What Does it Mean to Study Engineering Management?
Engineering managers occupy a unique position in their industry. They combine their management expertise with engineering knowledge to lead teams of specialists in highly technical tasks. Management engineers must also possess strong communication skills so they can relate to their colleagues and subordinates. Most engineering managers focus on product development, materials management, production processes and workforce reliability.
The breadth of opportunity is one of the most attractive facets of this specialty. Fields that require this experience include:
- Manufacturing management
- Technical consulting
- Chemical process consulting
Career Education in Engineering Management
Before embarking on the journey towards a college degree in engineering, it is important to evaluate whether this career would be a good fit. Prospective engineers should possess the following traits, to some degree:
- A love for solving challenging problems
- The ability to visualize solutions using computer modeling and design tools
- Strong scores on standardized tests like the SAT
- The ability to apply abstract thought to problem-solving
Typical Engineering Management Courses
Plenty of choices await prospective engineering managers, and most colleges and universities offer a wide variety of courses:
- Managerial Science. This field involves management fundamentals, helping the student build a strong foundation in the science of engineering management specifically.
- Marketing. Students in this course are exposed to the business and retail aspects of engineering management. They learn how common business practices and communication skills apply to the engineering field.
- Accounting. Finance-oriented students can learn the fundamentals of money management and the integral accounting processes that keep everyday operations functioning correctly.
- Materials Handling and Plant Layout. Students gain firsthand knowledge of the system that transports and process products during a typical workday, and how each area of the plant contributes to the overall success of the operation.
- Computer Science. Information technology plays an increasingly large role in most industries today. This course equips the prospective management engineer to utilize IT appropriately.
- Physics and Chemistry. These courses are integral to a proper understanding of how engineering works and how the theories are applied to daily tasks.
- Systems Engineering. This course allows students to study in depth the various processes and systems that allow the mechanisms of engineering to function daily.
Online Degrees in Engineering Management
Engineering management is probably the most suitable, among all engineering specialties, for online study. Students can view hypothetical situations in real time and craft management decisions that solve the problems presented. New technologies allow instant communication among classmates and faculty through chat rooms, instant messaging, and email. Technology management degrees generally require less of a focus on lab work and more on communication and problem-solving, reducing the need for hands-on study.
Graduate Degrees in Engineering Management
The higher-level coursework of a graduate engineering management program emphasizes project work and intensive research, building on the knowledge gained in undergraduate education. Students collaborate in groups and study their own personal dynamics and management styles. They may also work closely with professors on research projects.
Professionals who want to segue from positions in the business world to careers in academia can enroll in PhD programs in engineering management. Unlike some disciplines, where tenure-track faculty members spend all their time on campus, many engineering management faculty continue their involvement with the private sector, serving as board members and advisors.
Engineering Management Concentrations
Depending on her educational background and prior work experience, an engineering management major may be able to customize her professional development by selecting specific courses that complement her career. Possible specialties to pursue include:
- Crisis, Emergency, and Risk Management. When engineering management professionals in this sector do their jobs well, citizens hardly notice. That's because the very best crisis and risk managers use sophisticated computer models and training scenarios to prevent catastrophes. Government agencies and insurance companies employ skilled engineering managers to lead teams of researchers to fully understand weaknesses in construction, civil, and military programs.
- Economics, Finance, and Cost Accounting. It may seem like overkill to hire an engineer to oversee a team of accountants. But a skilled engineering manager can use his communication skills to motivate his staff members while relying on his problem-solving skills to find new processes to automate or streamline procedures.
- Environmental and Energy Management. As oil prices skyrocket and fossil fuels become scarce, utility companies and auto manufacturers are scrambling to meet the energy needs of future generations. Engineering management specialists travel the world to deploy innovative new systems that generate power from wind, water, and other renewable sources. Other engineering managers lead teams that design efficient cars, computers, and generators, to prevent us from irreversibly damaging the planet.
- Information Security Management. Engineering managers working in information security lead teams of experts who work to keep company data protected. Using techniques like encryption and diversion, engineers contribute to the law enforcement effort by drawing cybercriminals into the open, where they can be caught and prosecuted.
- Knowledge Management. Many workers in small offices get a handle on a company's trends by hanging around the water cooler. Today's international conglomerates often employ tens of thousands of workers, spread out over a few continents. When the water cooler is the size of the Pacific Ocean, engineering management specialists step in to design systems and processes that keep team members informed about their projects, no matter what country they happen to be in at the moment.
- Management and Reliability of Infrastructure Systems. Engineering management specialists oversee the operation of power lines, canals, dams, drawbridges, and other vital pieces of infrastructure that we often take for granted. By leading teams of planners and researchers, engineering managers can maximize taxpayer investment in these operations by building reliable facilities that perform efficiently over the long haul.
- Operations Research and Management Science. At first, this specialty can seem like an exercise in corporate navel gazing. In fact, engineering managers can analyze the ways that companies communicate and operate in order to make recommendations for efficiency. As a result, companies run more smoothly and employees don't have to waste as much time on repetitive tasks.
- Software Engineering and Information Systems Management. Today's complex software requires development teams of hundreds or even thousands of skilled programmers. Engineering management graduates coordinate the efforts of specialists so that their final product runs smoothly.
What Can You Do With a College Degree in Engineering Management?
Engineering management students develop skills in mathematics, the sciences, communications, and humanities. Therefore, an engineering management degree qualifies professionals for a diverse array of jobs, including:
- Engineering Project Manager. This professional has direct authority over the actions of everyone on the work site. A combination of engineering knowledge and business acumen is essential.
- Senior Lead Analyst. This specialist ensures that engineering teams reach the most efficient outcomes on their assigned tasks.
- Cost Systems Analyst. A combination of financial management knowledge and engineering skills is necessary for this position. These individuals have a direct impact on the bottom line of large-scale projects.
- Construction Management Engineer. A construction management engineer has authority over the planning and building of a wide variety of structures in the construction industry. Issues he or she deals with daily would include: manpower, materials, and machines.
- Industrial Management Engineer. This specialist ensures that industrial emissions are moving safely through the production system.
Engineering Management Certification, Licensure and Associations
Many engineering managers take the licensure exam given through the National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying. Before earning the right to apply for the exam, an engineering manager must:
- Complete a four-year bachelor's degree through an accredited program
- Earn four years of qualifying experience
- Pass the Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) exam
- Pass the Principles and Practice of Engineering (PE) exam
Most engineering management students meet most of those qualifications during their undergraduate studies, or through work experience between their undergraduate and graduate years. Though not required by every employer, professional certification can benefit engineering managers who can use their designation to inspire greater confidence among their staff members.
American Society for Engineering Management
ASEM serves as a national sounding board and forum for engineering managers to exchange information and interact with peers. The group also consists of several national chapters that meet regularly. The society is also committed to adapting new technologies to increase the flow of new ideas and encourage advances among the membership base.
- "17-0000 Architecture and Engineering Occupations (Major Group)," U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Employment Statistics, May 2014, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes170000.htm