Through the combination of business and management acumen with technical expertise, engineering management degrees are designed to play a key role in preparing the next generation of managers in the engineering sector.
Engineering is a broad discipline which applies scientific, economic, social and practical factors to the design, building, maintenance and improvement of structures, machines, devices, systems and materials. It is typically divided up into civil and structural engineering, chemical engineering, electrical engineering and mechanical engineering, with many further sub-specializations in each field. Management applies social, economic, theoretical and practical factors to the coordination, planning, organizing, staffing and leading of all aspects of an organization, through the strategic direction of human, financial, technological and natural resources.
Common skills gained from an engineering management degree include:
Engineering management is a specialized field of management concerned with the engineering sector. Reflecting industry demand for management-focused engineers (or from the opposite perspective, managers with an understanding of engineering), a growing number of specialized engineering management degrees are available to help develop the knowledge and skills needed for these roles. During an engineering management course, students will develop industrial engineering skills, knowledge and expertise, alongside knowledge of business and management techniques, strategies and concerns.
The title given to engineering management degrees may vary depending on the institution, and can include: Bachelor of Science in Engineering Management (BSEM), Bachelor of Science (BSc) in Engineering Management, Bachelor of Science in Engineering (BSE) in Engineering Management, and Bachelor of Engineering in Engineering Management (BEEM). Keep in mind that the specific structure and content of engineering management courses will also vary, so make sure to check the curriculum before applying. Some (non-exhaustive) variations on engineering management degree titles you may come across include:
Some institutions may also offer dual-degree programs, at the end of which you will graduate with two bachelor’s degrees (one in engineering, one in management). You’ll either divide your time equally between the two degrees, or be able to choose whether to concentrate more on business/management or more on engineering.
If your degree is accredited by an institution such as the UK’s the Engineering Council, you might be able to fully satisfy the educational base for Incorporated Engineer (IEng) status or partially satisfy the educational base for Chartered Engineer (CEng) status. In order to complete the educational base for CEng, you’ll need to take part in an accredited program at the postgraduate level, build up your professional development and undergo a professional review.
The accreditation body for post-secondary education programs in engineering in the US is the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET). After the completion of a four-year ABET-accredited program, you’ll qualify for admission to examination at the first level of professional registration. Note that some employers may prefer accredited degrees, and they are also more likely to be recognized on an international level.
You’ll find that most engineering management programs are offered at the postgraduate level and thus require a bachelor’s degree in engineering, computer science, mathematics, science or business. However, some institutions do offer engineering management at the undergraduate level – indeed, the American Society for Engineering Management (ASEM) has accredited and/or recognized 27 undergraduate engineering management programs within US institutions.
Outside of the US, notable undergraduate engineering management programs include those in countries such as Turkey (Istanbul Technical University’s Management Engineering), Canada (University of Waterloo’s co-operative Management Engineering, the first program of its kind in Canada) and Peru (the University of the Pacific offers Peru’s first Business Engineering program).
In general, undergraduate entry requirements for engineering management degrees include mathematics, or further mathematics, with some institutions asking for a qualification in physics or any other science subject. A background or interest in business and/or economics can be helpful, while a foundation in the social sciences (such as psychology and sociology) can aid your understanding of management in organizations.
Engineering management is typically taught through a combination of lectures (some delivered by leading industry practitioners), case studies, hands-on workshops, laboratory-based practical classes, engineering design activities (EDAs), tutorials, group and individual project work and consultation sessions. Generally, a combination of continuous assessment through small practical exercises for each module is used along with individual and group project work, essay writing, presentations, coursework and examinations, with an individual project or dissertation taking up most of your last year.
You’ll use a range of industrial software, for applications such as 3D modelling, project management, quality assessment, inventory management and simulation of processes. Studies focused on the fundamentals of your chosen engineering branch are likely to dominate your first year, with business and management topics (including legal studies, contract management, project evaluation and corporate management) introduced as your degree progresses.
