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10 Affordable Online Master’s in Material Science & Engineering

materials science and engineering

From the cars we drive to the makeup we put on our faces, everything we consume and use, large or small, has been impacted by the work of a material science engineer.

These professionals not only study the properties and potential uses of materials we already have but also research ways to create new materials with amazing properties. You will figure out which ingredients can be used to build a product and figure out how to make that product even better by using those ingredients. 

As a materials scientist or engineer, you can work in just about any industry. This is a field that has a major impact on everyday life—but it’s one that very few people give a second thought to. 

In short, your work will allow you to solve grand challenges that enable the technologies of tomorrow. Pretty cool, right?

When you’re considering a career in materials science and engineering, there are logistical challenges you might encounter that can be even more daunting than the coursework itself. If you’re working full-time or have other commitments to attend to (such as a family), then one of those challenges might be finding the time to earn a degree.

The good news is that a growing number of schools have begun to offer their programs exclusively or entirely online. In the past, online programs were often seen as offering a lower quality of education than their on-campus counterparts. But as technology has expanded the ability for schools to offer resources like live chat, Zoom course delivery, and 1:1 video advising with faculty members, that reputation is no longer accurate. 

It is entirely possible to find an online degree that’s affordable, is convenient, and provides you with the proper preparation you need for your dream job. You just need to know what to look for!

Ready to dive in? Keep reading to learn about the ten most affordable online master’s in materials science and engineering—and about everything you need to know about earning one of these awesome degrees.

See Also: 10 Best Master’s in Material Science and Engineering

What Are the Best Material Science Degrees?

We know that you have educational goals that you’re itching to pursue, but you may not know where to start. The editors of Master’s Programs Guide utilize a unique ranking methodology based on the following five aspects:

25% Overall Degree Affordability: Average cost of undergraduate and graduate tuition per school

25% Graduation Rate: Number of students who start at the university and actually finish there

20% Earnings Potential: Average mid-career salary of school alumni

20% Selectivity: The number of students who apply versus the number who actually get accepted

10% Online Graduate Offerings: The number of programs offered online in each department

At Master’s Programs Guide, we strive to do our best to guide you and your family toward a fruitful academic career. The pursuit of knowledge is a noble one, and we want to help you reach your goals.

See Also: 10 Affordable Online Master’s in Mechanical Engineering

#1. University of Florida


Online Master of Science in Materials Science and Engineering

A public land-grant research university, the University of Florida is located in sunny Gainesville, FL. Although the location of the campus is a major draw for many students, the good news is that you don’t even have to step foot on campus if your lifestyle doesn’t permit it. You can earn a degree online! With more than 150 research centers and institutes, 16 academic colleges, and more than 200 different majors, it’s safe to say that this school will have exactly what you’re looking for.

Looking for the best affordable online master’s in material science? You will find a top contender in the online Master of Science in Materials Science and Engineering at the University of Florida. 

This program is a great choice for individuals who’ve already completed an undergraduate degree in engineering and are looking for an option that will allow them to study while working full-time. You can complete your studies in as little as 18 months or take longer in order to accommodate your work schedule.

All courses are offered via streaming video that you can download for offline viewing. They are delivered via the revolutionary EDGE system at UF with both thesis and non-thesis options available. In most cases, you’ll complete around 30 credit hours of study, including multiple research experiences. 

You’ll work closely with more than 40 graduate faculty members across multiple colleges, departments, and research institutes. This will give you the opportunity to conduct in-depth research in state-of-the-art facilities and in other interdisciplinary areas. You’ll take core courses such as:

  • Functional Properties of Materials
  • Materials Structure and Mechanical Properties
  • Materials Thermodynamics, and Diffusion
  • Kinetics
  • Transport

The University of Florida ranks regularly as one of the most affordable schools in the nation, and the online programs are no exception. You’ll pay just $552.62 per credit hour with generous financial aid available. 

See Also: 20 Best Master’s in Materials Science and Engineering

#2.  University of California-Los Angeles

Online Master of Science in Materials Science and Engineering


Originally founded as the California State Normal School’s southern branch, the University of California-Los Angeles is now a major public land-grant research university that serves more than 45,000 students. Though it originally focused primarily on education programs, the school now has six undergraduate colleges, seven professional schools, and four professional health science schools. 

