Do Engineers Need MBAs?

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Should engineers invest in an MBA? According to a survey from Dice Holdings, out this month, one-third of technical workers think it’s a good idea.

Dice Holdings—which hosts websites for professional communities—asked its users: Do you think that having an MBA is important to future technical careers? Thirty-two percent answered yes, while 52 percent said no, and the rest were unsure.

Those who saw the value of an advanced business degree believed that combining business knowledge with technical skills would increase career marketability and provide a greater likelihood of advancing into management.

Tech professionals who saw no value in an MBA believed technical expertise outweighs the benefits of general business knowledge.

Only nine percent of respondents with technical experience held an MBA, but this small group reported higher pay as a result of the extra qualification.

Others said having an MBA had given them the ability to pick and choose the company they want to work for and provided the opportunity to move up to management or work in a new, business-oriented technical role.

I’ve heard plenty of engineers complain that while entry-level tech career opportunities are abundant and pay is initially pretty good, this momentum fades after a few years and careers tend to stagnate.

Put another way, with today’s tech talent shortage, you probably won’t need an MBA to get a well-paying job in the tech career of your choice. However, an MBA might become more important as you try to move up the ladder at your company.

There are many more CEOs today with engineering degrees than was the case only a couple of decades ago.

It seems logical that the best time to pursue an MBA is after you’ve gotten at least three to five years technical experience on the job. At this point you’re still highly motivated and your boss still likes you (hopefully). You’re also more than likely getting ready to move up to a more senior role (manager, team leader, etc.)

Why you should consider an MBA:

  • It’ll make you a better manager (possibly)
  • It’ll introduce you to non-engineering concepts such as marketing, strategy, finance, operations, business ethics, and entrepreneurship
  • It’ll set you apart from the pack, give you added credibility, and get the attention of your boss
  • It’ll help you make connections in the business world, which, like it or not, is defined by who you know, not what you know
  • It’ll prepare you to go it alone if you decide to start your own business or do consulting work

Despite this, only one in five (19 percent) of the Dice respondents said they will likely get an MBA in the future.

Do you think an MBA is a worthwhile pursuit for engineers?

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7 thoughts on “Do Engineers Need MBAs?”

  1. What would be interesting is to ask the engineers who have an MBA if they think it was worth it. That (albeit smaller) data set might be more telling. I have an engineering undergraduate degree, which helped me learn to think really analytically. As I progressed my career, I had many questions about how a business operated. I decided to pursue (and successfully complete) an MBA program. It has helped me immensely, because I have a much broader appreciation for and understanding of a business. This is only one data point, though. I guess it all depends what one may want to do in life. For me, it was to stay sharp, but also be marketable.

    1. Nancy Pardo says:

      Only 9% of the engineers surveyed by Dice had MBAs, but that group reported better pay and opportunity. The survey didn’t indicate the specific career aspirations of that group, however. So yes, I think it all depends on where you want to take your career as an engineer. Perhaps if your focus is scientific or technical then an MS would be a better bet. Incidentally, while I was researching this post I looked at engineering jobs sites. I found zero openings specifically requesting an MBA.

  2. Otman Estrada says:

    Absolutely not!!! Management and technical career paths are two very distinct things. If you want to make the greatest impact in an engineering role stick to the MS in engineering. That’s what I did and I don’t regret it. OEstrada, MS in Mechanical Engineering.

  3. Chandrashekhar Raut says:

    I have 2 yrs of experience in PLM.If i decide to pursue an MBA degree after a year or so, what would be best option – a full time or executive (working) MBA ?

  4. SHREYAS KULKARNI says:

    BASICALY ENGINEERING DEVELOP THE LOGIC WHICH WE CAN IMPLEMENT IN MBA TO GROW UP OUR CAREER OPPORTUNITIES AND DEVELOP OUR ERA IN ALL DIMENTIONSIN FUTURE ENGINEERING WITH MBA WILL COME AS POWERFULL TOOL TO DEVLOP CREADIABLITY OF ENGINEERING IN ALL SECTOR

  5. sunny says:

    I am in am MBA cource as an engineer. I believe it will return me more value but the process is painful.

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