A specialized form of management designed to catapult science and engineering graduates into key leadership positions in their respective industries, engineering management (EM) combines the best of business and engineering studies. It is a rigorous yet rewarding career path that demands business acumen—that is, administrative, organizational, and planning abilities—as well as technical expertise. In a nutshell, EM is the MBA’s tech-savvy twin sister.
Engineering manager careers are offered in industries across the board, the largest of which are, to date, architecture and engineering, scientific and technical instruments manufacturing, scientific R&D services; and electronic component manufacturing. More specific areas include everything from product design and development to operations research and supply chain management.
The typical job responsibilities of an engineering manager revolve around planning, coordinating, and overseeing projects involving employees from all engineering disciplines. Although the duties of the engineering manager are less hands-on than those of the engineer, the demands are greater. It is the engineering manager’s job to discuss a project’s specifications and procedures with management and staff, to propose, evaluate, and approve changes. They also monitor the project’s progress and see it through to completion. Budgeting, hiring, and mentoring may also fall under the engineering manager’s umbrella of responsibility.
While technical aptitude and business acumen are the foundation of all engineering manager careers, a successful engineering manager must possess more than just those two qualities. Other must-haves include excellent people skills, a sound knowledge of customer service, analytical thinking, attention to detail, adaptability, and stress tolerance.
As of May 2011, engineering managers in the US were earning an average annual salary of $122,000. The highest average earnings for engineering managers were reported in California, Massachusetts, and Texas, with spectator sports, oil and gas extraction, and scientific R&D services making up three of the highest-paying EM industries in the country. However, the monetary rewards aren’t the only reason why a career in EM is worth pursuing.
The demand for (and net worth of) skilled engineering managers is expected to increase gradually in the coming years, driven by the steadily increasing complexity of the engineering industries. Professionals with degrees in EM also hold valuable leverage in more ways than one. They have greater chances of advancement in large industrial companies as well as in small start-ups and have the option of starting independent engineering firms themselves.
Three pathways are open to engineering professionals interested in pursuing engineering manager careers: time (i.e., learning management on the job), an MBA, and a degree in EM. The last is by far the most effective. Lawrence Technological University offers an online Master of Engineering Management program that enables engineering professionals to pave their way toward advancement without sacrificing their existing careers.
To learn more about the LTU online Master of Engineering Management, click here.