By Emmet Kyle McMahan
Many disciplines involving science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) skills face significant shortages of qualified professionals. There is no shortage of potential career options in engineering management, as this is a growing field spanning many industries. The need for individuals with the knowledge and training to provide engineering management has led to the creation of numerous online engineering management master’s programs.
Master’s in Engineering Management Online Program Overview
A master’s in engineering management (MEM) degree provides training in managerial principles within the broad field of engineering. An individual who earns a MEM degree builds a broad skill set that includes administration, project management, leadership, logistics, law, technological management and product development. This experience allows an individual to learn how to manage a variety of engineering projects.
Like all degrees, engineering management programs allow a person to specialize in certain areas. Depending on the program in question, an individual may learn several specialty skills within their master’s degree in engineering management education. Alternatively, they may specialize in specific types of engineering, allowing them to apply their management education and experience to areas like civil engineering, electrical engineering, mechanical engineering, and others.
Online master’s degrees in engineering have many career paths, including the following:
- Project manager
- Analyst or consultant
- Logistics or automation professional
- Project engineer
Why earn an online master’s degree in engineering management?
An online Master’s in Engineering Management may be worth pursuing for many reasons. These include:
Convenience. The simple truth is that online classes are highly convenient. They often revolve around your schedule or are offered at night or on weekends. This flexibility allows you to get a degree on a schedule that fits your needs.
Match of Leadership and Engineering Skills. The combination of engineering and leadership skills is highly desirable. Done well, you’ll have at least two compelling skill sets. If you’re good at your job, you can almost write your own salary for important and expensive projects.
High-demand job area: Individuals who are qualified for STEM jobs are in short supply. This is particularly true in the engineering field, where some studies have found that the United States will be one million people short of necessary jobs within the next three years.
Access to schools anywhere: An online master’s degree in engineering management isn’t limited to a specific geographic location. This means you can access any of the best master’s degree in engineering management programs.
Master’s in Engineering Management Curriculum & Common Courses
Every master’s degree program in engineering management is different. Furthermore, the programs you take may change depending on the specific area of engineering management you want to specialize in. However, all master’s degree programs in this field tend to offer courses around the following topics:
Project decision-making and project management. These courses cover learning strategies for project planning, execution and completion. Risks and rewards of decisions are examined, along with how decisions are evaluated and made.
Quality management. Students taking these courses learn how to ensure product quality while managing on-schedule project completion.
Management Science. These courses teach students various strategies and techniques involved in management. This includes resource management, leadership skills, working with staff, navigating governmental structures and others.
Product design and development. Students learn the various steps behind creating new products and bringing them to market.
Technological reviews or emerging technologies. These classes cover the latest available technology and provide an overview of the developments students can expect in their engineering specialty in the near future.
Accreditation for Master’s in Engineering Management Degree Programs
Degrees may not be of much value in securing a job if employers don’t recognize the degree or the university it came from. This is especially true with advanced degrees in engineering management, where employers are more likely to verify educational qualifications. Various accrediting bodies exist for ensuring that a degree holder has the knowledge indicated by the degree.
The Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET) is responsible for accrediting engineering programs at the graduate level in the U.S., including engineering management. This non-governmental body also accredits other programs in STEM fields, including computing, natural sciences and applied sciences. Furthermore, the ABET is an educational leader that issues memoranda of understanding (MoU) and mutual recognition agreements, in addition to hosting various workshops on STEM topics.
Online Master’s in Engineering Management Degree Programs
Many schools offer programs for a master’s degree in engineering management. However, the quality of these programs varies considerably, making it important to ensure that you choose a top-ranked university. The following list includes schools with ABET accreditation, as well as other qualities that are important for this degree.
Arizona State University – Online Master of Engineering in Engineering Management
Arizona State University (ASU) is known for its extensive online offerings, and its MEM program is just one example. This program consists of ten classes that run from 7.5 to 15 weeks, giving students highly flexible opportunities to earn their degrees.
