How to Become an Engineering Manager


While most engineers work on projects in a particular subdiscipline of engineering (e.g., chemical, mechanical, industrial), engineering managers specialize in seeing projects to completion. Whether the goal is to construct a dam, develop a microchip, or build a waste management facility, there’s an engineering manager on staff to make sure the project is completed safely and efficiently.

This is a complex form of management. While other managers are concerned with staffing procedures and financial bottom lines, engineering managers have to also take into account structural properties, regulatory guidelines, and operational logistics. Engineering managers need to be masters of two worlds: business and science. Those two worlds often butt heads and rarely speak the same language, but that’s exactly why the world needs engineering managers: to act as translators and experts in overseeing the construction of complex and critical engineering projects.

There are numerous paths to becoming an engineering manager. Some choose to work as technical engineers for years before pursuing additional management education and working in management roles. Others know from the start that they want to work in engineering management and dedicate themselves to the management aspect of the profession from the start. In keeping with the ethos of this profession, we’ve sought out the most efficient and effective path forward.

There were over 197,800 architectural and engineering management positions in the U.S. in 2020 and the industry was expected to add nearly 8,100 new positions by 2030, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. This is a job that handsomely rewards performance: the average salary for an architectural and engineering manager is over $158,100 per year. However, competition is getting stiffer and employers are looking for engineering managers with the right blend of education, management skills, and experience.

Read on to get a step-by-step guide to becoming an engineering manager.

Featured Engineering Management Programs
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Step-by-Step Guide to Becoming an Engineering Manager

Step One: Earn a Bachelor’s Degree (Four Years)

After graduating from high school, aspiring engineering managers will need to earn a bachelor’s degree. While some choose to specialize in a particular area of engineering (mechanical, chemical, etc.), the most linear path to this profession is to major in engineering management. In any case, it’s important that the program must be accredited by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET).

Admissions requirements for undergraduate programs will vary from school to school, but generally include some combination of the following: a competitive high school GPA (3.0 or greater); SAT and/or ACT scores; letters of recommendation; and a personal statement.

The University of Illinois at Chicago

The University of Illinois at Chicago has a bachelor of science (BS) in engineering management program that offers a robust introduction to the fundamentals of mechanical and industrial engineering, supplemented with financial and managerial topics. This program is a joint offering by UIC’s College of Engineering and the College of Business Administration. Combining engineering education with business classes, this program provides students with an understanding of how to successfully oversee people and processes in a technical environment.

Required courses include topics such as financial engineering; work productivity analysis; manufacturing process principles; safety engineering; operations research; and stochastic processes and queuing models. Instruction takes place at the school’s Chicago campus. The program consists of 128 credits.

The program is ideal for students who wish to pursue corporate engineering management positions and also those who wish to become entrepreneurs.

  • Location: Chicago, IL
  • Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission (HLC)
  • Expected Time to Completion: 48 months
  • Estimated Tuition: In-State ($5,388); Out-of-State ($12,563)

Arizona State University

Arizona State University has an ABET-accredited bachelor of science in engineering (BSE) in engineering management that can be completed entirely online. As a bridge between the business and engineering schools, the program gives students a breadth of engineering science and design, coupled with skills in business analytics.

Featured courses include topics such as engineering administration; risk management; introduction to systems engineering; probability and statistics for engineering problem solving; system dynamics and thinking; project management; and Six Sigma methodology. The program consists of 120 credits.

Students in this program gain the knowledge and skills that can help them in better managing and organizing engineering teams and professionals. Graduates will be prepared to take up roles such as compliance managers, construction managers, environmental engineers, general managers, IT project managers, regulatory affairs managers, and wind energy project managers.

  • Location: Tempe, AZ
  • Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission (HLC)
  • Expected Time to Completion: 48 months
  • Estimated Tuition: $688 per credit

Step Two: Consider Initial Certification (Optional, Timeline Varies)

While engineers who work in purely technical engineering subdisciplines (electrical, mechanical, chemical, etc.) begin to pursue state licensure through the Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) exam offered by the National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying (NCEES), these exams do not have a specific subcategory for engineering management. Engineering managers who wish to focus purely on their craft and prove their competency through peer-reviewed certification will need to look elsewhere.

The American Society for Engineering Management (ASEM) offers initial certification as a certified associate in engineering management (CAEM). It’s designed for young professionals and recent graduates preparing for early technical management or supervisory assignments.

Applicants need at least a BS in engineering management, but no work experience is required. Once deemed eligible, applicants may sit for the CAEM exam. Exam fees are $175 for members of ASEM and $275 for nonmembers. CAEM-holders must recertify every three years. This requires a $100 fee and the completion of 45 professional development hours (PDHs).

Step Three: Gain Early Work Experience (Optional, One to Four Years)

After graduating from university, many engineering managers choose to gain early work experience before continuing their education. While working at this stage is not a requirement to advance in one’s career, the benefits are many.

First, entry-level work allows a recent graduate to put their newly-learned skills into practice for the first time. Second, this work experience may shape what particular avenue of engineering management one wishes to pursue. Third, early work experience can boost one’s applications to graduate school (see step four below), and in some cases, an employer may subsidize part of the tuition. Work experience is often the best education—quite literally getting paid to learn—and it gives young professionals the networking and experience they need to take charge of their careers.

Step Four: Earn a Master’s Degree (Two to Three Years)

After earning a bachelor’s degree and gaining early work experience, many engineering managers pursue graduate-level education. Previously, that graduate-level education took one of two routes: either a master’s of business administration (MBA) to boost management skills or a master of science (MS) in a particular engineering discipline to boost technical understanding. But today, several concurrent degree programs offer the best of both worlds.

