Engineering Managers Overview

Typically engineering managers have education and experience in the fields of engineering or mathematics. Engineers with business management ability and strong communication skills will find the best opportunities. Manufacturing industries provide 36 percent of the jobs, while professional, technical and scientific services offer 33 percent of jobs.

Nature of the Work for Engineering Managers

Engineering Managers

Engineering managers direct, plan and coordinate design, research and production using their knowledge of engineering. Other engineers, technicians and support personnel may work under engineering managers. They determine goals—both technical and scientific—that follow the parameters outlined by top executives. Developing new products and improving manufacturing processes are two common goals. Engineering managers would then need to created detailed plans to meet these goals, such as looking for technical problems that are causing a delay in a project.

Along with engineering skills, these managers must apply knowledge of supervision, budgeting, hiring and other administrative procedures. They need to determine staffing and equipment needs as well as detailing budgets for different programs and projects. To complete the work of each project, they need to hire and manager other engineers and support personnel, checking their technical accuracy, reviewing their output and establishing procedures and standards for environmental policies and more.

Communication skills are also key for the work of an engineering manager as they spend lots of time coordinating their unit’s activities with those of other organizations. They also must communicate with management at higher levels including those in finance, marketing and production as well as contractors and suppliers.

Many engineering managers oversee teams that include research and develop personnel who work on new products and processes or find ways to improve existing ones as well as designers and developers of products, systems, processes and machinery. They also often take charge of quality assurance, maintenance, production, operations and testing in industrial plants. Some act as plant engineers directing and coordination industrial plants on equipment design, operation, maintenance and installation.

Most of the time engineering managers work in an office. Some also spend time in laboratories or industrial plants, which can expose them to the conditions of research scientists or production workers. Long hours aren’t uncommon, as managers have to meet project deadlines. Almost half of all engineering managers in 2008 worked more than a 40-hour week. Stress and pressure are also par for the course as managers work to meet goals on a tight deadline or budget.

Training, Other Qualifications and Advancement for Engineering Managers

Recommended Education Level

Engineering managers must have strong technical knowledge to understand the work of and guide the employees they manage. Plus, they’ll need to explain these concepts in layman’s terms to potential customers and senior management executives. So most engineering managers have previous work experience and education as an engineer.

After years of working as an engineer, one can advance to engineering managers positions. Almost all in the position have a bachelor’s degree at minimum in an area of engineering. A masters degree in engineering management (MEM) or business administration (MBA) is also common for these managers to gain business management skills before or after they take on these high-level roles. Often, employers pay for this schooling. In fact, some large firms offer courses on site. A MEM is best for engineering managers who enjoy more technical areas and while a MBA is better for less technical work.

Engineering managers must be experts in the fields they’re supervising. Usually engineers gain experience and management responsibility before advancing to these positions. Employers look for engineers with top communication and administrative skills, but technical knowledge in a particular engineering specialty is also needed. Together the skills help engineering managers coordinate projects and lead groups.

Beyond engineering manager positions, professionals can advance to higher-level leadership positions. Some move to management positions in nontechnical areas such as sales, marketing or human resources. Sometimes managers in nontechnical areas need specialized technical knowledge as well such as in high-technology firms. So an engineering firm for example may look for engineering managers to take on roles as sales workers to market the complex services offered by that firm with the expertise of specialized engineering knowledge. Those sales workers can later advance to sales manager positions.

Top 10 Most Popular Engineering Schools

1. Georgia Institute of Technology, Main Campus (Atlanta, Georgia)
2. University of Michigan, Ann Arbor (Ann Arbor, Michigan)
3. Pennsylvania State University, Main Campus (University Park, Pennsylvania)
4. Purdue University, Main Campus (West Lafayette, Indiana)
5. North Carolina State University at Raleigh (Raleigh, North Carolina)
6. University of Illinois, Urbana, Champaign (Champaign, Illinois)
7. University of Florida (Gainesville, Florida)
8. The University of Texas at Austin (Austin, Texas)
9. Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Blacksburg, Virginia)
10. Texas A & M University (College Station, Texas)

See All Engineering Schools

Top 10 Most Popular Online Engineering Schools

1. University of Phoenix - Online School
2. Kaplan University - Online School
3. Ashworth College - Online School
4. DeVry University - Online School
5. Ashford University - Online
6. Colorado Technical University - Online School
7. Strayer University - Online School
8. Walden University - Online School
9. Arizona State University - Online School
10. University of Florida - Online School

See All Online Engineering Schools

Employment and Job Outlook for Engineering Managers

Number of People in Profession


Changing Employment (2008-2018)

Employment is projected to grow about as fast as average (increase 7 - 13%).

In 2008 there were about 228,700 natural sciences and engineering managers working. Thirty-six percent of those employees worked in manufacturing industries and another 33 percent were in technical, scientific and professional industries—usually organizations providing engineering, architectural and scientific research and development services. Federal, state and local government agencies also employed many engineering managers.

Job opportunities in this field are expected to grow as fast as average compared to all occupations. Engineers who have strong business management and communication skills will find the best opportunities. Engineering managers’ employment should grow by 8 percent over the next decade, which is about as fast as average for all occupations. Growth will occur for the same reasons the employment of engineers that these professionals supervise grows. That said, the growth for management positions will be slightly slower as more and more firms choose to outsource research and development in specialized engineering research services firms and lead to consolidation of some management.

Job prospects for engineering managers are expected to be better in fast-growing areas such as environmental and biomedical engineering as opposed to electrical and mechanical engineering which are growing more slowly. Strong communication skills plus advanced technical knowledge will help engineers advance to become engineering managers. Business management skills are also key as many work with marketing, production and financial activities as well. Beyond openings spurred from employment growth, many positions will become available as mangers retire or leave the career.

Earnings and Salary for Engineering Managers

Engineering managers earn a range of salaries dependent upon specialty and level of responsibility. The median annual salary for engineering managers is $115,270 and the middle 50 percent earned between $91,870 and $141,730. Broken down by top industries employing engineering managers, annual wages are as follows:

Architectural, engineering, and related services: $114,110
Aerospace product and parts manufacturing: $118,430
Semiconductor and other electronic component manufacturing: $127,790
Navigational, measuring, electromedical, and control instruments manufacturing: $128,630
Scientific research and development services: $141,030

Benefits are usually impressive for engineering managers including stock-option plans, bonuses and expense accounts especially in comparison to nonmanagerial workers in the field of engineering.

Annual Salary for Engineering Managers

On average, Engineering Managers earn $117,000 per year.

10% 25% 75% 90% $75,350/yr $93,040/yr $144,520/yr $166,400/yr

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook