How to Become an Engineering Manager

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Engineering managers inspire and mentor teams of professionals who collaborate on projects that may range from the design of a fingerprint-based security system to the construction of a water treatment plant. These managers ensure the successful execution of objectives, coordinate and communicate with other departments, and align their team’s work with the operating principles of their organization. In addition to directing technical work, engineering managers heavily influence the culture of their teams, and they can foster an environment of curiosity that facilitates turning ideas into completed projects.
Engineers inspired to nurture the talent of professionals and oversee the design, development, and execution of engineering projects would do well to consider pursuing an online Master of Engineering Management, which develops the skills to thrive in engineering management.

What Does an Engineering Manager Do

To efficiently guide an engineering team, engineering managers must be accomplished professionals who possess a layered understanding of the procedural and technical requirements of their specific engineering discipline. Utilizing this technical knowledge, engineering managers create detailed plans for the development of systems, products, and construction initiatives. They then lead a team of engineers and other technical professionals through a series of tasks to execute their plans and bring projects to completion.

Overseeing the Project Development Lifecycle

Engineering managers oversee the total lifespan of a project. They start by determining how to approach the engineering task and define the project’s goals and objectives. They then carefully plan out the details of the system, product, or construction. Their plans often include strategic benchmarks and planned communication with all stakeholders that take place from the beginning to the end of the project. They also attend to time frames and budgets.

Leading Teams

Engineering managers collaborate with teams of engineers with whom they consult during the development phase of projects. They start by assessing the strengths and skills of team members, then delegate tasks to channel the available talent into achieving the goal at hand.
Throughout the course of a project, engineering managers provide coaching, offer productive feedback and encouragement, and make themselves available for questions. When obstacles or problems inevitably arise, engineering managers step in to help resolve them efficiently and logically. They also check the technical accuracy of their team’s work. Finally, engineering managers spend a good deal of time coordinating activities with contractors, suppliers, marketers, and other key project participants.

Steps for Becoming an Engineering Manager

Those interested in how to become an engineering manager must consider factors such as education and experience — the initial steps to entering the field. Similarly, engineering managers who wish to augment their marketable skills often choose to earn additional degrees.

Step One: Earn a Bachelor’s Degree

Earning a bachelor’s degree in engineering is the foundation of launching any career in the field. The specific type of engineering degree (civil, mechanical, electrical, etc.) should also carefully be considered. Bachelor’s degrees in engineering provide essential training in how to apply math and science to solving technical engineering problems, which is fundamental to the work of not only engineers, but also engineering managers.

Step Two: Build On-the-Job Experience

Engineers must first establish themselves as solid technical performers before assuming roles in management. By working as engineers first, engineering managers have the opportunity to build their technical skills and put their training into practice in real-life project situations.
Demonstrating technical competency helps engender the trust and confidence of the team members engineering managers oversee. In addition, fine-tuning technical skills and participating in engineering projects provides future engineering managers with critical insight into how to complete projects, as well as how effective and ineffective managers operate.

Step Three: Earn a Master’s Degree

Earning a master’s in engineering management can help validate a candidate’s level of preparedness to assume a role in engineering management. While engineering managers must navigate the technical side of engineering, their business skills and ability to manage people are indispensable. Most master’s in engineering management degree programs provide coursework in financial management, project management, and other business-related skills that build the critical competencies engineering managers must possess.

Ohio University offers an online Master of Engineering Management program that is designed to deepen analytical competencies, technical knowledge, and communication skills. For example, students study the management principles they will likely encounter on the job, taking classes that train them in the design and analysis of statistically valid experiments, the techniques and processes for project management, and the application of accounting techniques and principles in an engineering management context.

Salaries of an Engineering Manager

Engineering managers enjoy attractive compensation packages. According to the website PayScale, engineering managers earn annual salaries between $81,000 and $149,000. As of this writing, PayScale reports the average annual salary is $114,718.
Research shows that salaries increase in correlation with years of experience, and certain skills demand higher salaries. For example, engineering managers with established leadership skills command salaries that are 5% higher than their peers who don’t have those skills. Engineering managers with people management skills command salaries that are 4% higher. To achieve salaries in the upper range, engineering managers also need to prove their ability to successfully work on complex and difficult projects and designs.

Future Growth of Engineering Manager Jobs

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects a 6% growth in jobs from 2016 to 2026 for engineering managers. That number jumps to 13% for the engineering services industry, which includes consulting firms that provide civil engineering services such as building roads and bridges. According to the BLS, the growing need for repairs to the nation’s current infrastructure will likely increase the demand for engineering managers and improve their job prospects even further.

Seeking a career in engineering management means pursuing work that is meaningful, challenging, and important. It also means entering a highly competitive job market. Exploring the benefits of an online Master of Engineering Management from Ohio University is an excellent first step for those who wish to develop the skills employers covet.

Recommended Reading
6 Strengths for Modern Engineering Managers

Engineering Management vs. Project Management

What Is an Engineering Management Degree?


Arc, “How to Be the Engineering Manager Your Company Needs”

Arc, “Skills You Should Have as an Engineering Manager in 2018”

Bureau of Labor Statistics, Architectural and Engineering Managers

Hackernoon, “Engineering Management Philosophies and Why They Matter Even if You Are Not a Manager”

Ohio University, Online Master of Engineering Management

PayScale, Average Engineering Manager Salary

Quartz, “Good Engineering Managers Don’t Do One Job—They Have Three”

U.S. Department of Energy, Career Map: Engineering Manager