What Can You Do With an Engineering Management Degree? 12 Careers to Consider

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If you’re an engineer or technical professional looking for more beyond your technical work, then you might be ready for a more advanced leadership role or management position. Securing such a position can be especially rewarding — both on a personal level and due to the high median salary. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, while the job growth for different engineering fields is expected to continue to grow through 2031 as many existing engineering managers and leaders start to retire, the rate of growth is slower for engineering management than the average for other jobs, making these positions highly competitive.

One way to stand out as a candidate is by earning a master’s degree in engineering management, which also has the potential to increase your earning power by up to 13%. While traditionally some engineers have sought a Master’s of Business Administration to supplement their engineering skills, advanced degrees in Engineering Management and Leadership offer a more nuanced and specialized understanding of how technology influences and disrupts markets — and how you as a leader can better account for it.

If you’re interested in supervising other engineers and employees, being involved in direct production and participating more in product research and design — then you’re ready for a more advanced engineering position. Here’s how an Engineering Management and Leadership degree can help prepare you for those opportunities, which careers you’ll be well suited for and what to look for in a program.

What Is an Engineering Management & Leadership Degree?

For technical professionals looking to advance in their careers, being a viable candidate requires supplementing your existing technical skills with a more well-rounded approach to working in teams and across disciplines. When job site Zippia interviewed several engineering professors from across different universities about required skills, their answers were all in general agreement about what matters:

  • The ability to communicate across teams and departments
  • Independent problem-solving skills
  • Familiarity with concepts outside your specific field of study

If you’re hoping to learn these skills, you have a few advanced degree options to consider:

  • A master’s degree of science in a branch of engineering with a focus on management
  • A master of business administration with a focus on engineering management
  • A master’s degree of science in engineering management & leadership degree

All of these programs will require you to have earned a bachelor’s degree in a science or engineering field and some level of professional experience in the field. Here’s what you need to know about these options.

  • The specialized engineering tract — These are programs that are offered as dual tract options for students looking to earn their degree within a specific branch of engineering (electrical, computer, mechanical, etc) as well as an engineering management degree. The exact admission requirements will vary by program, with some offering combined B.S. and M.S. programs, while others are dual master’s degree programs that award two different M.S. degrees. Most of these specialized tract programs require completion of a certain number of credit hours or courses — usually 30 to 36 credits — through a combination of core engineering management courses, elective courses and either a thesis or a capstone project. The exact length of time will depend on whether the course is full-time or part-time and is administered on campus or online. On average, you can expect it to take about 1.5 to 2 years of full-time study to complete a master’s degree in any of these fields.
  • The MBA with a focus on engineering — Considered the most popular graduate degree in America for over a decade, one of the benefits of an MBA is that it offers a wide lens of different aspects of general management and business skills in a wide range of industries — including engineering. The MBA focuses on traditional areas of business, such as accounting and finance, in a way that positions graduates to succeed as leaders and managers across a broad spectrum of business and industry. Even in MBA programs that have a focus on engineering management, the topics and curriculum will be relatively broad and the specific structure and course offerings can vary among institutions. Even with an engineering management specialization, MBA programs are not engineering-specific and won’t cover the same concepts or situations that a dedicated engineering management degree program would. To attend an MBA program you will need to have earned a bachelor’s degree or have relevant work experience, also most MBA programs require the submission of GMAT exam results, though some programs will accept GRE scores and others may waive the requirement entirely based on prior experience.
  • Engineering management and leadership degree programs — Unlike a specialized track that includes management courses, or MBA with engineering specialization, programs in engineering management and leadership are entirely focused on teaching leadership skills that are specific to the engineering or IT fields. Students learn how to set goals and strategies that account for an organization’s performance, culture and constraints. For example, while students might learn how to develop business strategies or the essentials of project management, it will be within the context of the engineering field and technology organizations. This is a more practical focus than the more business-oriented programs, providing instruction that aims to account for the innovation and disruption that’s so common within the tech industries. Engineering management degree programs will require applicants to have a bachelor’s degree in engineering or similar disciplines, as well as at least a few years of experience in industry. Other admissions requirements will vary by program, though most online programs will waive any standardized testing requirements, provided certain requirements are met.

Engineering Management Career Opportunities: 12 Jobs You Can Land With a Degree

Having a balance of technical ability and the capacity to be adaptable, strategic, innovative and influential is essential for any high-level position. Should you earn an engineering management degree, here are some potential jobs in addition to potential engineering management degree salaries.

