MBA vs MS in Engineering Management: What’s the Difference?

Engineering professionals who wish to bolster their expertise with an advanced degree can learn to skillfully lead engineering teams in technology companies, scientific institutions, manufacturing concerns, and other leading-edge technical environments.

There are limited options for earning an engineering management MBA, specifically. Most professionals considering their degree options are deciding between an advanced engineering degree vs a business degree in general.

When mapping out a higher education plan to improve professional growth opportunities, consider your overarching engineering career goals and how they might be attained with the successful completion of an MBA versus an M.S. in engineering management.

Key Differences: MBA vs M.S. in Engineering Management

MBA for Engineering Management:

  • General business curriculum
  • No engineering background required
  • Usually no specific courses in engineering management offered

M.S. in Engineering Management:

  • Engineering curriculum with management focus
  • STEM background preferred
  • Specifically situates graduates for growth in engineering-related roles

MBA for Engineering Management

For those interested in the management of teams in business environments that may or may not involve engineering, a Master of Business Administration is appropriate. Applicants for the MBA do not need to have an engineering background; in fact, they normally seek to explore business concepts outside the engineering fields.

Professionals planning to focus on an organization’s financial performance and best return on investment (ROI) practices, or who plan to start a business of their own, are well suited to pursue an MBA degree.

That’s because the MBA is usually structured as a general business degree with a series of courses focused on management in a particular area of business: supply chain management, marketing, finance, or the like. The primary focus of the MBA is to teach students how to make informed and ROI-savvy business decisions that improve an organization’s efficiency and effectiveness in any business environment.

Traditionally, it can take longer and cost more to earn an MBA versus an M.S. in engineering management, although with a recent surge of available online programs, obtaining a higher education degree is increasingly convenient for working professionals.

M.S. in Engineering Management

Gaining an M.S. in Engineering Management (MSEM) is ideal for those with STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) backgrounds who seek a technical focus and hope to move into supervisory or executive roles in technical or engineering enterprises.

Acceptance into an MSEM program is not commonly dependent on work experience, but rather on a bachelor’s degree in a STEM or STEM-related field, such as a physical science or information technology. Experienced engineers and business professionals, as well as recent graduates of bachelor’s degree programs looking to gain industry-specific leadership skills can benefit from earning an MSEM.

MSEM programs provide a specialized alternative to traditional business programs: they focus specifically on management and organizational leadership of technical or engineering projects. Course content typically examines ways in which finance, staff, and technical requirements connect to form a cohesive, efficient organization that produces high-quality output.

Education technology continually revolutionizes the ability for working professionals to complete a master’s degree. The George Washington University Online Master of Science in Engineering Management is specifically designed to allow learners to complete required coursework without disrupting a full-time work schedule, permitting students to put their newly learned skills directly into practice in their current workplace.

Learn more about the George Washington University’s online graduate degree program in engineering management and watch our Professional Development Webinar Series.


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