If you’re just as interested in the business side of engineering as you are in the theories and application of math and science, then you might be interested in a different kind of engineering career. Both sales engineers and engineering managers combine business skills with engineering skills in careers that are lucrative and outside the scope of a typical engineering job.

Sales engineer vs. engineering manager


Education for Sales Engineers and Engineering Managers

If you want to be a sales engineer or an engineering manager, you need just as thorough an understanding of engineering principles and practices as you would for other engineering roles. While it is possible in some instances to become a sales engineer without an engineering degree, you would need a great deal of technical training and sales experience to do so. More often, sales engineers have a bachelor’s degree in general engineering or in a discipline such as civil, electrical or mechanical engineering, according to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Because engineering programs typically aren’t geared toward business and sales careers, candidates for sales engineer roles often need on-the-job training in general sales as well as an individual employer’s procedures and business practices. Having past sales experience, perhaps through a part-time or summer job during high school or college, can also help aspiring sales engineers develop their skills in making sales.

Engineering managers may start out studying and working in any discipline of engineering. Only once they have acquired a great deal of experience – often, moving up into leadership roles within engineering teams along the way – can they attain senior-level engineering manager roles. A bachelor’s degree may be sufficient for advancement into some engineering manager positions, but for others, a graduate degree might be necessary.

Aspiring engineering managers can choose from different graduate degree paths in the disciplines of engineering and business. The Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET) accredits degree programs in engineering management. Accredited programs must cover subjects such as management systems, organizational planning and leadership as they relate to the field of engineering and how to implement management systems in a variety of technological environments. Master’s degrees in engineering management, known as MEM or MsEM degrees, aren’t the only option for aspiring leaders. Some engineering managers have a technology management degree, which prepares them for management work in technical areas of engineering, the BLS reported. Others choose a business school degree such as a Master of Business Administration (MBA) in order to learn a broader scope of general business and management skills.

For engineers – especially sales engineers and engineering managers – education is a lifelong pursuit. Sales engineers and engineering managers need to keep up with evolving technologies to succeed in their careers.

Job Duties in Business and Engineering

Nearly one-quarter of the 74,900 sales engineers in the United States work for merchant wholesalers selling durable goods, the BLS reported. Others work in manufacturing, computer systems design, wholesale electronic markets and telecommunications. Sales engineers use both technical engineering knowledge and sales techniques to develop compelling technical presentations that explain the benefits and features of their technologically advanced products and services to potential customers. Often, a sales engineer must travel to meet customers, potentially requiring them to be away from home on business trips for several days at a time.

The best sales engineers have excellent interpersonal skills and plenty of self-confidence as well as technological skills, according to the BLS. Like other engineers, sales engineers need problem-solving skills, but they use these skills to understand and address customers’ problems – typically by selling a technological solution to those problems. In addition to directly selling products, sales engineers may coordinate the logistics of orders, troubleshoot problems with the products they have sold, and assist with the development of new products and services.

What Is the Difference Between a Sales Engineer and an Engineering Manager?

There are about 180,100 architectural and engineering managers in America, and more than a third of them work in the field of manufacturing, according to the BLS. Another 24 percent work in architectural and engineering services, nine percent work for the government, six percent work in management and five percent work in scientific research and development. An engineering manager is responsible for planning, overseeing and coordinating engineering work.

Engineering managers supervise both people and projects. They acquire and oversee engineering staff and decide what training these personnel need. They develop detailed plans, including determining budgets and deciding what equipment is needed, for projects such as the design of new products. An engineering manager must collaborate and coordinate with other managers and engineering staff to make sure that work gets done productively. Engineering managers may face tasks that range from checking the accuracy and quality of their teams’ work to developing the concept behind a new research and development project.

Both sales engineers and engineering managers may face a good deal of stress. Sales engineers are under pressure to make sales, while engineering managers must meet deadlines and stick to budgets.

Income Potential for Sales Engineers and Engineering Managers

Sales engineers and engineering managers both have significant earning potential, though engineering managers can earn quite a lot more than sales engineers can. The median annual wage for sales engineers is $98,720, above the $92,220 salary for engineers as a whole and well above the $27,020 salary for all sales jobs. Often, income for sales engineers is based partly on commission or bonuses, so the more sales a sales engineer is able to make, the higher his or her salary. Generally, the most profitable sales engineer positions are in telecommunications (with a median wage of $109,880), computer systems design ($108,230) and wholesale electronic markets ($101,690), the BLS reported.

Engineering managers earn a median wage of $137,720 per year. The highest earning engineering managers worked in scientific research and development services, making a median wage of $159,400, or company management, making $143,360.

The BLS predicts a seven percent increase in sales engineer jobs and a six percent increase in engineering manager jobs over a decade.