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How to Become an Engineering Manager: Education and Career Roadmap

Find out how to become an engineering manager. Research the education requirements and learn about the experience you need to advance your career in engineering.

Should I Become an Engineering Manager?

Engineering managers supervise teams of engineers during the design and development of products, such as electrical devices, computer hardware and medical equipment. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, about half of the engineering managers in 2012 worked more than forty hours a week. Typically, these professionals are responsible for making sure their teams meet production and design deadlines, and the job comes with a good deal of stress. However, salaries in this field are significantly higher than average, which may make the stress worth it to some engineers who are looking to move up and take on more responsibility.

Career Requirements

Degree Level Bachelor's degree required; some employers may prefer a graduate degree
Degree Field Engineering
Licensure Professional Engineer License (PE) is typically required
Experience More than 5 years of experience generally required
Key Skills Math, communication and organizational skills, computer programming and applications
Salary (2014) $130,620 (Median salary for all engineering and architectural managers)

Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, O*Net.

Step 1: Earn a Bachelor's Degree

Entering the engineering field requires a bachelor's degree in a specialized field of engineering from a school approved by ABET (formerly the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology). Common specializations include electrical, mechanical, civil or industrial engineering; however, instruction in one specialization may often include practical engineering applications and concepts that can be used in multiple engineering disciplines. Core engineering courses in a baccalaureate program may include design, statistics, thermodynamics, graphical communication and other topics. Bachelor's degree programs in engineering typically last four years, though some co-op programs may last longer.

Step 2: Pass First Licensure Exam

Depending on the type of engineering work, state-regulated licensure may be required. The licensing process begins by applying to the state licensing board for authorization to take the National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying (NCEES) Fundamentals of Engineering exam. This exam can be taken in the final year of an ABET-accredited undergraduate program. Upon passing this exam, individuals can work as an engineer in training (EIT).

Step 3: Complete Licensure

EITs must typically complete four years of entry-level engineering work under the supervision of a professional engineer. After this time period, they can apply to their state licensing board to take the NCEES Principles and Practices of Engineering exam. Most states grant a professional engineer (PE) license to those who pass this exam.

Success Tip:

  • Maintain Licensure. Many states require continuing education requirements be met to remain licensed. These requirements can be met through courses and seminars offered by professional organizations and universities.

Step 4: Advance to Management

As professional engineers gain experience and demonstrate technical knowledge, they may be assigned more complex projects, take on greater responsibility and eventually be promoted to engineering managers. As an engineering manager, they are responsible for making sure their teams meet production and design deadlines. In addition to engineering responsibilities, they also handle items like scheduling and budgeting.

Success Tip:

  • Consider a graduate degree. Many prospective engineering managers pursue advanced training by earning master's degrees in engineering management. These degree programs focus on developing technical and leadership skills. Courses may include engineering administration, project design, operations management, productivity and marketing.

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