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Degrees of Tomorrow: Online Programs in AI, Technology & Engineering

Technology and engineering move extremely fast, and that pace of change extends to their top jobs and degree programs. Glassdoor listed Java Developer as the best job in America for 2021, citing its strong starting average salary, high job satisfaction score, and a large number of job openings.

But will it still be the best job in the near future, where blockchain technology, artificial intelligence, and automation make up a sizable portion of our day-to-day lives?

Below, we’ve gathered detailed information on the degree programs that can prepare learners for the best jobs of tomorrow. At the same time, they can qualify students to start working in high-paying positions today. These areas of study are backed up with strong fundamentals in technology and engineering, and also have promising funding streams in place for the future.

To learn more about the degrees of tomorrow, read on.

Online Degrees in Artificial Intelligence

Artificial intelligence (AI) continues to be one of the strongest narratives for the future, with the power to drive business, society, and science into an entirely new paradigm. And while AI has been an academic discipline since 1955, there’s still an enormous gap between supply and demand in the AI workforce: according to the New York Times, AI researchers are earning salaries that used to be reserved for top CEOs.

The AI trend is unlikely to slow down, either. A recent survey by Deloitte found that 61 percent of organizations believed AI would substantially transform their industry in the next three to five years, and 53 percent had spent more than $20 million on AI technology and AI talent in the last year.

Indiana University (BA in Artificial Intelligence)

The online bachelor of arts in artificial intelligence program at Indiana University prepares graduates for a wide range of AI careers, including AI UX researcher, AI architect, and AI bot developer.

The core courses cover the following areas: introduction to AI; introduction to data science; collaborative human-AI systems; recent trends in AI; and AI ethics. Students will also take 39 credits in human-centered computing courses and 12 credits in AI electives. The program consists of 120 credits in total.

  • Cost: $1,031 per credit

Johns Hopkins University (MS in Artificial Intelligence)

Johns Hopkins University’s Applied Physics Lab offers the nation’s first online artificial intelligence master’s program. The curriculum includes a deep exploration of AI, computer robotics, natural language processing, and image processing.

AI courses include cognitive and behavioral foundations for AI; applied machine learning; cloud computing; deep learning for computer vision; evolutionary computation; and intelligent algorithms. The program consists of four core courses and six electives.

  • Cost: $4,755 per course

Online Degrees in Automation Engineering

According to the World Economic Forum (WEF), automation is essential to operate cutting-edge technologies in the age of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. And while drones, self-driving cars, and smart factories may not need human operators, they still need human designers and programmers.

McKinsey’s 2020 Global Survey found that more and more companies are pursuing automation, but that they still have a long way to go: only 61 percent of respondents said their companies have met automation targets. Sitting at the intersection of mechanical, automotive, and industrial engineering, automation engineers drive down costs and increase efficiency, making them extremely valuable to employers.

Worcester Polytechnic Institute (MS in Robotics Engineering)

Worcester Polytechnic Institute launched the first online robotics engineering master’s degree in the nation, and its graduates master the mathematical and mechanical frameworks needed to design robotic systems that solve real-world problems.

Students may also choose to add a specialization in autonomous vehicles, which includes courses that cover robot dynamics; AI for autonomous vehicles; embedded systems design; sensor fusion and perception for autonomous vehicles; and motion planning. The program consists of 30 credits.

  • Cost: $1,610 per credit

University of Michigan-Dearborn (MSE in Robotics Engineering)

The master of science in engineering (robotics engineering) program at University of Michigan-Dearborn may be completed entirely online. Graduates will have a strong background in theory and a good knowledge of the latest technologies in robotics engineering.

Concentration courses can be selected from four different areas: sensing and processing; systems and control; machine learning and reasoning; or autonomous vehicles. The program consists of between 28 and 31 credits.

  • Cost: $1,012 per credit

Online Degrees in Blockchain Technology

Blockchain is often associated only with cryptocurrency, but that’s a mistake. According to IBM, the distributed ledger technology powered by the blockchain is a valuable peer-to-peer tool for businesses and governments, with applications in finance, manufacturing, education, data sharing, the Internet of Things (IoT), intellectual property, and transparency.

Smart contract engineers are also in high demand, with the average base salary for a remote Solidity developer at $145,000 per year. And blockchain’s financial applications are going away any time soon: Deloitte’s 2021 Global Blockchain Survey affirmed that banks should embrace the inevitable digital future, which includes blockchain.

Arizona State University (BS in Software Engineering)

Arizona State University’s online BS in software engineering program gives students a foundational understanding of software development that can be applied in a number of different careers, including blockchain engineering.

Students will learn how to build code, how to read programming languages, and how to implement important cybersecurity concepts. In addition to advanced classes in math, physics, engineering, and programming, the curriculum also includes a course-by-course study of the software enterprise. The program consists of 120 credits.

  • Cost: $15,972 per year

University of the Cumberlands (Master in Global Business with Blockchain Technology)

The University of the Cumberlands offers one of the only graduate-level degree programs in blockchain. The curriculum teaches students the fundamentals of blockchain technology, as well as their applications in business settings.

Courses include blockchain development; blockchain implementation; cryptography; fundamentals of database systems; and finance and blockchain. The program consists of 31 credits.

  • Cost: $315 per credit

Online Degrees in Environmental Sustainability

The degrees of tomorrow won’t be worth anything if there isn’t a tomorrow. And as climate change continues to be one of the central narratives of the 21st century, sustainability will be an increasingly important consideration in practically every sector.

This is particularly relevant in technology and engineering: according to Accenture, digital technology is one of the great enablers of sustainability, and both cities and corporations are using engineering to embed sustainability into their products and practices from day one.

