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Engineering management: Your career guide

Do you have the technical and people skills to lead engineering projects? High-demand industries from logistics to energy need engineering management experts.
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Written by Tanika Johnson, Contributing Writer on

An engineering manager organizes and oversees engineering projects while coaching and leading teams of engineers. Other job tasks include recommending budgets and monitoring expenses, timetables, and production plans. 

Firms pay top dollar for professionals who've mastered the hard and people skills the role demands. At $149,530, the median annual salary for engineering managers is more than 3.5 times the national average.

Read on to learn about life as an engineering manager, what skills they need, and whether the job is right for you.

A day in the life of an engineering manager

Engineering managers may work in industrial production plants, research laboratories, and office settings resolving regulatory issues. Industry professionals possess accounting, marketing, and computer science expertise. 

 In this role, you'll collaborate with contractors, stakeholders, and related managers in addition to managing personnel. 

Engineering managers perform an array of tasks and responsibilities. Here are several of the most common.

  • Regulate budgets, resources, and technologies for projects
  • Oversee, support, and assess engineering professionals' performance
  • Deliver feedback on strategic technical decisions and solutions
  • Hire, coach, and develop new and seasoned engineering specialists

Lifestyle of an engineering manager

Many engineering managers are employed full-time and work at least 40 hours per week. Remote work opportunities are available. With budgets to juggle and deadlines to meet, managers should have excellent organizational and time-management skills. 

While engineering management is fast-paced and may be stressful, it offers variety and opportunities for personal improvement with each new project.

As the tech world evolves, engineering managers need continuing education and training to mentor engineers, provide code reviews, and offer relevant feedback on projects.

Salary expectations as an engineering manager

The median annual wage for engineering managers was $149,530 as of May 2020, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. 

High-paying industries include scientific research and development services, management of companies and enterprises, and manufacturing. The government and architectural, engineering, and related services also make the list.

The next steps on the career ladder include director of engineering, chief engineer, and vice president of engineering.

What does it take to become an engineering manager?

Engineering management is a competitive occupation requiring advanced business, engineering and technology, and math and science skills. Earning one of these roles requires both specialized schooling and extensive experience.

Managers typically earn a bachelor's in engineering (or a closely related degree) and a master's of engineering management. While earning your degree, you'll take chemistry, managerial science, and physics courses.

This role generally requires five to 12 years of experience in database management system software, computer aided design software, and other job-relevant technology. Earning Certified Associate in Engineering Management certification can help demonstrate your knowledge to employers.

Are you a career changer with an industry-related degree? Consider pursuing a master's degree along with your professional engineer license. 

Upper management positions may require Certified Professional in Engineering Management certification.

What skills do I need as an engineering manager?

Engineering managers are leaders in operations, production, and quality assurance. Managers design innovative products and processes and consult with finance, marketing, and production managers. 

In this role, you'll want to develop your technical and people skills (also called "soft skills") for managing projects and programs.

Hard skills

  • Human resources 
  • Project management
  • Software development
  • Financial management
  • Engineering economics

People skills

  • Leadership skills
  • Attention to detail
  • Conflict resolution
  • Collaboration skills
  • Effective communication

Is engineering management a good career fit for you?

While pursuing engineering management training, you'll likely complete accounting, engineering economics, and financial management courses along with industrial and human resources and quality control projects. 

As you gain theoretical knowledge, technical skills, and practical experience, make sure your strengths, interests, and career achievements align with the role.

Strengths

  • Management and engineering expertise
  • Skilled at planning and executing strategies 
  • Expert research, design, and development skills
  • Proficient accounting and money management skills

Interests

  • Interested in driving outcomes of large-scale projects
  • Persuasive in motivating teams to streamline methods
  • Fascinated by construction and manufacturing
  • Enjoy leading teams and managing processes in technical settings

Career achievements

  • Earn your engineering or related bachelor's degree.
  • Acquire substantial field experience as an architect or engineer trainee.
  • Gain several years of applied fieldwork as a professional architect or engineer.
  • Enroll in an engineering management or technology management master's program.

In conclusion

Do you have a strong interest in building tools and machines? Would you consider yourself an investigator of natural laws? Does influencing and motivating engineering teams excite you? 

If so, consider enrolling in an engineering management program as your first step toward an engineering management career.

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