A master’s degree in engineering management helps prepare students for an in-demand career. The field expects significant growth in scientific research and development services, project management, manufacturing, and production services.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts that the employment of architectural and engineering managers will grow four percent from 2020 to 2030. This level of growth may seem low compared to the average for many other advanced degrees, but there is still a robust current demand. Despite limited employment growth, about 14,700 openings for architectural and engineering managers are projected each year through 2030, according to the same BLS data.
Engineering managers direct plans, manage schedules, coordinate activities, and supervise other engineers. Engineering managers are expected to be leaders at their companies. They coordinate the efforts of multiple groups of engineers across a project or program.
Typically, engineering management students come from specific fields like mechanical engineering, civil engineering, or electrical engineering. By pursuing a degree in engineering management, they hope to distinguish themselves as experts in their particular engineering field and as leaders who can manage cross-functional groups of engineers. Earning a master’s degree in engineering management signifies the mastery and leadership required to manage cross-functional and diverse engineering teams.
This article will cover what earning your master’s degree in engineering management will entail. There are different courses, case studies, and internships unique to engineering management, which are discussed below.
A critical decision for any aspiring graduate student is the choice to attend courses online or in person. There are important pros and cons to each route, and this article will discuss how to make the right choice for you.
Additionally, one of the most important decisions associated with pursuing any graduate education is how to navigate the financial cost of attending a program. Cost of education, future employment opportunities, and the resultant return on investment are all important variables to consider.
Attending graduate school can be expensive, but numerous financial benefits outweigh the cost. An additional advantage to earning a graduate degree in engineering management is considered a generalist profession. Engineering management graduates are not tied to a specific engineering discipline; instead, the principles of scheduling, management, and budgeting apply to all engineering and business areas.
Engineering Management Master’s Degree
Master’s degrees are post-secondary education programs that build upon undergraduate and professional knowledge through two to three years of concentrated study. Typically, a master’s program provides college graduates and experienced professionals with the opportunity to certify and increase their knowledge in their undergraduate studies.
Students in engineering management programs often come from outside fields of study and pursue an engineering management degree to broaden their management capabilities across multiple disciplines. Students come from different backgrounds like traditional science and engineering degrees, business, or mathematics.
Engineering management is often described as the technical MBA, which is a nod to the similarities between engineering management and the highly popular masters in business administration. In the engineering world, engineering management can be considered a generalist degree. Engineering managers coordinate and manage work across all specialties, including software, mechanical, electrical, and civil engineers. As an engineering manager, you are valued for your understanding of multiple engineering disciplines and your knowledge of management disciplines, including scheduling, budgeting, and scope management.
Pursuing an engineering management master’s degree is an excellent idea for someone who has experience working in one or multiple engineering disciplines as a team member or individual contributor. Engineering management graduate students are typically strong in decision making, seek responsibility, and effectively communicate with diverse groups of people.
MS in Engineering Management Curriculum
At most colleges and universities, engineering management programs are multidisciplinary. They focus on different areas of theoretical and practical knowledge across both business and technical fields, like engineering, mathematics, and science. The business focus of the curriculum will include project management, management psychology, and business administration courses. In contrast, the technical side of the curriculum will consist of mathematics and advanced engineering concepts.
Some typical management courses that you take will include:
- managerial decision making
- management for engineers and scientists
- economic decision analysis
- case studies in project management
- business administration
- project management
Typical technical courses include engineering methods, contract delivery systems, operations management, and advanced financial management. These courses will teach advanced technical topics that improve your ability to manage diverse types of engineers on complex projects and operations.
Many prospective graduate students are concerned with how difficult the course load will be compared to their undergraduate experience. Graduate programs differ significantly from undergraduate programs, and the classes are typically more in-depth and advanced and require an undergraduate level of knowledge even to qualify.
One notable difference from undergraduate programs is that the curriculum in a graduate program is much more focused than in undergraduate education. Graduate students only focus on the courses and subjects specific to their major. This is a significant difference between liberal arts degree programs and some STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) programs, requiring additional credit hours in subjects unrelated to your major.
So ultimately, while the classes may be more advanced, graduate students typically feel that the more focused curriculum makes coursework easier.
Master in Engineering Management Online
Higher education programs at colleges and universities now offer various online and asynchronous education options. Online education now is widely acknowledged as just as legitimate as in-person education, and it has provided more people with access to graduate programs than ever before.
The decision to choose an online or in-person engineering management program depends on the needs of the student and the programs offered by the graduate program. Many institutions offer highly accessible programs, like hybrid (a mix of in-person and online), online asynchronous, and live online courses.
It is important to consider what is best for your educational and lifestyle needs. Do you want to work at your day job while pursuing your master’s degree? If so, an online asynchronous program that allows you to take courses and study according to your schedule may be best. Asynchronous programs also make sense when you have other priorities besides school, like family. If you can afford to forgo a salary for two or three years to pursue your degree, it may be best to consider an in-person, full-time program.
One of the first and most important things to consider when selecting an engineering management master’s degree is whether or not the program you are considering is ABET-accredited. ABET stands for the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. It is a non-governmental organization that certifies colleges and universities for quality standards established by every engineering and technology profession. ABET accreditation tells prospective employers and peers that the program you are studying under has received international recognition for its quality and overall meets the industry’s best practices.
Most college programs are ABET-accredited, as it is the standard for higher education in science and engineering, but some programs are not. Regarding the significant financial investment necessary to attain a master’s degree, it is imperative to ensure that future employers recognize the degree you are paying for. ABET accreditation is the first check to verify that you are getting a quality education.
The convenience benefits of an online graduate program are clear. There is unique flexibility that in-person programs cannot provide. One of the most difficult higher education benefits for online programs to replicate is networking. Networking with fellow students, faculty, and future employers is one of the most valuable aspects of an engineering management master’s degree. This is where you expand your knowledge and contacts within the profession, and it can be what lands you your next job. Face-to-face networking is limited or nonexistent in online programs, but many schools are trying to bridge the gap with online networking events. Before starting an online program, make sure your school plans to incorporate networking into the program.
Cost of an Engineering Management Degree
Higher education can be expensive, but affordable and high-value programs provide great education benefits and a manageable cost. Engineering management’s total tuition costs range between $5,000 and $50,000 per year.
More prestigious schools typically come with higher costs, so it is important to level the quality of education and degree that you are looking for with the subsequent financial requirements of the program. As with all master’s programs, in-state tuition is typically lower than out-of-state tuition and tuition at private schools, and there are numerous resources for finding grants, scholarships, and lending.
To review the type of loan financing that you will have available for your graduate program, visit https://studentaid.gov and fill out a FAFSA form first. This form will inform you of the federal grants and loan programs available to you for your master’s degree. It is highly recommended to review your federal student aid options before turning to private lenders.
Career and Salary Outlook
Education is typically the most expensive investment a person makes in themselves throughout their career. According to the Brookings Institute, graduate students hold about 50 percent of all national student debt while accounting for only 25 percent of the borrowing population. Graduate degrees are significant investments, and it is important to understand the costs and the potential returns on investment. Generally, adding a graduate degree to your resume will increase your earning potential.
The average base salary for an engineering management master’s degree holder is $92,000 a year. And as mentioned at the beginning of this guide, the Bureau of Labor Statistics forecasts that the workforce demand for engineering managers will continue to grow.