It’s no secret that the engineering management field is expanding for job seekers. With an average starting salary of $75,000, interest in becoming an engineering manager is high. So, if you are working towards a career in engineering management or already working in the field and are looking to advance, this article is right for you.
But it’s not always clear what it means to enter the field of engineering management. This article covers the responsibilities, education requirements, career and salary expectations, skills, and interests best suited to becoming an engineering manager.
What an Engineering Manager Does
Engineering managers are at the center of technical and managerial teams. They work directly with clients, senior management, and engineering teams to develop and execute various engineering projects.
Here are the common responsibilities of an engineering manager:
An engineering manager is a people manager responsible for hiring the right talent for the organization, managing teams, and offering guidance and career support to younger engineers.
As an engineering manager, you must recognize the strengths, weaknesses, and capabilities of each member of the team and harness these to bring out motivation in your team and better results in your projects.
Good communication and interpersonal skills are the hallmarks of good engineering managers. These skills are critical for clear communication with stakeholders, conflict resolution, and communicating project requirements to the team.
Your day-to-day responsibilities as an engineering manager include attending client and team meetings, one-on-one meetings with direct reports and peers, recruiting and interviewing new hires, delegating responsibilities to members of your team, directing, motivating, and inspiring your team, liaising with other departments and executives, and working as the tech leads in matters that require the application of different technologies.
You will also spend time reviewing and creating reports, making procurement decisions, enforcing rules, and supervising team members.
As your role allows you to be in direct contact with clients, you will be responsible for preparing project specifications and directing your team on the projects under your management.
Engineers work on projects handed down from supervisors. But as an engineering manager, you have direct contact with clients and have a say in how and which project your team works on. Therefore, you must understand how the moving parts of engineering projects work together so you can complete your company's projects successfully.
Working as an engineering manager places you in a unique position where you can draw upon your work experience as an engineer to help non-managerial executives make better decisions on resource allocation, project expectations, and execution timelines that are realistic for the company and engineers working on various projects.
As you have practical experience in handling technical engineering concepts, you are uniquely equipped to act as the tech lead in guiding your team through code reviews, feedback, system design, coding, development, and architecture, and system integrations. Additional skills in business analytics can help you analyze and derive useful information from data, which will inform better decisions concerning your projects.
Where You Can Work
Some engineers become engineering managers through internal promotions, even without furthering their education beforehand. But you can pursue a master’s degree in engineering management to set yourself on a certain path to becoming an engineering manager. You can work in diverse engineering roles after completion of an engineering management program, including:
Engineering project management
Construction engineering management
Cost system analyst
Industrial engineering management
Software engineering management
Companies where you can work as an engineering manager include construction companies, industrial manufacturing plants, research laboratories, engineering companies, consultancy and management firms, and specialized engineering management consultancies.
The best thing about pursuing a career in engineering management is the positive career outlook for the field. The demand for architectural and engineering managers is likely to grow by 3% by 2029. So if you haven’t already, look around for engineering management programs and their education requirements.
Education Requirements for Engineering Managers
Engineering managers take different educational paths to reach the positions based on their career goals. Some managers pursue engineering management as a major in their undergraduate studies while others choose an engineering major then advance into management through a master’s degree. Either way, you must have the relevant educational background and training to equip you with the skills and knowledge in handling the different demands of your role as an engineering manager.
Requirements for a Bachelor’s Degree
The first basic requirement to become an engineering manager is a bachelor's degree in engineering management or an engineering field of your choice from an ABET-accredited institution. Some of the engineering majors you can pursue in your undergraduate degree include environmental, software engineering, nuclear, aerospace, chemical, mechanical engineering, civil, biomedical, computer, and geotechnical engineering.
Accredited universities have different admission requirements, but most require a 3.0 or higher GPA, recommendation letters, SAT or ACT scores, and a personal statement. Check with different institutions to determine the specific admissions requirements. A bachelor's degree in engineering will equip you with skills and training in applying science and mathematics in solving technical problems in engineering projects.
Work Experience and Certification after your Undergraduate
Some engineers choose to gain practical work experience in engineering projects between one and four years after their bachelor’s degree, which strengthens their graduate school application. You can become a PE after your engineering program by passing both the Fundamental of Engineering and Principles and Practice of Engineering exams and completing four years of work experience under a PE. Certification as a PE helps validate your competency as an engineer and opens up opportunities for becoming an engineering project manager. Working between your bachelor’s and master’s allows you to make clearer decisions on the path you wish to pursue.
Requirements for a Master’s Program
You can pursue a master's degree program immediately after your bachelor’s from an institution that supports engineers without extensive work experience in the field. We suggest you evaluate programs to determine if prior work experience is required or find programs that welcome those without such experience.
A master’s degree lasts two to three years and provides advanced technical and administrative skills that you need as an engineering manager. The master's program you choose will depend on whether you want to transition into a more technical/managerial role or a more general managerial role. An MBA is ideal for those seeking general managerial roles.
On the other hand, engineering managers looking for more technical roles can pursue a master’s degree in engineering management (MEM) or a master’s degree in technology management. You can advance into engineering management even with a data mining degree by pursuing a master’s in engineering management focusing on analytics to help you apply statistics, machine learning, and optimization to solve complex engineering problems.
Salary Expectations for an Engineering Manager
A higher salary is one of the motivations which students seek by becoming an engineering manager. But knowing the current industry trend allows you to request a raise or negotiate a higher salary during an interview.
Salary Expectations by Experience
A job title as an engineering manager may come with a higher salary. According to Indeed, the average salary in the U.S. on the lower end of the range is $89,200, which may be higher than that of an engineer starting in the career. Higher paid engineering managers could earn an average annual salary of $200,700 depending on their location and the company they work for. Software engineering managers also attract high salaries, with an average of $103,000 for beginners and more experienced software engineers commanding an average salary of $177,000 per year.
Salary Expectations by Education Level
In general, the salary range of professionals with bachelor's degrees is lower than that of holders of a master's degree. Therefore, advancing in your education and earning professional certifications in engineering will increase your competitiveness and salary. For example, a PE certification allows you to command higher rates since you can legally approve final designs in your capacity as a project manager. Apart from advancing your education or obtaining certification, you can directly ask for raises of up to 10% higher than the current market rate for engineering managers, especially if you meet your responsibilities and provide value to your company.
How to Determine if a Job in Engineering Management is Right for You
Although a job title and a higher salary can motivate you to pursue engineering management, your personality and interests will determine the satisfaction you can derive from your role. You must know the skills, interests, and personalities that align with engineering management so that you can choose the most appropriate and rewarding engineering management program for your master’s degree.
To become an engineering manager, you must desire to work on engineering projects and the teams behind these projects. Thus, you will need several skills, including:
Strong communication skills for meaningful interactions with clients, other departments, and team members to facilitate the successful execution of project specifications
Leadership skills through which you can offer direction, supervision, and motivation to your team
Project management skills allow you to handle problems that arise when handling different engineering projects.
Engineering managers have a constant desire to keep learning and to improve their skills to remain relevant and competitive in their engineering field.
These skills can be the tiebreaker when you are looking for a position as an engineering manager. Include them in your resume, and be ready to answer interview questions related to the skills that make you an ideal manager.
Hopefully, this article has improved your understanding of what responsibilities engineering managers handle, the education requirements they must meet, the salary expectations, and additional skills that will make you a better manager. Now, go ahead and choose an engineering management program that will take you to your next career step.