You may also be able to participate in engineering or business research projects available at your institution. These projects are usually funded by industry bodies, charities, government departments and research councils, and are a good way of putting your degree knowledge to practical use and seeing first-hand how your studies are directly applicable to the workplace. Depending on your institution, you may be able to undertake research abroad, or take part in a salaried industrial placement for one year (such programs are sometimes called ‘sandwich’ courses), in sectors including automotive, aerospace, electronics, consumer goods, computer software, food processing and manufacturing, either locally or abroad.
You’ll likely start your engineering management degree with a general foundation in the core engineering and management topics within your chosen engineering field (or within general engineering, depending on your degree program). You will then expand on those core topics, and get the chance to specialize in a chosen area. By the end of your degree, you should have gained specialist depth in your chosen aspect of engineering (or an all-encompassing foundation in all areas of general engineering) and a thorough understanding of management principles, concerns, techniques and strategies.
By its very nature, engineering management is a multi-disciplinary subject, so the scope of topics available for specialization is broad – you can choose from a wide range of topics within engineering and within management, as well as some topics that blend both fields. Due to this variety, students wishing to pursue graduate degrees may progress to masters and PhD programs in management sciences, business, all fields of engineering, law and even medicine.
Some popular undergraduate topics you can specialize in include:
Engineering mathematics refers to common areas of mathematics used when making calculations in the engineering industry. You’ll learn basic algebra and functions along with the specific mathematics needed in your chosen field of engineering. This could include elementary calculus, differential equations, iterative methods, Taylor series, vectors, complex numbers and matrix algebra and simultaneous equations. The content will be delivered within an engineering context, with a strong emphasis on the direct application of mathematics to engineering problems. You may also have the opportunity to use mathematical software packages such as Mathcad.
Studying management science means learning about how engineering managers may use specific tools and techniques in order to make business decisions. You’ll learn how to apply elementary statistics for presentation, analysis and inference and how to use design, data analysis and financial and project-planning charts in order to create and present management strategies. You may also explore basic economic theories, global markets and types of engineering organization, learn how to apply financial techniques to the engineering business environment, and learn how to use relevant computer software.
The field of operations management focuses on ensuring that business or industrial operations are efficient, using as few resources as possible while achieving the highest output. You’ll learn how to oversee, design, redesign and control the process of production in order to convert inputs (such as raw materials, labor and energy) into outputs (such as goods or services). You’ll learn about metrics in operations management, production systems and their configuration, analytical and simulation modelling, and safety and risk issues.
You might instead study operations research, which applies advanced analytical methods to help create optimal or near-optimal solutions to complex decision-making problems. Using mathematical and statistical methods and focusing on human-technology interaction, operations research is a multidisciplinary field concerned with achieving the maximum profit, performance or yield while minimizing loss, risk or cost within a real-world setting.
Decision engineering involves using engineering principles to make decisions in an organization. You’ll learn about the entire process of structural decision making, including agreeing to objectives, developing detailed specifications, creating a decision model using advanced analytics techniques, with key cause-and-effect elements, and then subjecting this to quality assurance and process improvement when necessary.
A more management-focused approach to decision making, business statistics involves interpreting data using statistical techniques for a variety of business applications with the aim of supporting good decision-making within organizations. You’ll study topics such as time series, applied statistics, descriptive statistics, probability, binomial and normal distributions, testing hypotheses and confidence intervals, linear regression and correlation.
Similarly, engineering statistics uses statistical models to tackle scientific and engineering problems and includes data analysis, hypothesis testing and planning in order to optimize a process or product. You’ll cover topics such as quality and process control, time and methods engineering, reliability engineering, probability and system design, system identification and design of experiments.
Course modules in accounting for engineers are designed to deliver the basic (or more advanced, depending on your level) accounting concepts and analysis used within the engineering field. You’ll learn how to prepare, understand and analyze standard financial statements and information, prepare these in forms commonly used by managers, and work with these reports in order to make informed business and financial decisions. You may learn how to create feedback and accountability forms for actual and potential fund providers, how to budget, plan and create cost-volume-profit analysis. You’ll learn about generally accepted accounting principles and gain an overview of the role of accounting in business.
