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.

Do I Want to Be 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, most engineering managers worked more than forty hours a week in 2012. 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.

Job Requirements

Engineering managers are normally required to have professional experience as an engineer before becoming managers. Engineers typically earn a bachelor's degree in engineering, and engineering managers may also hold a master's degree in engineering management. The following table contains the main requirements for being an engineering manager:

Common Requirements
Degree Level Bachelor's degree required; some employers may prefer a graduate degree*
Degree Field Engineering**
Licensure Licensure as a Professional Engineer (PE) may be required*
Experience 5-10 years of experience in the field generally required**
Computer Skills Computer programming and applications; software such as SPSS, Microsoft Project, Auto CAD***
Key Skills Math, communication and organizational skills*

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, ** (January 2013), ***O*Net.

Step 1: Earn a Bachelor's Degree in Engineering

Entering the engineering field usually 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 types of engineering. 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: Begin the Licensure Process

Depending on the type of work they will be performing, many engineers are required to obtain state-regulated licensure. 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, engineering students can work as an engineer intern (EI) or an engineer in training (EIT).

Step 3: Complete Training and Licensure

Before becoming a licensed professional engineer, EIs and EITs must complete at least four years of entry-level engineering training. Entry-level engineers work under the supervision of a professional engineer. Some companies offer classroom instruction in addition to training. After completing training, EIs and EITs 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. Some, but not all, states require continuing education requirements be met to remain licensed.

Step 4: Gain Experience as a Professional Engineer

Engineering managers typically serve several years as engineers before advancing to management positions. Engineers design and develop a wide variety of products, depending on their specialization. They typically work 40-hour weeks, though some deadlines may demand longer hours. As they gain experience and demonstrate technical knowledge, engineers may be assigned more complex projects, take on greater responsibility and eventually be promoted to engineering managers.

Success Tip:

  • Consider a graduate degree. Many 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, manufacturing processes, operations management, productivity and marketing. Some employers may pay tuition for these degree programs; some engineering firms offer courses on site.

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