What is the right MBA for engineers? There is no single answer other than maybe the right degree is an MBA, and maybe it isn’t an MBA at all.
Your career objective comes first.
The first step in the decision about what MBA to pursue, is to reflect on your past career experiences and make a well considered decision about your future career goals. The combination of your past career experiences plus a future graduate degree, lead you toward achieving your career objective. Without a career objective, you cannot determine which path is optimal to achieve those goals, and you may encounter a frustrating search for the proper degree path and school choice.
If your long-term career objective is to manage a group of technical people who do technical work, you may wish to consider an engineering management master’s degree. Alternatively, you may also wish to pursue an MBA in a discipline like general management, or project management. A key question to answer when evaluating your career goals, is how much do you wish to interface with the more business oriented functions of your company or client. If there is little reason for you to learn finance, accounting, or strategic management skills, then a more technically oriented master’s degree may be suitable. On the other hand, if you expects to work in the management of your company, and need new skills in areas like strategy, finance, or marketing, than an MBA could meet your needs quite well.
In short, if you see your career evolving away from doing technical work yourself, and into managing teams of people or departments across the business into other functional areas, and MBA may be appropriate.
The decision about career objectives correlates very closely to the decision about which degree and MBA or MS in engineering management. Once you have carefully evaluated your career options and defined your goals, it is much easier to determine which degree best supports your goals. It is not obvious all the time however, because some construction management programs and engineering management programs include a few business courses that are common in MBA programs.
The next step is to develop a list of potential MBA programs that your qualifications are a match at. This does not mean that you must be the most competitive candidate in their pool, but you are trying to determine where you meet the minimum qualifications. There are several hundred MBA programs available, and this list of potential MBA programs will be heavily influenced by your qualifications such as: years of work experience, quality of work experience, GMAT score, undergraduate GPA, and fit with their program offerings.
The list of potential MBA programs for you to consider applying to may still be fairly long. The next step in the process is to compare your qualifications with the typical profile of enrolled students. This process is outlined in an earlier blog post: The MBA class profile helps determine which program to apply to.
Once you determine which program curriculum offers you the best combination of technical and managerial or business courses to suit your career goals, developed a short list of programs that you qualify to apply to, and then looked for programs that you might be competitively matched for, then you arrive at a very short list of schools to apply to. Of course you may consider other factors like location, reputation, connections with your planned industry, and financial aid. No matter what additional information your school selection process includes, if you start by defining your career plans you will be able to choose the right MBA for you as an engineer.