It’s not just about the number of offerings here, either—this school is all about the quality. Considered one of the country’s Public Ivies, it is frequently ranked among the best universities in the world. 

Let’s get even more specific. The online Master of Science in Materials Science and Engineering at UCLA is consistently ranked as one of the best in the country by U.S. News & World Report. It’s offered by the award-winning Samueli School of Engineering and will allow you to dive deep into the study of advanced structural materials. 

You’ll gain a strong and broad understanding of the major concepts of materials science and engineering in various types of materials. In the program, you’ll take at least nine courses, five of which should be graduate courses at the 200 level. Sample courses include:

  • Nondestructive Evaluations
  • Advanced Composite Materials
  • Dislocations and Strengthening Mechanisms in Solids
  • Material Processing in Manufacturing

This program is unique in that, in addition to taking core courses in materials science and engineering, you can also take electives from other engineering departments without having to get approval from an advisor. You can choose to specialize in areas like structural materials, electronics materials, and regular materials science, too. 

Samueli offers multiple certificate options as well, something that will enable you to add more to your degree without having to spend too much additional time in school. Some options include power systems, cybersecurity, and engineering entrepreneurship.

You’ll pay just under $38,000 to complete your entire degree (or about $4,200 per course, on average). This affordable program offers multiple payment methods for students along with generous financial aid.

#3.  North Carolina State University at Raleigh 

Online Master of Science in Materials Science and Engineering

NC State

The largest university in the Carolinas, North Carolina State University at Raleigh is classified among “R1: Doctoral Universities-Very High Research Activity.” With an enrollment of more than 35,000 students, it has historical strengths in fields like the life sciences, statistics, agriculture, and of course, engineering.

A non-thesis, coursework-only master’s degree, the online Master of Science in Materials Science and Engineering at NC State is a great choice for busy professionals who are already working full-time. You’ll be asked to meet the same requirements as if you were studying on-campus but you’ll enjoy the convenience and flexibility of online video lectures and exams that can be administered by local proctors.

In this program, you’ll learn ways to investigate and understand the properties, structure, and modification of materials, as well as how to develop new or improved ways to process those materials. A multidisciplinary program, it welcomes students from all undergraduate backgrounds, including those who specialize in chemistry, physics, and other fields of engineering.

You’ll take courses in things like:

  • Nuclear Materials
  • Ceramic Processing
  • Thermodynamics of Materials
  • Composite Materials

Upon graduation, you will be prepared for an assortment of careers, including those as a functional materials engineer, ceramics engineer, materials development engineer, and much more.

This 30-credit hour program can be completed in less than two years. Most students will take between three and nine credit hours of coursework per semester, making it perfect for individuals who are employed full-time. You will be assigned an academic advisor when you enroll who will help you understand the best plan of study based on your schedule and needs.

As an online and distance education student, you’ll pay a standard rate that depends on your residency. You’ll pay the same tuition as on-campus students with credit hour charges capped at one credit hour per semester. The average tuition rate is about $505.28 per credit hour, making this one of the most affordable online master’s in materials science and engineering that you’ll find.

#4.  University of California-Riverside

Online Master of Science in Materials Science and Engineering

University of California-Riverside

Founded in 2007, the M.S. in Materials Science and Engineering at the University of California-Riverside can be completed in one of two ways. In Plan I, you’ll complete a thesis and 36 credit hours of graduate or upper-division undergraduate coursework. In Plan II, you will also complete 36 credit hours of coursework, but you’ll take a comprehensive examination that is conducted jointly with the preliminary examination for the Ph.D. program. 

The average student will take about two years to complete this degree, but you can take longer if you need the additional time to accommodate a busy work schedule. Nevertheless, this program will help you understand the processes involved in creating materials along with how they can be used in a variety of fields. From high-efficiency solar cells to beauty products, this program will help you uncover the ways in which modern innovations are dependent on materials at all scales and levels. 

This GRE-optional program will allow you to conduct research in key areas of materials science, including material processing, biomaterials, computational materials, structural materials, energy and green technology, and electronic, optical, and magnetic materials. Faculty-directed research is sponsored by notable federal and state agencies along with industrial sponsors such as:

  • Department of Energy
  • Air Force Office of Scientific Research
  • National Institute of Health
  • Raytheon
  • Lockheed Martin

As a student in this program, you can specialize in a specific class of materials, like polymers or magnetic materials, or in a specific area of materials science, like mechanical properties of materials processing. Regardless, the program will give you solid training in the foundational skills of mechanical science and engineering. 

