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Do Engineers Need an MBA?

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Dave Palmer
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Platinum
Different tracks
Dave Palmer   9/25/2012 10:58:49 AM
An MBA may be advantageous if you want to go into management.  I have a number of friends who have followed this route.  They are not doing much "real" engineering work these days, but they are applying the thinking skills they learned in engineering school to solve organizational problems.  On the other hand, if you want to pursue a technical path, you are better off getting a masters' in your area of specialization, as well as a PE license.

In some companies, management is the only track that offers the possibility of advancement; otherwise, your salary plateaus at a certain level.  However, an increasing number of companies are starting to realize the value of providing advancement opportunities to technical experts without siphoning them off into management.

Amclaussen
User Rank
Platinum
Yes, IF you really want to... produce beancounters!
Amclaussen   9/25/2012 11:32:56 AM
MBA: the best way to produce the kind of beancounters that propel today's industry to produce the kind of designs that feed the best "Made by Monkeys" stories.

A true engineer NEVER stops learning ENGINEERING... it is endless. One old european engineer once told me that he considered an accomplished engineer a person that had at least three areas of technical dominance (like Mechanical-Electrical and Materials or Chemical, for example).  Engineering is a lot like languages: there are people that dominate several languages, other than their native one... they frequently say that the third language they learned was easier than the secong, the fourth was easier than the third, and so on.  Same in the Science and technology fields.

But if well before the young engineer with less than an "accomplished" level decides to distract from the rigorous disciplines of science/technology, how will he/she reach the truly distinguished status?  All engineering schools that I'm aware, teach some economics as part of the engineering formation, That's enough! Lets recover the brilliant and strong engineering heritage that produced individuals like Tesla, Watt, Otto, Von Braun or Burt Rutan, to very quickly name just a few.  Amclaussen, 34+ years doing engineering and still learning a lot each day.

JimT@Future-Product-Innovations
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Blogger
More valuable after the fall-out
JimT@Future-Product-Innovations   9/25/2012 1:07:14 PM
After spending 25 years in Corporate America, I can assure you that the old adage, "Your Attitude determines your Altitude" is profoundly real.  Corporations often "offer" MBA tuition assistance, but have privately pre-selected candidates for their corporate ladder --- long before any secondary degrees were earned.  They pick, and they have favorites, based on "fit" over function!

To the remaining staff, seeing  the illusion that MBA = Promotion, they often are less enthusiastic about earning one, but feel pressured to do so;  and ultimately end up feeling contempt for the entire effort when they are not selected for promotion.

Meanwhile, putting that entire Corporate "Peyton-Place" aside;  after the economy put thousands of us capable Corporate Servants on the street over the past few years, I can confidently say that I wish I had the MBA now that I'm running my own small business (by default).  It would have at least been a good consolation prize for the corporate effort.

JimT@Future-Product-Innovations
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Blogger
Re: Different tracks
JimT@Future-Product-Innovations   9/25/2012 1:13:32 PM
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Well Said.  Countless Big-Tech companies follow this structure.  It is ill-conceived (yet widely followed) and ultimately produces huge numbers of managers promoted to their level of incompetence. So why is it so prevalent-?  Because the dollars grow from the Top-Down, and the incapable managers handle the money. 

To Dave's point, recognizing talent on the technical side and creating opportunity where technical talent can remain un-hindered is like a new concept to many.  But so obvious to others.

JamesCAnder
User Rank
Iron
Probably not
JamesCAnder   9/25/2012 4:06:24 PM
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Waste of time. A masters or PHD in the engineering degree field one chooses is key. Very rarely do I see an MBA contribute to leading research in any particular field. Today's job market is about "what you can do." Being more versed in one's "Craft" is more important than anything else.

I remember back in college a friend said I should get my MBA after the Bachelors. It's the easiest way to get a masters degree and every manager needs one, he said. I cared more about what I could create, not how well I can become the boss.

However, is an MBA teaches good engineering project management, then it would be almost OK to follow.

But, if the goal is contributing to the engineering body of knowledge, then an MBA might not be the best use of time.

JCA

gsmith120
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Platinum
Re: Probably not
gsmith120   9/25/2012 4:38:07 PM
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In my almost 20 yrs working in Corp America I haven't seen where an MBA would have helped or was needed by most of my peers or even the higher ups.  I have met a couple of engineers with MBAs and it didn't seem to help their career at all.

Nancy Golden
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Platinum
Re: Probably not
Nancy Golden   9/25/2012 6:37:56 PM
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I agree with James - and with the high cost of education and the time that it consumes, it is more important than ever for someone returning to school to have a definitive usefulness to their degree. I have seen some technical schools offer technical management degrees as well but have not seen it serve a real purpose - savvy engineers exhibiting good adminstrative sense and natural business acumen were given the mid-level management jobs these degrees were suppose to prepare one for. Odd too regarding  MBAs - most engineers I know would run screamimg the other direction at the thought of taking graduate level courses in business, myself included. No offense to those who enjoy that stuff - not to many MBAs probably have much interest in engineering.

Tim
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Platinum
Re: Probably not
Tim   9/25/2012 9:24:21 PM
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I would say that an MBA may not be required, but a masters of some sort will never hurt your career.  It helps with getting your foot in the door as a candidate that is serious about doing your best.

Nancy Golden
User Rank
Platinum
Re: Probably not
Nancy Golden   9/25/2012 9:55:22 PM
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While I agree, Tim - that a masters is very beneficial for one's career, I believe it really is best if the masters is directly related to the field you are in. This becomes especially important if you desire to teach in electronics. Most reputable academic accredidation bodies for schools require that the teacher has at least 18 hours specifically in the area they are teaching. Many companies that require a masters want it in the area of focus for the position being filled. So while any masters is good and represents an achievement, the amount of time, effort and money are important considerations as to how beneficial a masters will be if it is not directly in your career field...

Charles Murray
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Blogger
Re: Different tracks
Charles Murray   9/25/2012 10:21:11 PM
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An MBA is not for everyone. When we did an article on this subject last year, the president of Olin College said, "As a general rule, every graduate who leaves an engineering school shouldn't have a to-do list with a little box on it that says 'MBA.' Those who are headed for corporate leadership will probably be tapped on the shoulder by a supervisor at work."

I always thought that was good advice.

http://www.designnews.com/author.asp?section_id=1395&doc_id=233439

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