Engineering Management vs Project Management: Career ROI

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Updated: February 22, 2024, Reading time: 9 minutes

Engineering Management vs Project Management - featured image

Both Engineering Management and Project Management are excellent choices for high school students and undecided college freshman students as a future career. The Labor Statistics says management occupations make $107,360 annually. In the 2022-2032 period, more than one million job openings are projected every year.

The bottom line: Becoming either an engineering manager or a project manager results in an excellent career ROI!

But Engineering Management and Project Management are different occupations although there are overlaps. Both occupations require leadership, communication and collaboration, and decision-making and problem-solving skills in achieving project goals and objectives.

Both engineering managers and project managers manage teams, although the former supervises engineering teams while the latter oversees interdisciplinary teams.

In terms of scope, engineering managers focus on long-term planning and management of engineering projects, while project managers are in demand across a wide range of industries. Engineering managers focus more on the technical specifications while project managers emphasize start-to-finish effective and efficient project completion.

What Makes One Different From The Other?

Engineering ManagerProject Manager
Average Annual Salary$159,920$95,370
Projected Job Growth4% (2022-2032)/About 13,600 job openings per year, on average6% (2022-2032)/About 68,100 job openings per year, on average
Licenses/Certifications RequiredOptional but depends on the specific title and industryOptional but recommended for career advancement
Primary DutiesEngineering managers are responsible for the planning, implementation evaluation, and coordination of engineering-related activities in projectsProject managers oversee the start-to-finish process of projects, including budgeting, human resources management, and schedules, as well as client and customer relations, among other aspects.

Read on and find out more about which of these two management occupations will best suit your personal interests and professional goals!

What Does an Engineering Manager Do?

What Does an Engineering Manager Do - Image

Engineering managers use their knowledge and skills in engineering in the management of engineering projects. While their specific roles and responsibilities vary, engineering managers usually perform the following duties.

If you want to become a successful engineering manager, your leadership skills will be tested over and over again! While leadership skills can be learned and developed outside of the classroom, the technical skills that successful engineering managers possess can be learned through rigorous education and training in innovative graduate schools.

These technical skills include engineering principles and practices, technical Project Management, product development life cycle, technical documentation, and quality assurance and testing. Change and risk management are also important in their job. 

As for soft skills, the best engineering managers use their critical thinking, analytical thinking and interpersonal skills to great advantage. Their organizational and time management skills are also among the best parts of their team leadership.

Engineering Manager Education and Career Paths

Engineering managers typically have a bachelor’s degree in engineering. The intensive coursework equips them with a comprehensive understanding of its theories, principles and practices. Engineering programs take between four and five years for full-time students to complete and combine classroom-based courses, laboratory studies and fieldwork.

Courses in bachelor’s degree programs cover math, Physics, Engineering fundamentals, and core Engineering courses like:

Many programs also require the completion of a capstone design project during senior year.

Most engineering programs offer concentrations in addition to the general engineering track. Students can choose from Mechanical Engineering, Civil Engineering, and Electrical Engineering concentrations, all of which are suitable for aspiring engineering managers.

But if you want to become an engineering manager, you should ideally earn a master’s degree in Engineering Management (MsEM or MEM), business administration (MBA), or technology management (MTM).

You can either earn it while you’re already a supervisor or earn it before applying for Engineering Management jobs. Your choice will also depend on whether you want to learn general management skills – an MBA is the better choice – or focus on technical aspects through either an MSTM or an MsEM/MEM.

Relevant work experience combined with extensive education and training contributes to career progression. You can start by being an entry-level engineer, then work your way up toward becoming a senior engineer and engineering manager. You may even become the director of engineering!

Engineering managers usually don’t need to secure a license, but it’s a competitive advantage if you want to get ahead. You can earn the Professional Engineer (PE) credential that is awarded by the NCEES or National Council of Examiners for Engineering & Surveying. You can choose from 27 PE licenses, including civil engineering with specializations in construction, structural and transportation, among others.

Licensure requirements include a bachelor’s degree in engineering from an ABET-accredited engineering program, at least four years of professional engineering work experience, and passing the Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) exam. You must also pass the PE exam and comply with state-based licensure requirements.

Many engineering managers also possess professional certifications. The best examples are the Certified Engineering Manager (CEM), Certified Six Sigma Black Belt (CSSBB), and Certified ScrumMaster (CSM). While earning these professional certifications is challenging, it’s worth it considering the career advancement opportunities that come with them.

A Career in Engineering Management Is for You If:

A Career in Engineering Management Is Not a Great Fit If You:

What Does a Project Manager Do?

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Called the hub of the wheel, project managers are at the center of every project-related decision, action and activity. They are responsible for the success of the entire project. Their numerous roles and responsibilities include:

Due to their excellent general management skills, project managers are in high demand across numerous industries. You can work in residential, commercial and industrial construction projects, in emergency relief projects during natural and manmade disasters, and in the manufacturing industry. You can also work in government agencies, nonprofit organizations, and business corporations.

With such huge responsibilities, successful project managers must possess specific technical skills in the performance of their job. Professional knowledge of Project Management software, cost and human resources management, and risk and change management are a few of these technical skills.

Project managers must also possess good communication, critical thinking, analytical thinking, and problem-solving skills to be successful.

Project Manager Education and Career Paths

If you want to become a project manager, there’s no specific bachelor’s degree required. You can earn a bachelor’s degree in Project Management, Business Administration, or Engineering, among other fields.

You can pursue a Business Administration graduate degree with a Project Management concentration if you want to maximize your time in college.

With a bachelor’s degree, you can be hired for entry-level jobs, such as assistant project manager, project coordinator, or project staff member. As you gain work experience, you can apply for mid-level roles, such as project manager, but you may have to earn a Master’s in Project Management degree to elevate your academic credentials. 

Do you want to become the director of Project Management or land a similar title in corporations and big organizations? More work experience and professional credentials will do the trick. With a Doctor of Project Management degree, you become highly qualified and a top choice for the position!

While project managers aren’t required to earn licenses and certifications, they must aim for professional certification for career advancement. The popular certifications are the Project Management Professional (PMP), Agile Certified Practitioner  (ACP) and the Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM), all awarded by the Project Management Institute (PMI).

A Career in Project Management Is for You If:

A Career in Project Management Is Not a Great Fit If You:

Engineering Management vs Project Management - fact

So, which one is your choice? Regardless, you must remember that being in management means taking on leadership roles and responsibilities that will contribute to your team’s success! You should think about leadership skills development while you’re still in high school, such as being active in the classroom and extracurricular activities.

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