You will learn from some of the best teaching faculty in the country and enjoy an interdisciplinary education that cuts across collegiate and departmental lines. You’ll work in unique research facilities such as the Center for Nanoscale Science and Engineering and the Central Facility for Advanced Microscopy and Microanalysis. 

For all this, you might expect to pay an arm and a leg. Fortunately, that’s not the case. On average, you will pay an average of $875 per credit unit in tuition. Generous financial aid is available for most students as well.

#5.  University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign

U of I Urbana- Champaign

Online Master of Science in Materials Science and Engineering

The graduate program in material science and engineering at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign is one of the best in the country. You’ll complete at least 32 credit hours of study for the thesis option and 36 for the non-thesis program. As a student in this program, you’ll benefit from fundamental training in the practical skills, theoretical knowledge, and fundamental understandings you need to be successful in a career involving advanced materials. 

Whether your goal is to work or conduct research in an industrial setting or national laboratory, to become an academic, or something else, the master of science in materials science and engineering at the University of Illinois is the right choice for you. You will learn alongside about 200 students and faculty members, the latter of whom conduct research in many different areas.

You’ll be alert to conduct interdisciplinary research and collaborate with professionals across engineering departments. You can choose to specialize in many different aspects of materials science and engineering such as:

  • metals
  • ceramics
  • polymers
  • biomaterials
  • composites
  • electronic materials

Your courses will vary depending on your selected specialty, but generally, you’ll take classes in things like:

  • Ceramic Materials & Properties
  • Polymer Physics
  • Macromolecular Solids
  • Laboratory Studies in Materials Science and Engineering

As a graduate student, you can work in cutting-edge facilities like the Illinois Materials Research Laboratory, receiving unparalleled training and access to the world-class instrumentation you need for quality research. These are just a few of the many reasons why U.S. News & World Report consistently ranks the graduate program in materials at this school as one of the top programs in the nation. 

Again, this program is one of the most affordable you will find. In addition to low tuition rates, you can apply for a variety of fellowships and awards here. The Grainger College of Engineering sponsors many of its own, but you can also apply for outside funding. From conference travel awards to research fellowships like the Lam Research Corporation Outstanding Graduate Student Award, this department offers plenty of ways for students to gain hands-on experience and lower the cost of attendance at the same time. 

#6.  University of Central Florida

Online Master of Science in Materials Science and Engineering 


A public research university located in Orlando, FL, the University of Central Florida is a public research university that was originally founded as a technological university. Now, this space-grant institution is home to a number of research- and technically-oriented fields. Since its inception, it has awarded more than 346,000 degrees and impacted communities and learners all over the world. 

The online master’s degree in materials science and engineering at the University of Central Florida is designed for people who want to become true innovators, figuring out how they can leverage their knowledge to create new machinery, develop processes, and produce a large variety of products for any industry. 

In this program, you will learn new uses for existing materials as well as how to develop new ones, extending your research and studies to areas such as:

  • biomaterials
  • nanomaterials
  • material stability
  • degradation

You can choose between a thesis or non-thesis option, as both will enable you to pursue electives that will be relevant for your career. When you graduate, you will be able to bring your new ideas to fruition as you advance your career. 

The degree is highly ranked by multiple publications. In fact, U.S. News & World Report has designated it as one of the most innovative as well as one of the top overall engineering programs in the country. 

This 30-credit hour program is also one of the most affordable. For in-state students, tuition is just $327 per credit hour (out-of-state students pay slightly more). There is a myriad of financial aid opportunities available to most students, too. 

#7.  University of Arizona

Online Master of Science in Materials Science and Engineering

University of Arizona

Also known as the U of A or simply UA, the University of Arizona is located in Tucson, AZ. A research university, this school is home to a whopping 19 different colleges and schools. Its motto, “Sursum,” translates from Latin to the English “Upwards.” When you pursue an education here, that is exactly where you can expect to take your career!

At the University of Arizona, you’ll find another top master of science in materials science. This 30-credit hour program is highly customizable, allowing you to design your own curriculum as you learn from experts in fields like:

  • ceramics and polymers
  • microelectronic processing
  • computational materials

This program is unique because it allows you to pursue a “signature course” elective format. In this, you’ll be able to choose classes that enhance the skills you already have and allow you to narrow in on your focus area. You’ll be able to meet any professional objective that your heart desires.

