A degree in engineering management can lead to a career in various fields, such as research, planning, manufacturing, private enterprises, consulting, government, and others. The typical curriculum at the undergraduate four-year degree provides the fundamentals in sciences like chemistry, physics, and calculus. These subjects complement the necessary business skills, such as management principles, accounting, applied finance, strategy methods, and data analysis. Therefore, engineering management sits between the engineering specialties, like mechanical or electrical, and business administration.
Stevens Institute of Technology, founded in 1870, and located in Hoboken, New Jersey, has an Engineering Management Bachelor’s degree. The program, recipient of several prestigious awards, boasts that 100% of E.M. graduates landed a job within six months of graduation. The curriculum has more science classes than most, including mechanics, electricity, magnetism, circuits & systems, mechanics of solids, thermodynamics, chemistry lab, and materials processing. In addition, students learn the business side with these courses: communications, project management, supply chain management, accounting, business analysis, statistics, and microeconomics.
The next level on the academic path in engineering management is a master’s degree. Some jobs may prefer applicants with a graduate degree, whereas many will accept a bachelor’s degree plus years of experience. For verification, a review of online employment sites is the best way to research job qualifications. Generally, companies want your technical skills and knowledge to match their industry. For example, an aerospace corporation might prefer an engineering degree in aeronautical engineering, plus management experience. For instance, Glassdoor posted a job for an Engineering Manager for a company that manufactures explosive products for commercial and military applications. The recommended bachelor’s degree is in chemical, mechanical, or industrial engineering.
The graduate-level courses focus on business more than applied engineering or theory. For example, the M.S. in Engineering Management (MSEM) at the University of Massachusetts’ College of Engineering has core classes in supply chain logistics, leadership, economic decisions, business law, production planning, negotiation theory, and statistical learning.
Compare this to the 36 credit hours online Master of Business Administration (MBA) at Southeastern Oklahoma State University. Their core studies include:
- Management Economics
- Accounting for Managers
- Data Analysis
- Financial Management
- Strategic Management
Therefore, an MBA can benefit one’s career in engineering management as it affords additional coursework in business-related topics. Much the same as the MSEM. As far as practicality, you may find more online MBA programs to suit the working professional. Another advantage of the MBA is the ability to tailor it to your job function. Again, we use Southeastern as the example.
Their MBA offers fifteen concentrations that students can complete in as few as 12 months. These range from General Business to the following (partial list):
- Aerospace Logistics
- Data Analytics
- Project Management
- Healthcare Information Systems
- Women in Leadership
- Strategic Communication
The difference between the MSEM and the MBA is that the former, as expected, favors engineering. The MSEM at Fairmont State University lists their courses as:
- Leadership in Engineering & Technology Management
- Engineering Economic Analysis
- Engineering Project Management
- Engineering in Production Systems
Therefore, there is more engineering flavor in the M.S. than the MBA, whose coursework is geared towards any industry type or sector. Furthermore, many jobs cite project management experience, which an MBA with a concentration in this area could be advantageous. The online MBA at Grand Canyon University is another example of an institution offering several MBA specialties, including Project Management and Leadership. Either one being advantageous to a career in engineering management.
MSEM vs. MBA
Individuals keen to earn a master’s degree out of necessity for a particular job or enhance their resume might have to decide which degree is best. Since the 1990s, learning institutions began incorporating more practical knowledge into the MBA instead of the customary theoretical aspects. This change boosted the prestige of the degree, which became the beacon for many business professionals.
Arguments supporting the MSEM believe that it affords the best of technical knowledge (engineering) with management skills. Consequently, it should be the choice of professionals aspiring to become leaders in the engineering world. The qualifications stated in many engineering management or project management positions are a degree in engineering foremost. Experience appears to take precedence over a graduate degree in most cases. A quick review of job postings on Indeed stipulates a bachelor’s degree in engineering and experience.
Perhaps spending years gaining work experience will be better than the years spent in class full-time. The alternative is to enroll in an online program, either an MBA or MSEM, and work simultaneously!