Maryville University (BS in Sustainability)

Maryville University offers an online BS in sustainability that can help graduates transition into meaningful careers that contribute to global sustainability. In addition to general education requirements and a sustainability core, students will take classes that fall under three concentrations: environmental science; business; and policy.

Sustainability electives include issues in sustainable design; introduction to R; urbanism and the built environment; introduction to geographic information systems (GIS); and general botany. The program consists of 128 credits.

  • Cost: $500 per credit

University of North Dakota (MEng in Environmental Engineering)

The University of North Dakota’s online MEng in environmental engineering program teaches students how to protect our air, water, and soil, focusing on energy- and industrial-generated sources. Faculty members have relationships with a variety of industries, municipalities, consulting firms, government agencies, and research-funding organizations, providing students with opportunities for productive research and collaboration.

Environmental engineering courses include hydrogeology; water sampling and analysis; hazardous waste management; environmental engineering research; air pollution control; and applied project management. The program consists of 30 credits.

  • Cost: $782 per credit

Online Degrees in Fuel Cell Technology

Shifting the world away from fossil fuels is a gargantuan task, but those who study fuel cell technology will help power a more sustainable world. Deloitte has reported strong progress in hydrogen fuel cells, and new material combinations also show promise. The US Department of Energy cites research that suggests new fuel cell applications could create as many as 675,000 new jobs by 2030.

Sitting at a crossroads between chemistry, materials science, and industrial engineering, fuel cell technology could completely transform the energy sector.

North Carolina State University (Master of Materials Science and Engineering)

The online Master of Materials Science and Engineering (MMSE) program at North Carolina State University focuses on understanding the structure, modification, and properties of materials, as well as the development of new or improved processing methods.

Courses include thermodynamics of materials; polymer technology and engineering; phase transformation and kinetics; and mechanical behavior of engineering materials. The program consists of 30 credits.

  • Cost: $1,504 per credit

Arizona State University (MS in Materials Science and Engineering)

The curriculum covers core areas such as advanced materials characterization; advanced thermodynamics; kinetics and phase transformations; and structure and mechanical properties. The program consists of 32 credits.

The online master of science in materials science and engineering program at Arizona State University teaches students how to improve, customize and create new materials for products across industries.

  • Cost: $17,218 per credit

Online Degrees in Launch Engineering

Through ventures like SpaceX, Blue Origin, and Astra, tech companies are placing big bets that the future of humanity extends beyond Earth. And in some respects, that future is already here: 2020 was the first year that more than 1,000 satellites were launched into orbit, and SpaceX’s Starlink satellites provide high-speed internet across the globe.

Launch engineers design and oversee missions into orbit and beyond, testing propulsion mechanisms, designing guidance systems, and implementing algorithms that get spacefaring vehicles where they need to go in a safe and efficient manner.

University of Southern California (MS in Aerospace Engineering)

The online master of science in aerospace engineering program at USC is designed to give students exposure to at least two different areas of aerospace engineering.

Specialization options include aerodynamics; aerospace control; aerospace design; aerospace structures; computational fluid dynamics; and propulsion. Students will also have the opportunity to tailor their degree with additional technical electives. The program consists of 27 credits.

  • Cost: $2,199 per credit

Georgia Tech (MS in Aerospace Engineering)

Georgia Tech’s undergraduate aerospace engineering program is ranked second in the nation, and it’s master of science in aerospace engineering (MSAE) program is now available online. Students in the MSAE program will reach a level of expertise in specialties that are important to advanced aerospace system design, development, manufacture, maintenance, and/or operation.

Courses include topics such as advanced aerodynamics; turbulent flows; nonlinear control; combustion; wind engineering; and computational fluid dynamics. The program consists of 33 credits.

  • Cost: $1,100 per credit

Online Degrees in Quantum Computing

Quantum computing may be the final frontier of computer engineering. While traditional computers process information in bits, which can have a value of either zero or one, quantum computers introduce the concept of the qubit, which can have a value of both zero and one simultaneously.

If that leaves you more intrigued than confused, you might be on the path to a degree in quantum computing. And you wouldn’t be the only one. Investors poured in over a billion dollars to quantum computing companies in the first half of 2021, and both Google and IBM are currently fighting for what’s been dubbed quantum supremacy—the point at which a quantum computer can solve problems that no classical computer ever could.

Governments are paying attention, too: both the National Security Agency (NSA) and the National Institute of Science and Technology (NIST) have begun to shift attention to post-quantum cryptography.

Southern New Hampshire University (BS in Computer Science)

While most graduate-level programs in quantum computing and quantum science are on-campus, they often require a bachelor’s degree in an area such as computer science, which can be earned online.

SNHU’s online bachelor of science in computer science program gives students a fluency in programming that can be built upon after graduation. The curriculum is aligned with industry standards and includes courses such as full-stack development; mobile architecture and programming; emerging trends in computer science; and discrete mathematics. The program consists of 120 credits.

  • Cost: $320 per credit

Johns Hopkins University (MS in Computer Science)

Ranked as one of the best in the nation, the ten-course online master of science in computer science and Johns Hopkins University is designed specifically for working professionals.

In addition to courses in data structures, computer organization, and object-oriented programming, the curriculum includes a course on quantum computation, which explores quantum integer factoring, quantum algorithms, quantum error correction, and quantum cryptography.

  • Cost: $4,755 per course

Matt Zbrog

Matt Zbrog is a writer and freelancer who has been living abroad since 2016. His nonfiction has been published by Euromaidan Press, Cirrus Gallery, and Our Thursday. Both his writing and his experience abroad are shaped by seeking out alternative lifestyles and counterculture movements, especially in developing nations. You can follow his travels through Eastern Europe and Central Asia on Instagram at @weirdviewmirror. He’s recently finished his second novel, and is in no hurry to publish it.