The program is incredibly flexible, allowing you to complete your courses at the pace that makes the most sense to you. You can choose from six different start dates and will take courses that last only seven and a half weeks for maximum convenience.  

You will have access to a robust network of support. In addition to a community of alumni mentors who will connect you with networking and career opportunities, you will also benefit from student services like tutoring, career services, and more. 

An affordable degree, this program is offered by a university that is ranked as the best in Arizona by the U.S. News & World Report and among the top 1% of all higher education institutions by the Center for World University Rankings in 2020. Tuition starts at just $925 per credit hour with significant financial aid available as well.

#8.  Johns Hopkins University 

Online Master of Science in Materials Science and Engineering

Johns Hopkins

Johns Hopkins University is a private research university located in Baltimore, MD. This school is often considered the first research university in the country and it continues to be one of the best. In fact, it has led all American universities in research expenditures since 1900.

True to that reputation, the MS in Material Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins University is taught by expert scientists and engineers with extensive experience in the industry as well as in the lab.

The program will equip you with the relevant skills you need to address the most pressing issues in the industry. Whether your specialty is in electrochemistry or nanotechnology, this degree will broaden your capabilities to design materials that can be used in better ways throughout countless industries. 

As a student at Johns Hopkins, even one studying online, you’ll benefit from a wealth of research resources. Some cutting-edge facilities you might work with include the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab and the Johns Hopkins Extreme Materials Institute.

A collaborative and hands-on program, it is leadership-focused and will provide you with the flexibility you need to earn a degree while you are still working. You can choose from focus areas or concentrations such as:

  • nanotechnology
  • nanomaterials
  • biotechnology

You will learn from expert faculty in online classrooms that serve as incubators for real-time, solutions-based knowledge. You’ll get one-on-one mentoring and be able to apply what you learn in class to your job almost immediately. You don’t have to take our word for it, either—this program is ranked among the top online graduate engineering schools by the U.S. News & World Report.

A highly affordable program, it offers a variety of ways for students to finance their degrees. Believe it or not, about 78% of enrolled students’ tuition costs are covered by employer contribution programs! 

#9.  Ohio State University-Main Campus

Ohio State University-Main Campus

Master of Science in Materials Science and Engineering

Ohio State University is a public land-grant research institution located in Columbus, OH. Often considered a Public Ivy, the school has been ranked highly by major publications as one of the best in the United States. 

When you get a master’s degree from Ohio State University, you’ll benefit from a variety of features and resources. You’ll work right at the cutting edge of technology, studying within a close-knit department that offers a small-school feel. 

At the same time, you will be able to tap into resources that you would only get at a massive state institution. This highly innovative school receives more than $17 million in research funding each year, something that will help you explore any area of interest within the field of materials science.

You will be able to tap into extensive world-class research facilities as you learn from internationally recognized faculty. The program, like many of those offered by the Department of Materials Science and Engineering at Ohio State, is ranked in the top 25 nationally by U.S. News & World Report

You will be able to work in department research facilities like:

  • Center for Accelerated Maturation of Materials
  • Center for Electron Microscopy and Analysis
  • Fontana Corrosion Center

Almost 85% of all students participate in a research experience, internship, co-op, or part-time related work experience before they even graduate, and there are even global study abroad opportunities you can pursue!

An affordable program, it offers an excellent return on investment. More than 90% of graduate students receive full payment of their tuition and research costs along with a monthly stipend, health insurance premiums, and more. Because the program has close ties to industry, it has a nearly 100% job placement rate within six months of graduation and MS graduates have starting salaries that average more than $70,000. 

#10.  Worcester Polytechnic Institute

Worcester Polytechnic Institute

Online Master of Science in Materials Science and Engineering

Worcester Polytechnic Institute is a private research university located in Worcester, MA. Though it focuses primarily on instruction and research in technical arts and applied sciences, it is home to more than 14 academic departments with dozens of majors to choose from.

