Published: March 11, 2019

Professor Daniel MoorerWhen Dr. Daniel Moorer embarked on his newest career position in aerospace after earning his doctorate in aerospace engineering at the University of Colorado Boulder in 2000, he felt he was as ready as he could be. He had good reason to feel that way. When you consider not just that academic achievement, but his background as a graduate of the United States Military Academy at West Point, his master’s degree in space systems, and his research at the Laboratory for Atmospherics and Space Physics, it’s easy to see why he would feel so confident. 

But almost immediately, he realized that his initial impression was way off.

“When I finished my doctorate and left for my next aerospace position, I really did kind of feel like I had the world by the tail a little bit,” says Dr. Moorer, who has been on faculty at CU Boulder’s Lockheed Martin Engineering Management Program (EMP) since 2012. “With my previous academic background, experience in the military and prior work in space physics, I felt as ready as I could be.”

Beginning virtually his first week on the job, however, he discovered that in his position as a senior systems engineer he would be required to devote much time to non-engineering and non-technical responsibilities. He had to build his own team and take part in high-level meetings and boardroom activities that required business and corporate acumen.

“When I first started taking part in meetings, I quickly realized that I didn’t even speak the language of business,” Dr. Moorer says. “I walked in there with a pretty impressive technical background, but I simply didn’t understand many of the concepts being discussed, or even just the vernacular.”

As one would expect of an individual with the impressive accomplishments of Dr. Moorer—including his service as a career officer in the Army, Operations Officer for a tank battalion during Operation Desert Storm, instructor of National Security Policy and Space Operations at the U.S. Army Command and Special Staff College and as a space physics application team leader at Ball Aerospace and Technologies Corp., among others—he adapted. He studied up and he made it work.

But it opened his eyes, and his experience personifies the purpose of the EMP at CU Boulder.

First, What Is Engineering Management?

Dr. Moorer’s story offers a powerful answer to a question that’s becoming more and more common in business and industry today—what is engineering management?

While initial concepts of providing education and training in business and management principles to professional engineers reach back to the early 20th century, the practice began to emerge in a more focused and formalized manner in the 1960s.

The idea was to provide a way for professionals working in engineering and other technical capacities to round out their skill sets in areas like business and management that are not typically covered in engineering programs at the undergraduate or graduate levels.

“The challenge has always been to provide engineers with the education, training and knowledge in areas not as specific to their technical specializations,” Dr. Moorer says. “Our university produces amazingly talented engineers. But we don’t have the time in those programs to give them the other skills that their supervisors and managers want them to have. We hear from employers all the time how we produce excellent technical professionals, but they also would really like them to understand things such as business ethics, leadership and project management. The CU Boulder EMP rounds out their education in those kinds of areas.”

Some of the specific areas typically covered in a masters in engineering management (MEM) program, for instance, include:

  • Accounting
  • Business law
  • Economics
  • Ethics
  • Finance
  • Leadership
  • Operations management
  • Quality control
  • Human resources management
  • Operations research

aerial view of the earth at nightBy gaining in-depth education and training in these areas, engineering professionals are able to learn how to, as Dr. Moorer puts it, speak the language of business and act as the bridge between the technical side of the organization and management—a role more and more employers are looking to fill.

With the nature of today’s globally interconnected network of business and industry, and the fact that virtually every organization relies on technology and technological advances in order to move ahead, finding engineers and technical professionals with proven business acumen is becoming increasingly vital.

Most MBA programs offer similar areas of instruction in business and management, which brings about an obvious question that should be considered by any engineer or technical professional looking to develop skills in those areas: Which one is the better choice?

What Are the Differences Between the MBA and the Masters in Engineering Management Degrees?

At first glance, it may seem as though an MBA and an MEM are very similar and opting for a traditional MBA degree might make sense. However, there are important differences between the two. When you examine these differences closely, the leverage offered by the masters in engineering management degree becomes more compelling and it can translate into the more strategic choice.

