A Master’s in Engineering Management vs an MBA
28 June, 2021
Technical skills are part of what makes all engineers successful, but it’s also the soft skills like relatability, adaptability and empathy that help the best engineering managers excel. Practical leadership includes exceptional interpersonal and communication abilities that can help drive a team of innovative engineers to new heights.
MBA programs focus on both soft and quantitative skills, but graduate school is a significant investment and all of the courses taught in a traditional MBA program may not be directly applicable to engineers. It’s not that MBA career paths exclude engineers, but those seeking an engineering management career can earn a graduate level degree that’s tailored more to the challenges they will face in managing technical organizations.
When it comes to graduate-level degrees, the difference between engineering management and MBA programs is the scope of their curricula and their intended audiences. Both types of programs build a mixture of quantitative, leadership and other sought-after soft skills, but a master’s in engineering management allows industry professionals to develop these skills within the context of managing technical teams.
Master’s in Engineering Management vs MBA
One of the differences between engineering management and MBA program admission requirements is related to an applicant’s academic background. Engineering management master’s programs may require a bachelor’s degree in engineering or in another STEM field such as math or physics.
Because most MBA programs are not specific to a particular industry, a completed bachelor’s degree in any discipline will often suffice for admission, as long as the applicant meets the university’s GPA admission requirements. Many top-ranked MBA programs also require applicants to take the GMAT or GRE exam to showcase their business and communications aptitude.
The broad requirements of many MBA programs allow for a diversified student body, with varied academic and professional backgrounds. This can be beneficial for students interested in networking with people from different disciplines or sectors. Another advantage of an MBA is the ability to develop skills in other areas of business; for example, someone with a strong background in marketing could hone their budgeting and finance skills.
The specific admissions requirements for an engineering management master’s, however, cultivate a classroom of engineers with a similar goal in mind: to effectively lead engineering and other technical organizations. Learning among like-minded professionals allows students to hold in-depth, industry-specific class discussions and network directly with peers in the field.
Both types of programs commonly require a minimum undergraduate GPA of around 3.0 to apply and likely require students to maintain a certain GPA to remain enrolled in the program. This is because graduate programs offer advanced curricula that demands exceptional time-management skills.
Differences in Curriculum
When considering an MBA or engineering management master’s, take a close look at the curriculum offered and make sure it aligns with your academic and professional goals.
MBA programs aim to provide an overview of key business fundamentals such as marketing, finance, management and legal and ethical considerations. Some programs offer specializations in areas such as leadership, human resources and entrepreneurship, allowing students to focus their studies on a particular area of business.
Engineering management master’s programs offer a more practical focus than a purely business-oriented program. The engineering management master’s curriculum provides an opportunity for students to learn financial modeling, for example, but they do so within the context of engineering, so the coursework is directly relevant to what engineers need to do to become or advance as managers.
To help aid them in this effort, leadership best practices are often built into the curriculum as well. The University of Arizona’s graduate programs in engineering management, for example, offer coursework solely focused on decision-making under uncertainty.
The other significant difference between engineering management and MBA curricula is in the electives. An engineering management master’s affords the chance for students to blend engineering, mathematics, and business electives, whereas an MBA program is not likely to offer electives specific to engineers.
Those pursuing MBA career paths and those looking for engineering management jobs alike will graduate from an MBA program with a fundamental business mindset needed to be an effective leader. MBA graduates are strategy experts who use interpersonal and communication skills to make confident, ethical decisions, and so are engineering management graduates — just with the added bonus of more practical knowledge.
Engineering management master’s degree programs provide similar outcomes, but are more technical in nature. An engineering management graduate won’t just understand how to balance a budget — they’ll know how to conduct financial modeling designed specifically for innovation. These graduates will be experts at applying business fundamentals directly to engineering projects.
Networking with faculty and peers is another key part of management and leadership graduate programs. When comparing master’s in engineering management vs MBA programs, it is important to consider who teaches the courses — an engineering management master’s will offer the chance to learn exclusively from established engineers who have published research in their areas of expertise. While MBA faculty will also be established leaders in their areas of expertise, they also come from more varied backgrounds, so they may not be able to share as much work that is directly relevant to engineers.
Engineering managers lead the future of innovation. There is no limit for these technical experts who have the ability to not only build advanced technology, but who can inspire and lead teams of engineers to create some of the world’s greatest innovations.
Those following the engineering management career path might diverge in their decision of whether to pursue an MBA or engineering management master’s, but graduates of both programs can qualify for similar jobs.
The difference between engineering management and MBA graduates in the job market is that the former have practical knowledge specific to engineering. Current and aspiring engineers learn from seasoned experts and study areas such as law, technical sales and project management in UA’s online engineering management master’s program. Even those who pursue a graduate certificate in engineering management boast this significant difference, as they too learn technical skills in engineering industries.
UA’s Online Graduate Programs in Engineering Management
As a student in UA’s engineering management programs, you’ll have the opportunity to complete relevant, technical courses in several practical disciplines. You’ll develop a clear understanding of the ways in which advanced mathematics, project management, and business fundamentals weave together in high-level engineering leadership. Using these skills, you’ll be prepared, upon graduation, to confidently lead engineering and technological projects that are both innovative and cost-effective.
Gain a greater understanding of the decision-making and technical elements that go into technology-based ventures, learning to shape and manage advanced projects of varying sizes and scales. Build a customized, flexible path of study that suits your career goals, and learn a nuanced, state-of-the-art, expert perspective on strategies for maintaining operational efficiency in engineering environments.
For those uninterested in pursuing a full master’s degree but who still seek leadership roles in technology-based organizations, the online graduate certificate is a perfect fit. Examine the inner workings of financial modeling and project management as they apply to industries driven by engineering, and gain experience working with the latest software and technical tools used by companies around the globe to lead advanced, real-world projects.