What Is an Engineering Management Degree?

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Engineering Management might seem at first glance to refer to an inconsequential indication of seniority within an engineering firm or team. However, the term “engineering manager” is far from a hierarchical formality. An Engineering Manager’s role is described by U.S. News this way: “Engineering managers focus on product quality, employee efficiency, and financial management. They seek to enhance productivity and improve the results of complex engineering projects.” The field of engineering management refers to a specific skill set that combines those required for engineering and management into a unique and involved role. The engineering management position draws from a wide set of aptitudes and often necessitates postgraduate training in the form of a master’s degree. Engineering management can prove to be a highly fulfilling career. This article will explore the components of an engineering management degree and why a move into the field could prove rewarding.

Lady at desk smiling

Core Concepts Included in a Master of Engineering Management Program

So what is a Master of Engineering Management Degree (MEM)? What does it offer? This article will explore the offerings of the Ohio University MEM degree program as a template. According to Ohio University’s degree description, their MEM program “focuses on leadership and management skills and their direct relationship to engineering process improvement, project management, effective communication, and innovative solutions.” A quality MEM program should include the following components in its curriculum:

  • Leadership and management: Courses designed to help students develop their leadership skills are vital to any MEM degree program. Engineering managers must be able to manage teams, make sound decisions, communicate well, and effectively motivate their subordinates. High-level leadership qualities are necessary to successfully perform an engineering manager’s responsibilities.
  • Business principles: Engineering managers will not only work with engineers but could interface with professionals in a variety of other fields: finance, executive management, human resources, accounting, and more. Thus, they must possess at least foundational understandings of these types of roles and the underlying business principles that guide them.
  • Engineering-specific courses: More generic management degree programs like business administration or organizational leadership lack the engineering-specific applications that a Master’s of Engineering Management can provide. Because most students that engage in an MEM program will have engineering backgrounds, expect a high level of engineering competency and associated coursework. This proves an excellent advantage over generic programs because MEM students can study exactly the types of scenarios they might encounter on the job.

Aptitudes Necessary to Excel in an MEM Program

MEM programs will develop the skills you need to excel in an engineering management role. However, certain aptitudes will advantage an MEM student and could help indicate whether the degree program is right for you.

  • Communication skills are vital.
  • Natural problem-solving aptitude can aid an engineering manager as he or she enters a role that will often involve more large-scale problem-solving.
  • A strong business sense can help an engineering manager see a project or assignment from a more holistic perspective and contribute knowledgeably to business-oriented discussions and decisions.
  • A love of learning can aid an engineering manager who must stay apprised of current engineering practices, build in-depth understandings of other practice areas to more effectively communicate between factions, and earn additional certifications or take additional training throughout their career.

Career Options Available to MEM Graduate

Graduates of MEM programs are vital to the engineering industry because they form a conduit between technical engineers and those in vastly different lines of work — business management, executive teams, financiers, end-users or clients, and more. Without an interpreter who can speak both “languages” and effectively communicate with both types of professionals, projects can prove extremely difficult, problem-ridden, and sometimes seemingly impossible. Thus, engineering managers are important to the success of any engineering project and can be employed in a wide variety of industries. The following are just a few examples:

  • Biomedical: Engineering managers within the biomedical industry are responsible for the development or improvement of medical equipment. They often work in research and development capacities and can lead teams that push the cutting edge of medical technology.
  • Software: Software engineering managers often manage teams charged with software development of various types. This could range from developing in-house business applications to building consumer games and other products.
  • Civil: Civil engineering managers work on architecture or infrastructure teams to oversee building projects that affect the natural environment. These could range from bridges or industrial projects to state-of-the-art facilities, transportation infrastructure, and more.

Any sub-niche of the engineering industry into which an engineering manager chooses to enter will present its own unique challenges, work environments, and advancement opportunities.

Earning an engineering management degree can provide a valuable aid in securing an engaging and fulfilling career. Engineering managers exist within a multi-disciplinary realm. They interact not only with the technical demands of accomplishing feats of engineering, but with the nuanced challenges of leadership and communication necessary to effectively utilize a team and each individual’s strengths to their fullest potential. Earning an MEM degree is the first step to entering an entirely new realm of engineering responsibility and reaching new career heights.

Learn More

An advanced degree program for engineers who want to become leaders without losing their foundation in engineering, the online Master of Engineering Management from Ohio University focuses on leadership and management skills and their direct relationship to engineering process improvement, project management, effective communication, and innovative solutions.

Recommended Readings/Viewings:

A Closer Look at Engineering Professions

What to Expect From an Engineering Management Career

Engineering Management Programs: Become a Manager and Remain an Engineer

Engineering Project Management: Methods and Best Practices