For a technical professional, the MEM offers a number of distinctive advantages:

  • The MEM is designed specifically for working engineers and technical professionals. While MBA programs typically serve students from a broad range of undergraduate majors and experiences, masters in engineering management programs are designed specifically for working engineers and technical professionals.
  • The MEM is guided by faculty with technical backgrounds. While faculty in MEM programs bring extensive business knowledge and experience from the corporate world, they also normally have technical backgrounds. It’s this shared real-world technical expertise that enables faculty and students in the CU Boulder EMP, for instance, to connect in a more immersed way right from the start.
  • MEM programs deliver focused graduate outcomes. The masters in engineering management degree helps students build skills to succeed as leaders and decision-makers in high-tech organizations, departments and corporations.

Another thing to keep in mind: the MEM can be completed within a shorter time frame of about 30 credit hours, in contrast to an MBA that requires an average of 55 credit hours. That means you can more quickly get to work applying the skills you learn to your career advancement.

CU Boulder: Emphasizing the Development of Leadership Skills

In the CU Boulder EMP, developing leadership skills is integral throughout the Program. Specialized course offerings break the critical concepts of leadership down into three subsets: Leading Oneself, Leading Others and Leading Technical Organizations.

  • Leading Oneself. This course explores leadership concepts and methods designed to enable you to develop practical leadership skills in the areas of self-motivation, emotional intelligence, personal mastery, accountability, conflict resolution, organizational culture and leading change, among others. Students engage in a variety of in-class exercises and experimentation-based assignments.
  • Leading Others. As a student in this course, you’ll learn and apply leadership techniques necessary to succeed in engineering and other technical-focused organizations. Some of these include negotiation, team-building, hiring, managing organizational politics, defining roles and responsibilities and setting a winning vision and direction.
  • Leading Technical Organizations This course provides students with relevant skills that can be applied both now and perfected over time to effectively lead organizations that provide complex systems and capabilities. Students delve into issues related to developing and maintaining the executive presence essential to lead other leaders as well as to lead through others in any organization.

In CU Boulder’s Engineering Management Program, the faculty members who guide students through these innovative offerings are as key as the courses and subject matter they teach their students.

Dr. Moorer teaches the Leading Others course, and his credentials in the area of leadership are as impressive as they come. A career Army officer with service in South Korea, Germany, the United States and the Middle East, he led a tank battalion during Operation Desert Storm in 1991. He has led several teams working on space physics applications, and in 2007 he founded Wacari Group, an organization that helps visionary individuals and organizations turn their ideas and new products into commercial success.

“I firmly believe that all of the good and the bad in an organization flows from the leader,” Dr. Moorer says. “Attitude, outlook, care for the employee, all of it determines how well the organization operates. You have to believe in taking care of the team and building the team. In my role, I help people to learn what it is they are supposed to do not just with the mission, but with the people. The world as a whole is in need of solid, ethical leaders, in all areas of human endeavors. We need great leaders.”

Dr. Moorer is joined in this leadership focus by additional faculty colleagues including Kathryn Tobey, who teaches the Leading Technical Organizations course. Tobey spent 34 years at Lockheed Martin Space Systems Company, most recently serving as Vice President and General Manager of Special Programs. 

A CU Boulder alum and product of the Masters in Engineering Management Program herself, Tobey is a past chair of the University’s Advisory Board for BOLD Center (Broadening Opportunities for Leadership Diversity), served on Lockheed Martin’s Executive Inclusion Council and is a trustee for the Women’s Foundation of Colorado.

Instructor Ron Duren, who was the subject of a recent blog post, brings equally impressive leadership credentials to teaching the Leading Oneself course. With a background that includes stints as a semi-pro baseball player, rodeo bull rider, airplane test pilot and Ironman triathlete, self-motivation is an area he understands well.

Ron, another alumnus with a master’s degree from CU Boulder’s EMP, focuses on how to lead effectively in high-stress situations. He is also the founder of a leadership coaching and consulting practice where executives learn how to perform at their best under the most stressful circumstances.

