INFOGRAPHIC: Should You Take a Master’s of Engineering Management Instead of an MBA?

(Courtesy of Ohio University Online.)

Many students think that an MBA is their only option when it comes to advanced degrees in project management, organizational behavior, or business operations.

But for engineers, a Masters in Engineering Management (MEM) offers similar skill building, combined with industry-specific management development, setting them up for future movement to positions of increasing influence and leadership.

Getting an advanced degree often leads to enrolling in an MBA program but not without good reason. An MBA offers proficiency on project management, business operations and organizational behavior across different fields and proves to be useful for students from a wide range of disciplinary backgrounds.

Professionals aiming for a promotion into managerial positions often get their MBAs mid-career, but some students go straight to graduate school after getting their undergraduate diplomas.

Over the years, getting an MBA has become a standard for career advancement. Many employees who want to get better paying positions in the current company they work for, or employees who want to work for another company with a better salary package, often make their career move after securing an MBA.

However, for individuals with an engineering degree, enrolling in a Master’s in Engineering Management (MEM) program to advance one’s career is a more suitable choice.

Although a Master’s in Engineering Management is often overlooked, this particular program offers similar skill sets that one would acquire from an MBA, while also honing industry-specific skills that engineers can utilize later on to climb up the corporate ladder or to perform better in their current jobs.

A Master’s in Engineering Management degree is an interdisciplinary program that combines core management courses and technical education. Often, MEM programs are most beneficial those who have had some industry work experience, as opposed to those who are fresh out of college. A Master’s in Engineering Management degree is also a good advanced degree choice for graduates of science-related programs.

An MEM offers advanced knowledge in engineering statistics, quality systems, six sigma, database and information systems engineering, project management, engineering communications and leadership and law with numerous electives that focus on engineering management. This makes an MEM an excellent alternative to the traditional MBA.

An MBA, on the other hand, offers a broader curriculum that spans into different fields. This can include economics, accounting and finance, and marketing and can also include specialized courses in human resources, organizational behavior, international business, management, and corporate strategy. An MBA is best suited for non-engineers.

In managerial terms, an MBA is somewhat similar to an MEM, but it is important to determine which one is more suitable for the career path one wishes to take. With an MEM, engineering students and professionals get to concentrate on technical concepts and get to develop their management skills in their core areas of expertise. This can be in the field of Electrical Engineering, Environmental Engineering, Mechanical Engineering, and the like.

While both of these advanced degrees are key to improving a professional’s or a student’s knowledge, engineers are advised to get a Master’s in Engineering Management degree instead of getting a traditional advanced degree like an MBA.

An MEM program hones problem solving skills, communication and presentation skills, and arms one with knowledge on leadership and organization. MEM degree programs typically take two to three years to complete, and focus on skills that help engineers in project design, development and management. An MBA program that can take up to 3 years to complete still offers key skills to its graduates. This includes strategic thinking, communication, and innovation with a focus on finance.

Masters in Engineering Management Requirements

Unlike MEM programs, most MBA programs in the United States require a GRE or GMAT but aside from this requirement, it is fairly easy for any student with an undergraduate degree from any discipline to get into an MBA program. It entertains students from a wide variety of undergraduate disciplines with 3-5 years paid work experience. Most of these programs require verifiable leadership experience done through extracurricular work, paid work and internships.

To enroll in an MEM program, one must have an engineering or science-related undergraduate degree. The program appeals to both professionals and students with different levels of work experience.

Life After An MBA

MBA graduates often work in marketing, economics, banking, finance and investment and are usually hired by non-technical companies. According to the Ohio University, most individuals with an MBA work for finance and accounting firms, businesses that deal with services or consumer products, consulting firms, non-profits, and government agencies in the West Coast or the Northeastern United States. Statistics show that many MBA graduates in the United States work in San Francisco and New York City and often have the following job titles: Finance Director, IT Project Manager, Senior Accountant, Marketing Research Analyst, Marketing Director, Operations Manager, HR Director, PR Specialist, Executive Recruiter, and Chief Executive Officer (CEO).

The median salary of these graduates is $98, 626 after ten years of having said advanced degree.

Life After An MEM

Eighty-eight percent of Ohio MEM graduates agree that their advanced degree helped them become more competitive in their respective industries. With a median salary of $107, 765 after ten years, most MEM graduates are preferred or hired by companies that require technical specializations. The biggest industries that absorb MEM graduates are the biomedical engineering industry and the environmental engineering industry because of these industries’ steady growth in the past few years and their expected growth in the coming decades.

Most MEM graduates hold technical positions. Some are Engineering Plant Managers, Chiefs of Research and Development, Engineering Logistics Managers, System Engineering Team Leaders, and Lean Six Sigma Managers. Others work as Chief Technology Officers and Project/Program Managers while others hold Chief of Engineering positions.

For engineers who would like to master industry-specific skills without compromising managerial knowledge, enrolling in an MEM program is the best choice. For those who have science-related undergraduate diplomas, an MEM is also a good advanced degree option.

A MEM is the best option for anyone with a solid engineering background and should be an engineer’s first choice when he or she wants advanced education in his or her field and has the desire to stay in a technical industry.

Like an MBA, an MEM will give students a more holistic view of the workplace but unlike an MBA, MEM graduates have a more holistic view of every process, design concept, its development, and management and how these concepts affect revenue among other aspects that affect business.

To learn more, check out Ohio University’s Online Masters in Engineering Management program.

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