19 August, 2020

Engineers keep the world turning. They design technology, build machines, bring systems to life and keep those systems safe and secure. Today’s engineers are proficient problem solvers in regards to complex operations such as high-performance computing, nanotechnology, manufacturing, biomedical engineering, and cybersecurity.

These professionals are essential for solving technical challenges and answering questions involving science and math; engineers can also boost their careers by honing soft skills like interpersonal communication or business skills such as financial strategizing. For engineers seeking positions which demand management and team leadership skills, additional education, such as a master’s in engineering management or a master’s in project management, offer excellent career preparation and training while paving the way towards advancement.

Continue reading for a deeper understanding of what a master’s in engineering management and a master’s in project management entail, who it will benefit, how these degrees influence earning potential, and what to expect in each master’s program.

What’s the Difference Between Engineering Management and Project Management?

According to the Houston Chronicle, experienced project managers and engineering managers are in high demand. While the skills and talents of engineering managers and project managers overlap in a number of key areas — including team leadership skills and organizational abilities — the scope and nature of their work differ in a few major ways.

Project Management or Engineering ManagementEngineering managers tend to have backgrounds which are more technical in nature, and are also more likely to already have some engineering experience. Their roles come with management and leadership duties such as attracting and maintaining talent, including hiring and promoting team members, in addition to project management tasks such as executing timelines and improving operational processes.

In comparison to project managers, who are not necessarily specialized experts in one particular field, the skills of an engineering manager are abundantly applied to the work at hand. They are able to lead engineering teams, collaborate with different departments within an organization, develop timelines, and ensure that all stakeholders understand project requirements.

Project management skills are highly valuable to both engineering and project managers. In fact, career insight platform, Burning Glass, listed project management as one of the most highly demanded skills for engineering managers in 2019, with nearly 40% of all engineering management postings in the U.S. specifically requesting candidates who have project management expertise. The challenge for engineering managers is having the ability to take the tools and methodologies from project management and applying them to technical projects.

Particularly in fields such as engineering, industry-specific expertise helps to ensure that the professionals who are responsible for managing a project understand the scope of work and are also experienced communicators with both other engineers and non-technical stakeholders.

Master’s in Engineering Management Overview

Engineers who are determined to pursue leadership roles within their industry, including engineering managers, chief engineers, directors of engineering, engineering project managers, and senior lead analysts will benefit from a master’s in engineering management. When coupled with on-the-job experience, this graduate degree distinguishes an engineer from other competitive candidates, and may significantly improve earning potential.

Master’s in engineering management admission requirements often specify an undergraduate degree in engineering or a related discipline, ensuring that students in the program are studying with like-minded individuals having similar goals.

Those who enroll in a master’s program in engineering management will learn valuable skills in the following areas:

  • Planning, organizing, and managing projects
  • Methods for improving an organization’s performance
  • Holistic approaches to making decisions
  • Strategies for financial planning and budgeting
  • Processes in contracting for engineering projects

Master’s in engineering management programs teaches students to effectively lead and manage organizations in manufacturing, construction, engineering and production industries. These students learn how to apply engineering management principles to coordinate critical functions across entire organizations, including topics such as professional demeanor, operations and project management, marketing, finance, cost and quality control, supervisory functions, and more.

Some of the typical courses in an engineering management master’s program may include:

  • Decision Making with Uncertainty
  • Survey of Finance and Engineering Economics
  • Knowledge Management
  • Organizational Behavior for the Engineering Manager
  • Project Cost and Quality Management
  • Problems in Engineering Management and Systems Engineering Capstone

An in-depth engineering management master’s program ensures that future engineering managers have the necessary skills to supervise technical development and maintain high performance. Even for roles that are not specific to engineering management, a master’s degree can positively influence earning potential. For example, PayScale shows the average salary of a general project manager at $73,964, while the average for the same role with a master’s in engineering management is $87,000.

Some programs also prepare students to take the Project Management Professional (PMP)® certification exam, offered by the Project Management Institute, to further establish their professional credentials and to increase their earning potential for a higher master’s in engineering management salary.

What Kinds of Master’s in Engineering Management Careers Are Available to Graduates?

Engineers pursuing leadership and management roles in any field of engineering will benefit from this degree. Here are some master’s in engineering management career and salary examples:

Engineering Management Career Average Salary (U.S.)
Director of Engineering $149,000
Program Manager (Engineering) $104,000
Senior Project Engineer $102,000
Electrical Engineer $87,000
Mechanical Engineer $82,000
Project Engineer $78,000
Process Engineer $77,000
Manufacturing Engineer $76,000
Industrial Engineer $68,000

Source: PayScale
Note: All salaries presented are average salaries for professionals in the listed role who have an M.S. in Engineering Management.

Master’s in Project Management Overview

Engineers considering a Master’s in project management may not find a curriculum specifically tailored to their academic or professional background, but they will learn valuable skills and insight for keeping projects on-task and for facilitating successful collaboration among stakeholders.

Some of the typical knowledge areas covered in a master’s in project management program include:

  • The core principles of project management
  • Problem-solving and critical thinking, along with communication and team-building strategies
  • Methods for effectively managing a team, allocating resources and identifying priorities
  • How to apply project management theory to varying industries and domains

The expertise covered in a project management graduate program is helpful for engineers who are looking to change careers or who prefer to work in a wider range of industries. In these settings, engineers can leverage skills like “systems thinking” to improve processes and streamline operations for virtually any organization.

Master’s in project management students also learn how to communicate technical ideas in a non-technical way so that members of their team will fully comprehend project goals and expectations. Engineers already know the value of science-based solutions towards solving problems, however, gaining a broader understanding of project management will enhance their team leadership into developing more creative and collaborative solutions within their respective organization.

Some of the typical courses in a master’s in project management program may include:

  • Project Management Finance
  • Optimization Models for Decision Making
  • Risk Management
  • Executive Decision Making
  • Project Portfolio Management
  • Planning and Scheduling

Gaining valuable skills in these areas is critical for engineering management professionals; however, the master’s in project management program requirements promote applicants coming from a broad range of academic and professional backgrounds. While this diversity certainly has its benefits, engineers may find it more conducive to their careers to build a professional network of like-minded individuals across different engineering disciplines.

What Kinds of Master’s in Project Management Careers Are Available to Graduates?

While the salary of individuals possessing a master’s in project management demonstrates a great benefit to most, the highest paying jobs for people with this degree are directly related to the IT field.

Master’s in Project Management Careers and Salary

Project Management Career Average Salary (U.S.)
Program Manager (IT) $120,000
Senior Project Manager (IT) $111,000
Senior Project Manager (Operations) $105,000
Project Manager (IT) $89,000
Project Manager (General) $82,000
Project Manager (Construction) $82,000
Project Engineer $69,000
Data Analyst $66,000

Source: PayScale
Note: All salaries presented are average salaries for professionals in the listed role who have an M.S. in Project Management.

About GW’s Online Master’s Degrees in Engineering

George Washington University offers a comprehensive selection of online master’s in engineering programs. The programs are designed with the same curriculum as the on-campus degrees and with a focus on positioning graduates for career advancement. GW offers the following programs in a 100% online format:

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