Published: April 1, 2019

For a lot of people, “engineering” is an imposing word. It sounds difficult. It is difficult. Engineering is one of the most intellectually demanding and challenging professions and earning a degree in the field involves a rigorous immersion in highly technical courses of study.

But that’s just one side of engineering. Many engineers and technical professionals also decide to earn a degree in engineering management as a way to develop the knowledge and skills in business and management principles necessary to advance to higher positions of leadership. As engineering management education has become more popular over the years, a misperception has emerged that such programs are only beneficial to those with a technical background.

That couldn’t be further from the truth. Case in point, Pakou Cha

Engineering Management: Not Just for Engineers

Pakou ChaA CU Boulder alumna with a BS in Business Administration, Pakou has worked in human resources (HR) at her alma mater since 2004. As part of a university-wide strategic initiative in 2014, she had the opportunity to take a strategic planning course and, with the completion of additional courses through the Lockheed Martin Engineering Management Program, earn her graduate certificate in engineering management. 

What can an HR pro gain from studying engineering management? Plenty, it turns out.

“I was a little wary about going back to school to earn another degree, especially a graduate program — and especially in a field like engineering,” Pakou says. “But as I got into the Program it became so clear to me that, whether you’re an engineer or technical person or not, there’s just so many leadership and management skills to gain from the CU Boulder Program.”

By coming into the Program with a degree and background in business, Pakou feels she was able to add the value of a different perspective for her fellow students. In turn, she gained just as much from the technical experience her fellow students brought to the engineering management classes.

Why Engineering Management vs. MBA?

For someone without an engineering background, an obvious question is: Why choose an engineering management program over an MBA to gain business management and leadership skills?

The simple answer is: technology isn’t just for engineers. In today’s world, virtually every organization across the span of business and industry encompasses some form of technology at, or near, its core of operations. Managers who understand business leadership principles against a technical backdrop bring an added dimension and value to their employers.

As a student in the Program, Pakou successfully completed courses in four areas that are established requisites for higher-level managerial positions in any organization:

  • Strategic Planning
  • Leadership
  • Ethics
  • Project Management

“Ethics are a very big part of this Program; ethical considerations are something that impact decisions leaders have to make every day. The same with project management skills,” Pakou says. “You don’t have to be an engineer to understand the importance of fundamental concepts of project management and how they play out in a technical setting.”

The Value of Earning an Engineering Management Degree Online

The results of the Program for a non-engineering professional like Pakou have been impressive. Upon completing the Program, she advanced quickly up the ranks of the Department of Human Resources in CU Boulder’s Office of Advancement. Within two years, she moved from her role as Manager of the Office of Employee Relations to Strategic HR Business Partner to her current position as Director of Human Resources.

Among the key strengths of the Program, Pakou credits the faculty for the real-world perspective they bring to the classroom. “All the faculty I learned from brought in relevant real-life experience,” she says. “We weren’t learning from tenured faculty who spent their careers teaching theory. Obviously, my professors understood the theory behind the material, but they brought valuable knowledge from years of working as managers and leaders. There’s a high level of engagement and the Program really helped me build my confidence.”

CU Boulder’s Lockheed Martin Engineering Management Program

Whether you’re an engineer or a working professional in a non-technical field, the CU Boulder Engineering Management Program equips you with knowledge and skills that can be applied immediately on the job and can help you boost your career to the next level.

The Program is offered through CU Boulder’s respected College of Engineering and Applied Science and offers a variety of academic options, including:

  • Master of Engineering in Engineering Management
  • Dual Graduate Degrees in:
    • Aerospace Engineering Sciences
    • Computer Science
    • Electrical, Computing, and Energy Engineering
    • Mechanical Engineering
  • Graduate Certificates
  • Undergraduate Minor
  • Undergraduate Certificates
  • Industry Certification Preparation

You can request additional information about CU Boulder’s Engineering Management Program on our website. You can also contact Kendra Thibeault, Admissions, Graduate and Undergraduate Advisor at: or call 303-492-0954.