How to Become an Engineering Manager (+ Salary & Career Guide)

8 min read

Engineering managers play a pivotal role across many different industries. This career path requires a balance of technical expertise, the ability to effectively communicate and collaborate as well as the capability to understand business operations. Those who achieve the role of engineering manager will enjoy a mix of responsibilities and substantial financial benefits.

Here’s what you need to know about how to become an engineering manager, including educational and experience requirements.

What Is an Engineering Manager?

Engineering managers are experienced engineers who are capable of combining their technical expertise with strong leadership and management skills to lead teams and projects. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, engineering managers direct and coordinate a full range of manufacturing and development activities, including “production, operations, quality assurance, testing [and] maintenance.”

Engineering managers set goals and develop detailed plans, including production schedules, and then execute strategies. Engineering managers are often part of an engineering or IT team and will usually report to a director of engineering within a company.

What Does an Engineering Manager Do?

Though engineering managers will do less hands-on engineering than the engineers they manage, they play a critical role in the successful execution of engineering projects. It is their responsibility to ensure that teams work both effectively and efficiently and that projects are successfully completed — with an emphasis of being on time and within budget.

Specific responsibilities will vary between industries, organizations and titles, but in general most engineering managers are responsible for:

  • Team Leadership: Engineering managers demonstrate leadership and provide direction for teams. This involves not just technical oversight, but also allocating resources, establishing policies, checking in on day-to-day operations and coordinating with senior company staff. Good engineering managers create a positive and collaborative work environment by providing guidance, mentorship and support to the engineers they manage, with the intent to foster their professional growth and innovation.
  • Project Management: This involves planning, prioritizing and allocating resources to ensure that timelines are met and goals are achieved. Engineering managers will monitor a project’s quality and progress from concept through completion by assigning tasks and supervising employees’ work. Building high performing teams and managing productivity involves setting project milestones, tracking progress and making adjustments as needed.
  • Decision Making: Aside from managing projects and day-to-day activities, engineering managers are expected to make higher-level strategic decisions that align with their organization’s goals and vision. This can involve considering factors such as the technical feasibility of a project, its business impact and general market trends. Engineering managers will need to communicate goals, determine project priorities and assign responsibilities in a manner that plays to the organization’s strengths while mitigating risks.
  • Resource Management: Effective management requires optimizing the allocation of human and material resources to best achieve a project’s goals. Engineering managers are not only responsible for hiring, training and evaluating team members, but also assigning resources to meet goals and objectives and preparing budgets for all project, staff and equipment needs.
  • Communication: Engineering managers act as a bridge between engineering teams and other departments within the organization, meaning they need to know how to communicate effectively. They will regularly communicate project objectives, expectations and progress to both technical and non-technical stakeholders, offer regular updates on program progress and perform check-ins with staff to provide direction and resolve issues.
  • Problem Solving and Critical Thinking: Engineering managers are ultimately responsible for solving any complex technical challenges or issues that arise during the course of a project. They also must think of the bigger picture to drive innovation and outperform competitors. Engineering managers have to create environments that promote innovation and adaptability while prioritizing solutions that balance technical feasibility, business goals and available resources.

Leadership and Mentoring

The importance of leadership and mentorship in engineering management cannot be understanded. Today’s engineering managers are called upon to create a vision for their team and inspire others to follow it through.

Their success comes by creating the conditions that enable others to thrive. This is managing through influence, rather than by edict, which is necessary to have a more positive impact on organizational productivity and morale.

This style of leadership can be seen in how Satya Nadella leads Microsoft. His success is driven by:

  • The clear communication of his vision for the company
  • Restructuring teams with the aim of fostering good chemistry between departments
  • How he embodies a growth mindset by encouraging learning and continuous improvement
  • A humble approach that recognizes the achievement of others

Effective mentorship is also essential for increasing productivity and positively impacting employee retention. Mentorship boosts productivity by encouraging continuous learning and professional skill development within teams. By making employees feel more included and supported within their organization, mentorship also becomes a powerful tool for retention — especially for diverse teams.

Engineering Manager Education Requirements

An important step in becoming an engineering manager is attaining a balance of work experience, engineering degrees and specific licensing. Not every engineer follows the same career path. Rather than graduating from a four-year undergraduate engineering program, some engineers DIY their experience by taking online courses, learning on the job or just teaching themselves in their spare time.

However, you won’t be a viable candidate for higher-level engineering management and leadership positions unless you’ve earned an undergraduate degree, and many employers will prefer that you have a master’s or similar graduate degree.

  • A bachelor’s degree from an accredited university. Ideally you’ll attain an undergraduate degree in engineering or engineering management. It is possible to start your engineering career with a non-engineering degree, even from a discipline outside of STEM. And some engineers are entirely self-taught, and may only have a high school diploma or GED. While this approach can work for engineers entering the field, anyone who aspires to be an engineering manager will eventually need to earn a bachelor’s degree.
  • Earn a master’s degree within a related field. If you’re committed to being an engineering manager and want to build up your knowledge (as well as your credentials), then it can be extremely valuable to earn a graduate-level degree. Because graduate degrees are specialized programs, you’ll want to look for master’s degree programs in engineering management (MEM), technology management (MSTM) or similar programs such as the Master’s in Engineering Management and Leadership (EML). You can also consider a Master’s of Business Administration (MBA) program with a specialization in engineering.

Could a master’s degree in Engineering Management be the right step for you? Read our detailed blog post that provides a breakdown of what you can expect out of an M.S. in Engineering Management program.