The master’s in material science online at Worcester Polytechnic Institute is one that is closely connected to the industrial sector. You’ll take classes that prepare you to work in materials processing and manufacturing in a variety of areas, including:

  • chemicals and energy generation
  • aerospace
  • biotech
  • electronics
  • automotive

You can earn your degree in just two years, working closely with faculty advisors to develop a customized and relevant program of study that will help you meet your goals. You will take around 30 credit hours of study 12 of which can be electives and three of which will comprise your final capstone project. 

You can study in state-of-the-art labs as you complete courses such as:

  • Advanced Thermodynamics
  • Structure and Properties of Engineering Materials
  • Design and Analysis of Manufacturing

You’ll work alongside expert faculty as you conduct experiments in facilities like the Materials Processing Facility. 

An affordable degree, there are a variety of financial aid opportunities for which you can apply. The WPI Career Development Center is an excellent resource for finding information about finding career opportunities as well as funding for graduate study. There are all kinds of scholarships for graduate students, too, including the famed Gateway Scholarship. In many cases, you may be eligible for Employer Tuition Assistance, too. 


What is the most affordable online master’s in material science?

Because there are so many different financial aid opportunities available, there is no single most affordable online master’s in material science. The program that is most affordable for you might not be the most cost-effective for someone else.

Do your research on what sorts of financial aid opportunities might be available to you. Complete the FAFSA the October before you plan to start school and apply for scholarships, grants, fellowships, and student loans.

Don’t be afraid to apply to both public and private schools. While the sticker price for tuition is an important feature to pay attention to, know that financial aid at private schools can often help make up the difference.

Some of the most affordable online master’s in material science and engineering include those offered by Arizona State University, Worcester Polytechnic Institute, and North Carolina State University. 

What are some masters in material science jobs?

The technical, interpersonal, and IT skills you develop in a materials science and engineering degree will prepare you for a career in a wide variety of sectors. 

The most obvious position is one as a materials engineer. As a materials engineer, you will develop, test, and process materials used to create a wide range of products. 

You could also work as a CAD technician or design engineer. As a CAD technician or designer, you will use computer-aided design software to plan projects, do design work, and research codes and standards. 

Some other positions you might want to consider include those as a metallurgist, product or process development scientist, research scientist, technical sales engineer, or even a project or quality manager.  

What is a master’s in material science and engineering salary?

As is the case with most engineering degrees, your salary with a master’s in materials science and engineering will be impressive, to say the least. Let’s look at some of the most popular jobs and their associated salaries to give you an idea.

If you choose to work as a materials engineer, you can expect to earn an average salary of around $95,640 per year according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. These jobs are in high demand, too, expected to grow by about 8% before 2030. 

As a CAD designer, you can expect to earn an average salary of around $59,120 also with an expected growth rate of about 8%. And as a research scientist, you could earn up to $126,830 per year! That’s an excellent return on investment. 

What will you learn in a materials science degree?

If you’re intrigued by multiple disciplines such as mechanical engineering, chemistry, and mathematics, then a materials science degree will likely appeal to you. That’s because this is a highly interdisciplinary field that will allow you to explore numerous concepts and ideas. 

You’ll take classes that cover all the materials used in modern industry, from metals to polymers to ceramics, and the techniques that are necessary to process and work with them. You’ll also learn strategies for solving challenges that will enable the technologies of tomorrow. 

How do you apply for an online master’s in material science? 

To be eligible for an online master’s in material science, you’ll need to meet a few basic prerequisites. 

To start, you will usually need to have a bachelor’s degree in materials science or a similar field. If your degree is not in materials science, you will need to have a strong background in engineering, mathematics, and physics.

To prove your abilities in this area, you’ll be asked to submit transcripts from your undergraduate study, generally with a minimum GPA of 3.0 or higher on a 4.0 scale. If you’re a bit below that threshold, that’s okay—you can still get into a program, but you may be asked to meet other requirements.

In addition to transcripts, you will also need to supply GRE test scores. Not all programs require the GRE, but it’s a good idea to take it just in case. It’s a challenging test, but with the proper preparation, you can get the score you want to earn. 

Of course, you’ll also need to provide documents such as letters of recommendation, a personal essay, and a resume. In some cases, you may have to complete an interview, too. In any event, it’s a good idea to start working on your application with plenty of extra time to spare. That way, you’ll have time to ask questions and do further research about whether the online school you’ve chosen is right for you!


Michael Templeton
Managing Editor

Kacey Reynolds Schedler
Contributing Editor