Colorado State University – Engineering Management Master’s Degree
Colorado State University’s master’s programs offer many positives and opportunities for students interested in advancing their skill sets and career options. Students who take the classes will study business analytics, marketing management, financial practice, and so on. They’ll also have the chance to continue their education at Colorado State, potentially earning a Ph. D. in engineering fields.
Drexel University – Online Master’s Degree in Engineering Management
Drexel’s website notes that the program is explicitly designed for people who are currently working and looking to advance their skills. The university offers experienced faculty, a customizable course load and dual-degree options for students interested in getting their master’s degree in engineering management and earning additional degrees.
Duke University – Master’s Degree in Engineering Management
Duke University is one of the best and most well-known schools in the country. Its online master’s degree program allows students to access the school’s offerings from the comfort of their own homes. Attending Duke’s online school will allow you to take four engineering management courses, four electives and three one-week residencies.
George Washington University – Master of Science in Engineering Management
George Washington specifically advertises its program as geared toward students looking to become a technical manager. It offers courses in technological management, quality control, operations, marketing, finance and other courses in this area. This master’s program is explicitly designed to merge technical and business operations.
Johns Hopkins University – Master of Engineering Management
A master’s degree from Johns Hopkins gives students the option to specialize in many tracks. These include Computer Science, Cybersecurity, Science Engineering and more. These options allow students to get a leg up on others in engineering management and become experts in a certain sector of the engineering world.
Kennesaw State University – Master of Science in Engineering Management
This program takes place entirely online, meaning students never enter a real classroom. It’s conducted in partnership with other local schools like the Coles College of Business, ensuring that students who take this course get a well-rounded business perspective while learning specific skills that will help them in their engineering careers.
Lehigh University – Online Management Science and Engineering
This master’s degree seeks to merge engineering skills with various business principles, including production management, economic and cost analysis, risk management and more. Students can earn this degree as either a hybrid program or exclusively online. It is also offered in conjunction with Lehigh’s various other engineering degrees.
University of Louisville Online – Master’s Degree in Engineering Management
The University of Louisville offers an array of online degrees. Many of these are highly flexible and allow individuals to complete courses in as little as eight weeks. Furthermore, the school notes that their professors are the same in person and online, ensuring no drop-off in quality with their online programming.
Vanderbilt University – Master’s Degree in Engineering Management Online
Vanderbilt’s website notes that its program gives students the chance to learn advanced skills that will allow them to progress toward a satisfying career in engineering. The school has been flourishing for more than 125 years, and despite the online learning environment, it guarantees a student-faculty ratio of 15:1. Its website also points out that these small classes give their professors the chance to examine a student’s needs, get to know them on a one-on-one level and allow students the chance to succeed in the real world.
What can I do with a master’s degree in engineering management?
Engineering managers typically manage people rather than things, although they may work in manufacturing or office environments. They usually work regular business hours, but some engineering managers who work as consultants may work unusual hours because they have to travel to client sites. Specialized engineering managers often work on projects, operations, quality control and technical sales.
The roles of engineers are generally expanding significantly in the U.S. as of 2021. In particular, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) expects the jobs that are available for engineering managers to increase by almost 10,000 by 2026, which is a growth of six percent. Engineering managers generally earn substantial incomes that are well into the six-figure range.
Engineering managers oversee a variety of engineering activities, including construction, manufacturing, operations, quality assurance, testing and maintenance. They exercise oversight over these projects by developing detailed plans and setting goals, including schedules. They also prepare budgets for staff and equipment, requiring them to anticipate problems that could impact a project’s completion.
The median annual wage for engineering managers was $152,350 in May 2021, according to the BLS. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $99,350, while the highest 10 percent earned more than $208,000.
Project managers analyze and coordinate a project, including its timeline and budget. They also procure staff, materials and services for each staff member and may direct the work of technical staff. Logisticians, meeting planners and production clerks are separate occupations from project managers. Engineering management is one of the most common roles for project managers, accounting for about 61,000 jobs in the U.S. The BLS reports that the average income for this type of project manager is $104,540 as of May 2021.
