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Arkansas State University

Learn About An MEM Degree vs. an MBA Degree

Are you considering advancing into engineering leadership or maybe taking a leadership role in a non-engineering firm from your present role as an engineer or specialist? Like many of your peers, you have a choice of two academic paths toward your goals, and either can get you there. So which is right for you?

A Master of Business Administration program provides the traditional business education so commonly sought by employers. A Master of Engineering Management curriculum pairs the core business foundation with the specific training that engineering firms typically require.

If you compare the management and executive positions at engineering firms with those at firms in other industries, you find many leadership roles held by professionals with training in both business and engineering plus a few years of technical engineering or specialist experience. Compared to just a few years ago, we’re seeing demand for specialized master’s-level graduates increase, and in all industries.

Online education has been the catalyst for this change. Whereas campus programs must be more broad-based to find enough students within driving proximity, online programs can attract students from across the United States and around the world, and therefore can be more specialized.

Cross-Curriculum Comparison

To understand what you’re getting when you choose an MEM or MBA, simply look under the hood. The Graduate Management Admission Council identifies the common course components of a traditional MBA program (with sample common courses in each):

  • Economics (Macroeconomics, Managerial Economics, Microeconomics)
  • Finance and accounting (Financial Accounting, Managerial Accounting)
  • Information systems (Management Information Systems, Competing in a Networked Environment)
  • Marketing (Marketing Management, Marketing Strategy)
  • Operation and supply chain (Operations Management, Supply Chain Management)
  • People and government (Organizational Behavior/Leadership, Strategic Management)
  • Statistics and decision science (Analysis for Managers, Statistics)

By comparison, here’s how the top-ranked Arkansas State University MEM online curriculum is structured. Bold courses are designed for graduates with engineering expertise who wish to enter management in a range of fields.

  • Finance and accounting (Survey of Accounting, Survey of Finance)
  • Marketing (Integrated Communication Strategies)
  • Operations and supply chain (Operations Research, Quality Control and Improvement)
  • People and government (Administrative Leadership, an elective)
  • Statistics and decision science (Analysis for Managers, Statistics)
  • Law (Survey of Law)
  • Engineering (Engineering Statistics; Engineering Management I; Engineering Management II; Special Problems in Engineering Managementan elective)

Earnings Potential

The median yearly salary for an engineering manager with an MBA is $133,171-$141,211, according to (August 2020). However, many managerial-level engineering roles start north of $150,000, with executive-level roles typically exceeding $200,000. The number of engineering master’s degree programs offered in the U.S. has nearly doubled since 1995, in response to employer demand and the increasingly diverse applications for engineering in a variety of fields.

MEM: The Right Degree for Leadership Roles

If you’re considering an engineering firm or department, a specialized MEM education offers the training employers require. MEM-educated graduates are prepared to hit the ground running in these positions:

Engineering or team lead: This often is the first step into leadership for someone with engineering training and professional experience. A team leader is a technical lead for projects, and an engineering lead is a technical lead who supervises a few direct reports who may be working on different projects.

Engineering manager: This is a software engineer who has chosen a management career track over a technical track. This position spends about 60% of the time coding and the remainder on team management, with typically up to 10 direct reports.

Director of engineering: Typically the first step to the executive level, this position oversees managers and individual contributors and is typically in charge of development and quality assurance. It may be responsible for setting the direction of an engineering department or be in charge of a complete engineering organization.

VP of engineering: This senior executive oversees managers and directors. Responsibilities include giving high-level direction, setting long-term technical and product strategy, working with legal counsel, establishing policies, defining processes and making technology decisions.

Consider the Arkansas State University MEM online degree program if you’re passionate about engineering, want to utilize the skills you have acquired in your undergraduate studies and in your career, and you are committed to your own growth in the field.

Learn more about A-State’s online Master of Engineering Management program.


GMAC: Curriculum Variation in MBA Programs Salaries for Engineering Manager with a Master’s Degree or MBA

Urban Institute: The Rise of Master’s Degrees

CH CoderHood: 8 Engineering Leadership Roles Explained

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