An important function in all organizations, human resource management involves maximizing employee performance and satisfaction in order to achieve the strategic objectives of the organization. You’ll learn about employee recruitment, training, development, performance appraisal, rewards and benefits, industrial relations and employment law. You might also explore issues such as succession planning, diversity and inclusion, organizational psychology, lowering employee turnover and preserving knowledge. Your studies may extend into industrial and organizational psychology, which involves scientifically studying human behavior in the workplace and applying psychological theories and principles to organizations in order to improve the performance, satisfaction, safety, health and well-being of employees.
As you may have gathered, there is a huge breadth of topics and specializations within engineering management. While this means plenty of choice as a student, it also translates very promisingly for a job-seeking graduate. Armed with the knowledge of complex engineering processes, the art of management and the ability to work in interdisciplinary teams, you’ll likely find yourself in great demand within most professional engineering streams, as well as within the business and commercial sectors.
Due to the immense range of knowledge, skills and techniques you will have amassed during the course of your degree, you can expect to find relevant positions within sectors as diverse as accountancy, automotive, aerospace, banking, business, chemicals, communications, construction, consumer and industrial goods, electronics, energy, entertainment, environment, finance, food and drink, healthcare, insurance, IT, leisure, manufacturing, marketing, mining, oil and gas, pharmaceuticals, process analysis, product development, project management, research and development, retail, transportation, travel and waste disposal. As well as within engineering-focused organizations, you might also work for governments, hospitals, insurance companies, the military, non-profit organizations and universities.
Common engineering management careers include:
Of course, the most obvious career for an engineering management graduate is that of an engineering manager. This role can vary a lot, but may include overseeing projects and operations; managing personnel; involvement in research, product design, development and launches; creating strategic plans; and contributing to cohesiveness among employees from a range of engineering disciplines, as well as cross-disciplinary and global teams.
You’ll need to handle budgets and general financing and may also need to work with a wide range of teams within your organization in order to bring a product from conceptualization to market delivery. You’ll employ your analytical and quantitative skills to solve technical problems and make well-informed decisions, use your technical communications skills, and demonstrate an understanding of the technical and behavioral aspects of decision-making. You’ll need to provide a productive environment for your staff, keep abreast of innovation and technological breakthroughs and actively learn on the job.
You can also find opportunities in general management in a wide range of sectors, although your skills would be most opportune in management roles that benefit from a background in engineering, such as manufacturing or technical service industries.
Popular with companies who need the expertise of an engineering manager on occasion or who do not have the budget to afford an in-house engineering manager (this is common in engineering firms which tend to be small partnerships), engineering management consultancy involves providing ad-hoc management advice specific to engineering.
This may mean providing guidance on the strategic development, improvement, optimization, implementation, analysis and evaluation of integrated systems within engineering. This includes taking into account information about people, finances, equipment, energy, materials and/or processes, and ensuring all these factors work seamlessly together in order to make the engineering organization more efficient, effective, profitable and organized. You might need to design from scratch, or improve upon existing processes, products or systems within the organization. You may use computer simulation and modeling, along with mathematical tools and your own background knowledge and experience of engineering principles and best practices.
Roles in research and development, or research and technical development, involve either developing new products or improving upon existing products through gaining new knowledge about scientific and technological topics. Research and development is an important way for businesses and organizations to grow, improve or expand their operations. You might be working with products, processes or services, with the main aim of delivering a profit, improvement, innovation or other similar goals, depending on your organization. With your engineering background, your engineering research job might involve developing and applying new ideas in fields as diverse as high-speed computation, bioengineering, earthquake prediction, power systems, nanotechnology and construction.
Graduates of engineering management degrees are likely to complete their courses with a deep understanding of at least one engineering industry sector based on the specialization they choose. This means they are likely to go on to relatively specialized roles, such as: