace micro/nanodegrees as credentials.


Image courtesy of Udacity.


Some examples include the specific nanodegrees for robotics software engineering and self-driving car engineering offered by Udacity. edX MicroMasters offers programs hyperfocused onto learning about the IoT and solar energy engineering.


Are you someone who completed an interdisciplinary tech program, received an advanced degree online, or found a career using nano/four-year? Let us know about your experiences in the comments!


Feature image courtesy of MeltMedia.