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Higher Education for an engineer

Started by joshskies, October 29, 2018, 12:35:21 PM

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My question is, would something like an MBA be a good thing for a seasoned engineer to have better opportunities?

Personally, I am good at the technical aspects of my job, it just doesn't pay as well as I would like, and my ultimate goal is to have passive income to not have to earn a paycheck. However, this is life and my current situation will require a some time to get out of, so the best way to combat this is to get a better paying job.

I've been an engineer for about a decade. In my corner of the job market, there is a limit to growth as the glass ceiling is somewhat low. Engineering in an R&D setting or a support role rarely generates significant revenue for high dollar salaries and raises. It's a comfortable job that plays the grind, but never has any game-changers. Moving over to production, there are many more possibilities because work there are higher probabilities of getting into a managerial position, however, production has its own headaches and drawbacks.

Personally the allure of a corporate type job helping make the decisions in revenue generating paths forward and all the upper level thinking is attractive. Yes, you have to earn your keep to get there, but what is that step and would additional education help? One option that I've been weighing heavily is a (relatively) inexpensive MBA for $12-14k through a certified program (UL-Lafayette, UT-Corpus Cristi, UT-Commerce, etc)


I don't have an Engineering background so take that into context with what I am writing. I work in banking.  I am just finishing my MBA after working 13 years.  To me it is a piece of the puzzle that is a single punch in the ticket of your career.  I learned very little that I didn't already know or doesn't add value for me. For example it is very manufacturing focused for some classes which isn't something I can apply in banking.

I think attending a reasonably priced university with a solid reputation is the best bet.  The larger schools that aren't ivy league are super expensive and have marginal additional return for the money.  Likewise if you go to a super tiny university that nobody has heard of it may not help furthering your career.

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Have you thought about leveraging your knowledge in your current field into a more in demand version? A cheaper degree in a similar field can still be both desirable and pay more. From oil and gas to technology sectors.
But if you're burned out and looking for something completely different then MBA is def starting to be sought after again.

Money Ronin

I have an engineering undergrad with an MBA.  The engineering degree gives me the technical "street cred" whether I really have it or not, and the MBA gives me the business "street cred".  Add my consulting career to the mix and it's really opened a lot of doors. 

Often technical people find it difficult to transition into management--the MBA will give you the practical training to do so and reassure your future bosses.  The MBA allowed me transition from IT consulting to Strategy/Business consulting.  In my corporate career, it convinced my IT peers and bosses that I was the person to handle all the Finance stuff--in large part because they wanted nothing to do with it.

If you go the MBA route, make sure you put in the time to learn and network.  Getting a degree online without learning the people skills isn't the same.  Also, be prepared to switch employers as getting a new job after B-school is the best time to re-brand yourself.


It's fascinating to me to hear this story. I'm just starting out in my career as an engineer, and I'm noticing that the things that drew me to engineering really aren't the main focus of my job. So much of what I do is just the whim of PMs and VPs above me, it's got me more motivated to work towards a role in that upper echelon as the engineering department only solves the problems that the business thinks are valuable.

While I can't offer much by way of advice here, I would argue that it seems like an MBA would be useful for you. However, you may want to be open to opportunities beyond your locality, as the value of the degree does not seem to be so heavily focused on the content, as much as the network and the possibilities it may offer. The caveat there being if your current company wants to fast track you to the management world and will support you through the degree at a local school just to retain you afterwards.


I have a BS and MS degree in Computer Science/Engineering.  I was looking at MBAs to enhance my career.  What I found (and people told me), is if you are going to get an MBA, go to a top 10 school.  I know a bunch of engineers that have gotten MBAs - it really hasn't helped any of them.  I ended up getting a Masters in Engineering Management from Northwestern.  I've seen it called an MBA for engineers.  It has a lot of overlap with MBA programs (accounting, finance, marketing), but then augment with engineering specific curriculum, like innovation and technology.  It's helped me in my career.  I was already a manager, but I am doing more finance and marketing now.


I have a BS/MS background and also got an MBA part time from a good private school paid by my company. I was already in the marketing/business when I did this MBA so it didn't really help me to change career path. I saw some of the students (with engineering background) be able to change position in a more business role and move up the ladder at their current company then. So can be useful.
I would say it was hard to balance work and studies during the part time MBA, something to consider (doing essays etc in plane when traveling, etc). Might be easier with your current position.
A key point also is an MBA value depends on 1) the effort you put in to learn 2) the network you build during the year or 2 that you spend with your student colleagues.
I would strongly recommend a part time MBA if you want to evolve from engineering to more of a business job and move up the ladder within your technology company or similar.
If you want to drastically change your career say from engineering to finance (stock trading, corp development, etc), then I would suggest a full time MBA to leverage the internship between the 2 years and find your new job in your new industry more easily.


