A decade ago, engineering departments mainly addressed problems from a limited engineering scope. They weren’t as concerned with the company as a whole. As today’s companies grow larger and more integrated, engineers hoping to land jobs increasingly need to address problems that don’t traditionally fall under the engineering umbrella.
A Master of Engineering Management (MEM) degree can prove crucial to the development of this knowledge base. Students and working professionals who earn their MEM learn to broaden their understanding in key areas. These include the various moving parts of a company, and how to address issues that arise in areas outside of the engineering department.
Engineers who hold an MEM are more aware of how their work affects the rest of the company, making them more qualified for leadership positions. As such, engineers with an MEM who are on a career advancement track know how to confidently answer engineering interview questions that may come their way. Below, we discuss how earning an MEM can better prepare engineers for leadership position interviews. We also cover the potential careers an MEM can open up.
The Purpose of Engineering Interview Questions
Those who interview engineers for potential jobs or promotions are interested in the skill sets and experiences that candidates can offer their organizations. Candidates need to be able to demonstrate both their soft skills and hard engineering knowledge during the interview process. An MEM degree applies to a variety of different fields within engineering, such as chemical, electrical, civil, and mechanical engineering. Moreover, this degree is designed to help students knowledgeably lead teams. Typical classes focus on leadership, specific engineering technical knowledge, and communication across a broad range of positions — all competencies that can assist students with obtaining a leadership position.
What Does Leadership Mean in Engineering Management?
Leadership means taking charge. Leaders of engineering departments need to be masterful communicators and lead by example to make sure the department runs as efficiently as possible. Engineering managers represent the department to the rest of the company and are responsible for proving the department’s worth. Leadership in engineering also includes understanding the human element of engineering just as much as the technical element.
Example Engineering Interview Questions
Earning an MEM prepares graduates for a variety of different questions that may be asked by recruiters, department heads, and HR personnel.
- When Have You Demonstrated Leadership in the Past? Hiring departments for management positions look for candidates with previous experience leading group projects. Candidates should be able to describe their leadership experience working with colleagues.
- How Do You Perform Under Pressure? Engineers often work with hard deadlines, and those in management positions need their departments to complete work on time. One benefit of an MEM is classwork specifically designed to deal with group deadlines. For example, Ohio University’s Project Management class teaches students how to manage teams and plan for deadlines. Graduates from Ohio University’s MEM program should be well prepared to articulate how they deal with pressure during the interviewing process.
- How Do You Motivate Others? This popular engineering interview question tells recruiters whether managers know how to inspire their teams during time crunches, workflow challenges, and slow periods. It can also gauge a candidate’s ability to build a cohesive team culture.
What Are Some Essential Skills in Engineering Management?
Hiring committees for engineering leadership positions typically expect candidates to be able to answer engineering interview questions about their skills in some of the following areas. Questions may differ depending on the type of engineering job, but leadership positions in engineering typically require candidates to be practiced in the skills mentioned below.
- Small Picture/Big Picture Understanding: Engineering managers oversee both daily production of their department and also are able to focus on big-picture goals. Good managers meet with their team daily and help advise them on company and career goals.
- Delegation: Delegating tasks means putting trust in employees, helping them to develop the creative and strategic ability to positively affect a company. Given the size of jobs that engineering teams undertake, team leaders need to delegate tasks to their most trusted engineers to foster company growth.
- Self Management: Managers need to hold themselves to an even higher standard than the people they manage. Engineering managers need to be organized, set goals for themselves, and consider themselves a representative of their company.
- Communication: Engineering managers must ensure clear communication is taking place both within their department and out to the rest of the company. They also need to be able to clarify performance expectations, project goals, and company needs to their department.
Job Options for MEM Graduates
A Master of Engineering Management can help prepare engineers for a job in one of a variety of industries. Degree holders may seek to advance with their current employer, or they can look to transition to engineering management opportunities elsewhere. Below are six jobs typically suited for those with their Master of Engineering Management degree.
- Engineering Project Manager: This position revolves around not just managing engineers, but managing every aspect of a project. This may include everything from erecting skyscrapers to overseeing the building of new railway systems. Engineering project managers need to obtain either the Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM) or the Project Management Professional (PMP) certifications. At the time of this writing, PayScale reports that the average salary of an engineering project manager is $90,814. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) engineering management jobs have a projected growth of 6% through 2026.
- Engineering Functional Manager: The functional manager has control over the entire engineering department. This position is not usually affiliated directly with any of the project teams, rather it oversees all of them from a broader standpoint. The functional manager makes sure that project managers have the resources to complete projects. At the time of writing, PayScale reports that the average salary of an engineering functional manager is $114,718.
- Systems Integrator: Systems integration mostly applies to the field of information technology engineering. The systems integrator ensures that all relevant technology within an office operates smoothly. This individual might also design and implement different types of automated software, depending on the business. At the time of writing, PayScale reports that systems integrator engineers make $77,065 per year. According to the BLS, computer systems analyst jobs are projected to grow 9% through 2026.
- Configuration Manager: Configuration management is about tracking and updating all of a company’s hardware and software assets. Any future changes to the company’s technological system will need to be anticipated. The configuration manager stays on top of these systems and prepares for any necessary changes. As of writing this, PayScale reports that configuration managers earn on average $84,878 annually. Computer and systems management jobs are projected to grow 12% through 2026, according to the BLS.
- Contracting Officer’s Technical Representative: When the U.S. government needs to hire a private contractor to complete a job, a contracting officer technical representative (COTR) is brought on to serve as a liaison. The COTR will be employed federally or by the state to ensure that a contractor meets every technical requirement outlined in the contract. As of writing this, PayScale reports that the average salary for a COTR is $70,819. After being hired by the government, a prospective COTR will need to complete Federal Acquisition Certification.
- Director of Project Management Office: Some organizations implement a business model that includes a project management office (PMO). The director of a PMO serves as the go-to resource for project managers. PMO directors will have a solid understanding of the company’s goals and how each project comes together. The director of PMO is also responsible for hiring and delegating employees to different project teams. PMO directors will need to obtain Project Management Professional (PMP) certification. PayScale reports that PMOs earn $144,715 per year on average.
Starting Your MEM Today
Earning an MEM is a great option for both current engineering students and working professionals in the field. An MEM sharpens and increases knowledge about engineering, but, more importantly, it can expand the ways in which engineers can apply their knowledge to other areas. Engineers with their MEM often become leaders within their companies. Engineers who possess an MEM are better prepared to answer engineering interview questions with confidence. They are able to draw from a wide spectrum of knowledge, making them great candidates for advancement.
Ohio University’s online Master of Engineering Management is an excellent choice for anyone with an engineering background looking to transition to a higher role or leadership position. Students may complete the program entirely online, adding convenience and flexibility to their academic pursuit. Learn more about furthering your career today.