Admissions requirements for graduate-level programs vary from school to school, but generally include some combination of the following: a competitive undergraduate GPA (3.0 or greater); GMAT and/or GRE scores; work experience; letters of recommendation; and a personal statement.

Arizona State University

Arizona State University offers an online concurrent degree program that awards students both an MBA and an MS in industrial engineering. It’s designed for working professionals who want to develop their business acumen while also staying current in a technical field.

The curriculum includes eight courses from the MBA program and eight courses from the MS in industrial engineering program, but can be completed more quickly—and more cheaply—than if one were to pursue both degrees independently. The program consists of 56 credits. The curriculum includes courses such as ethical issues for managers; production systems; web-enabled decision support systems; applied deterministic operations research; design engineering experiments; and applied stochastic operations research models.

Applicants to the program require a bachelor’s degree with a minimum undergraduate grade point average of 3.2. Graduates of the program will enhance their business acumen, develop additional skills, pursue leadership roles in the engineering industry, and learn management responsibilities.

  • Location: Tempe, AZ
  • Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission (HLC)
  • Expected Time to Completion: 36 months
  • Estimated Tuition: $1,022 per credit

University of Southern Indiana

The University of Southern Indiana offers an online master of business administration program with a concentration in engineering management preparing students for leadership roles in manufacturing, technology, research & development, industrial management, or construction. Students gain the necessary skills and knowledge needed for taking the lead in quality control, supply chain distribution, and project management.

To get accepted into the program, applicants must have a Bachelor’s Degree from an accredited university, a minimum undergraduate grade point average of 2.5, a professional resume, three professional references, an official transcript sent from the previous institution, and TOEFL or IELTS test scores for international applicants whose native spoken language is not English.

Made up of 30 credits, the program includes 21 credits of MBA core coursework and 9 credits of engineering management courses. Sample some of the coursework: leadership skills and innovation; managerial economics; marketing strategies; principles and practices of project management; principles and practices of quality management; and principles and practices of supply chain management.

Graduates will be ready to take up positions such as engineering managers, architectural managers, construction managers, industrial managers, and IT managers.

  • Location: Evansville, IN
  • Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission (HLC); The Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB International)
  • Expected Time to Completion: 11 months
  • Estimated Tuition: $12,900

Southern New Hampshire University

Southern New Hampshire University’s online master of business administration in engineering management program is offered through a partnership between SHNU and the Worcester Polytechnic Institute. The program allows students to gain relevant and traditional business skills in crucial areas such as finance, technology, project management, and quantitative analysis and develop their ability to lead and collaborate in technical environments for executing complex solutions.

Comprising 30 credits, the program includes courses such as leading people and organizations; optimizing brands; leading organizational change; introduction to engineering for engineering managers; systems thinking for engineering managers; and systems engineering and business practices.

The program qualifies graduates for leadership roles such as chief engineers, engineering managers, engineering project managers, industrial management engineers, and senior lead analysts.

  • Location: Manchester, NH
  • Accreditation: New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE); Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs
  • Expected Time to Completion: 15 months
  • Estimated Tuition: $627 per credit

Boise State University

Boise State University offers a 100 percent online master of business administration program with an emphasis in construction management equipping students with the necessary skills and credibility they need to rise as leaders in engineering, architecture, or construction industries. Apart from gaining in-demand business expertise, students will develop effective strategies that will help them in successfully managing construction projects and teams.

The major admission requirements for the program include a bachelor’s degree from a regionally accredited institution with a grade point average of 3.0, two years of work experience working full time in a managerial role, and GMAT or GRE scores (waivers available).

Consisting of 49 credits, the program includes courses such as leadership in architecture, engineering, and construction; architecture, engineering, and construction project management; architecture, engineering, and construction company management; legal issues in business; and corporate finance.

On successful completion of the program, graduates can take up roles such as architectural and engineering managers, contracts managers, civil engineer managers, senior project managers, site supervisors, and project engineers.

  • Location: Boise, ID
  • Accreditation: Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU); Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB International)
  • Expected Time to Completion: 12 months
  • Estimated Tuition: $750 per credit

Step Five: Consider Further Professional Certification (Optional, Four Years)

In the complex field of engineering, with its deep pools of talent, advancement and distinction require extra work. Without the yardstick of the NCEES’s FE and PE exams, engineering managers may need to look elsewhere to distinguish themselves. Professional certification through official peer-reviewed methods can move an engineering manager’s resume to the top of the stack, increase their chances of landing larger projects, and boost their salaries.

The American Society for Engineering Management (ASEM) offers professional-level certification as a certified professional in engineering management (CPEM).

In addition to an undergraduate degree in engineering management, applicants need at least four years of professional work experience. Once deemed eligible, applicants must pass the CPEM exam. Exam fees are $275 for ASEM members and $375 for non-members. CPEM-holders must recertify every three years by paying a $100 fee and completing 45 professional development hours (PDHs).

Helpful Resources for Engineering Managers

Engineering is an evolving scientific field, and so is management. That’s why engineering managers share their experiences and learn from each other through an ongoing conversation taking place across multiple forms of media. To listen in on that conversation, check out some of the resources below.

  • American Society for Engineering Management (ASEM)
  • International Journal of Engineering Management (IJEM)
  • Journal of Management in Engineering
  • Society for Engineering and Management Systems (SEMS)
Matt Zbrog
Matt Zbrog

Matt Zbrog is a writer and freelancer who has been living abroad since 2016. His nonfiction has been published by Euromaidan Press, Cirrus Gallery, and Our Thursday. Both his writing and his experience abroad are shaped by seeking out alternative lifestyles and counterculture movements, especially in developing nations. You can follow his travels through Eastern Europe and Central Asia on Instagram at @weirdviewmirror. He’s recently finished his second novel, and is in no hurry to publish it.

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