Difference Between Engineering Management & Project Management

Instructor: Jessica Keys
While both are management positions, engineering and project management can differ in work environment and scope, career field, required skills and education. Interested in finding out more? This article will briefly go over these two careers.

Project Manager vs. Engineering Manager

As one would expect, a project manager and an engineering manager both act in a supervisory capacity. However, one key difference between the two is scope, meaning they vary by who and what they manage, and the length of the position.

  • A project manager supervises the progress of a specific company project. A project may be very short, or it could be long term, lasting several months or even years. The scale of the project could be small or large, but once the project is complete, the project manager will move on to the next one.
  • An engineering manager is typically an engineer who supervises a group of other engineers, acting as head of a team, department or program. As they are responsible for their employees, an engineering manager has the authority to issue promotions or terminations, or to coordinate with human resources directly on the issue. An engineering manager may also oversee research and development or a specific project, but unlike that of a project manager, their position is permanent.

Career Fields

Another way these two positions differ is by career field.

  • Where can one find a project manager? Anywhere! The scope of the term project is very broad, but to put it simply, it is a temporary undertaking with the intention of producing a specific result. As such, one project manager might oversee one office's conversion to a digitized filing system, another may be responsible for coordinating many different resources for a multimedia sales campaign, while another may be in charge of the construction of a new subway tunnel.
  • Meanwhile, an engineering manager integrates management and engineering for leadership in a technical, scientific or industrial field. Management skills and specialized subject knowledge are required to do this job effectively; as this job involves setting budgets and realistic goals, plus hiring and assessing staff, a thorough knowledge of the department's purpose and technical modus operandi is essential.

Education Requirements

Whereas a project manager could come from a non-technical background (though many project managers can be found in IT, computer science, construction, and so on), engineering managers are typically engineers first, and many engineering managers end up in the position through promotion. As such, there are different educational and professional tracks to consider when comparing the two positions.

  • Those looking into project management as a career have several professional certification options from the Project Management Institute (www.pmi.org). While the baseline requirements for the PMP (Project Management Professional) include either a secondary (high school or associate's) or a four-year degree, there are no degree subject requirements. However, for those interested in majoring in project management, PMI also sponsors many undergraduate and graduate degree programs at colleges all over the world.
  • One educational option for engineering management is the Master of Engineering Management (MEM) degree. The Master of Engineering Management Programs Consortium (www.mempc.org) sponsors MEM programs at several United States universities, including Duke, Northwestern and Johns Hopkins. Other universities offer similar degrees. Many MEM students come from diverse professional backgrounds, but due to the technical nature of the curriculum, a bachelor's degree in a STEM subject is usually required for entry into the program.

Learn More About It!

Are you interested in a career in project or engineering management? Study.com can help lay the foundation for a solid education. Our online content is designed to be convenient and accessible, no matter how busy your schedule may be, and include courses in:

As well as a wealth of other business and management-related topics. Or, if you are looking for a more generalized review, our Project Management: Help and Review course covers the basics, and our PMP Exam Study Guide goes over everything you will see on the certification exams.

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