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How do I Become a Mechanical Engineer Manager?

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  • Written By: Carol Francois
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 16 November 2016
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There are three items required to become a mechanical engineer manager: post-secondary training, related work experience, and completing the job interview process. A mechanical engineer manager is responsible for hiring, supervising and managing other mechanical engineers and mechanical engineering technicians. Mechanical engineering managers are usually found in large firms with multiple locations or shifts.

People who are mechanically inclined, detail-oriented, and have excellent interpersonal skills find this type of career rewarding. A mechanical engineer is typically employed in the manufacturing environment. The role of the mechanical engineer is to design, analyze, and maintain complex mechanical systems.

The first requirement to become a mechanical engineer manager is to complete a post-secondary education program in mechanical engineering. Although other fields can hire candidates with training in business management, engineering is a precise discipline. All engineering managers must be engineers to make the correct decisions and understand the broader implications of those decisions. The vast majority of managers have a mechanical engineering degree from a university. There are a few mechanical engineering technicians who become managers due to their experience, but they are quite rare.

In order to advance his or her career from engineering to management, many people take additional education in management. This may be a project manager certification, a master's of engineering (M.Eng) or a master's of business administration (MBA). The skills taught in these programs include management techniques, project management, communication, and team building.

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There are two areas of related work experience required to become a mechanical engineering manager: engineering experience and management experience. An engineering manager role is typically filled by someone who has at least ten years experience as a mechanical engineer. Management experience can be obtained through short periods as a fill-in manager or project management.

Keep in mind that management experience can be obtained outside the engineering work environment. Managing a large project for a volunteer agency, such as engineers without boarders, local community organization projects, or projects through the local engineering school are all options. Management is a skill that is learned best through activity, and all the lessons learned will be helpful when you become a mechanical engineer manager.

During the job interview process to become a mechanical engineer manager, take the time to prepare for the interview. Think of a list of standard interview questions and prepare your answers in advance. Take your time, answer each question, and resist the temptation to exaggerate.

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Charred
Post 4

@everetra - It’s interesting that the mechanical engineer salary and the mechanical engineering manager salary can be comparable, based on experience.

I’ve seen it range anywhere from 70-80k. Of course it can be less or more depending on experience, and I am sure the level of education would have an impact too.

Whatever you’re motivations for getting into management, I wouldn’t make money the primary consideration since you can advance either way. I would look at how much time you like to spend with people and of course managing projects.

everetra
Post 3

@hamje32 - If, as the article points out, it typically takes ten years as an engineer before you can be considered for management, then I think the discussion is moot.

After ten years in engineering you are pretty much an expert already without the advanced degree, don’t you think? Also, during the interview process I am sure they’ll try to screen out candidates based on their engineering skills, not just their ability to manage others.

hamje32
Post 2

@Mammmood - I think it depends on the kind of environment you’re working in. Maybe if you were working in a metal manufacturing plant, where the work was less specialized, an MBA would be good.

If you were working in a manufacturing plant for an aerospace company then I think that I would prefer that my boss had an advanced degree. But it all comes down to how much time they are going to be spending managing people and how involved they will be with the technical details of what you do.

Personally I believe that there will be a lot people interaction, and the technical involvement will be limited to simply understanding what other people are doing. I don’t think that an advanced engineering degree will be useful in that sense.

Mammmood
Post 1

How would you compare the Masters of Business Administration to the Masters of Engineering Degrees for the mechanical engineering manager?

I say that mechanical jobs are very specialized and so the MBA would be less useful than the advanced engineering degree in my opinion. Yes, the MBA will teach you project management skills but you can get those by taking some supplemental courses.

At least if I were an engineer I would prefer that my manager had an advanced engineering degree and not simply an MBA in addition to his bachelor’s in engineering. Does anyone else have an opinion on the subject?

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