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Most Selective Online Graduate Engineering Programs

The average acceptance rate for online engineering programs was 75 percent in 2012-2013, according to data provided by 45 schools.


The University of Colorado—Boulder accepts 43.7 percent of students to its online graduate engineering program, according to U.S. News data.

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The U.S. News Short List, separate from our overall rankings, is a regular series that magnifies individual data points in hopes of providing students and parents a way to find which undergraduate or graduate programs excel or have room to grow in specific areas. Be sure to explore The Short List: College and The Short List: Grad School to find data that matters to you in your college or graduate school search.

Completing an online graduate engineering degree can be a good way to take that next career step while holding down a job. 

But before students enjoy the perks, they first need to find a way to get in.

Admission to online graduate engineering programs can be competitive, just not necessarily in the way one might think. 

[Get accepted into a top online engineering program.]

The average acceptance rate for online graduate engineering programs for the 2012-2013 school year was 75 percent among the 45 ranked schools that provided admission counts in an annual U.S. News survey. But some highly ranked schools had much greater acceptance rates than their peers that didn't perform as well in the rankings.

Columbia University's online graduate engineering program, ranked the top online program of its kind by U.S. News, admitted 62 percent of students in 2012-2013. Meanwhile the University of Illinois—Chicago, which tied for 41st place, accepted just 34 percent of applicants to its online program.

The average acceptance rate at the 11 most selective online engineering programs was 53 percent. Of those, only five were in the top 11 in terms of overall quality. 

[Learn why engineering grads enjoy greater job prospects.]

David Munson, dean of the engineering school at the University of Michigan—Ann Arbor, ranked No. 7 in terms of online programs, says acceptance rates at the highest ranked online schools may be greater than expected because the applicants are more qualified than their on-campus counterparts. 

"The online students are largely coming from companies," he says. "And the company is not going to put someone in front of us or offer to pay the tuition for someone who won’t be a fit for the program. In a sense there is a pre-filter."

Below are the 11 online graduate engineering schools with the lowest acceptance rates (due to ties, there are more than 10 schools on the list). Schools designated by U.S. News as Unranked were excluded from this list. U.S. News did not calculate a numerical ranking for Unranked programs because the program did not meet certain criteria that U.S. News requires to be numerically ranked.  

School name  Acceptance rate (fall 2013) U.S. News rank
University of Illinois—Chicago 33.9% 41
University of Colorado—Boulder 43.7% 49
University of Southern California (Viterbi) 44.4% 4
Michigan Technological University 54.5% 35
University of Wisconsin—Madison 56.1% 3
University of Arizona 56.5% 52
University of California—Los Angeles (Samueli) 57.6% 2
University of Michigan—Ann Arbor 57.7% 7
Texas Tech University (Whitacre) 57.9% 20
University of Maryland—College Park (Clark) 58.8% 14
Virginia Tech 58.8% 7

School officials can access historical data and rankings, including of peer institutions, via U.S. News Academic Insights.

U.S. News surveyed 74 universities in our 2013 survey of online master's degree programs in engineering. Schools reported a myriad of data regarding their academic programs and the makeup of their student body, among other areas, making U.S. News's data the most accurate and detailed collection of college facts and figures of its kind. While U.S. News uses much of this survey data to rank schools for our annual Best Online Programs rankings, the data can also be useful when examined on a smaller scale. U.S. News will now produce lists of data, separate from the overall rankings, meant to provide students and parents a means to find which schools excel, or have room to grow, in specific areas that are important to them. While the data come from the schools themselves, these lists have no influence over the U.S. News rankings of Best Online Programs. The acceptance rate data above are correct as of Feb. 25, 2014.