Becoming an Engineering Manager: Salary Info & Job Description

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Learn about an engineering manager's job duties, salary and education requirements. Get straight talk about the pros and cons of an engineering manager's career.
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Pros and Cons of a Career as an Engineering Manager

Engineering managers coordinate and plan a variety of tasks for engineers, including research, development and design. Reading the pros and cons of being an engineering manager may help you decide if this is the right career for you.

PROS of a Career as an Engineering Manager
Management positions are attainable with a bachelor's degree*
The job is versatile and encompasses a variety of skills and abilities*
Rapid job growth is expected in fields like civil engineering*
High median annual salary ($130,000 as of May 2014)*

CONS of a Career as an Engineering Manager
High pressure job*
Job growth for engineering managers is expected to be slow (only 7% from 2012-2022)*
Managers are often expected to work long hours and overtime to meet deadlines*
Significant professional experience is required to obtain a management position*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Career Information

Job Description and Duties

Engineering managers lead and coordinate several tasks in the engineering process. For example, engineering managers will often direct the design of machinery and products, manage budgeting for projects, insure that work is technically accurate and manage research teams that help develop new products and services. Additionally, managers may also have a hand in production, manufacturing and hiring staff.

Career Path and Education

Most engineering managers have obtained their position through years of work experience as engineers. Most managers have a minimum of a bachelor's degree in engineering, however many may also hold a master's degree in their particular area of engineering. Often times, engineering managers need sharp business skills. Many managers obtain master's degrees in business administration or take advanced courses in disciplines like accounting or financial management.

Job Outlook and Salary Information

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics in May of 2014, engineering managers earned a median annual salary of approximately $130,000. However, the BLS expects just a 7% growth in engineering management jobs from 2012-2022. More jobs are likely to occur in faster-growing fields, such as civil engineering. The BLS notes that slow job growth is due to a decline in the employment of manufacturing, the largest industry employing engineering managers.

What Are The Requirements?

In addition to extensive work experience, most engineering managers are expected to have sharp analytical skills and meticulous organizational skills. Additionally, companies look for detail oriented managers who can communicate instructions and descriptions of complex projects. Most employers also want managers with business management skills and leadership abilities.

Since many engineering managers have experience as engineers, having an engineering license may be a requirement. The National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying indicates that licensure is required to stamp designs and offer engineering services to the public. The process of becoming licensed requires passing two exams, the Fundamentals of Engineering and the Principles and Practice of Engineering, along with earning work experience.

Real Job Listings

As you look for engineering management jobs, you will find that many employers are looking for candidates with a significant amount of professional engineering experience, as well as management experience. Companies also like to hire managers who have extensive experience in their specific type of engineering. The following available jobs were posted during April of 2012:

  • A California hydrocarbon instrument company is seeking an engineering manager with at least five years of management experience. The preferred candidate also has experience in water separation processes and holds a bachelor's degree in mechanical or electronic engineering. The company also prefers a manager with experience working in hazardous areas.
  • An Iowa company is interested in hiring an engineering manager that has a bachelor's degree in structural engineering. This employer prefers a candidate with at least eight years of experience in a management role, working in design and development. The candidate should also have extensive experience in 3D parametric modeling.
  • A company located in Virginia would like to hire an engineering manager who has a minimum of five years of professional experience as an engineer with at least three years of managerial experience. The company prefers a candidate with an understanding of financial data, leadership abilities and strong communication skills.

How to Stand Out in the Field

In addition to engineering experience, engineering managers can obtain additional skills that may make them more attractive to potential employers. Earning a master's degree in a specific field of engineering will help you distinguish yourself from other potential managers. You may also work towards earning a business degree, as managers are often expected to complete financial management and accounting tasks when projects wrap up.

Career Alternatives

Engineering management is a very demanding and high-pressure job. If you decide it is not a good fit for you, there are some other career paths you may want to explore.

Construction Manager

If you find you are interested in having a hand in the completion of construction projects, you may look into construction management. Construction managers oversee construction projects and participate in development, building and project completion. The BLS projects that jobs for construction managers will increase by 17% from 2010-2020. In May 2011, the BLS noted that construction managers earn a median annual salary of approximately $84,000.

Industrial Production Manager

Industrial production management jobs may be a good fit for individuals who have more of an interest in overseeing the manufacturing process than a construction project or research and development. Industrial production managers essentially supervise the daily operations of an industrial manufacturing plant, from cost estimation to writing production reports. In May 2011, the BLS determined that industrial production managers earn a median annual salary of around $88,000. The BLS also projects that jobs for industrial production managers will increase by 9% from 2010-2020.

Natural Science Manager

If you have an educational background in science and have an interest in a management job that requires research skills, you may look into becoming a natural science manager. These managers supervise scientists working in chemistry, biology and physics. They coordinate scientific research as well as testing results and production. In May 2011, the BLS reported that natural science managers earn a median annual salary of $115,000. The agency also projects an 8% increase in natural science management jobs from 2010-2020.

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