Operations managers plan, direct and coordinate the operations of various organizations, typically overseeing multiple departments. In the case of engineering management, these activities typically include the operations of machines. Specific responsibilities of this occupation include formulating policies and resource planning, primarily in cases where the resources are too diverse to belong to a particular functional area of administration or management. Operations managers usually have a team of supervisors under them to provide specific direction to staff members, meaning that first-line supervisors generally aren’t considered operations managers. The BLS reports that the average annual salary for operations managers in the U.S. was $115,250 as of May 2021.
Quality Control Manager
Industrial production managers, also known as plant managers, typically oversee the operations of a manufacturing plant. In these cases, they plan, coordinate and direct the activities needed to produce any type of product, whether it’s a specific production area or the entire plant. Some industrial production managers are directly responsible for developing and implementing quality control programs to ensure the products meet the company’s quality standards. These managers are known more specifically as quality control systems managers, who work towards identifying product defects, analyzing causes and developing solutions. The median annual wage for quality control managers was $103,150 as of May 2021, according to the BLS. The lowest 10 percent made less than $64,150 per year, while the highest 10 percent earned more than $170,470 annually.
Technical Sales Manager
Technical sales managers oversee the daily operations of a technical sales department. They lead a technical sales team and support staff members in establishing and enforcing departmental policies and practices. Technical sales managers also motivate their team in meeting sales and revenue goals, while also developing new strategies for engaging and retaining customers. In addition, they often assume a lead role in driving major initiatives.
Technical sales managers usually have at least a bachelor’s degree in a technical field, although a master’s degree is preferred for some roles. They also need an extensive sales background, especially one that includes supervisory roles requiring strong leadership and motivational skills. Glassdoor reports that the average annual salary for technical sales managers in the U.S. was $158,570 as of 2023. The full salary range was between $95,000 and $272,000, although most professionals in this occupation made between $121,000 and $212,000.
How much do engineering managers make?
Starting Salary for Engineering Managers
Engineers typically start at a salary between $50,000 and $60,000, while engineering managers start at around $75,000. This difference becomes larger with experience, giving engineers a strong financial incentive to move into management as a means of career advancement.
Average Salary for a Master’s in Engineering Management
Salary.com reports that the median salary for engineering managers with a master’s degree is between $139,031 and $147,255, as compared to a range of $137,949 to $146,100 for those with a bachelor’s degree. This data comes entirely from employers, with the most significant factors including location, years of experience and number of direct reports. Forty-one percent of engineering managers have a master’s degree, whereas 45 percent have a bachelor’s degree.
What’s the Most an Engineering Manager Makes?
Engineering managers in the top 10 percent of earnings had a median income of $208,000 as of May 2021, according to the BLS. In comparison, the median income overall was $152,350, while the median income of engineering managers in the bottom 10 percent was $99,350.
Industry significantly affects the salaries that engineering managers can expect to earn. The highest-paying industry for this occupation is scientific research and development services, which typically pays $187,240 per year. Engineering managers who oversee entire companies also earn salaries that are above average, at $164,060 annually. Other industries pay engineering managers salaries that are at or below the average for this occupation.
Work hours are another factor to consider when identifying positions with the highest income. Engineering managers who are compensated with regular salaries generally get paid the same, regardless of the number of hours they work. These jobs are often deadline-driven, meaning engineering managers often work more than the standard 40-hour work weeks. In these cases, engineering managers would receive greater compensation by getting an hourly wage.
Tips for Increasing Salary Potential
Engineers must be skilled at critical problem-solving and methodical thinking, but engineering managers must also be good communicators who can develop rapport and build relationships with others. Developing these soft skills often rewards engineering managers with higher salary opportunities, a trend that has accelerated during the past two decades. The increased use of cross-functional teams means that engineering managers have a greater need to interact with team members who aren’t engineers. Engineering managers with people skills are also in a better position to represent their company to external audiences such as vendors and clients.
