University Degrees - Engineering Management
Graduates with the ability to understand both complex technological processes and the art of management are increasingly sought after in today's industrial world. An undergraduate university degree in engineering management seeks to educate tomorrow's managers to have a range of valuable skills.
With the demand for a wide range of graduate engineers increasing internationally, more opportunities have emerged in the professional area of managing the very different processes related to modern engineering. And thus study abroad opportunities in the area have also risen. Where once engineering was dominated by large-scale automotive production lines, now we see much smaller operations in action, all of which require very careful and skilful management to ensure that new technologies and products reach their intended marketplaces in an efficient and cost-effective way.
What is engineering management?
In the past, the areas of engineering and management were regarded as two very different and unrelated areas. Trained specialists undertook the process and technical aspects of engineering, while a different type of person altogether, often with an unrelated background and experience, oversaw the management of an engineering business or production line. Times have certainly changed; new skills and new approaches are required of staff that have the responsibility to make the most of their hi-tech processes. The need for a new kind of engineer has been heightened by the new international nature of most businesses. There is an increasing demand from customers to deal with people familiar with the technical aspects of a product and who are also experts in business management and customer relationships.
Is engineering management for me?
A university degree which combines these two different academic areas is ideal if you are interested in the technical and problem solving aspects of any kind of engineering but you don't necessarily want to confine yourself to either a course looking at one single area, or the career of an engineer. Put another way, be an engineer but don't get too dirty doing it! Because there is a wealth of undergraduate degree options available in this area, you will be able to choose exactly the kind of degree that you want and meet your interests perfectly.
It's likely that if this subject area is of interest to you, you will be numerate and focused on the more quantitative side of your studies. Both engineering and management require a good grasp of mathematics and familiarity with the analytical approaches contained in both science and economics-based subjects are almost certainly a pre-requisite for a successful application to one of the top universities.
Engineering management options are also very flexible, so they represent a good choice if your ambitions are not clearly defined quite yet. Once embarked on your undergraduate degree, if you realize that the challenge of engineering is actually what you want to specialize in then it is possible to make that your emphasis by taking more engineering courses. Similarly, if management is where your heart lies, you can reduce the engineering content of the program.
What programs are available?
Almost by the very definition of the subject, engineering management undergraduate programs tend to be joint or combined university degrees, bringing together both an element of technical engineering and management or business, often specifically related to the engineering sector. Specialisms can depend
entirely on the type of engineering you are most interested in; or, if you prefer, you can retain a more general engineering background to combine with your management studies.
At some universities the focus of the joint degree is very narrow indeed, for example at the University of Portsmouth, where an undergraduate degree is offered in Construction Engineering Management, examining both the fundamentals of construction - design, structures, soils and materials and engineering analysis and the areas particularly relevant to the management of construction processes and projects - legal studies, contract management, project evaluation and corporate management. It is also common for undergraduate degrees in engineering management, particularly at universities in Australia and the UK, to offer students the opportunity to take a year in an industry placement, allowing you to see first-hand how your knowledge and skills are directly applicable to the workplace. Such programs are known as 'sandwich' courses and extend the degree by one year. Options are sometimes available to study abroad as part of the placement.
What are the career prospects for an engineering management graduate?
The breadth of content in all engineering management undergraduate degrees means that there is considerable scope for career opportunities and flexibility. The good grounding in engineering allows students to qualify for most professional engineering streams should they choose this route; whereas the management content provides the opportunity for graduates to seek employment in the broad management and commercial fields. In both cases, the skills developed during the course of your three of four year program will make you attractive to a range of employers in fields as diverse as the construction industry, finance, product development and management consultancy.
Because engineering management degrees, particularly those offered at the top universities, are blended in their approach, the specific skills that come from such programs ensure that graduates are attractive to industry employers. Graduate management training programs offered by such diverse employers as Siemens, British Aerospace, GE, General Motors and Airbus seek graduates with sufficient familiarity with the engineering field and the industrially orientated business skills that allow them to adapt to their unique environments.