Is an MBA Worth It for Engineers?

Joe McGoldrick
07.07.2022·8 min read

Is an MBA worth it for engineers? You’ve probably asked yourself this question if you’re at the point in your career where you’re ready to climb the professional ladder and receive the perks that career advancement brings.

While you can pursue a Master’s degree to get a more in-depth understanding of your chosen profession, it’s also worth considering an MBA.

Short Answer

An MBA can provide engineers with valuable business skills that make them more attractive to employers. Additionally, it can help them fill managerial positions and equip them with the entrepreneurial skills necessary to bring their engineering solutions to market, should they aspire to find a company.

This article explores how an MBA can aid your engineering career, so keep reading if you need help making an informed decision.

Typical Career Path for Engineers

As an engineering degree holder fresh out of university, you possess problem-solving skills that grant you access to many entry-level engineering roles. Professional certification is the quickest way to stay afloat in a competitive job market, and once you’ve obtained said qualifications, a comfortable engineering career will be yours.

However, advancing to a more senior position will take more than an undergraduate degree and professional certification. At this point, most engineers find themselves staring at the proverbial fork in the road. They can up their learning with an advanced degree in engineering or opt for an MBA, broadening their professional horizons.

The obvious path to follow is an advanced degree. You’ll be gaining more advanced knowledge in your chosen field, which will help you become more marketable when seeking work with another employer. Meanwhile, the path less trodden is going for an MBA or acquiring business skills you’re not very familiar with.

However, if you choose to take the second path, you’ll give yourself an edge over your fellow engineers who opt to take the first path. This is because you’ll learn soft skills like negotiation and effective communication and technical skills needed for running a business. In other words, skills that’ll make you more suitable for managerial positions than your peers.

As you’ll see in the following sections, combining engineering know-how with business acumen will give you a platform to climb to higher positions.

Engineering MBA Salary

In the US, engineers with an MBA degree get paid a median salary of $100,000 per annum. However, the exact amount differs statistically depending on which of the MBA programs for engineers you decide on pursuing.

For example, the statistics provided by Payscale reveal that engineer MBAs in the US receive an average of $110,000 in annual salary. Meanwhile, other statistics put the compensation you can expect to receive once you complete an MBA for engineers between $130,462 and $138,960.

Salary Comparison Between Engineers With an MBA and Engineers Without

Unfortunately, if you decide not to pursue an MBA, you stand to earn 13% less than a fellow engineer with an MBA degree.

The above statistic is based on reports drafted by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. One such report reveals that a mechanical engineer with an MBA earns more than a bachelor’s degree holder’s annual pay of $88,750. However, another report shows that civil and architectural engineers with MBAs in the US enjoy an average yearly salary of $149,530.

To better compare the salary differences between engineer MBA-holders and non-MBA-holders, see the table below:

Should an Engineer Get an MBA?

Other than a high pay packet, what other benefits will you receive as an engineer with an MBA? Additionally, are there any reasons why you shouldn’t get an MBA? Let’s explore the pros and cons to find out.

Pros of Taking the MBA Route

Below are some reasons why you should get an MBA as an engineer. They include, but aren’t limited to:

Better Career Prospects

The most obvious benefit of having an MBA degree is the prestige it’ll add to your resume. With an MBA, you’ll look more attractive to corporations seeking candidates who possess a good combination of technical skills and business acumen. In addition, these companies will see you as a good fit for a managerial position.

Moreover, once you’ve filled the role, the skills you bring will mean upward mobility career-wise, as you’ll be eligible for promotions when an opportunity comes knocking.

Deeper Business Acumen

In addition to a weightier resume, an MBA equips you with business knowledge to navigate the complex business environment you’ll be operating in once you’re employed.

You’ll acquire valuable managerial skills like being able to make or interpret financial forecasts and project management knowledge, making you an integral member of any organization you choose to work with.

Some of the courses you’ll learn will include:

  • Strategy
  • Marketing
  • Risk management
  • Leadership

Entrepreneurship Skills

Engineering is a profession deeply rooted in problem-solving and solution design. With an MBA, you add a third component to the problem/solution mix: the ability to act on ideas and exploit them for commercial gain.

The knowledge you gain from an MBA will prove beneficial when you need to draw up a business plan to attract outside investment. Moreover, when you’ve launched your enterprise, you’ll be able to communicate effectively with team members and keep abreast with key performance indicators, all the while steering the ship to eventual profitability.

