Where can a Master in Engineering Management take you?

Engineering is a broad field. Any use of scientific principles in order to advance the building, designing, or testing of an object could be considered engineering. With that in mind, it might not surprise you much to hear that the range of engineering jobs is vast. The management of engineering jobs is crucial. Qualifying with a masters in engineering management is the first step along the way towards working at the helm of a project.

Engineering management first emerged as a defined career when Stevens Institute of Technology opened the doors to their School of Business Management in 1908. Since then, the field has broadened and become an essential cog in many industries' workings. Managers in this field are expected to combine their knowledge of scientific principles with their organizational, interpersonal, and strategic acumen. Roles in the field are often highly specialized and require a great deal of research, planning, and collaboration in order to be carried out successfully. Master's engineering courses in management are usually aimed at prospective students who have already spent time in an engineering or management role and who wish to hone their skills before taking the next big steps in their career. What, you might ask, could those steps be?

There is no simple answer to this question. Engineering management roles are as diverse as engineering itself. As an engineering manager, you could be guiding a collaborative team as they work on a new mechanical product, administrating the rollout of a new agricultural system, or playing a part in the development of clean energy sources – these are just a few of the possible career paths you might take. There would be no way to list every career trajectory available to a master of engineering management without writing an incredibly long article. Instead, this list cherry-picks some of the larger arenas open to the budding engineering manager.

IT Systems Management

Information technology is all around us. In 2020, the IT sector was worth a whopping 4.8 trillion dollars worldwide. Almost all large organizations employ or hire an IT systems managers. This role, which would suit a computer engineer with a masters in engineering management, involves the day-to-day running and strategic planning of large-scale systems. IT systems management is absolutely critical to government institutions, businesses of all kinds, and industrial networks. IT systems managers have to be able to think on their feet In order to overcome system failures without harming the organization they work for. Developing contingency models is a crucial part of the job.

IT systems management doctrine was heavily influenced by telecommunications companies' network management structures before the birth of the internet. It focuses on the control of distributed systems by looking at big picture planning and the incorporation of technological advances into existing systems. Master of engineering management students should look at focusing their studies on information technology if they want to enter this field. Seek out professors with proven track records running large information technology systems.

Technology Licensing

Technology licensing is the act of creating legal protection in some form for a product or process. If you have legal experience, becoming a technology licensor is a career path you may be able to take once you have completed your master in engineering management.

Becoming a full-time technology licensor is not easy. You’ll need to combine a processual knowledge of engineering with a very detailed knowledge of competition and patent law. You’ll need to be able to guide your clients – who may be designers or scientists – through the realities of licensing their creation whilst ensuring that they have protection from industrial theft.

Some large organizations are concerned primarily with the development of new ideas, processes, and technological advances. Like the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, these organizations have entire departments completely dedicated to technology licensing. Careers in these organizations have great scope for progression. It can be fascinating to work on and around the latest developments in the engineering world.

Plant Management

Plant managers handle the distribution, repair, and use of machinery for a business or organization. It is a technical job with an important organizational and administrative element. A masters in engineering management should prepare you well for this career – but you’ll need to have a good knowledge of plant engineering as well as managerial acumen. Plant management is essential for large civil engineering firms, which often have big networks of machinery distributed nationally or even internationally. Given the price of specialist machinery – not to mention the specialists who control such machinery – the plant manager's role is crucial for any large engineering organization looking to keep its financial situation stable.

Satellite Technology Management

Space based technology is fragile, complex, and absolutely crucial in connecting our planet. There are plenty of jobs available in the satellite industry for people possessing a masters in engineering management. The work is extremely challenging and often very rewarding. Large multinational aerospace firms also happen to pay extremely well. One example of an engineering management job in this field is the AOCS and mission analysis role. AOCS – which stands for Attitude and Orbit Control System – managers head up the small teams that work around the clock to ensure that the satellite under their control travels around the Earth in precisely the right way.

Your team will be made up of control engineers, whose job it is to keep the satellite on track. Satellites’ orbital patterns can be perturbed by magnetic fields, space junk, or computer malfunctions. Engineering managers have to oversee the production of mathematical models developed in order to predict and correct the movements of spacecraft.

AOCS systems include both the sensors that locate the positioning of the satellite, the thrusters, reaction wheels, and magnetic torquers that correct orbital movement.

Other kinds of satellite technology managerial career paths opened up by a master in engineering management are avionics project leads, computer systems managers, and roles within design and development teams.

Product Development

A masters in engineering management can help you get ahead as a senior product developer. Product developers with engineering management experience are invaluable to companies looking to refine and test their products. Product developers apply engineering principles in an effort to turn a good idea into a great product.

