How to Become an Engineering Manager

Hiral Shah is a professor of engineering management at St. Cloud State University. For the past five years, she has taught courses both online and in traditional classes. Outside of academia, she also has six years of professional experience in project management and is involved with the Project Management Institute. She holds a Bachelor of Science in mechanical engineering, and both a Master of Science and PhD in engineering management.

What is engineering management?

Engineering management is a discipline that bridges engineering and business. It is a best fit for those having a technical background and who want to move to the management field.

What do you find most interesting about engineering management?

The interesting thing about engineering management is that it prepares engineers, scientists, technologists, and other similar technical professionals for a managerial role. It provides these professionals with knowledge and skills to manage the engineering workplace with efficiency and cost effectiveness.

What is your least favorite aspect of engineering management?

None. Being an engineer, getting into engineering management was an obvious choice rather than going for an MBA.

Are there subfields of engineering management that students might not be aware of?

Majority of the schools do not offer subfields. As such you can specialize in supply chain management, project management, quality management, manufacturing management, and other areas.

What careers do students commonly pursue with a degree in engineering management?

Fresh engineers pursuing an engineering management (EM) program get into roles such as quality engineer, operations management, business analyst, database analyst, supply chain analyst, production engineer, project engineer, and other roles. Those already working as engineers with three or more years of experience get an opportunity step up their career ladder and move into managerial roles such as engineering managers, directors, project manager, team leaders, continuous Improvement managers, and others.

Is a graduate degree preferable for a career in engineering management, or can someone enter the field with a bachelor’s degree?

You need to have a bachelor’s degree in a technical field to study EM.

What personality traits do you think a student should have in order to be successful in an engineering management program?

An open mind to learn new ways of managing people, processes, and projects.

What electives would you recommend that a student in an engineering management program take?

Electives would depend on their technical background. I usually suggest that students from computer science backgrounds take electives in their field such as database management, IT security, and other similar. It is good to take two-thirds of electives with management focus and rest with technical focus.

What study tips would you give to a student to help him or her succeed in an engineering management program?

Time management is a must. As managers they should learn to complete projects on time and that should be a practice taught from when they enter the program. To be on time, students would need to plan their work and learn to manage personal and academic tasks.

Do you think engineering management is a subject that can be studied online, or is a traditional class environment ideal?

It can be learned either way; however, when you are dealing in an online environment, I would caution students not to go with non-reputed programs. Online teaching needs special skills from an instructional viewpoint so that the students have a favorable learning experience. I would recommend being in a traditional class environment to those with less or no experience in the field. For a virtual experience, it will be good to take a couple of online classes for them.

What subjects should a prospective student of engineering management study before entering a college program?

Just be good in your technical field before you enter the program, because ultimately, you may end up in a leadership or managerial role in your area of expertise.

What pieces of advice, or caution, would you offer to a prospective student of engineering management?

There are many universities offering engineering management programs all around the globe. However, only a few are certified or accredited by reputed professional societies. One should look at the curriculum and see if it really fits their needs. If looking for programs in United States, going for EM programs certified by the American Society for Engineering Management (ASEM) will be preferable. Certified programs are required to maintain their curriculum and instruction based on the Engineering Management Body of Knowledge (EMBOK).