Learn More Actively

MBA programs practice active learning, so you’ll be engaged through role-playing, case studies, discussions, and the like, instead of passively consuming information. Therefore, you’re more likely to retain what you’ve learned and recognize where you can apply those principles in real-world scenarios.

In other words, you’ll be job-ready even before you complete the program. Incidentally, Nexford’s MBA program applies the active learning approach, providing students with courses that keep them engaged during their studies.

Cons of Pursuing an MBA

Meanwhile, you might reconsider getting an MBA for one or more of the following reasons:

MBAs Are Expensive

MBA degrees aren’t budget-friendly, with some costing over six figures. Therefore, an MBA may only be worth it if your current financial situation allows it. The above is true whether you opt to attend classes physically or go the distance learning route.

That said, there are affordable MBA programs out there. For example, the ones offered by Nexford won’t put you out of pocket. For as little as $180 per month, you can acquire an MBA degree that’ll help take your career to the next level. Also, Nexford runs scholarship programs and loans through local partner banks with a fixed exchange rate (specific to Nigerian students).

Time Commitment

When pursuing an MBA program, you’ll be investing a considerable amount of your time and energy into acquiring professional skills. If you’re working a full-time job while juggling family responsibilities, committing the time needed to obtain your MBA may prove challenging.

Of course, online programs provide some flexibility, but getting through the modules might be a slog if the course content is dense, lacks succinct explanations for unfamiliar jargon, and the lectures are dull.

Therefore, only an MBA program with easily digestible lectures like the one offered at Nexford University will make the time commitment worthwhile.

Won’t Help If You’re Very Senior Level

As you spend more time in the same company and your employer notices your contributions to the company’s bottom line, you’ll inevitably rise to higher positions. But, you’ll rise high enough that there won’t be much higher to climb at some point, making an MBA an unnecessary expense in money and time.

May Not Be Necessary

Finally, you may not see the utility in obtaining an MBA if you’re content using your technical skills alone while working in a professional capacity. Instead, it’d be better to continue honing and expanding your technical skills than to learn about business theory and concepts.

What to Expect From an MBA for Engineers

You’ll find many of the modules and electives below in a good MBA program for engineers:

Business Culture

Working for multinational corporations means you’ll have to grapple with the unfamiliar business cultures and practices of business stakeholders from other countries. Therefore, you’ll need skills when operating in a global business environment.

Marketing

Similarly, marketing strategies aren’t a one-size-fits-all affair when selling into territories outside your locale. As a result, you’ll need know-how on global marketing practices to navigate and profit from international markets.

Data Analysis

Businesses rely on data to make profitable short and long-term decisions, so being able to analyze and act on economic data presented to you by analysts is a desirable skill to have in a managerial position.

Legal

Unraveling and operating within the context of local laws and regulations is an inevitable part of doing business internationally. As such, you’ll need to understand the legal advice provided by your legal team to navigate whatever legal environment your company finds itself operating within.

Masters in Engineering vs. Engineering MBA - Which Should You Choose?

The professional development path you choose will depend on your career goals. You’ll be more suitable for a managerial role if you opt for an MBA. Therefore, if your goal is to one day lead an organization, it’s the path to choose.

Consequently, if you’re happy with an engineering background and would much rather lead a technical team, then obtaining a Master’s degree will help you achieve that end.

Learning Options for Engineering MBA

You have three options for kickstarting your engineering MBA.

  • Earn an MBA on a full-time or part-time basis, physically attending classes
  • Earn your MBA through distance learning, watching lectures via video, and downloading course materials via the internet
  • Earn your MBA online on a flexible schedule

Each option has its pros and cons, and your choice depends on your lifestyle.

Conclusion

While not considered the traditional route for career advancement if you’re an engineer, an MBA can provide you with valuable business skills that’ll help propel your career to new heights. Better career prospects, entrepreneurship skills, and deeper business insight await if you decide to take this career path.

 

Nexford offers one of the best MBAs for engineers, with easily digestible online classes that have an interactive component to keep students engaged. Download our brochure or book a call with our Nexford Advisors, and give your engineering career a boost.

About the Author

Joe McGoldrick

Known for strategy and attention to detail

Joe has more than 10 years of marketing experience, working within the public sector, client-side, and agency side.

He is passionate about using data and customer insights to improve marketing performance.

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