WHAT IT TAKES TO GET INTO A TOP-TIER ENGINEERING MANAGEMENT MASTER'S PROGRAM
Engineers are behind many of history’s most significant innovations. From developing safer automobiles to perfecting the first spacecraft, engineers have toiled away behind the scenes doing the creative thinking, designing and building that allowed humanity to reach its loftiest goals.
Today, engineers in the six major branches of engineering continue to approach problems from a perspective that combines science and creativity. Growth in numerous industries, from healthcare to agriculture to aerospace, depends upon the work of engineers. And those engineers depend upon leaders — people who can guide strategy, facilitate the development cycle and synthesize organizational behavior to drive innovation. That’s what engineering managers do.
Opportunities for engineers continue to grow, and as demand for engineers grows, so does the need for engineering managers. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) forecasts jobs for engineering managers will increase by 4% between now and 2030. While this growth rate is slower than the average for all occupations, it illustrates that engineering project management is not for everyone.
“Great EMs are rare,” writes Nathalie Rothfels and Doa Jafri for Reforge. “Managing a human system requires fluency across multiple domains: leadership, people management and technical expertise.”
Professionals who can blend these qualities are relatively rare but well-compensated in roles such as EM, chief engineer and director of engineering. The average engineering manager in the U.S. earns between $122,000 and $154,000, and many earn more. Top-tier management training programs such as Stevens Institute of Technology's online Master of Engineering in Engineering Management (M.Eng.EM) equip ambitious engineers with the interdisciplinary skills necessary to lead highly technical teams. Perhaps you are wondering how you can increase your chances of acceptance into high-ranking engineering management programs. This guide explores engineering management master's programs from all angles — including how to get into one that will support your career goals.
WHAT YOU WILL LEARN IN AN ENGINEERING MANAGEMENT MASTER'S PROGRAM
Engineering management requires a delicate balance of skills. Successful EMs understand people and product development as well as they understand technology and optimization. They also keep organizational overhead in mind as they navigate day-to-day operations management. “Engineering can be complex, and, as a manager, you are in charge of the project, so you need to understand everything down to the details,” explains engineer and industry consultant Carlo Lipizzi.
The coursework in the best engineering management master’s programs equips students with a three-fold set of skills: leading-edge technical abilities, leadership skills and financial management skills. Technical skills, including proficiency in Python and software management, allow managers to contribute to projects meaningfully. Leadership skills help them inspire success and optimize efficiency.
Financial management coursework in engineering management graduate programs covers cost-effective decision-making. For example, one of the online courses in Stevens' M.Eng.EM program — Engineering Economics and Cost Analysis — includes a historical overview of the management accounting process, statistical cost estimation and cost allocation, among other topics. In it, engineers learn to manage money wisely in technical organizations.
The StevensOnline engineering management master's program is nationally recognized for excellence in online graduate engineering education by U.S. News & World Report because of its commitment to innovation, the success of its graduates and its high-achieving faculty members. Admission into such high-ranking programs is often highly competitive. Applicants should have a STEM background because the part-time M.Eng.EM curriculum builds on a foundational understanding of programming, computer systems and engineering. They must also be innovative, ambitious and interested in the ways technology can shape humanity for the better. If that sounds like you, use the following strategies to make your application stand out.
HOW TO MAKE YOUR ENGINEERING MANAGEMENT MASTER'S APPLICATION AS STRONG AS POSSIBLE
The strongest M.Eng.EM applicants have:
HIGH GMAT/GRE SCORES
The Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) assesses problem-solving and analytical writing skills and applicants’ integrated reasoning and business management abilities. A score in the 650 to 690 range is good, while a score of 700+ is exceptional. The Graduate Record Examination (GRE) is a general graduate school aptitude test. It requires two essays, takes slightly longer and assesses verbal and quant reasoning and critical thinking. A score of 318 is good, while a score of 329 is excellent.
Getting a high score on either of these tests can strengthen an applicants’ engineering management master's application. While StevensOnline M.Eng.EM program applicants do not have to submit GMAT or GRE scores, they can share them if they feel those scores tell a compelling story.
DEVELOPED STEM KNOWLEDGE
Most students enter engineering management master’s programs with bachelor’s degrees in STEM disciplines such as civil engineering, mechanical engineering, industrial engineering or software engineering. That’s because engineering management master’s programs are typically geared toward students already working in engineering fields who want to take on leadership roles.
These graduate students enroll in M.Eng.EM programs to learn about the most cost-efficient way to implement technologies that help their organizations reach goals while preserving their bottom lines. Most engineering managers have an in-depth understanding of the technology their teams are using. Team leads often guide risk analysis, cost analysis, operations research and project management.
The StevensOnline M.Eng.EM curriculum builds upon students’ existing technical skills with courses in engineering economics, decision and risk analysis, data science and knowledge discovery as it applies to engineering management. Before applying to a top engineering management master's program, you should evaluate your readiness and identify the technical skills you struggle with most. Taking a class to brush up on fundamentals before applying can strengthen your academic foundation.
Stevens requires degree program applicants to submit undergraduate transcripts that show a minimum GPA of 3.0 from an accredited institution. You must have a bachelor’s degree at the start of the program, but you can be in the process of finishing your undergraduate program when you begin the application process.
