MSc vs MBA for Engineering Managers

 ·  Featured

by the University of Leeds

Becoming an Engineering Manager is the next step in most technical engineers’ careers. Integrating your technical skills with management skills is the perfect way to progress an engineering career.

An MBA is the first option that comes to mind when considering how to advance your professional experience to move up the career ladder. But is an MBA the best progression route for engineers or would a more specialised course tailored to the needs of the industry be better?

Comparing an MBA to the Engineering Management MSc should help you determine your next steps into management roles.

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1. General vs Specific

An MBA is a General Management Master’s course giving you the skills to fast-track into management roles across a range of industries. The general breadth of content taught on an MBA allows the application of skills across industries; however, there is a lack of specificity in an MBA to one industry.

That’s where the MSc can spark success. The Engineering Management MSc is unique to engineering, teaching you to become an inspiring leader in engineering. This allows you to cultivate two sets of skills simultaneously.

Therefore, you’ll be well-equipped to solve complex business issues with the added benefit of having the technical knowledge to drive business decisions in the engineering sector.

2. Theoretical vs Practical

An MBA focuses on the traditional, and sometimes more modern, theories of management in a business setting. Case study examples relate to real-world challenges in a range of sectors including finance and the creative industries for example. This allows individuals from a variety of backgrounds to learn management theory that can be applied to their sectors respectively.

By contrast, the Engineering Management MSc provides case study examples relating to real-world challenges in engineering enterprises such as climate change and disruptive technologies. This enables you to synchronise work and study, making the course practically applicable in a day-to-day role as an engineer.

Team of engineering managers and industrial engineers discussing details of a project

3. Business vs Technical

Skill-wise, an MBA focuses on business skills and acumen for managers to give you a well-rounded view of skills and behaviours that good managers possess in an organisation. On the other hand, the Engineering Management MSc integrates engineering knowledge with management knowledge and skills, to respond effectively to the specific opportunities and challenges facing an engineering leader.

Becoming an Engineering Manager adds value to an organisation by bridging the communication gap between these two integral business functions, to stimulate collaborative innovative and efficient working environments.

Adding organisational value is what all leaders should aspire for in their role, which is why weighing up your options is very important when looking to progress into management positions.

4. Managers vs Engineering Managers

An important factor when deciding which course to pursue can often be around who is delivering that course. On an MBA, you’ll learn from experts in management, but with the MSc, you’ll learn from experts in engineering management.

There has never been a more important time for businesses to have technically competent leaders, and that would put you at the forefront of that change in demand, giving you the desirable skills to engineer your future.

This again gives you another decision point about whether you want to learn from a management expert or an engineering management expert. Obviously, there are benefits to both, but knowing the academic expert teaching you is another step to choosing the right pathway for you.

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5. Business Networking vs Engineering Networking

Networking is more important in modern society now than ever. Making connections with people at work and outside can lead to endless opportunities.

Business networking is an essential part of modern business and can take different forms (exchanging a business card or having a conversation). This is a more general networking type which can be formal or informal and with people from a range of industries.

However, engineering networking relates to networking specifically with engineers. As the MSc Engineering Management course is for engineers to progress into management roles, you will have the opportunity to build a specific network of engineers across the globe. This is a fantastic opportunity to build meaningful professional relationships with engineering professionals which could be key contacts now and in the future.


Ultimately, the decision for a Master’s degree comes down to you, what excites and inspires you, and what career aspirations you have for the future. If your goal is to have a broad knowledge of the general approach to management, an MBA might be better suited to you.

However, if you want to gain management skills but want to broaden and deepen your expertise in your field of engineering, choose the Engineering Management MSc.

Find out more about Engineering Management MSc at the University of Leeds.  

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