This emphasis on empowering students in the Program to develop leadership skills is designed to deliver a number of meaningful, actionable outcomes. They are outcomes that every student working through the Program can employ at their current positions, the very next day after learning them. Some of these include:

  • Understanding the dynamics of personal change
  • Enhancing personal and professional effectiveness
  • Increasing self-knowledge
  • Understanding the power of emotional intelligence
  • Developing, conducting and analyzing an action plan to increase personal effectiveness
  • Communicating with your team more effectively
  • Maximizing your team’s performance
  • Developing a greater understanding of a leader’s responsibilities
  • Setting the right strategy and its relationship to value creation
  • Building an integrated team of leaders and multiplying their abilities
  • Being accountable for meeting organizational commitments
  • Learning the value of enduring relationships and how they contribute to an organization’s success

“One question that I’m asked every year, often more than once, by students coming into this Program is whether leaders are born or made,” Dr. Moorer says. “And I tell them unequivocally that leaders are made.”

The Lockheed Martin Engineering Management Program at CU Boulder

College of Engineering buildingMany working technical professionals out there likely find themselves in a similar position as Moorer was earlier in his career when he realized the value of additional education and training in engineering management and leadership. These are exactly the kinds of individuals for whom the Lockheed Martin Engineering Management Program at CU Boulder is designed.

“I was the poster child for this Program and what it’s designed to do,” Moorer says. “When I realized this Program taught all of the things I needed to know in that aerospace position, I immediately became a fan of its purpose and have been a fan of the Program ever since.”

CU Boulder’s EMP is distinguished across the country as among the best of its kind, characterized by flexibility, academic excellence and an exceptional faculty of seasoned technical professionals and leaders. Offered through CU Boulder’s highly respected College of Engineering and Applied Science, which was founded in 1893, the Program has been meeting the needs of working technical professionals looking to open new doors of career opportunity for more than 30 years.

With a graduate degree, dual degree options, an undergraduate minor, and graduate and undergraduate certificates available, students engage with CU Boulder’s Engineering Management Program as a way to launch or advance their careers—within their current organizations or embarking on a career shift.

“Employers tell us that they want people with a technical background, but that they also need leaders. They want those technical experts also to be able to serve in leadership roles in their organizations,” Moorer says. “To truly know how to lead and manage it takes education. That’s what we’re providing. We create translators. Our graduates have a unique ability to translate engineering solutions into business reality.”

“We help our graduates excel past their contemporaries so they’re recognized as emerging leaders in a way that’s still not all that common,” Dr. Moorer says.

What Do Engineering Managers Do?

A key distinguishing feature of the Engineering Management Program at CU Boulder is the quality of faculty who provide personalized guidance, instruction and mentorship to students. They bring to the Program an array of professional expertise and experience that illustrates many of the career options that engineering management students may aspire to one day achieve themselves.

“We really do have the most amazing faculty and staff,” Moorer says. “We’re focused on serving the working technical professional. All of our faculty have technical backgrounds. They can speak to their technical area of expertise while also teaching some of these essential areas of business and principles of management and leadership. Many of our faculty have been executives, as well as CEOs.”

In the Engineering Management Program, teaching takes a 50 percent practical and 50 percent theoretical approach, allowing students to learn what is, as well as what could be, Moorer says. All aspects of the curriculum relate to how the content is applied in real-world professional environments. Focus areas of the curriculum reflect the essential skills and tasks that engineering managers may need to perform daily on the job, including:

  • Business law for engineering managers
  • Commercialization
  • Decision analysis
  • Finance and accounting
  • Leading oneself
  • Leading others
  • Leading technical organizations
  • Project management
  • Quality sciences
  • Research methods

Within the Program, a premium is placed on flexibility so that working engineers can progress through it without disrupting their current work or professional positions. As a graduate of the Program, you’ll be empowered with new knowledge and skills that are workplace-ready, including leadership and ethics, project and portfolio management; product management, technology innovation and entrepreneurship; sustainable, resilient and regenerative enterprises; production and operations for the 21st century; and management and leadership across engineering industries.

For anyone considering the engineering management degree as a way to advance their careers, it’s important to understand that the industry outlook for individuals with the credential is very bright. The U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates that employment of engineering managers is expected to grow two percent over the next decade. And the need for engineering managers in the engineering services industry, such as with consulting firms, is projected to grow six percent over the next decade.

At CU Boulder, there are a number of options for earning an engineering management degree online or on campus as well as certificate-level offerings. If you would like to speak with an advisor or request more information about the Engineering Management Program or any of our specific options, please visit the CU Boulder EMP website. You can also contact our graduate advisor, Kendra Thibeault, at or call 303-492-0954.