Taking on more managerial roles is also a great way to increase salary potential, even if it doesn’t immediately result in a raise. For example, a project-based role such as a project engineer or project manager requires more involvement in a broader scope of activities outside of just engineering. This greater range of responsibilities often leads to higher compensation. In particular, a role as program manager provides the opportunity to coordinate cross-functional projects and teams. Another possibility for engineering managers with a manufacturing background is to improve the manufacturing process for a product, which will typically involve working with engineers in many functional areas.
Continuing Education after a Master’s in Engineering management
An engineering manager with a master’s degree will require several types of continuing education to remain competitive in that capacity. For example, many advanced certificates are available for this occupation in both engineering and management areas. Some engineering managers may also benefit from a doctorate in engineering management.
The American Society for Engineering Management (ASEM) has developed a multi-level professional certification program to recognize a professional’s experience and knowledge in this complex field. This program includes Certified Professional in Engineering Management (CPEM) and Certified Associate in Engineering Management (CAEM) certifications, both of which are recognized throughout the world as the gold standard for engineering and technical management. These certifications differ from licensing requirements, which are generally granted by a government agency as a type of permission for engineering managers to practice their trade. In comparison, CPEM and CAEM certification demonstrates an engineering manager’s capability to perform in that capacity, irrespective of their legal right to do so.
CPEM certification is for experienced engineering managers who want to validate their skills, knowledge and experience with professional certification. It’s valid for three years and requires verification of continuing education requirements for renewal. The CPEM certification exam has four parts, which an engineering manager can take separately.
CAEM certification provides engineering managers with a professional credential for entering a career in a technological field, generally for the purpose of advancing to technical management. It ensures they have the requisite Engineering Management Body of Knowledge (EMBoK) needed for professional practice. CAEM certification also provides a path to CPEM certification after four years of professional practice. Like CPEM certification, CAEM certification is valid for three years and requires verification of continuing education requirements for renewal. The CAEM certification exam also has four parts that engineering managers take separately.
Doctorate in Engineering Management
Engineering managers typically pursue a doctorate in engineering management when specially needed to advance their career. This is a rare occurrence that usually applies only to academic positions, but R&D work in emerging technologies may also require engineering managers with doctorates on rare occasions.
The curriculum for these degree programs usually focuses on systems thinking, which is the process of integrating management elements with technology and social sciences. Students also study the synergy between business practices and technology for the purpose of improving technical projects and programs. In addition, this training allows students to conduct detailed analyses of complex organizational, technological and financial problems in an increasingly interconnected working environment.
Financial Aid Information
A master’s degree is generally quite expensive to obtain for most engineering managers, making financial aid a routine consideration in this process. In the case of engineering management, many students will already have a job when they begin their master’s program. These students will typically attend school part-time, so they can retain their income to support their education. If a student decides to attend graduate school full-time, they’ll usually need to finance it through multiple methods. Financial aid for graduate studies may generally be classified into loans, scholarships and internships.
Student loans should be the last resort for financing a graduate degree in engineering management. In addition, students who need a loan should first establish a credit history first, so they can obtain the most favorable terms possible. The interest rate for student loans typically starts at below five percent, but this rate assumes the student’s financial picture is ideal. The interest rate you should actually expect can be significantly higher, depending on credit rating, income and debt.
Students will typically need to begin repaying a loan shortly after graduation, so they’ll need to ensure they can get a job quickly. Most lenders also offer the option of refinancing the loan after graduation, so that the terms more accurately reflect the student’s financial situation. The most common reasons for refinancing a loan include getting a lower rate and rolling multiple loans into a single loan with one monthly payment.
Scholarships are an award that you don’t need to repay, making it preferable to loans. However, scholarships are also more difficult to qualify for, since only a limited number of them are available each year. The requirements for scholarships are highly variable, but the most common criteria include the educational institution, degree program and social characteristics like race, gender and income.
