In his blog post “Management would be easy if it were not for having to involve people” on the American Society for Engineering Management website, Dr. Donald Kennedy writes about the inherent challenges of ensuring that colleagues and teams are sharing a clear and consistent understanding of what is being communicated between them. Dr. Kennedy offers several examples of situations where people exited meetings thinking they fully comprehended what they discussed, only later to discover that this was not the case.
In one instance, during an exchange about procuring parts for a $100 million project he was managing, Dr. Kennedy and others heard the purchaser say that “everything was procured.” Months later, he and his colleagues were dismayed when they started having issues receiving parts on time. Dr. Kennedy asked the purchaser what had happened and learned that “while I heard “we have everything we need,” the person saying the words meant “I have issued purchase orders for everything we need.”
Even simple words can mean different things to different people if you lack a full understanding of their context. At one company, Dr. Kennedy heard people discussing the trouble they were having getting items in and out of a warehouse. His proposed solution was to store the components in a large, open-sided tent. However, Dr. Kennedy later learned that “a “warehouse” was a field in their ERP system and none of the issues involved anyone actually touching a physical item.”
To help avoid these situations, Dr. Kennedy suggests that you summarize what you heard back to the person (and they can confirm or correct your understanding of what they said)—which is also known as the “teach back” method. But his larger point is that engineering managers need great expertise in leadership and business management techniques to be effective in their roles and avoid the mishaps mentioned above.
One way engineering professionals can enhance their management skills is to earn an engineering management master’s (MEM) degree. This article explores what will I learn in an engineering management master’s program. In addition, it covers:
The traditional path for engineers who want to gain management training is to earn a Master’s in Business Administration (MBA). However, the MEM degree is tailored for engineers looking to hone their management skills and acquire a broader perspective on how to address challenges involving complex and dynamic systems. An MEM program teaches students how disparate elements in the engineering process—including people, budgets, stakeholders, technology, and timelines—can be harnessed to serve a project’s goals efficiently and effectively.
For example, in Stevens Institute of Technology’s MEM program, students learn to:
Core courses in MEM programs emphasize operations research foundations, engineering project management, and financial management and accounting components of cross-disciplinary engineering and science-based projects. Students also take electives in engineering and other technical fields (such as sustainability, global supply chains, risk analysis, policy, and data analytics), as well as specialized management courses tailored to their experiences, skill sets, and career objectives. This interdisciplinary mix of curriculum leads to a customized course of study reflecting students’ interests and career goals in a variety of fields, including industrial engineering, supply chain management, technology entrepreneurship, and information systems management.
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Engineering management master’s degree graduates enjoy many career options and pursue advanced roles and management positions across project management, product development, organizational behavior, and other specialized engineering fields. Several career paths include:
Construction engineering managers employ their design and management skills to lead construction projects. They work with internal project team members and key stakeholders to manage all aspects of a project, including budgets, timelines, equipment, and staff. Their average salary is $87,000.
Engineering project managers lead and assess the daily operation of engineering teams composed of engineers, designers, architects, and other skilled staff. They track and analyze productivity and budgets, and ensure that projects remain on schedule and within financial parameters. The average salary for this role is around $99,000.
Industrial engineers maximize workplace efficiency through data analysis and optimization models. They typically manage and administer large technical engineering and research projects that improve efficiencies of integrated systems of people, materials, and equipment. The average salary for this role is $95,000.
Senior lead analysts direct project teams responsible for business and computer programming. They develop, present, and implement business forecasts while leading groups of programmers and analysts in their day-to-day activities.The average salary for this position is $105,000.
A master’s degree in engineering management, also known as a Master of Engineering in Engineering Management (MEM) or a Master of Science in Engineering Management (MSEM), is a graduate-level degree that prepares engineers for management positions and leadership roles. This degree offers a wide range of engineering specialties and provides students with technical and financial insight into the creation, operation, and management of complex engineering projects. In addition, it teaches decision-making, problem-solving, and leadership skills as they relate to this field.
To complete their degree, most MEM graduate students need to earn 30 to 36 credit hours, depending on whether they are pursuing an on-campus, online, or hybrid program. Full-time students take around two years to finish all required coursework, whereas part-time students need three to four years to complete their studies. Accelerated online programs allow students to pursue their MEM degree in 12 to 16 months.
Although the admissions requirements for online master’s in engineering management graduate programs vary between institutions, the majority expect applicants to hold an undergraduate degree in engineering and a cumulative GPA of 3.0 or higher, though certain programs accept applicants with degrees in relevant STEM majors. (Some MEM programs also seek candidates with professional engineering work experience in addition to a bachelor’s degree in engineering.) Also, many MEM programs are GRE test-optional.
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