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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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...
One of the big thinks I have seen from the people I know with MBAs is they have the ability to view things from outside of the engineering box. It can be helpful to at least understand what the accountants, sales and marketing teams are seeing. We may not agree with them because we are engineers and afterall that makes us right. But we can at least understand where they are coming from.
jmiller - that's one of the reasons I got my MBA (along with helping to justify a promotion here and there). If nothing else, it allows me to be able to speak the language that other departments use...and that in itself is a big advantage in getting your points across.
In answer to the more general question posed here, yes, I'm happy that I got my MBA and would do it again. In my case, it was part-time over a number of years so I ended up with the business degree along with the ongoing engineering experience. I don't think it would gain anybody fresh out of school to immediately get a full-time MBA degree unless there were special circumstances.
I agree, Jack. Engineers fresh out of school don't gain as much from an MBA as they might a few years down the road. I believe that some of the best MBA programs, such as Northwestern University's, don't accept a student straight off graduation for that very reason.
Interesting to see how many commenters are pro-MBA. So I'm wondering: What does an MBA cost these days? And for those who did it, do you believe it was a good investment? How long did it take to pay for the extra schooling?
Mine cost nearly $20K or so. I do believe it was a good investment. It opened up several doors for me and it did pay for itself. However, I am not a financial genius and while I should have paid for it several years ago. I am still paying.
I agree with everything you said. I am glad I have my MBA. I waited a couple years after being in my field to go get it and would encourage any other engineer to do the same. I don't see any reason to get it right after college unless, like you say, there are extenuating cercumstances.
Don't have an MBA, but I can surely see how it would have been beneficial to my career at various junctions. As others have said, being able to speak the language and see outside the pure engineering box gives a great insight. There is no way I would have wanted to pursue it right after graduation--was too eager to get into the workplace!
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 think any continuation of education, (MBA or PE) will help open the doors to more interviews and more opportunity. And I agree currently the opportunitites do tend to be more in management and less in areas of technical expertse.
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.
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.
I think you're right on some of your points. I would recommend if the companies willing to foot partr or all of the bill you should take what you can get when it comes to education. I don't think an MBA is going to close any doors.
As a degreed engineer with an MBA, I would say having an MBA has been very advantageous in helping me to see the larger business picture when making engineering decisions. It can always be debated whether or not possessing the MBA will help anyone's career, because we all make personal choices which also affect our career paths. However, I certainly do not regret my decision to pursue an MBA instead of higher-level degrees in engineering.
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