  • C-Level Executive — Salary range of $234,700 to $700,000+ In the corporate world, there are no higher management positions than the “chief” C-suite positions. Depending on your skills and experience, you could work up to certain executive-level roles, the most likely being Chief Information Technology Officer (CITO), Chief Technical Officer (CTO), Chief Operating Officer (COO) and Chief Executive Officer (CEO).
  • The CITO is responsible for overseeing a company’s information technology and computer systems. They’re the ones that determine how the company’s IT investments will support organizational goals.
  • The CTO focuses more on mapping out a company’s technology strategy and innovation. They lead the strategic design, acquisition, management and implementation of technology and ensure that the technical teams are supported in their operations.
  • COOs are responsible for the day-to-day operations of the company, overseeing the development of functional or business unit strategies. They actively plan and direct the businesses’ operational policies, objectives and initiatives.
  • CEOs are the highest ranking executives, setting the company’s vision and overseeing all operations. They organize leadership and staff to meet strategic goals and define the corporate vision and strategy to drive both short- and long-term profitability.
  • Engineering Director — Salary range of $172,758 to $211,538*
    The Engineering Director oversees and manages all engineering activities and projects in a business. They ensure that all engineering projects and processes align with established policies and objectives and manage costs to stay within the allotted engineering budget. The Engineering Director applies best practices and offers technical guidance to drive successful engineering initiatives and produce high-quality output.
  • Vice President of Engineering — Salary range of $246,593 to $317,823* The Vice President of Engineering sets the overall objectives and initiatives for the engineering department, generating ideas and overseeing the development of new products or improvements to existing products. They establish the company’s engineering vision, direction and focus while executing development initiatives designed to achieve business goals. They are also responsible for providing engineering expertise to other departments, like marketing, as needed.
  • Operations Manager — Salary range of $97,061 to $125,723* The Operations Manager oversees the daily activities of an organization’s operations by implementing company policies, procedures and initiatives. They monitor the business’ performance to ensure operational goals are met, establish reporting and auditing processes to analyze overall effectiveness and propose ways to assess and improve existing operational systems. Their ultimate goal is to ensure that project or department milestones and goals are achieved while staying within budget.
  • Research and Development Manager — Salary range of $133,395 to $165,884* The Research and Development Manager oversees and leads the research and development programs to develop new products or systems that will help meet the organization’s needs and goals. They supervise complex research projects, assess their scope, ensure they are completed on time, analyze the results and make recommendations based on their findings.
  • IT Project Manager — Salary range of $89,079 to $111,338*
    The IT Project Manager supervises all aspects of technology projects to ensure they are completed on time and within budget. They are responsible for developing detailed project plans, closely monitoring project milestones, evaluating and managing project risk and generating regular status reports. They act as a bridge between technical teams and stakeholders, managing schedules, staffing, vendor relationships and contractual deliverables.
  • Technical Consultant — Salary range of 69,614 and $97,762* Technical consultants are independent contractors that offer their expertise and guidance in a particular technical field or industry to help clients address their technical challenges or projects. They analyze technical issues, suggest solutions and offer training or support to enhance a business’s infrastructure, processes or operations. Technical consultants are expected to stay up to date with the latest industry trends, emerging technologies and best practices to provide valuable insights and recommendations to their clients.
  • Vice President of Product Development — Salary range of $257,190 to $358,490* The Vice President of Product Development supervises the research and development of all company products — from conception to updates and redesigns. They lead and manage all aspects of the organization’s product development, establishing the overall strategy and setting company objectives. They also review the process of development, providing recommendations on the feasibility and practicality of products in development and ensuring that everything is in line with business goals.
  • Process Engineering Manager — Salary range of $126,617 to $152,114* The Process Engineering Manager oversees the team that is accountable for designing and implementing manufacturing processes or the development of equipment. They are responsible for driving continuous improvement in process efficiency, maximizing cost-effectiveness without sacrificing quality or production output. They make strategic decisions that direct the area they oversee, manage all engineering projects and resolve any engineering challenges that arise.
  • Quality Assurance Manager — Salary range of $109,683 to $137,939* The Quality Assurance Manager is in charge of implementing policies and procedures that comply with production quality standards. They oversee and audit the processes and product testing to ensure that everything adheres to established standards. They continuously analyze quality defects, develop solutions to address deficiencies or gaps in testing activities and identify areas to improve product quality. They also assume responsibility for meeting all existing and emerging regulatory requirements.
  • Director of Business Development — Salary range of $176,389 to $221,655* The Business Development Director leads the implementation of a business’ vision, strategy, plans and processes to meet all established sales targets, revenue growth and financial goals. They’re responsible for identifying and assessing new markets, partners and customers. They oversee the development of new business opportunities and are expected to quickly respond to changes in competition, pricing, markets and product demand.
  • Product Integration Manager — Salary range of $90,750 to $119,049* The Product Integration Manager manages the integration of a company’s products into different systems or platforms, overseeing and coordinating cross-functional teams to ensure a successful integration process. They’re responsible for collaborating with various departments and stakeholders within the organization to develop successful integration strategies. They’re expected to facilitate communication and collaboration across the business to ensure that every department is aligned on goals, requirements and deliverables.

*Salary estimates sourced from Salary.com and ZipRecruiter on June 2023

Engineering Management & Leadership FAQs

Is an engineering management degree useful?

An engineering management degree is useful if your goal is to advance to a management or leadership position in a technical field. Engineering management programs are designed to supplement a professional’s technical knowledge with business and management skills that allow them to succeed as leaders within a technical field. It is important to consider your personal interests, career aspirations and the specific demands of the desired roles before pursuing an engineering management degree.

What is the purpose of an engineering management degree?

Engineering management degree programs are designed for experienced engineers who want to lead and manage engineering teams or advance into leadership roles. They’re specialized programs designed to meet the complex challenges of the engineering industry. The curriculum is meant to supplement students’ existing engineering expertise with instruction on managerial skills, effective communication, an understanding of markets and how to understand and achieve organizational goals.

What kind of engineering experience is needed for an engineering management degree?

Students who want to apply to engineering management and leadership programs are expected to have at least a few years of experience within the field of engineering — preferably some prior management experience having led teams or projects.

Do you need an undergraduate degree in engineering to earn an MS in EML?

While you don’t need a bachelor’s degree specifically in engineering to attend an engineering management and leadership program, it’s expected that you will have either a degree in a STEAM discipline or a business professional field from an accredited institution.

Why Choose USD?

The University of San Diego’s 100% online Master of Science in Engineering Management & Leadership program is specifically designed for people looking to land high-level management roles in the engineering field. Our program sets you up for success through curriculum that trains you on how to:

  • Influence and lead all types of technology organizations
  • Effectively manage complex interactions
  • Communicate value to all stakeholders
  • Define and implement innovative strategies
  • Develop comprehensive solutions to business and technical challenges

Learn more about this innovative program on our program overview page, or review our admissions requirements and curriculum to see how we’re shaping the engineering leaders of tomorrow.


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