Becoming a Project Engineering Manager: Salary & Job Description

About this article
A project engineering manager's median annual salary is around $126,084. Is it worth the education and licensure requirements? Get the truth about job duties and career prospects to find out if becoming a project engineering manager is right for you.
View available schools

The Pros and Cons of Being a Project Engineering Manager

Project engineering managers design and direct major projects from conception to completion in such industries as construction, oil and gas, government and manufacturing. Learn the pros and cons of becoming a project engineering manager to decide if it's the right career for you.

Pros of a Project Engineering Management Career
Pays well ($126,084 median annual salary)*
Broad areas of specialization (engineering disciplines, design, research and development, industry)**
Variety of locations (office, lab, construction sites)**
Latitude to express creativity*

Cons of a Project Engineering Management Career
Requires years of experience (35% have 15 or more)*
Poor job outlook (2% growth from 2014-2024 for engineering managers)**
Work can be stressful (must meet deadlines and client expectations)**
High-stakes environment (minor errors can have major consequences)**
Hours are often long (50% of engineering managers work 40+ hours per week)**

Sources: *Salary.com, **U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Career Info

Job Description and Duties

Organizations rely on project engineering managers to provide expert leadership in managing both projects and an engineering staff. A project can be anything from designing a highway system to solving a manufacturing problem to developing a new semiconductor. Project engineering managers typically oversee all of the engineering and technical aspects of a project, including planning, setting goals and priorities. They also prepare budgets, assign tasks, ensure strict compliance with engineering specifications and all standards and codes, direct testing and inspections and confer with management. Administrative work, such as preparing reports and presenting technical documents, is also part of the job, as is hiring, supervising and evaluating people.

Salary Info

Project engineering managers, according to Salary.com, made a median base salary of about $126,084 per year as of February 2016. Add bonuses and benefits, and the average compensation climbs to around $180,057 per year.

Career Skills and Requirements

Education and Experience

At a minimum, a project engineering manager should have a bachelor's degree in an engineering discipline. Business knowledge and skills are tremendous assets, which is why it's a good idea to consider earning a Master of Business Administration (MBA) or master's degree in project management. Graduate education in engineering or technology management will also suffice for those who desire more technical knowledge. To qualify for most project engineering manager positions, you'll need anywhere from 7-20 years of relevant experience, which might include working as a practicing engineer, managing progressively larger-scaled projects and/or supervising a team of engineers.

Licensing

Not all employers explicitly require project engineering managers to be professionally licensed, but you may need to be licensed if you are the one responsible for the work. At the very least, you might be managing a staff of licensed professional engineers (PEs). Every state requires engineers to be professionally licensed if they intend to offer their services to the public, bid for government contracts, consult or officially sign and seal plans. Higher-level government (municipal, local, state and federal) positions especially might require their project engineering managers to be licensed.

You may obtain a PE license by earning a bachelor's degree in engineering from an ABET-accredited engineering program, passing two exams, working under the supervision of a PE for at least four years and completing your state's licensure requirements. In order to maintain your license, you must complete professional development requirements.

What Are Employers Looking For?

In addition to years of experience managing engineering projects and personnel, employers typically look for specialized knowledge of and experience in their particular sector or area of engineering. Whether your interest is in construction, engineering (petroleum, civil, environmental, mechanical or industrial), manufacturing or research and development, you should be able to demonstrate expertise in that area. The following are from actual postings for jobs that were open in April 2012:

  • An engineering and construction services organization in Houston is seeking a senior-level project engineering manager with at least 17 years of experience as an engineer and seven years as a project engineering manager with experience delivering projects for oil and gas clients.
  • An aerospace and defense company north of Los Angeles is searching for a project engineering manager with appropriate Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and Explosives (ATF) and International Traffic in Arms Regulation (ITAR) clearances and at least 10 years of experience managing engineering projects and communicating with managers and customers.
  • A global power generation company with a manufacturing facility in Tennessee is looking for a project engineering manager with 8-10 years of power plant and project engineering experience, knowledge of the steam and nuclear cycles and a willingness to travel domestically and internationally at least 50% of the time.

How to Get an Edge in the Field

In the emerging green economy, companies interested in implementing environmental protection programs, developing earth-friendly technology or even keeping up with changing environmental regulations need project engineers who are skilled in these areas. You can take advantage of these opportunities by building your experience in sustainability practices, becoming trained in government and/or green building regulations like LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) or earning a graduate degree in sustainable engineering or sustainability management.

