If you’re weighing the pros and cons of a career in engineering and a future in business, why choose between the two? You could do both. Business-savvy problem-solvers who excel at math and science can combine the fields of engineering and business in a few different ways. Students who are natural leaders may make great engineering managers. You can cultivate the art of sales and put your technical knowledge to work as a sales engineer. Another option is to apply engineering principles to solve problems within a business organization as an industrial engineer.
Architectural and engineering managers are experienced engineers who manage engineering projects and staff to make sure that the work gets done correctly, on time and within the project’s budget. Engineering managers work in all kinds of engineering disciplines. Typically, an engineering manager starts out by earning a bachelor’s degree in his or her chosen engineering discipline and begins gaining entry-level work experience in that branch of engineering. Most engineering managers have a minimum of five years of experience before they are promoted to management. As they gain this experience, engineers may have the opportunity to work on increasingly challenging and complex projects and to expand their responsibilities. Many engineering managers gradually move up into leadership roles, working as engineering team leaders before they become engineering managers.
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A bachelor’s degree may be sufficient for promotion to some engineering manager roles. However, many engineers who want to move into leadership and senior roles choose to go to graduate school. A master’s degree in engineering management (MEM or MsEM degree) covers specialized coursework in engineering economics, industrial and human resources management, financial management, quality control and accounting, the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported. Other popular graduate degrees for aspiring engineering managers include master’s degrees in technology management (MSTM) and more general Master of Business Administration (MBA) degrees.
Engineering managers earn a median wage of $137,720 per year, according to the BLS.
In the field of engineering, sales is the job function that focuses on matching the needs of a customer with the technical equipment, products, services or processes offered by the company. Almost one-quarter of the 74,900 sales engineers working in the United States are employed by merchant wholesalers of durable goods, the BLS reported. About 19 percent of sales engineers work in manufacturing, 18 percent work in computer systems design, 11 percent work in wholesale electronic markets and six percent work in telecommunications.
Sales engineers’ primary job isn’t the planning and design of new equipment or processes, though they occasionally help to develop new products that meet clients’ needs. Rather, sales engineers focus mainly on selling technologically advanced products to businesses and organizations that need technical solutions. A sales engineer typically needs a bachelor’s degree in engineering to understand what the equipment or process does and how it works – and, more importantly, to communicate the features and benefits of the product to potential customers. Life as a sales engineer may require a great deal of traveling to meet customers at their place of business, developing and giving presentations on the goods and services the sales engineer is trying to sell, negotiating prices and coordinating delivery. For sales engineers, interpersonal skills are as important as problem-solving skills, because making sales is all about listening to customers, communicating the benefits of the product being sold and establishing business relationships.
Sales engineers earn a median wage of $98,720 per year – more than the median salary for all engineers, according to the BLS. For many sales engineers, commission or bonus opportunities contribute to their income, so their performance is directly tied to how much money they make.
Sales engineers working in telecommunications, computer systems design and wholesale electronic markets typically make the most money, with six-figure median salaries.
Not all engineers build bridges or machines or technical equipment. Industrial engineers apply the science and math principles of engineering to industrial organizations, systems and processes. The goal of an industrial engineer is to solve industry problems, such as cutting unnecessary costs and wasted time and boosting productivity and profitability. Industrial engineering is often characterized as the discipline where the fields of engineering and business meet. Industrial engineers find work in industries such as communications, health care, consulting services and – most commonly – manufacturing.
Industrial engineers need a bachelor’s degree and core coursework in manufacturing systems design, production systems planning and statistics, according to the BLS. These engineers earn a median salary of $85,880 per year and enjoy a positive job outlook, including a faster than average 10 percent growth in job opportunities expected over just 10 years.
ABET accredits industrial engineering degree programs, but industrial engineers also earn degrees in mechanical engineering, manufacturing engineering and electrical engineering.
For students who wish to pursue careers that bring together engineering and business, opportunities are growing and earning potential is high.