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How to Become an Engineering Manager

Portrait of confident manager standing by car chassis. Side view of young professional is holding documents. Engineer is working in automobile industry.

Did you know that engineering services and, therefore, engineering jobs are projected to increase? Engineering, like other sectors, needs managers who can supervise other engineers and projects, encourage new development, and address challenges as they arise. If you are looking for those opportunities in your career, continue reading to find out what it takes to become an engineering manager.

This article will show you step-by-step how to become an engineering manager. The stages are listed, the average time it takes to finish each step, and specifics like admissions criteria, typical curriculum, certifying organizations, and much more.

What is an Engineering Manager?

Engineering managers lead and mentor professionals working on projects, ranging from designing a fingerprint-based security system to building a water treatment facility. These managers ensure objectives are met, coordinated, and communicated with other departments and connect their team’s work with its operating principles.

Engineering managers have a significant influence on their teams. They assist engineers with troubleshooting, problem-solving, and ensuring everyone is on track to fulfill design and manufacturing deadlines.

Answering technical inquiries, establishing project budgets, training new staff, and collaborating with multiple departments are just a few of the critical responsibilities of an engineering manager. They must also prepare reports on the project’s development.

Related Resource: How to Become an Engineer: Education, Licensing & Salary

The Steps To Become An Engineering Manager

Those interested in becoming an engineering manager should consider education and experience as the first stages. In the same way, engineering managers who want to improve their marketability often pursue additional education.

Step 1: Get a Bachelor’s Degree In Engineering

A Bachelor’s Degree is a great way to start your career. A bachelor’s degree in engineering is the minimum requirement for any engineering employment. It would be best to consider the specific area of engineering degree, whether civil, mechanical, electrical, etc.

Engineering bachelor’s degrees teach students how to integrate math and science to solve technical engineering challenges, which engineers and engineering managers must understand.

Related Resource: 22 STEM Majors for High Paying Careers

Step 2: Obtain on-the-Job Training

Before adopting managerial roles, engineers must first prove themselves as solid technical practitioners. Engineering managers can benefit by developing their technical skills and putting their expertise into effect in real-world project scenarios by working as engineers.

Proving technical proficiency helps engineering managers gain the trust and confidence of the team members they supervise. Furthermore, refining technical abilities and engaging in engineering projects gives prospective engineering managers valuable insight into executing projects and differentiating between effective and ineffective managers.

Step 3: Get Your Master’s Degree

A master’s degree in engineering management might help certify a candidate’s competence for a position in engineering management. While engineering managers must manage the technical part of engineering, they must also have business and people management capabilities.

The majority of master’s in engineering management degree programs include coursework in financial management, project management, and other business-related disciplines. These courses help engineers develop the skills they will need to shift into a managerial role. For example, the Master of Engineering Management online program at Ohio University improves analytical skills, technical knowledge, and communication skills.

Career Progression of an Engineering Manager

For a technical engineer in any profession, from chemical engineering to aerospace engineering, being an Engineering Manager is the obvious next step. Becoming an engineering manager will broaden your horizons and encourage you to be more inventive.

The challenges of a new role allow you to develop and strengthen your skillset, both technical and soft skills, encouraging you to advance your career. Advancement in your job will undoubtedly re-energize you for any of your current projects.

As you advance into management, you will develop your creative approach while reconnecting with your passion for engineering.

What Skills Does an Engineering Manager Need?

Engineering managers need to know how to lead their teams through challenging tasks by utilizing their organizational and analytical talents. Their skills and experience give a solid basis for problem-solving. By refining the skills listed below, they’ll be better able to manage projects and add value to their company.

Technical Expertise

Most top engineering executives have a foundation in engineering and a master’s degree in engineering management.

You’ll need to have an up-to-date understanding of the engineering processes and software technologies to make effective decisions and comprehend and review the work you’re managing.

Managers with excellent technical skills receive more respect from their teams than managers who have strong people skills but don’t understand the work.

Project Management

Engineering managers must supervise a project from start to end, including allocating and budgeting resources, organizing communication across many departments, ensuring crucial deadlines are met, and directing the engineering team’s work.

Leadership

The capacity to lead a team to achieve its objectives is one of the most critical talents of effective engineering managers. Managers should have a vision of how their projects will turn out and how successful they will be.

Managers with a strong sense of purpose may inspire and encourage their teams, giving them direction while encouraging, empowering, and trusting them to accomplish their duties. For managers, setting a good example is also important. Staff will be encouraged to act in the same way if they see a disciplined, hardworking manager with a positive attitude and a commitment to positive outcomes.

Communication

For those who are not natural leaders, transitioning from an engineering role to a managerial post might be difficult. Engineering managers must communicate with their team, clients, executives, and members of other departments who may lack technical understanding.

Engineers often work with complicated concepts. Finding clear and concise ways to communicate with clients, technicians, and other stakeholders from varied backgrounds is essential. Interviewing skills, creating business partnerships, and maintaining team morale require social skills.

A master’s degree in engineering management can help you develop the communication skills you’ll need to advance to a management position.

Decision Making

The team looks to engineering supervisors for answers, assistance, and on-the-job decisions. There are several approaches to making decisions, including employing experience, reasoning, and instincts.

Whatever method or mix of tactics a manager employs, they must be adaptable in their decision-making because various situations may necessitate different approaches. Managers who can pick between many courses of action will inspire their employees’ trust and respect.

Influential team leaders must learn how to evaluate circumstances with no clear right or wrong answers, such as where to make budget savings, deal with personal conflicts, and reallocate resources or extend timelines.

Responsibility

Managers are accountable for the outcomes since they make the decisions. When a project is a success, it is the responsibility of the engineer manager to share it with the entire team.

When mistakes are made, and it becomes clear that the decisions taken were incorrect, the engineering manager must take responsibility for the team. Good managers are open and honest about their errors and bad judgments and use them as opportunities to learn and change direction.

Delegation

Another element of leadership is the capacity to assign tasks and responsibilities to other team members. While it’s critical for managers to be interested in the specifics, they also need to step back and view the big picture. Managers who attempt to accomplish all of the tasks on their own risk burn-out and not completing their projects.

Collaboration and teamwork are essential. Delegating entails allocating tasks and responsibilities to team members and determining which employee is best suited for which task.

Even in management roles, there is always space for improvement and progress. Engineering managers will be better able to achieve their aims and objectives if they develop leadership skills.

How To Become An Effective Engineering Manager?

To be an effective engineering manager, you must demonstrate an in-depth understanding of engineering systems and operations by working on complicated technical projects with your engineering teams. And you’ll require good interpersonal skills to consult with members of various departments, suppliers, vendors, and clients.

Your team looks to you for direction and guidance for large-scale operations and complex projects. One of your key roles as an engineering manager is to coach your engineers and provide advice on how to complete jobs according to industry standards.

What Education Does a Person Need to Pursue this Career Path?

Bachelors:

Those wishing to work as an engineering manager must first have a bachelor's degree in engineering management or a related discipline. There are numerous engineering fields from which to pick, including:

  • Nuclear
  • Environmental
  • Electrical
  • Aerospace
  • Mechanical
  • Civil
  • Computer
  • Biomedical
  • Chemical
  • Geotechnical

It would be best to aim for bachelor’s programs approved by the Accreditation Board of Engineering and Technology (ABET) for aspiring engineering managers.

Admissions Requirements – Engineering Bachelor’s Programs

Every engineering program sets its own admissions criteria. The more demanding the program, the more strict the standards, including higher GPA and exam requirements and an admissions interview. Here are some examples of typical engineering school admission requirements:

  • A minimum cumulative GPA of 3.0 in high school
  • High school courses in chemistry, calculus, algebra, trigonometry, and physics
  • Minimum SAT or ACT scores
  • Essays for admissions, essay responses, or a statement of purpose

Typical Courses – Engineering Bachelor’s Programs

Because engineering managers can pick between a management degree and a degree in engineering, the courses will differ depending on the area of expertise. However, most programs need a set of primary, core engineering courses and general education. Undergraduate engineering programs often include the following courses:

  • Engineers’ calculus
  • Labs and physics
  • Programming language principles
  • Mathematical applications
  • Applied Mathematics
  • Micro and macroeconomics

Students will graduate into specialty courses for their chosen field in addition to general education and fundamental engineering classes. The following courses are typical in the field of engineering management:

  • An overview of engineering
  • Accounting
  • Microeconomic fundamentals
  • Intercultural communication elements
  • Management and organizational leadership
  • Engineering, sustainability, and entrepreneurship on a global scale
  • Probability and statistics to solve engineering problems
  • Six sigma
  • Risk Management
  • Systems engineering
  • Project Management

Additional Certification:

There are additional certifications every engineer should consider. Engineers who work in technical engineering should take the National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying (NCEES) Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) exam. These exams do not have a subcategory for engineering management. Engineers who want to concentrate only on their craft and demonstrate their competence through peer-reviewed certification will have to look elsewhere.

Initial certification as a certified associate in engineering management, also known as CAEM, is offered by the American Society for Engineering Management (ASEM). It is intended for recent graduates and young professionals in the initial stages of their careers and preparing for technical management or supervisory positions.

Applicants must have a bachelor’s degree in engineering management, but no prior work experience is necessary. Eligible applicants may take the CAEM exam. The exam costs $150 for ASEM members and $250 for nonmembers. Every three years, CAEM holders must recertify. A $100 charge is required and 45 hours of professional development (PDHs).

Masters:

After earning a bachelor’s degree and gaining initial work experience, many engineering managers pursue graduate-level education. Graduate education used to be divided into two categories: a master of business administration (MBA) to improve management abilities or a master of science (MS) in specific engineering subjects to enhance technical knowledge. However, some concurrent degree programs are available today that combine the best of both worlds.

Graduate school admissions criteria vary by school but involve some combination of the following:

  • A competitive undergraduate GPA (3.0 or more)
  • GMAT or GRE scores
  • Job experience
  • Letters of recommendation
  • A personal statement

For example, Auburn University offers a Master of Industrial & Systems Engineering / MBA dual degree. The program is designed for engineering professionals who want to advance their careers into management roles. Students will benefit from earning both a graduate degree in engineering as well as a Master of Buisness Administration. Completing both degrees together allows students to eliminate overlapping coursework and finish in less time than earning each degree separately.

View More about Auburn University

What is the Work Environment like for an Engineering Manager?

Engineering managers’ working conditions vary substantially based on the company they work for and the industry in which they work. On the other hand, most engineering managers will spend at least a portion of their time on administrative and business management tasks.

Engineering managers spend much of their time in offices. They may be assigned to monitor work at construction sites, industrial operations, or laboratories. They may also be required to receive safety training and to wear protective gear such as hard hats, safety glasses, or hearing protection.

Engineers must perform technical work under pressure, make critical judgments under extreme stress, and lead and encourage teams to solve complicated engineering issues. A 40-hour workweek is typical for Engineering Managers. However, because the Manager is responsible for an entire team, longer hours and other schedules may be required.

What are the Benefits?

Here are some of the reasons why getting an Engineering Management degree is the perfect place to start if you want to move into management.

Maintain a Strong Relationship with Technology

Engineering managers benefit from remaining current with technology because they use technology to find answers to business challenges.

It is critical to gain a diverse set of non-technical experiences and abilities to demonstrate your capacity to manage others. Having a high technical understanding also makes one-on-one interactions with team members easier.

Growth Opportunities

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), finance and managerial positions have some of the most significant wage premiums for workers with a master’s degree. An MBA and a master’s degree in engineering management can help you prepare for the next step in your career and, with it, a promotion.

Solid programs enable students to participate in academic studies while gaining relevant, real-world experience through classroom assignments and interactions with peers. They also learn to lead effectively, manage human resources, and make critical decisions.

Building Capabilities

Successful engineering managers can mentor and inspire technical staff. A Master of Engineering Management (MEM) degree broadens and deepens your analytical, science, and engineering expertise while expanding and deepening your management skills. You’ll need this combination of capabilities to succeed in today’s complicated technical settings.

Increase In Demand

The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts a 6% increase within the next decade. Many engineering organizations will want experts who can do both technical and managerial tasks as the discipline of engineering continues to grow. Every project necessitates some level of leadership and structure.

Expectations of a Higher Salary

An advanced degree often leads to a higher income in management and engineering. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), engineers with master’s degrees may expect to earn between $106K and $200K.

Engineers’ job prospects are expected to improve, according to the BLS.

What are the Drawbacks?

Not Part of your Career Path

Changing careers to become an engineering manager is a big step. It has more to do with transitioning from an engineer to a product manager.

More Hours

An engineering manager handles emergencies, challenges in project planning, and conflicts. And they deal with these problems regularly.

Fewer Job Openings

An engineering manager at a tech firm oversees 5 to 10 engineers. Consequently, there are 5 to 10 times as many engineering jobs as manager roles. In addition, it is common to elevate a high-performance engineer to such a position. They already understand the team, the code, and the organization, resulting in fewer market options.

What is the Average Salary of an Engineering Manager?

Engineers are rewarded well for their efforts. Engineering managers make between $81,000 and $151,000 per year, according to PayScale. According to it, the average annual pay is $119k as of this writing.

According to research, salary increases in direct proportion to years of experience, and particular skills require higher pay. Engineering managers with established leadership qualities, for example, earn 5% more than their peers who do not.

Engineers with people management skills earn 4% more than those without. Engineering managers must also demonstrate their ability to work well on complex and challenging projects and designs to earn higher pay.

Related Resource: 13 Highest Paying Engineering Jobs

Future Growth of Engineering Manager Jobs

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), it is expected that engineering managers will expand by 6% between 2016 and 2026. The engineering services business, which includes consulting firms providing civil engineering services such as building roads and bridges, sees a 13% increase. According to the BLS, the increased need for infrastructure maintenance would raise the demand for engineering managers, improving their career prospects even more.

Pursuing a career in engineering management involves doing significant and meaningful work. It also means joining a quite competitive work market.

Conclusion

Engineers are on the leading edge of technological advancements. And, becoming an Engineering Manager can help you bridge the gap between technical and managerial abilities, allowing you to mentor the next generation of engineers. Now let’s GetEducated and take the next step in your career path!

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