To demonstrate your skills and experience in managing projects, you could become a certified Project Management Professional (PMP). Requirements include a 4-year degree, three years with 4,500 hours of project management experience and 35 credit hours of project management education. You must also pass an exam and maintain your certification with continuing education.

Other Careers to Consider

If you'd still like a career in engineering but you'd rather not be responsible for leading projects, you may want to consider specializing in a certain area and becoming a practicing engineer. For example, you could work in aerospace, chemical, electrical, nuclear or petroleum engineering. If you like the idea of protecting people and working in a manufacturing environment, you could become a health and safety engineer. You could become a biomedical engineer and conduct research that improves care for patients. Finally, you could become a sales engineer responsible for selling highly technical and complex parts and services to businesses. Entry-level engineering jobs require a bachelor's degree and possibly professional licensure.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) is predicting faster-than-average job growth for engineers from 2010-2012 in areas like biomedicine and environmental protection (www.bls.org). The BLS also reported that, as of May 2011, petroleum engineers had the highest average annual salary - about $136,000 - followed by nuclear ($119,000) and chemical ($110,000) engineers.

Popular Schools

  • Online Programs Available
    1. ECPI University

    Program Options

    Bachelor's
      • Bachelor's - Electronics Engineering Technology
      • Software Development - Bachelor's
      • Bachelor's - Mechatronics
    Associate's
      • Associate's - Electronics Engineering Technology
  • Online Programs Available
    2. University of Delaware

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Science in Electrical and Computer Engineering
  • Online Programs Available
    3. Purdue University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Science in Engineering Technology
  • Campus Locations:
    4. Universal Technical Institute

    Program Options

    Certificate
      • Diesel Technology
      • Automotive Technology
      • NASCAR Technology
  • Campus Locations:
    5. Lincoln Tech

    Program Options

    Certificate
      • Electrical/Electronics
  • Online Programs Available
    6. Kaplan University

    Program Options

    Bachelor's
      • BS in Information Technology/Multiplatform Software Development
    Associate's
      • AAS in Information Technology - Multiplatform Software Development
  • Campus and Online Programs
    7. The Art Institutes

    Program Options

    Bachelor's
      • Software Development for Creative Technologies (BS)
    Associate's
      • Drafting Technology & Design (AS)
  • Online Programs Available
    8. Herzing University

    Program Options

    Bachelor's
      • B.S. - Software Development With No Declared Minor or Concentration
      • B.S. - Software Development: Computer Programming Concentration
    Associate's
      • Associate of Science - Software Development
  • Online Programs Available
    9. Northcentral University

    Program Options

    Doctorate
      • PhD-TIM - Engineering Management
      • PhD in Business Admin - Management of Engineering and Technology
      • Doctor of Business Admin - Management of Engineering and Technology
    Master's
      • MSTIM - Engineering Magagement
      • MBA - Management of Engineering and Technology
  • Campus and Online Programs
    10. Full Sail University

    Program Options

    Bachelor's
      • Bachelor of Science - Software Development
      • B.S. - Mobile Development

Featured Schools

ECPI University

  • Bachelor's - Electronics Engineering Technology
  • Software Development - Bachelor's
  • Associate's - Electronics Engineering Technology

What is your highest level of education?

University of Delaware

  • Master of Science in Electrical and Computer Engineering

What is your highest level of education completed?

Purdue University

  • Master of Science in Engineering Technology

What is your highest level of education?

Universal Technical Institute

  • Diesel Technology
  • Automotive Technology
  • NASCAR Technology

What is your education level?

Lincoln Tech

  • Electrical/Electronics

What year did you graduate High School / Receive GED?

Kaplan University

  • BS in Information Technology/Multiplatform Software Development
  • AAS in Information Technology - Multiplatform Software Development

Which subject are you interested in?

The Art Institutes

  • Software Development for Creative Technologies (BS)
  • Drafting Technology & Design (AS)

What is your highest level of education?

Herzing University

  • B.S. - Software Development With No Declared Minor or Concentration
  • B.S. - Software Development: Computer Programming Concentration
  • Associate of Science - Software Development

What is your highest level of education?