Product developers – also known as industrial engineers – have to combine business and management acumen with engineering know-how if they want to succeed. Businesses ask a great deal of product developers, but they often furnish them with great salaries in return. A masters in engineering management puts you in good stead for getting into this area of industry. Still, you’ll also need to have a creative and analytical mind in order to really succeed.

Process Engineering Management

Process engineering is a crucial part of any production operation. Process engineers work on streamlining and improving the production methods and materials in order to develop an efficient and proficient manufacturing path. A masters in engineering management is a good step on the way to becoming a process engineering manager. As a manager in this field, you’ll need to be able to coordinate the implementation of ideas from across the process engineering team.

Process engineering managers need to be able to keep the needs of their organization in mind when auditing process improvement ideas put forward by team members. They need to think of themselves as conductors, encouraging the most useful ideas and using their scientific acumen to make judgments about which processes are likely to yield great results. Process engineering managers are in high demand in the petrochemical, IT, manufacturing, biotechnology, and clean energy sectors. Salaries for managers in this field are high, and headhunting teams regularly try and lure the most talented process engineering managers into new organizations. 

Project Engineering Management

Project engineering managers – also referred to as project manager engineers – have a complex role within the engineering world. It is the project engineering manager’s duty to liaise with a company that wants a project completed. Taking into account the financial cost, staffing arrangements, material availability, and pretty much any other variable factor you can think of, a project engineering manager will then carefully plan and administer the completion of a project from start to finish.

During a master in engineering management, you’ll learn how to combine business, administrative, and scientific management talents. This synthesis of skills is entirely necessary for project management. Although recent developments in project management software have made coordination a great deal easier in the workplace, the project manager's role has not been eclipsed in engineering by any means. The knowledge of scientific processes needed for the role means that it will remain a complex job.

Environmental Engineering Management

The world is in the throes of a great environmental catastrophe. Humankind’s efforts to save our planet are often undertaken with the help of engineering solutions. Environmental engineering is a broad field dedicated to the protection, revitalization, and habitation of the Earth. Environmental engineering projects include pollution control, water management, rewilding, green living, and anti-erosion aims and objectives.

Almost all engineering niches have an application in environmental engineering. Some of the best and brightest minds in the engineering field have entered this noble area of work. A master in engineering management would be suitable for an environmental engineer looking to step their career up. Being a project or processes lead in an environmental rehabilitation project, for instance, requires an understanding of natural processes in combination with great organizational and collaborative skills. Environmental engineering management also requires a good understanding of prospective projects' social impact. Collecting public feedback and incorporating your findings into a project can be very important indeed.

Environmental engineering has changed the way we live for the better. A great illustrative example of this is the modern sewer system. Major cities used to be hubs for all sorts of waterborne diseases. Human waste would flow through the streets in open gutters. Environmental engineers designed the sewer systems that run underneath our feet – preventing the mass spread of cholera and allowing human waste to be treated instead of flowing raw into river systems. Applying engineering solutions to widespread problems is what environmental engineering is all about.

Automation Engineering Management

Automation has long been prevalent in the manufacturing industry. It has become a key developmental concern in every industry from healthcare to marketing in recent years. Automation engineers have the task of creating solutions that allow the automation of more processes. These solutions can take the form of data analysis, algorithmic machine learning, or physical machinery. It is a complex role. Graduates with a masters degree in engineering management are perfectly placed to lead automation projects.

Typically, an automation project is undertaken at the request of an organization looking to increase productivity or streamline its workforce. This makes automation engineering managers highly valuable assets – an efficiently undertaken automation project can save a business or agency many millions of dollars and allow a company to develop at a blistering pace. Accordingly, the salaries for automation engineering managers are very high indeed.

Chief Technology Officer

Chief Technology Officer is an executive position, one of the highest echelon engineering roles. A Chief Technology Officer is responsible for outlining a company’s technological vision and strategy, making executive decisions about its pathways to future success. With technology being so important to almost all business decisions being made presently, it is easy to understand why the CTO role is so senior.

You’ll not be able to jump into a CTO role as soon as you finish your masters in engineering management, but you will be familiar with many of the attributes that make a good Chief Technology Officer. A good CTO will have the ability to take a step back and see the bigger picture with regards to the adoption and development of technological solutions. They will have a detailed knowledge of economics, business administration, and engineering principles. CTOs regularly earn six-figure paychecks and are indispensable figures within corporate structures.

Photo: This is Engineering, RAeng – Unsplash