Why Engineers Make Good Business Leaders | Top Universities

Why Engineers Make Good Business Leaders

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Ben Clayton

Updated Mar 19, 2023



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Would it surprise you to learn that in 2014, 33% of S&P (Standard & Poor's) 500 CEOs have their undergraduate degree in engineering? From an outside perspective, engineering and business sound like two very distinct specializations, but when one looks closer the overlaps become more obvious. Both engineers and business leaders want to create something efficient, both have an eye for creative, innovative solutions; yet they are both rooted in the realm of the possible. Although the day-to-day work of an engineer is very different to most business professionals, the skills and knowledge obtained from studying engineering transfer to business careers remarkably well. These skills include:

1.  Effective project planning, time management and problem solving


Over the course of their education, trainee engineers tackle a variety of projects. Each has a strict deadline, encourages finding an innovative, efficient solution and needs to be approached in a well-structured fashion. Those who can succeed in this area will find their skills translate very well to workplace best practices.


2.  A keen attention to detail

Engineering is said by some to be “applied mathematics”, and engineers need to sweat the small stuff! With the vast sums of money at stake in the world of business, firms want employees who can work with both the “big picture” and appreciate the finer details of their operations.

3.  Good teamwork and communication

While different people will be more or less charismatic than others, aspiring engineers have to work with groups of fellow students on team projects. Even if an individual engineer might not be an inspiring speaker, s/he will almost certainly be able to communicate well within a team – an invaluable trait when in a management position.

4.  Strong numeracy, and experience in data processing

We’ve already mentioned the link between engineering and mathematics – they are very closely linked. While you don’t need to be a mathematical genius to succeed in business, it certainly helps.  Whether you’re in negotiations, writing a business plan or just trying to make sense of data, knowing your way around numbers is a huge asset.


5.  A high level of computer skills and technical knowledge

All businesses need to keep up with modern technology to thrive. Engineers also need their fingers on the pulse; many have a working knowledge of programming, as well as an understanding of the uses and limitations of the technology of the day.

… But why do engineers become business professionals?

All these skills help account for the growing dominance of engineers among the world’s business leaders. But even with the benefits of transferable skills, why would engineers be tempted to move into such a different line of work than the one they trained for? While most engineers are paid well, successful business leaders are often paid significantly more. Not only this, but some simply prefer the working conditions offered by the business sector.

What additional skills do engineers need for business careers?

Relatively few business leaders who were formerly engineers say their move was an example of “natural career progression”. Some of the “soft skills” and operational knowledge essential to management are not sufficiently nurtured within engineering roles, so extra training may be required. Indeed, engineers and the skills they bring to the table are very welcome within business careers, but to truly advance within this new environment extra effort is required. If you’re considering a move into business, one of the best ways to demonstrate your commitment, enhance your CV and pick up the skills that will give you an edge is by studying a business-related higher education course.

Must Read: Different Types of Engineering and Which Engineering Should You Study?

If you would like to move into business from engineering (or indeed, any other background), why not visit QS Course Finder? We provide a user-friendly, up-to-date course directory for thousands of business courses across the world. Our European site, www.QSCourses.com, has information on over 11,000 courses across 10 countries, while our Australian site, www.QSCourses.com.au, lists over 11,000 courses in Australia. We have a dedicated Student Support Team who can help guide you through the application process, as well as answer any questions you might have, free of charge.

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