Why Engineers Should Pursue an MBA versus a Masters Degree

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Stephan KolodiyWhy should engineers pursue an MBA versus a masters degree?

Stephan Kolodiy is Senior Admissions Officer, Rutgers Business School.

Every semester I give a presentation to a group of senior materials science engineering students and one of my favorite quotes to use is "When we promoted him, we lost a great engineer and gained a bad manager." I always get a few laughs from that one, but mostly I receive a lot of nods in agreement from the students who have witnessed something similar in an internship. Engineers make the world work, but they often have trouble managing people. This is where an MBA comes in. There is certainly a shortage of good managers in the field of engineering and engineers are making themselves extremely marketable by adding an MBA to their list of credentials.

A question that often arises is why engineers should pursue an MBA as opposed to a master degree in their engineering field. My answer to that is that it really depends on the person and what his/her career goals are. If the person is interested in research and wants to keep working as an engineer, then a Master of Engineering is the better way to go. However, if they would like to go into management, make a career change, or start their own business, then the MBA is the logical choice.

At Rutgers Business School, MBA students with engineering backgrounds make up the second largest population of students. We have engineers, both domestic and international, from a wide variety of backgrounds (civil, mechanical, chemical, etc.). These students have the quantitative and problem-solving skills that companies crave, but lack certain soft skills such as teamwork, leadership, ethics, communication, critical thinking, negotiation dynamics, and strategic planning. These are all highly valuable skills that a student would learn in an MBA program.

Most full-time MBA students at Rutgers are looking for a career change into either marketing, finance, or supply chain and others are looking to unlock their entrepreneurship and want to start their own companies. Engineers are often introverted and, while an MBA may teach them how to be more extroverted, this type of personality often makes a career change into marketing, which could be a challenge. As a result, engineers will typically find success in more analytical roles where they are putting their strong quantitative skills to work, but in a business environment. I find that the most successful find roles in the fast-growing supply chain realm. The reason for this is because engineers have strong analytical skills and they are problem solvers; they can easily transition these skills to make a company’s supply chain more efficient and productive.

Finally, an MBA can really help unlock an engineer’s entrepreneurial spirit. Engineers are builders and problem solvers and many have ideas for great products or businesses, but they don’t have the business acumen to make this happen. That is where an MBA can help jumpstart the process by giving the student the confidence and knowledge on how to bring a product to market or start their own business. One of our recent alums recently started his own hedgefund after graduating with his MBA and he is putting his engineering skills to work to build his own financial models in order to make better investments for him and his clients.

So if you’re an engineer looking for a career change, looking to learn management skills, or looking to start your own business or launch a product, look no further than a master of business administration as it will certainly help you achieve those goals.