An engineering degree is a highly sought-after academic goal, as is a degree in business. Both have the potential to lead to promising careers doing work that’s challenging, meaningful, and lucrative.
An increasing number of people are finding benefits in pursuing a Master of Business Administration degree after achieving engineering degrees or enrolling in programs that combine business and engineering studies.
Columbia University offers a Master of Science degree in management science and engineering. The University of Pennsylvania has a Wharton/engineering dual-degree program, and the institution states on its website that its programs are for students “looking for a career trajectory leveraging the strong combination of business leadership interests and strong technical skills.”
“A combination of the ‘soft skills’ in addition to the ‘hard skills’—accounting and finance from business and ‘technical skills’ from engineering—can open doors in many directions to reach the upper echelons of corporations, domestic and global,” said Fikru Boghossian, Ph.D., dean of the Earl G. Graves School of Business and Management at Morgan State University (MSU).
The business school is named for Black Enterprise magazine founder and publisher Earl G. Graves.
Morgan State is embarking on an “engineering undergrad plus MBA” approach, according to Boghossian. MSU offers a two-year MBA program with a specialization in accounting, finance, project management, etc. It is accredited by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB). MSU’s engineering school offers three undergraduate engineering degrees and three graduate engineering degrees.
Of the approximately 8,000 students at MSU, 125 are pursuing an M.B.A., Dean Boghossian remarked. “We are in conversation with the engineering school about how we market our entrepreneurship and innovation to the engineering undergrads interested in an MBA and how we can deliver a joint degree program at the master’s level, which will position our graduate students for leadership and management success in the tech space.
“MSU is working in partnership with the Wharton School of Business in reviewing and possibly revising its business school curriculum to ensure it provides students with an offering of “the highest quality possible,” said Boghossian.
The university also is in early interactions with Dartmouth College’s Tuck School of Business about the development of a prospective advanced degree in innovation and entrepreneurship, he said.
Boghossian pointed out that CEOs of tech companies have complemented their engineering degrees with an M.B.A. For example, Tim Cook, CEO of Apple, has an undergraduate degree in industrial engineering as well as an M.B.A., and Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella earned a Bachelor of Electrical Engineering degree before pursuing a master’s degree in computer science followed by an M.B.A.
“It gives one more flexibility to move in and around the corporate world,” said Boghossian, adding that an M.B.A. is also best for those engineers considering an entrepreneurial path. “Engineers are builders and problem solvers, and may have ideas for great products or businesses, but often lack the requisite business acumen to bring ideas to the marketplace.”
Boghossian said engineers who don’t want to have their career choices limited would be wise to secure an M.B.A. He added that a good alternative for those not wanting to pursue an M.B.A. would be a master’s degree in engineering management.
“A master of engineering degree will limit your future career choices compared to an M.B.A.,” he said.
He pointed out the following benefits of getting both engineering and business degrees:
• M.B.A.s prepare graduates to lead and to manage people and processes while engineering degrees do not offer this same preparation.
• M.B.A. studies provide exposure to finance, accounting, marketing, and supply chain knowledge.
• Engineers have “hard” skills: quantitative and problem solving, but lack “soft” skills such as teamwork, leadership, ethics, communication, critical thinking, negotiation, and strategic planning.
• An M.B.A. is more valuable (flexibility and broad exposure to business problems) for most non-technical professions than an M.S. in engineering.
• Engineers with M.B.A.s will have a broader field of careers to consider when seeking to change jobs. Leveraging an engineering background in non-technical industries such as banking, finance, entertainment, etc. will be easier with that additional business degree.
Boghossian added that engineers seeking to ascend into C-Suite leadership would find that having an M.B.A. is more desirable than having a master’s degree in engineering. For more information, contact Morgan State University’s Morgan Business Center.