Engineering is widely considered to be one of the best fields to gain a degree in. It is certainly challenging, but if you have an aptitude for science and math, then being a qualified engineer can lead to a fascinating, prestigious, and rewarding career. Plus, you get to work on all sorts of projects that can literally change the world, from providing clean water to developing communities and developing artificial organs to sending people into space!
At first glance, therefore, it might sound strange to suggest that the business-focused MBA is a logical next step for engineers. However, this qualification can be an effective way to help you develop some new skills, stand out in the job market and take your career to the next level. Read on to find out what it involves and why it could be the perfect choice for you.
What is an MBA?
MBA stands for Master of Business Administration, and it is a highly prestigious, internationally recognized postgraduate qualification that is designed to prepare students for positions in business and management. They tend to be aimed at people who have a few years of work experience under their belt rather than fresh graduates, with some targeted specifically at executives who already work in managerial roles.
Generally, an MBA can be studied on either a full-time or part-time basis. Full-time programs are usually able to be completed in one or two years, whereas a part-time course will take between two to four years. Many people choose to do their MBA alongside their day job, so evening and weekend programs are common. These days it is possible to study both traditional courses that take place on campus, and those that use online learning for extra flexibility.
The range of MBAs on offer at colleges and universities is broadening all the time, and there are now programs that specialize in a particular industry or area of business. This includes, for example, international business, entrepreneurship, marketing, finance, healthcare, and even engineering.
How does an MBA relate to engineering?
Engineering is one of the areas in which an MBA can specialize, but even a general MBA can be an extremely useful qualification for engineers as they progress through their careers. That is because while an undergraduate or Master’s level degree in engineering will teach you all the technical skills and expert knowledge you need to work as an engineer, it generally will not prepare you for the roles higher up within the sector that requires additional skills in topics such as management and business.
When you reach the top level of engineering, you may well be required to lead teams of people, organize projects, or deal with budgets. While it is possible to learn how to do tasks such as these on the job, studying them in a formal, but supportive environment beforehand will enable you to hit the ground running after promotion and, therefore, experience greater levels of success.
What will I study for an MBA?
An MBA generally consists of a series of academic modules, some of which will be compulsory and others that you can select from a list of optional courses. This gives you a certain amount of freedom to tailor the program to your specific interests and career aspirations. Each one will involve a variety of different learning and teaching methods according to the institution you study with. As an example, though, your work could include reading books and academic papers, writing essays, taking quizzes and tests, doing classroom exercises, conducting an analysis of case studies, giving presentations, working on group projects, writing business plans, and much more.
The exact modules you will study are going to vary from college to college, however, the following list is indicative of the type of topics you can expect to cover:
- Accounting and Finance for Managers
- Banking and FinTech
- Big Data
- Building and Managing Reputations
- Business Economics
- Business Ethics
- Business Strategy
- Consumer Behavior
- Critical Leadership Decisions
- Decision Analytics
- Design Thinking and Innovative Problem Solving
- Digital Business
- Financing Green Technologies
- Game Theory and Market Design
- Global Financial Crisis
- Intellectual Property
- International Business
- Investments and Risk Management
- Leading Global Teams
- Managing People and Organizations
- Management Challenges in Healthcare
- Marketing Management
- Mergers and Acquisitions
So as you can see, the potential areas you could focus on are very diverse. Naturally, some of these will be more relevant to the engineering world than others, but almost all of them are likely to prove useful to you if you are hoping to progress up the career ladder. Click here for a more in-depth look at how an MBA program is suitable for engineers.
In addition to the academic modules, you will also be required to complete an individual or group Capstone project towards the end of your course. This is where you put what you have been studying into practice in a real-world situation, getting some hands-on experience and demonstrating what you have learned over the program. Generally, it will involve coming up with innovative and practical solutions to genuine problems that real companies have, and as such can be an intensive and challenging project, but also one of the most rewarding parts of the MBA.
The Capstone project can be conducted in conjunction with any suitable company and on any suitable issue, so you will be able to choose something that is directly related to engineering if you wish. It involves undertaking a lot of research, so be sure to pick a topic that you are passionate about. In the end, you will usually be required to give a presentation to faculty, students, and company representatives.
Other potential opportunities during an MBA include internships, international travel, and competitions, which can all be a fantastic way to boost your learning outside of the classroom. Take a look at the course pages of different colleges to see what kind of exciting activities you could take part in!
What benefits will do an MBA bring to my engineering career?
As well as being extremely prestigious, an MBA is one of the more expensive postgraduate qualifications out there, so it is natural to want to feel reassured that it is worth the investment before you enroll. Luckily doing an MBA can bring you a whole wealth of benefits that justify the time and effort you will be putting in.
Firstly, if you have ambitions to move up the career ladder then an MBA will definitely put you in good stead. It will enable you to stand out as a person who is not only a talented engineer but who also has a strong understanding of how business works. This is still quite a rare combination of talents, and therefore could be the key to fast-tracking your career. In fact, many companies send their employees on MBA courses, for this reason, so be sure to speak to your current manager to see if this is an option. Alongside this access to improved job opportunities comes the corresponding possibility to earn a higher salary and therefore enjoy greater financial stability as well as employability and job security.
In addition to these improved prospects, studying for an MBA will broaden your knowledge and skillset in a whole new field. Engineering is heavily focused on math and science, whereas an MBA is almost completely different (as you can see from the module list above). This means that after graduating you will be much better equipped to handle the demands of the roles you may get promoted to. The program will be of particular use to budding entrepreneurs, who have plenty of great ideas but are unsure of how to get started with them.
Another more general benefit of taking an MBA is that it will boost a wide variety of your transferable skills. These are likely to be of use to you in your current job role as well as whatever particular type of promotion you are hoping to get. For example, you will work on your leadership, communication, and presentation skills, as well as teamwork, organization, negotiation, creativity, and time management.
Finally, one of the major advantages that doing an MBA can bring to your career – regardless of the field you work in – is broadening your professional network and widening your horizons. The cohort of students that you study alongside will come from all sorts of backgrounds and industries, and from many different countries. This means you will meet a wide range of like-minded professionals who are just as passionate and driven as you are. They may well end up introducing you to new ideas and ways of thinking that will prove invaluable in your own career. Plus of course, you could make some lifelong friends or even future business partners if you have been considering setting up your own company.
If reading this post has sparked your interest in signing up for an MBA, start to research the different courses that are on offer and narrow it down to a few that feel most appropriate for you as an engineer. Then you can begin to put together your applications and get started on the road to a bright new future. Good luck!