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Master's in Engineering Management vs. MBA: What's the Difference

Many engineers who want to grow their leadership skills and take their careers further consider earning an advanced degree. During their research for the ideal program, they often find themselves facing a choice: Should they pursue a master of engineering (M.Eng.) in engineering management or a master of business administration (MBA)?

Though the M.Eng. degree is slightly newer, both are established degree programs that are highly regarded — each with its own distinct path toward leadership development. But is a master’s in engineering management worth it? And what’s the true ROI of an MBA for engineers?

Before we answer those questions and dive into the differences, let’s discuss the similarities.

Engineering Management vs. MBA: What’s the Same?

Both an MBA and an M.Eng. in engineering management prepare students with advanced knowledge in the following subject areas:

  • Management and leadership
  • Communications
  • Finance and accounting
  • Economics
  • Marketing
  • Supply change management
  • Decision-making

These programs will equip you with soft skills for engineers, plus the acumen to make confident, data-driven business decisions. However, these two degrees have important differences prospective students should take into account.

Master’s in Engineering Management vs. MBA: Exploring the Differences

Master of Engineering in Engineering Management

Earning a master of engineering in engineering management will teach you more than just how to lead an engineering team. Unlike an MBA, this program focuses on the application of management principles specific to students with a STEM background.

Typical engineering management programs take approximately two years to complete. However, Vanderbilt’s online master of engineering in engineering management program takes as few as 12-15 months.

Request more about the online master of engineering in engineering management >>


The M.Eng. in engineering management is designed for those with a background in STEM who want to transition into leadership roles. Students may come from various fields—like engineering, technology, aerospace, automotive manufacturing, or pharmaceuticals—but they all share a STEM background.

Furthermore, students in the M.Eng. in engineering management program thriveare able to collaborate with peers and professors who have similar experiences and goals precisely because the degree caters to professionals in technical fields. This empowers students to build connections with other leaders in their industry.

Engineering Management Classes and Curriculum

Upon initial observation, the courses within an M.Eng. in engineering management program may seem comparable to those in an MBA program. However, upon closer examination, it becomes evident that the M.Eng. subjects are delivered with a focus on engineering-specific duties and responsibilities.

For example, the M.Eng. in engineering management examines how finance, staffing, and technical requirements contribute to the efficiency of an organization — and how these factors impact the final product. In Vanderbilt’s online master of engineering in engineering management program in particular, students take courses that cover a wide array of topics, including:

  • The design process of engineering
  • Project management
  • How to make software-assisted decisions
  • Intellectual property law, as it applies to engineers and scientists
  • Marketing for tech products

Engineering is a technical field that requires creative problem-solving, and it’s built upon a desire to build and test new ideas. To hone those skills, most engineering management programs include hands-on projects as part of their curriculum. Vanderbilt goes even further, requiring students to apply what they learn to complex business systems and then develop a final capstone project which they will present.


Graduate with an M.Eng. in engineering management, and you’ll be prepared to take on leadership roles within engineering, technology, and other scientific organizations and companies...Or even start your own company. As a multi-talented professional, you will confidently bridge technical engineering knowledge with organizational and people management skills. Some graduates even go on to lead organizations outside the tech industry, provided that they are influenced by technology and engineering.

Earning an MBA

An MBA can also help engineers advance in their organization or industry. However, MBAs prepare engineers for more general roles in the business world, as opposed to engineering or tech-specific ones. Full-time MBAs typically take two years to complete.


MBA programs are ideal for individuals seeking broad business knowledge and leadership positions in a variety of fields or industries. Many students in these programs pursue more traditional business professions, like finance or marketing. Few MBA students are engineering MBA students who aim to enter the engineering field after they’ve earned their diploma.

MBA Classes and Curriculum

MBAs are built for generalists. These programs cover a breadth of subjects and skills needed to lead in a range of business environments, though they rarely hone in on specific industries. You can expect to see curricular topics like supply chain management, accounting, organizational behavior, project management, economics and statistics.


MBA graduates acquire skill sets that contribute to improving company performance and show a return on investment. The comprehensive nature of an MBA education prepares graduates for leadership roles in various industries, but it may not offer the same depth of engineering-specific knowledge as an M.Eng. in engineering management degree.

Take the Next Step on Your Engineering Career Path

An advanced degree will help you acquire the engineering leadership skills you need to enhance your career. While both the M.Eng. in Engineering Management and the MBA are respectable options, they cater to different career aspirations and provide distinct skill sets. Choosing between the two depends on individual career goals, with engineers seeking a more specialized path and often opting for the M.Eng. in engineering management.

Vanderbilt's online master of engineering in engineering management program offers engineers the opportunity to gain advanced leadership skills within their field in a convenient and efficient manner. With a comprehensive curriculum, hands-on projects, and shorter completion timeline, graduates are well-equipped to thrive in their current company or transition to new opportunities in other companies or industries.

Furthermore, with Vanderbilt’s admissions requirement of having at least 2 years of relevant professional experience, our students join a community of seasoned engineers who can infinitely expand your network. Request more information about Vanderbilt’s program today.

Discover more about becoming an engineering leader at Vanderbilt in our new guide, Developing Your Engineering Expertise: Earning Your Master’s in Engineering Management Online From Vanderbilt University
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