STRONG RECOMMENDATION LETTERS
Recommendation letters add a personal element to the master of engineering management program application. While test scores and transcripts provide insight into how you will do in core courses, personalized letters of recommendation help admissions committee members see you through a human lens. Choose recommenders who can speak to your strengths as a leader and understand your career goals and personal ambitions. These can be instructors you were close with in the school of engineering where you completed your undergraduate education or superiors from previous work experiences.
Strong recommendation letters showcase your leadership style, interpersonal skills and ability to handle stress. It helps if recommenders include specific anecdotes that showcase your commitment to professional development. When you approach potential recommendation writers, be prepared with examples of how you have used critical thinking to excel in past roles or demonstrated informal or formal leadership. The clearer it is to admissions committee members that your recommenders know and support you, the stronger your letters will be.
A WELL-DEVELOPED "WHY"
A graduate program is more than just a pathway to a credential. Applicants who are serious about professional development can show genuine interest in an institution’s coursework and electives because their goals align with program objectives.
You should be able to articulate why you want to study engineering management — and why you want to study engineering management at the institution to which you are applying. It may help if your personal statements highlight faculty, research or alumni. If you are interested in a specific program because you read an article about the research faculty are doing, mention that. Explain which specific engineering management courses stand out to you as potentially useful in your current role. You should also be able to clearly articulate your own career goals through your statement of purpose or in interviews.
Your career goals should align with the university or college’s mission. Stevens Institute of Technology develops programs around technology “with purpose.” Its mission is to provide an education that empowers graduates to use technology to solve the world's most challenging problems. You do not need to provide a detailed 10-year plan outlining your future trajectory, but you should have a well-developed idea of what you want to accomplish by completing a program.
To stay focused while writing admissions essays, consider whether each engineering master's program addresses specific gaps in your knowledge or skill set, do some research into the program’s key attributes and make sure to highlight what you can bring to the program, both as a student and a future alumnus.
OPTIONAL APPLICATION MATERIALS
Some engineering management graduate applications will ask you to submit optional materials. Optional application materials for the StevensOnline engineering management master’s program include a statement of purpose or a resume. Providing either or both will not guarantee admission but can further strengthen your application. A compelling statement of purpose or additional writing samples can set you apart from other applicants in engineering programs because communication skills are vital to academic and professional success in STEM.
WHY YOU SHOULD START THE APPLICATION PROCESS AS SOON AS POSSIBLE
IT TAKES TIME TO GATHER MATERIALS
If you know you will apply to an engineering management master’s program, start gathering your materials as soon as possible. Research the M.Eng.EM application requirements, reach out to potential recommenders and set aside time to update your resume and begin brainstorming statement of purpose themes.
If you plan to take the GRE or GMAT, you will need time to prepare for the exam. Obtaining official transcripts from your undergraduate degree studies can take longer than expected — especially since some institutions will only send transcripts via mail. And you should give your recommendation writers plenty of lead time so that they can complete your letter between their professional obligations. Importantly, getting an early start ensures you have enough time to write a compelling, thorough statement of purpose and put it through multiple rounds of edits.
Stevens School of Systems and Enterprises has three application submission deadlines: Early Submit, Priority Submit and Final Submit. The admissions committee begins reviewing applications as soon as the deadline for each period passes. It is easy to submit materials via Stevens' online application portal, and you can make changes to your application as many times as necessary before you officially submit your materials. You will receive a decision about two to three weeks after completing your application.
ENGINEERING AND TECHNOLOGY REQUIRE SKILLED LEADERS NOW MORE THAN EVER
Infrastructural needs in the U.S. are driving increased demand for skilled engineers and engineering managers. Government investments, including the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, provide much of the funding, but highly skilled engineers are what it really takes to get these important projects completed, said Martin Downs ’04 M.S. ’05, president of the contracting company J. Fletcher Creamer & Son. “What a lot of people don’t realize is the tremendous amount of design engineering and permitting that now has to occur before this funding can translate into boots on the ground and construction underway,” Downs added. “So that can’t happen fast enough.”
It is noteworthy that about 10% of the engineering positions at J. Fletcher Creamer & Son are held by Stevens alumni. That’s one of the benefits of attending a university with a strong alumni network and a history of graduate success. Emerging technologies, including artificial intelligence and machine learning, are also evolving faster than companies can hire the teams needed to implement them. These and other new technologies are having an immediate effect on engineering fields. Stevens' M.Eng.EM prepares students to engage with the future of technology and lead its ethical implementation.
Wherever you decide to apply, do your research. Any program that emphasizes technology management should also offer hands-on experiences with the latest technologies and plenty of resources to help you achieve your career goals. The 30-credit hour M.Eng.EM is a 100% online program, but that does not mean you will be studying management theory exclusively. Online students at Stevens “become comfortable working and collaborating in a virtual environment,” said Costas Chassapis, senior vice provost for graduate education. This focus on collaboration is essential in an increasingly remote workforce, so consider applying only to those programs that will give you opportunities to flex your team building and people management muscles.
Engineering management master's candidates at Stevens have two options for specialization: Managerial Analytics or Supply Chain and Logistics Management. Financial aid is available. Apply online today.