If you have been working as an engineer for a while now, you might be thinking about your future career options and aspirations and how best to achieve them. There are of course many different possible paths you could choose, but one of the most common is to become an engineering manager.
For engineers who want to move up into a managerial role, there are many new skills to be learnt due to the major differences between the two job types. For instance, a managerial position tends to involve a lot more people skills, budgeting, and so on in comparison to pure engineering. This is why many people with ambitions of making the transition from engineer to engineering manager consider returning to formal education in order to maximize their chances of getting a promotion and then succeeding in their new role.
The two main higher education degrees that are relevant to aspiring engineering managers are the Master of Business Administration (MBA) and the Master’s in Engineering Management. This post will discuss the differences between these programs in terms of both the study experience and career outlook – to help you make an informed decision about which is the right option for you.
Program of Study
At a very broad level, the main difference between the two programs is that the MBA has a more general curriculum compared to Engineering Management. They do have some amount of overlap in the topics they cover, but many of the specific modules will be different. Thus, one of the best ways to decide which degree is best for you is to take a look at the course lists of both programs at several different colleges and get a feel for which you are most interested in and passionate about.
To give you a rough idea, both the MBA and Engineering Management will cover topics such as accounting, economics, finance and management. Where they differ is in the more specialist subjects. For instance, Engineering Management offers more practical modules that blend engineering and mathematics with business, such as intellectual property as it applies to engineers, marketing for technology products, engineering design process and project management, management science, and so on.
An MBA on the other hand will offer a wider variety of business modules, covering topics such as entrepreneurship, ethical issues in business management, organizational behavior, negotiation, leading global teams, and so on. Click here for further information on the type of topics you can study during an MBA.
Both an MBA and a Master’s in Engineering Management are challenging, postgraduate level courses. However, the experience you have while studying for each one will be slightly different. For example, the more general curriculum of the MBA enables students from a wider variety of backgrounds to enrol. This means that you will be studying alongside not only engineers, but people from all sorts of industries and with first degrees in all sorts of subjects. This can be a fantastic chance to get exposure to lots of different ways of viewing tasks and problems, as well as different approaches to solving them.
An Engineering Management program on the other hand generally requires students to have an undergraduate degree in engineering or another STEM subject such as mathematics or physics. This gives you a brilliant opportunity to meet plenty of other like-minded professionals in your specific field, with the chance to take a deep dive into topics and issues that are specific to your industry.
There will also be a difference in the specific skills that you focus on during each course. For instance, an Engineering Management program will cover more industry-specific skills, whereas an MBA will focus on a wider range of more general skills. Therefore, you might find it helpful to consider exactly what abilities you are hoping to develop during your studies, in order to allow you to choose the most appropriate program for you.
Firstly, it is important to note that neither qualification is ‘better’ than the other, and both will prepare you very well for elevated job roles within the field of engineering. However, depending on what exactly your career aspirations are, you might find that one is more suitable for you than the other.
For example, if you know that you intend to stay within the field of engineering and work for traditional firms then you might prefer to choose a Master’s in Engineering Management in order to get as specialized of an education as possible. As these programs tailor each aspect of business they cover to focus specifically on how it applies to engineering, everything you learn will be immediately and directly relevant to your work.
On the other hand, if you want to broaden your horizons and leave your options open to move into a slightly different sphere, then an MBA might be a better choice for you. It is also the more widely-known of the two degrees, which can give it higher levels of international recognition. Studying for an MBA is also a huge advantage if you are considering starting your own business one day. This is because it has a large focus on entrepreneurship, which can help you to figure out how to bring your engineering product ideas to market or set up a startup.
Hopefully, this post has given you a helpful starting point when it comes to deciding which qualification you would like to study for. The next step is to think carefully about the following:
- What kind of modules or topics are you most interested in studying?
- What sort of skills would you most like to learn?
- What type of career are you hoping to progress to after you complete the program?
The answers to these questions will help you to work out whether an MBA or a Master’s in Engineering Management is most appropriate for you. After that, you can begin researching the programs that are available and start applying! Do not forget to speak to your current manager about the possibility of your company sponsoring you to study and look into scholarship options, too. Good luck!