Many organizations can offer scholarships, including colleges, governments, private companies, industry groups and individuals. For example, ASEM offers scholarships to both undergraduate students and graduates in engineering management or related fields like technology management. A student pursuing a bachelor’s degree in one of these fields gets a $500 scholarship, while a student in a graduate program gets another $500 scholarship. The minimum GPA for the undergraduate scholarship is 3.0, while graduate students need a 3.5 GPA.
An internship is generally a job in which acquiring real-world experience in a particular subject is the primary goal, rather than earning income. The terms of the internship can vary greatly with respect to pay. At the high end, an internship can be a salaried position with a fixed duration, after which a student who performs satisfactorily may receive an offer of full-time employment.
The apprentice model is another example of an internship in engineering management. The student receives nominal pay and is typically under the supervision of a more experienced engineering manager until completing the master’s degree program. In other cases, the internship is treated as a practical course, where course credit is the only compensation. A faculty member serves as an independent study advisor, and the internship takes place when regular classes aren’t in session.
How much does a master’s in engineering management cost?
The total cost of a master’s degree in engineering management varies greatly, largely because it depends on many factors. The school itself is a major source of the cost variability, since schools tend to charge tuition in accordance with their prestige. In addition to the perceived quality of education, geographic location also has a great effect on the cost of a degree. Finally, programs that are exclusively online are often less expensive than programs that include some on-campus courses because the school’s expenses are lower with an online program.
The total cost of obtaining a master’s degree in engineering management is generally between $9,000 and $35,000. However, it’s important to note that schools with the highest tuition also tend to offer the most valuable scholarships. In addition, employers will often pay for at least part of the tuition, especially if the degree is in high demand. Engineering managers are often in short supply, providing companies with an incentive to consider the cost of a degree to be an investment. Such an arrangement will typically include stipulations such as working for the company for a certain period of time after earning the degree.
Is a master’s in engineering management degree worth it?
The issue of whether a master’s degree in engineering management is worth it is a complex one. In the first place, this process requires time, money and effort, which can be difficult to compare to each other. In the simplest case, your current employer will offer you a promotion under the condition that you obtain a master’s degree. This scenario allows you to compare the difference in compensation between your present and future position, providing a relatively easy determination of whether a master’s degree will be worth it.
However, in most cases, answering this question requires you to predict the future, which is highly uncertain when it comes to executive-level careers. You often need to estimate the probability that a job will become available to you that you wouldn’t be able to get without a master’s degree. In addition to the difference in compensation, you must also consider the difference between earning a master’s degree and putting the time, money and energy it would require into simply advancing your career with a bachelor’s degree.
How long does it take to earn an online master’s degree in engineering management?
A master’s degree in engineering management typically requires 30 to 36 credits to complete, which you could theoretically complete in a year. In practice, the logistics involved in taking the necessary classes means that a full-time student should expect to need two years to get this degree. The most important factors affecting completion time include additional requirements such as a thesis, project or internship. Furthermore, students pursuing a graduate degree in engineering management often have a job they’re unwilling to give up. In these cases, they must attend classes part-time as their work schedule allows.
Is a master’s degree required to advance as an engineering manager?
A bachelor’s degree in engineering management will typically suffice for the early part of your career in this occupation. This general rule becomes less certain as you progress through higher positions, especially as you reach the highest levels of engineering management.
Are engineering managers in demand?
The increasing scale and complexity of engineering projects in the U.S. means engineering managers are in high demand compared to other engineering disciplines. Furthermore, this trend is likely to continue through 2030, especially for engineering managers who strive for projects that deal with emerging technologies.
What industries are hiring engineering managers with a master’s degree?
Any industry with large engineering projects is likely to have a need for engineering projects. This can include traditional industries like construction as well as newer technologies like aerospace engineering.
Is an online master’s in engineering management the same as an on-campus degree?
These types of degrees are usually the same as far as colleges and universities are concerned. However, individual employers may ask about the specific path you took to earn a degree in engineering management.