Within the world of engineering, the need for strong management has never been more apparent. As the world becomes more specialized, finding professionals who have the technical ability and managerial skills are more vital than ever.
Management engineers are called upon in many environments to be the strategic leader behind the project. They will work with departments and leaders within the field to come up with improvement recommendations based on analysis and monitoring of operations performance. It is the managing engineer’s job to ensure that whatever project they are working on runs efficiently and effectively, a delicate balance that may seem like it is always a trade-off.
There has been a shift within the engineering scope in recent years, whereas the focus used to be on controlling situations; more and more, the decisions are being made that are focused on affecting change. It is the difference between being very project-focused to being systems focused. Engineering managers need to be looking at the reasons behind their decisions and how they will impact the whole scope of work in the immediate future and beyond.
This is where a sound knowledge of industrial engineering practices comes into play, without this foundation in the industry, it would be impossible to make firm plans that take the future into account. Bridging the gap between industry knowledge and managerial focus is a difficult task. Still, when done well, it can be incredibly rewarding for the project and those involved as well as being more cost-effective and strategic.
Becoming an Engineering Manager
The road to becoming an engineering manager requires hard work and dedication. A solid foundation in the technical responsibilities of their role and establishing themselves within the industry to gain the necessary knowledge and experience before taking their education further.
The role of an engineering manager can be quite in-depth. It requires a lot more responsibility than you may be used to, but, in turn, this comes with more daily variety and the opportunity to take real pride in the bigger-picture work you will find yourself part of.
Engineering Managers usually have a solid educational background, taking a Master of Science in Engineering Management to learn the intricacies of being a management leader in the specific field of engineering. This course will involve making sure the student is comfortable working as part of a cross-disciplinary team, developing communication skills. It will ensure that you are confident in your knowledge of the technical skills and language they will need to use in your further careers. If you want to find out more about these courses, click here.
An often-overlooked area of engineering management is the need for good business acumen. It’s not enough to be highly skilled in your discipline if you cannot make your plans work within the financial constraints of clients. Students on a Master of Science programmer will learn how to balance economic viability within their scope of planning, and how to display this within their project work. This will really help to ground students with a firm knowledge of the development journey, from start to finish.
There are several different types of engineering management degrees, and some may be a master’s level degree or a bachelor’s level degree. All study programs will be slightly different and suitable for slightly different future plans. As a quick introduction, some of these bachelor’s degrees may be called:
- Bachelor of Science in Engineering Management (BSEM),
- Bachelor of Science (BSc) in Engineering Management,
- Bachelor of Science in Engineering (BSE) in Engineering Management
- Bachelor of Engineering in Engineering Management (BEEM).
All degrees from all universities and colleges will be different and will focus on different skills. Prospective students must do due diligence research before applying to ensure that their chosen course will be a good fit for their future career hopes and prospects.
Skills required for an Engineering Manager
The engineering manager will sometimes feel like a master of all skills. Their role will inevitably require them to be highly skilled in their particular field of engineering (which in itself is a varied landscape), but they will also need to develop the leadership skills required to manage a team. This will include listening and communicating at all levels as well as working to ensure their negotiation skills are on point.
Inspiring change is a big part of an engineering manager’s role, and they will need to ensure that they communicate the ‘why’ of the project effectively at all levels of the organization, from the workers on the front line to the members of the board signing the checks.
As well as requiring the qualifications and skills that are learned through training and experience, a strong and well-rounded manager will have invaluable ‘soft’ skills that they develop and put into practice, such as flexibility, adapting to unexpected situations, and problem solving.
The entry requirements for an Engineering Management Degree
While it may seem evident that previous knowledge in an engineering field is vital, many students go on to obtain their engineering management degree, having studied via a slightly different route than traditional engineering at university.
An engineering management degree is usually a post-graduate qualification. It will require the student to already have a bachelor’s in a suitable subject before joining. Still, some bachelor-level degrees are correctly aligned to the management side. This is not uncommon, and the American Society for Engineering Management (ASEM) recognizes 27 programs within US colleges and universities to be of the correct level.
If you are considering taking your bachelor’s degree but wish it to be in a broader subject matter, it might be worth looking at a BSc in one of the following topics:
- Engineering – an obvious foundation
- Computer Science – as the engineering world gets higher tech, a BSc in computer science can be a great foundation and give you a head start when it comes to using the more advanced computer modeling that will be needed later on
- Mathematics – a solid foundation in mathematics is required for an engineering manager anyway, a BSc degree will help even further to explore the well-needed advanced understanding.
- Business – as mentioned previously, the role of an engineering manager isn’t just industry-based, having a strong foundation in business and the ability to look at the financial projections of a project will really benefit both the manager and the client.
It is clear that all of the above options will require the prospective student to have a strong understanding in mathematics (preferably further mathematics), and some educational institutions will ask that the student has a strong background in the sciences, subjects such as physics, also.
Management isn’t all about numbers and technical ability; if you’re considering going into this field, it is essential to develop an understanding of people and how people think. There is a much higher focus now on leadership instead of traditional management, this means that students with interest in an area such as psychology or sociology may have an advantage over their more traditionally minded peers.
How much does an Engineering Manager make?
A fully qualified and experienced engineering manager can expect to make a yearly salary in the region of $117,650. Depending on the institution or the clients the Engineering Manager works with, this may include discretionary bonuses worth anywhere from $4,000 - $24,000.
The amount and engineering manager can earn, just as in any industry, will increase with skills, experience, and a solid portfolio of work behind them. With an average starting salary for an EM with 1-4 years’ experience being around the $96,000 mark, EMs with over 20 years’ experience in the field can expect to earn in the region of $126,000 and above. This is an increase of around 30% over 20 years and fairly typical of this type of role.
We’ve compiled a handy table to help you visualize the expected salaries for an Engineering Manager at different levels in their career.
Over the years, we have seen the need for engineering managers to increase within the industry, and it has become a much-sought-after role. As the world changes and the scope of engineering projects become more technical, the requirements for highly skilled and experienced individuals will increase.
Bear in mind that these salaries are based on many different factors, including the project the engineering managers have worked on, the level of clients they work with, the location, and the industry that they work in. As with all jobs, there will always be a trade-off between location, hours worked, and salary. One may earn more working in a location near a big city, for example, like Seattle, Washington, but the trade-off may be the cost of living and working in such an area. The above table is given as guidance only and shouldn’t be relied upon as fully representational of every role at that level.