My background: I have a master's degree in EE and I was an analog IC design engineer for 20 years. I quit my job 5 years ago because of burnout and dissatisfaction with the direction of my career at the company. I earned some certifications to try to move into a new field of electronic design but my years spent in my previous role now pigeonholed me. I now joke that engineering degrees should be stamped with an expiration date.

Because of my growing interest in investing and the business analysis that goes with stockpicking, I realized that in order to make the big bucks you have to be close to the business decision process and be compensated with equity in addition to a good salary. No matter how knowledgable or skilled I was as an engineer, ultimately I was replaceable and my job was a cost center, not a profit center like the sales and marketing guys I had to work with. And Oh my God, those guys could bullsh*t numbers and powerpoint slides and look like a hero and blame their misses on "market conditions". That hand wavey type of approach does not work for engineering   :D    Wow, I am still bitter about that experience.

Anyway, I considered getting an MBA. I talked to friends and acquaintances who had an MBA and who were also in management or executive positions and each one recommended against me pursuing an MBA. Some feedback I received was that I was happiest being an individual contributor, did not enjoy directing and managing groups, had difficulty delegating responsibility, do not network well because I am kind of an introvert. I viewed the MBA as a credential on my resume, like a certification that would give me some kind of edge, but value comes from developing contacts and relationships at school with like minded students and professors. I was mostly interested in the technical aspects of the education. I could take some marketing courses or accounting and get my desired results faster and cheaper.

This is just my experience.


I see this is an older threat that was just responded to, so I'm going to take a crack at it too.

To answer the semi-proposed question in the subject... "Higher education for an engineer ...?"

Yes and No. Generally speaking, if you're going from a pure technical track at your company, and want to go management, it's usually difficult. And... applying for a position on the outside with no management experience is generally a hard thing to do. So an MBA would help fill that gap, but at what expense?

The company you work for might be very rigid on things like this, but the question I have is... what kind of leeway do you have as it pertains to moving *into* better management roles? Is there a way that you can lead a project, be a project manager, or in some capacity like that? The reason I ask is because having an MBA and absolutely no management experience can pretty much be no different than if you had no MBA at all.

There's also the aspect of getting out of the technical track. My degrees are a mix of CompSci / Software Engineering / Cyber Security, and for the first ~20 years of my adult life, I spent pretty much being an engineer. Writing software, etc... often times finding myself alone on a project because the company figures, why spend the extra money. In my current organization though, I've been slowly pinched into leadership roles. First it started off as being a project manager, then development manager, and I don't even really know what it is that I am now... but some kind of manager that manages multiple development teams. It's great, but I will also tell you that managers lose skill.

You do gain other skills... e.g. the ability to manage projects, see the big picture (supposedly), etc... but when you're no longer in the weeds, things do pass you by. And, you no longer gain that technical expertise that you once had. If you are "OK" with that... then that's fine. At the age of 41, I'm not sure if I want to hang up my technical hat and move into management for good. So make sure you know what you want. The point though is that having these leadership roles on your resume are far more valuable than getting a degree that says you can do it. I was 30 before I got my first degree, and I'd largely become a very successful developer starting from the bottom and working my way up. I'd moved from company to company largely through networking and people asking me to come work for them. Obviously they wouldn't have asked if they didn't think I could produce, but it shows that it's often "who you know."

As for whether or not you should get an MBA... you need to look at where you want to be, and what the requirements are for the type of career you're looking to get into... more specifically, the type of company you want to get into. There is one thing that I feel VERY strongly about, and I'm going to bold it for emphasis...

I truly believe that education is important. No matter what's going on in your life, if you're working towards a degree (2nd, 3rd, 4th, whatever degree), you're still "moving forward" in your life. Education provides that motivation and the feeling that you're working towards a goal, even if everything else is stagnant.

So, in that respect, I definitely encourage you to getting a degree. But make sure you're doing it for the right reasons. I also no longer believe that an ivy league school is necessarily worth the money. If you're older and already established in your career, a prospective employer is going to be looking for your work history, not whether or not you just graduated from an Ivy League school. There are also a lot of colleges that offer "ACE" programs... which is, "Adult and Continuing Education." Why this is important is because they have consolidated time schedules. For example. 5 semesters a year to take courses (five 2-month semesters). This generally lets you take a single class within 8 weeks... and depending on how much time you have, you can knock one out.

Bottom line though... you want to look at the MBA like a checkbox. That's basically what it is. You do want to learn from it, and enjoy it, but to the prospective employer, it will just be another checkbox that you can check off.

You can also get some project management certifications to give you a slight leg up as well.



I think after completing your engineering you can do MBA or MCA. It's better for your future life.