With an uncertain economy and job market, it can be difficult for a prospective student to decide not only if going back to school for a master’s degree is the right move but also which educational path to pursue. As it happens, there are two very worthwhile degrees for graduate students: a master’s in business administration (MBA) and a master’s in engineering management (MS-EM).
The MBA Degree – What Do I Learn?
An MBA covers a lot of territory. Topics covered can include subject matter such as financial accounting and management, marketing concepts, statistical analysis and quantitative techniques, plus economic theory. Additionally, MBA students will find themselves studying topics including but not limited to operations and supply chain management, organizational culture, business ethics, and business strategy and policy.
MBA degree programs usually offer areas of specialization such as finance, marketing or human resource management. Many programs also offer students the option of customizing their coursework through choices of electives.
While online degrees are becoming increasingly popular, not all MBA programs are created equal. To insure your educational institution and program is accredited, be sure to check with the Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs (ACBSP). Also look to see who the faculty members are and what their backgrounds and qualifications are. Some of the top business minds in the world lend their experience and expertise to online education programs, making an online MBA program a fantastic opportunity to learn from best.
Why an MBA is relevant: MBA degrees are designed for people who want to hit the ground running and want to make an immediate difference. Today’s business environment calls for individuals who not only possess leadership skills but also analytical and problem solving skills – in addition to creativity and the ability to adapt to an ever-changing industry. Whatever company or organization an MBA graduate is in, that graduate will have the skill set to positively impact that organization as well as those who benefit from the products or services produced.
The MS-EM Degree – What Do I Learn?
A master’s in engineering management degree is the result when business and engineering collide. An MS-EM student will learn a variety of subject matter from both disciplines. The business-oriented topics are similar to those required for an MBA such as management and marketing concepts, economic theory, accounting and financial management. The engineering side of the coursework covers topics including project management, risk management, decision making under uncertainty and reliability engineering. Industrial safety and environmental law are examples of additional, elective subject matter.
With close to a hundred graduate schools offering online MS-EM programs, there’s sure to be a curriculum that fits your educational needs. However, as with the MBA programs discussed above, it’s always a good idea to double check the school’s accreditation with an organization such as the Council for Higher Education Accreditation.
Why an MS-EM is relevant: Engineering is an extremely broad field encompassing a vast array of industries ranging from production, manufacturing and construction to design and industrial engineering, product development and technology. An MS-EM degree is extremely relevant because each of those areas of engineering needs the leadership and management skills of a person who can see a project of great complexity through from beginning to end. MS-EM degree holders have the rare combination of organizational and administrative ability along with the technical background and knowledge of an engineer. This places an MS-EM graduate in the unique position of being able to understand both the business side and technical side of an engineering company.
Additionally, having an MS-EM degree opens the doors for career advancement as well as a wide variety of career options, especially in consulting. There are several different areas of specialization for engineering management consultants including accounting and finance, law, human resources, communication, public affairs, marketing, economics and politics. Smaller companies often look to consultants because they do not have the budget for an in-house engineering manager.
Whether you choose a career in business or in engineering management, you will be in the position to make a positive impact on the lives of those you work with, as well as in the lives of those touched by the products and services provided by the company you’re working with.
Contributing blogger Carey Dusza is a second-year MS-EM student looking forward to beginning a career in the area of industrial engineering.