Engineers are, by nature and training, problem solvers. They are highly skilled in designing solutions to make people’s lives better or improve products and processes through innovation. Even though engineers play a critical role in business success and business products, the language of engineering doesn't always translate well into the world of business. This can be a challenge because engineering projects most often need the support of business functions—and business management—to get off the drawing board.
Professor Christy Bozic, associate faculty director in engineering management at the University of Colorado Boulder Engineering Management Program (CU Boulder EMP), outlines five ways that an engineering management degree can bridge the divide between engineering and the boardroom. It’s a degree that ensures an engineer’s skills are perfectly aligned with the needs of the businesses they work for while adding a significant career boost to advance an engineering career.
1. Engineering Management Teaches Engineers to “Speak Business”
“I tell my students that I'm teaching them the most valuable foreign language they can learn,” says Bozic. “Engineering management helps them translate the language of their engineering discipline into the world of business and industry, creating greater cohesion with the people who make the financial and commercial decisions about the future of their projects.”
Bozic explains how these new “language skills” help engineers turn their design ideas into financially viable projects that create shareholder value for the companies they work for.
“At the end of the day, engineers are designing things to be sold to people,” says Bozic. “Engineering management teaches them to design for commercialization and profitability while helping them to disseminate their engineering knowledge and put it into the hands of people who will use it.”
2. Engineering Management Teaches Engineers to be More Collaborative
Students in the engineering management degree Program come from many different engineering disciplines. This creates opportunities for different types of engineers to work together on collaborative projects and develop a wider understanding of what is possible in the realm of engineering.
“We have a good mix of engineering students in the Program, says Bozic. “Some are working in the industry while advancing their career by earning their degree. Others may be graduate students who are earning a degree in another major like aerospace or mechanical engineering and are taking an engineering management course to supplement their master’s degree. So we might have a mechanical engineer, a chemical engineer and an aerospace engineer all working together on a collaborative project. It gets really cool when an industry-based engineer works collaboratively with someone who has a research agenda. The different perspectives help create some incredible projects.”
3. Engineering Management Teaches Engineers to Be Business Leaders
Leadership skills are a core focus of the Engineering Management Program at CU Boulder.
"When engineers graduate from an undergraduate degree program, they've got a deep disciplined knowledge,” says Bozic. “They know how to follow a step-by-step procedure in any sort of problem-solving and design scenario—it's what we do in engineering. What trips them up is a lack of understanding of how their role as an engineer fits into the wider commercial organization and how they can use their engineering knowledge to progress in their career.”
Bozic explains that a degree in engineering management can help graduates advance in their engineering careers by becoming better leaders.
“Our leadership curriculum helps engineers understand what it’s like to manage other engineers and non-technical professionals, as well as how to communicate effectively across the entire organization," says Bozic. “Any engineer can benefit from an engineering management degree because it teaches them the things they didn't get the chance to do in their undergraduate program—things like a well-rounded education in the areas of leadership, ethics and finance, or even how a business is run.”
4. Engineering Management Creates New Career Opportunities
A degree in engineering management opens up a whole raft of new career opportunities for engineering graduates. Engineering manager jobs include roles in project management, engineering sales and marketing, and senior management positions across many different types of organizations and industries.
Thanks to the flexibility afforded by online and distance learning engineering management programs that enable students to study for their degrees while working full-time, it’s not unusual for engineers and their employers to benefit from the new skills developed, even before graduation.
“It’s always interesting to watch what students can do, even before they've fully finished the Program,” says Bozic. “They are able to get their projects prioritized within the company. They are also able to get promotions because now, not only do they have the technical expertise, but they understand how to lead people.”
5. Engineering Management Strengthens the Skills of Entrepreneurial Engineers
Not all engineering management graduates want to climb the career ladder by working for someone else. According to Bozic, many engineers in the Program are highly entrepreneurial and use the skills they develop at CU Boulder EMP to launch their own enterprises.
“It's fun to watch some of the students who are more entrepreneurial come up with their ideas for companies,” says Bozic. “Many of them actually launch those companies while they are still a graduate student. When they graduate, they are able to take that enterprise and create jobs instead of taking jobs.”
Learn More About Advancing Your Engineering Career
To learn more about how a master's degree in engineering management from CU Boulder can help you advance in your engineering career, visit the Engineering Management Program page on our website.