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It may not be a matter of should learn computer programs, but a matter of must learn when the course is on the curriculum. In San Antonio, Texas, St. Mary’s University offers a Bachelor of Science in Engineering Management with one of the Major Courses being – Programming for Engineers. In three semester hours, students will have a working knowledge of C programming. This language has been classified as a procedural language supporting structured programming. On the TIOBE index of popular programming languages, C ranks first since January 2021. (TIOBE stands for The Importance of Being Ernest – an 1895 Oscar Wilde play).

At the graduate level, there is no emphasis on computer programming. For example, the Master of Science in Engineering Management at the University of Arkansas College of Engineering excludes programming from the coursework. Instead, this program focuses on the business aspect with Leadership Principles, Data Analytics, Project Management, Decision Models, and Risk Management classes.

Most graduate programs deviate from the technical side of engineering. Similarly, the M.S. in Engineering Management at Westcliff University in Irvine, California, excludes programming and computer science. Again, the courses concentrate on management, operations, strategy, process development, and project management.

Undergraduate programs, in comparison, are void of courses in programming languages. For example, the Department of Engineering and Management at Clarkson University has a B.S. with the same title as its department. Students must take calculus, general chemistry, physics, fluid mechanics, thermodynamics, and materials science – but no computer science courses. Therefore, the curricula provide the fundamentals of engineering coupled with economics, marketing, data analytics, project management, financial management, and more.

Individuals who might require programming can take free online courses from places like edX. This learning platform realized in 2012 that more people needed access to quality education. Their efforts resulted in over 110 million enrollments to date, over 3000 courses, 15 thousand instructors, and 160 partners. EdX currently partners with prestigious schools worldwide, like MIT, Harvard University, Boston University, The Hong Kong Polytechnic University, The University of Queensland (Australia), and The University of British Columbia (Canada).

Here are a few of the programming courses offered by edX:

  • Python Basics for Data Science
  • Using Python for Research
  • Computing in Python I: Fundamentals and Procedural Programming

Another online source is Harvard University that has free programming and computer science courses. Some as short as three weeks, for example, the Introduction to Programming with Scratch. This class teaches programming fundamentals of this visual language used in animations and interactive art. In addition, there’s a more extended course (12 weeks) titled – Web Programming with Python and JavaScript that covers database design, security, and user experience.

Other resources to learn programming are Codecademy and LearnPython. The former has had over 50 million learners over their nine-year existence. To complement your college education, you can become proficient in these languages: HTML (HyperText Markup Language), CSS (Cascading Style Sheets), JavaScript, SQL (Structured Query Language), and Python.

LearnPython has links to other programming languages’ tutorials, namely Java, C, C++, JavaScript, Ruby, SQL, and PHP.

Depending on one’s career path, computer programming may not be necessary. Engineering management programs blend natural sciences (chemistry and physics mainly) with business courses in reiteration. The coursework won’t provide the technical knowledge to be a practicing engineer. Instead, these programs stress topics applicable to an office setting (economics, management, finance, data analysis, and accounting) than to work in the field.

When you review job qualifications in engineering management, they lean towards candidates with practical engineering experience who demonstrate leadership qualities. In addition, employers want you to have the ability to understand their particular industry as an engineer and not an accountant or financial wizard. A manufacturing facility, for example, may want a degree in mechanical or electrical engineering – not a business graduate.

Northrop Grumman Corporation, an American aerospace and defense technology company, posted a job for a Project Manager. Applicants need at least ten years of experience with a bachelor’s degree and eight years with a master’s. No degree is indicated; however, the posting does ask for proficiency in Microsoft PowerPoint, Word, and Excel. These software programs are more important than learning how to code, in most instances.

The above example (Northrop) supports the job description of engineering management:  a professional, who directs, consults, budgets, plans, leads, presents, and communicates in an engineering field. Therefore, competency in Microsoft Word might be more beneficial than computer programming.

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