Purdue’s Interdisciplinary Engineering Master’s Program has +160 Online Courses

The Freedom of Purdue’s Online Interdisciplinary Engineering Masters


“Purdue’s Masters of Science in Interdisciplinary Engineering provides technical depth and breadth of skills with its many academic options for engineers,” said Melanie Schramm, Director at Purdue. “The program lets students develop their own plan of study with the help of faculty advisors. Engineers in our programs can choose from a diverse list of specializations that meet their specific career goals and interests”

Where is it: West Lafayette, IN

Format: Online

Prerequisites:  Engineering Degree (or degree in related field)

Degree you get: Masters of Science in Engineering (or Masters of Science with a degree Prerequisite In a related field)

Size of the Program: ~640 Students

Number of credit hours: 30 (33 with a focus in Engineering Management)

Thesis: Optional to add to some concentrations

And that will take how long? 3.5-4 years

When to apply: Anytime

Fees: $35,000 – $40,000

Minimum Admission Requirements:

  • TOEFL 77+
  • Transcripts (GPA > 3.0)
  • 3 Letters of Recommendation
  • Essay(statement of purpose)
  • Resume

Not Required

  • GRE

Who should take it?

  • Working Engineers
  • Those that wish to enhance or diversify their engineering knowledge and skills
  • Average student age is 27  but ranges widely from 20’s to 40’s

Claim to fame:

  • One of the the largest online engineering course menus

  • Ranked in Top 10 Online Engineering Grad Programs by US News

  • Purdue’s distance education is well established

The Power to set your Own Engineering Masters Plan of Study

When most University faculty say their online programs give the student freedom, they are referring to accessibility – the ability to log on and work whenever their schedule permits. However, this accessibility often comes at the price of reduced course selection. That is not the case for Purdue’s Interdisciplinary Masters of Science in Engineering (MSE).  It offers over 160 courses online (see below).

“Purdue’s Masters of Science in Interdisciplinary Engineering provides technical depth and breadth of skills with its many academic options for engineers,” said Melanie Schramm, Director at Purdue. “The program lets students develop their own plan of study with the help of faculty advisors. Engineers in our programs can choose from a diverse list of specializations that meet their specific career goals and interests.”

Melanie Schramm, Director of Marketing at Purdue

The areas of specialization students can choose include:

  • Biomedical Engineering
  •  Computational Engineering
  • Engineering Management and Leadership
  • Integrated Vehicle Systems Engineering
  • Quality
  • Aeronautics and Astronautics Engineering
  • Electrical and Computer Engineering
  • Industrial Engineering
  • Mechanical Engineering
  • Multidisciplinary (to focus on more than one discipline)

“The interdisciplinary MSE degree is a highly flexible degree,” added Schramm. “Engineers earning our Interdisciplinary Masters have many learning options and can have an individualized plan of study. The path each online learner takes is specific to their career.”

Students typically take one to two courses each term depending on their personal workloads. This means it can take some time before graduation day. Typically a student will finish the program in 3.5 to 4 years.

Why a Master’s of Science in Engineering?

When asked what master’s degree to take, Schramm suggested that, “The Masters of Science in Engineering (MSE) is a well-established degree, specific to engineers, and unlike other options that are newer to the market. The MSE (at Purdue) offers a depth of skills development in engineering … with an interdisciplinary approach … specific to each engineer’s career goals.”

To make the Purdue’s interdisciplinary MSE even more tailored to individual needs, it can be taken as a dual degree with an MBA. This means that students can lock in a tailor-made technical MSE and MBA to gain the management skills they need.

“The interdisciplinary nature and flexibility of the MSE may not be for all engineers looking to return to grad school.  A working individual may prefer the structure of another degree,” explained Schramm.  “Your employer might want to see you get a Master’s of Science that states a specialty in the degree like in Mechanical Engineering for instance. You can still complete it online at Purdue, but you will not have the same course options as you may have as an interdisciplinary candidate .”

As for demographics, Schramm mentions that the program has a wide variety of students and a large population of over to 640 degree-seeking students. The program serves even more students if you include those not seeking a full degree. “We have millennials in their 20’s and returning grads in their 30’s and 40’s. The average age is around 27 but it moves around. We target working engineers, but if you are a month out of your undergrad you can still apply,” explained Schramm.  

Advantages of Online Engineering at Purdue

Purdue’s faculty reports that their online master’s students are some of the most engaged students at the school, “They are working as engineers and are applying their studies directly. This allows them to engage in more challenging questions. It really challenges and engages the faculty and they like that.  We recognize that online students are busy balancing work and online studies so we hire additional teaching support (TAs) to help further ensure that our faculty are able to keep in contact with the students,” Schramm said.

Learning online also offers the freedom to access the content when you need to and when you can fit it into a busy professional life. Students learn from the same faculty that teach on campus as opposed to separate industry professionals and adjunct professors.

Conversely, she noted that the flexibility of online learning isn’t for every student, “Some will thrive with this flexibility and some won’t. We have created online discussion boards, supplemental materials, tutorials, and use the BlackBoard to help keep students engaged.”

This freedom can be especially dangerous to students that have been out of school for quite some time and need to get back into the swing of things. To them Schramm suggested, “Time management. Make time for your classes. Graduate courses go at a very fast pace. Students will need to set aside time to watch and engage in the lecture and do the homework. It isn’t easy, and you can’t do it all in the last week. We are not giving out these degrees.”

However, Purdue doesn’t have an issue retaining students. Most students are engaged and return, which suggests that they are learning what they need and want to learn.

How to Access the Engineering Courses online at Purdue

Distance learning from Purdue has been around for quite some time. Schramm postulated that, “it must have been around since the 60’s, and we moved our distance courses online with the advent of the internet . We are very early adopters to distance and online learning specific to graduate studies in engineering.”

This tried, tested, and true mentality can be seen not just in Purdue’s list of courses, but in their distance education practices as well. Students access online content and online videos using the popular BlackBoard Learn program. Examinations, tests, assignments, and discussions can all be made online.

What sets Purdue apart and harkens back to their early distance education days is their proctoring practices. Though many schools appear dismissive of proctoring when it comes to online learning, Purdue is not. Instructors can even send students a paper exam if they don’t want to use an online examination method.

Students are allowed to nominate their own proctor for an exam. Once nominated, the individual is vetted by the school, goes through training and receives proctor certification.

“The proctor can’t be your best friend and you can’t be tested in your living room. Proctors tend to be HR trainers, managers, other academics or professionals. However the proctor is of the student’s choosing. The Proctor is given the exam and submits it for grading after,” explained Schramm.

Schramm mentions that if you can’t find a proctor then it is best to notify the University. There is often one nearby or even where you work.

Why wouldn’t you get an interdisciplinary MSE from Purdue:

  • You need to take a discipline-specific program for your career
  • You want a more rigid plan of study

Purdue University has sponsored promotion of their Interdisciplinary Masters of Science in Engineering on ENGINEERING.com. They have no editorial input to this post – all opinions are mine.  Shawn Wasserman

Written by

Shawn Wasserman

For over 10 years, Shawn Wasserman has informed, inspired and engaged the engineering community through online content. As a senior writer at WTWH media, he produces branded content to help engineers streamline their operations via new tools, technologies and software. While a senior editor at Engineering.com, Shawn wrote stories about CAE, simulation, PLM, CAD, IoT, AI and more. During his time as the blog manager at Ansys, Shawn produced content featuring stories, tips, tricks and interesting use cases for CAE technologies. Shawn holds a master’s degree in Bioengineering from the University of Guelph and an undergraduate degree in Chemical Engineering from the University of Waterloo.