Work Experience Needed

Another requirement for an engineering management position is that you build up several years of professional work experience. This can be on-the-job experience or practical co-op experience from academic programs, but either way, accumulating hands-on experience is essential for your career advancement. This applies whether you want to continue as a licensed professional engineer or as an engineering manager.

  • You’ll need to gain several years, at least three to four, of work experience as an engineer. It’s important to note that if you don’t have a strong educational background in a STEM field, you need a longer amount of work experience to show that you’re a viable candidate for higher-level positions.
  • The type of work experience that you have counts a great deal as well. Look for chances to lead projects or teams, and volunteer for those opportunities. Aside from showcasing your ability to lead and manage, these experiences will allow you to develop applicable skills such as good project management, effective communication and relationship building.
  • All good engineering managers possess skill sets and experience that can adapt to other industries and evolve with circumstances. As a practicing engineer, the more technical experience you have along the product development lifecycle — from design and manufacturing to launch and support — will enable you to better understand, develop and communicate your organization’s strategic goals.

Relevant Certifications and Licenses

You can shore up your education and experience by earning additional credentials or by attaining your professional engineering license. Specific certifications add to your employability by demonstrating your expertise within a field, such as mechanical engineering, IT, aerospace, etc. Consider obtaining relevant certificates and licenses, such as:

Hard and Soft Skills for the Position

Engineering managers require a diverse set of skills to effectively lead and manage technical teams and projects. To demonstrate your capability and be successful, you’ll need a balance of technical expertise and management skills — also called “soft skills.”

  • Technical skills include:
    • Up-to-date understanding of current practices, processes and software
    • Industry-specific knowledge and all company-specific applications
    • Coding skills in major computer programming languages (C, Java, Python, SQL).
  • Soft skills include:
    • Effective communication with team members and stakeholders
    • Critical thinking, including the ability to make judgment calls and delegate responsibilities
    • Flexibility and adaptability, which can require innovation and creativity

Career Paths for Engineering Managers

As an aspiring engineering manager, you can usually move into a managerial or leadership role after a few years of experience in engineering, software development or related management positions. All experiences will be different, though the usual career path typically involves a progression of roles and responsibilities.

You may find work as a senior engineer or technical lead to take on larger projects and provide guidance to junior team members. You may also progress into the role of lead engineer, where you’ll oversee a small team of engineers, manage project timelines and collaborate with other departments. Eventually, as an engineering manager, you’ll be responsible for overseeing larger teams, coordinating projects, setting strategic direction and managing budgets.

Currently, the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a general 2% increase in job opportunities by 2031 as more established engineering managers retire or otherwise leave the workforce. However, employment growth largely depends on the growth of specific industries, such as IT or healthcare. In particular, there’s expected to be an increased need in the U.S. to address infrastructure expansion and repair as well as renewable energy construction and development.

According to, the average salary for engineering managers ranges from $131,703 to $162,756, though your exact salary will vary based on your experience, skills, certifications, education and employer.

Should you consider rising further into more advanced leadership positions, you could find success as a director of engineering, where you’ll potentially oversee multiple engineering teams or departments and play a key role in shaping the overall technical strategy of the organization. You could even advance to the position of vice president of engineering or chief technology officer (CTO). Either of these high-level leadership positions will require you to work closely with executive leadership to determine the technical vision, strategy and execution of the entire organization.

Companies Hiring Engineering Managers

While engineering management positions are largely in technical fields and industries, you’ll find job listings across a wide variety of companies and organizations — both private and public. A search across different job aggregator sites in August 2023 found thousands of openings, including at:

1Password Apple Boeing Clean Harbors The city of Brentwood, CA The city of Fort Worth, TX Howard Systems International Lockheed Martin NetflixNorthrop Grumman Playstation Premier Rides Reddit Robinhood Financial Saab, Inc. SpaceX Stride Funding Tencent

These are just a sample of organizations that are hiring. With the U.S. experiencing over 300,000 new startup businesses every quarter since the start of 2021, there are plenty of new job opportunities for engineering managers opening up on a regular basis.

The Future of Engineering Management

Technology has pushed many fields to evolve at a rapid page. Today’s managers need to not only know technical and people skills, but be able to quickly understand and adapt to changes within industry and the marketplace.

That’s why the University of San Diego’s 100% online Master of Science in Engineering Management and Leadership (MS-EML) program was created to specifically address the needs of tomorrow’s technical professionals. The MS-EML curriculum is designed to instruct and train students to be well-suited for high-level careers in any field where management requires a balance of technical ability and the capacity to be adaptable, strategic, innovative and influential.

Engineering Manager FAQs

How long does it take to become a manager in engineering?

The time it takes to become a manager in engineering will vary depending on your level of education, work experience, performance and the specific company or industry you’re working in. In general, it may take anywhere from seven to 15 years or more to enter the engineering field and work your way up to engineering manager.

Is it difficult to become an engineering manager?

The challenge of engineering management will largely depend on your ability to leverage your technical engineering skills while developing managerial and leadership skills. If you prefer the actual work of engineering and aren’t comfortable as a team leader, then you’ll find it very difficult. However, if you enjoy collaboration, mentorship and similar interactions, then you’ll find engineering management to be a natural fit.

What is engineering management?

Engineering management is the practice of engineering and the business of managing other engineers to complete technically complex projects. It has been defined as the art and science of planning, organizing, allocating resources and directing and controlling activities that have a technological component.

What are some resources for aspiring engineering managers?

There are many different organizations dedicated to supporting engineers, offering resources, training and networking opportunities. Some of the biggest and most popular include:


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