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Why MBA after engineering?

thanksfelixthanksfelix Registered User Posts: 12 New Member
edited April 2010 in Engineering Majors
Do you make that much of difference by doing MBA after engineering?
How is it different in terms of salary, and opportunity to be in the upper pool in a company?
Post edited by thanksfelix on

Replies to: Why MBA after engineering?

  • G.P.BurdellG.P.Burdell User Awaiting Email Confirmation Posts: 2,294 Senior Member
    Directly after engineering, an MBA generally hurts. Some people have this fantasy that an MBA is a golden ticket to wealth and success, so if you just get one, you're set. That's not the case. An MBA can certainly help, but it's not an automatic thing. You need to consider your situation after graduation to see if it makes sense for you.

    Think of it this way: a BS engineering student from a decent schools with a few semesters of internship experience and a good GPA compares well against other BS Engineering students. Take that same student and give him an MBA. He's now more qualified, but compares worse to other students because of the superior MBA competition (5-10 years of experience + MBA). Similarly, companies looking for BS engineers are less inclined to hire him because either 1) he needs a higher salary because of increased qualification or 2) if he's willing to accept a BS salary, they'll wonder why and be concerned that he's 2 years "out of practice".

    After you've worked for a few years, though, an MBA can be valuable. In addition to the fact that you'll learn more in your MBA courses when there's context from your work experience, it adds to your career potential. In a traditional engineering setting (manufacturing, R&D, etc), there are usually two paths a person can take: either technical or management. Somewhere around 5-8 years into a career, a person has to choose. Technical engineers are always in demand and have a more relaxed lifestyle, but they generally top out quickly on salary. Managers have the opportunity to run up the "ladder" and make the big bucks, but take a risky path to do so. If you want to go up the management path, it's helpful (and sometimes required) to have an MBA eventually (maybe not until after a promotion or two, but you'll often see people without MBAs or other management qualifications hit a ceiling).

    An MBA can also be used as a career changer - an engineer that wants to get into VC, Wall Street, Banking, Business Consulting, etc. can use an MBA and their engineering background to break into those fields. Certainly you can do it without an MBA, but the contacts you make in a place like Wharton or HBS really helps.
  • JapherJapher Registered User Posts: 1,349 Senior Member
    I'm have a BS ChemE and am working towards my MBA in the evening, I will be done in December. Most of what I am about to say will compliment Burdell's comments.

    I know plenty of managers and directors who have engineering degrees and no MBA. So, it's obviously not the only route to middle management. Above that, you tend to see less and less people running a company without some sort of advance degree. Management will have an MBA, technical management can have MS or MBA.

    If you want to be an engineer do not get an MBA right after you get your MS, you will not find a job. I was laid off from my work right after starting my MBA program. I put on my resume that I was persuing an MBA, this said to my potential employers that I didn't want to be an engineer and was not yet qualified to do anything else. Basically, in order to take advantage of my 10 years of engineering experience to land a job I almost had to take the MBA off my resume. Luckily I landed a consulting job that is allowing me complete my degree.

    An MBA isn't really a skills course like some think it is. Sure you learn economics, finance, and some management skills, but I suspect most engineers could pick this stuff up on the job. An MBA is a signaling mechanism. It signals to the world at large that your are ready, ready for the next step... whatever you decide that to be. For an engineer that next step is generally out of an engineering role.
  • striver87striver87 Registered User Posts: 114 Junior Member
    I'm not sure if an MBA is necessary if you want to keep your career engineer relevant.My cousin got his MBA after he obtained his BS in engineering.Although he majored in engineering during his undergrad, his consulting career has nothing to do with engineering.
  • nitinkaryanitinkarya Registered User Posts: 215 Junior Member
    What exactly is consulting and what does an engineering consultant do? Also, what are the typical salaries for beginning engineering consultants with no MBA and only a bachelors in engineering? I know someone that said he didn't want to pursue an engineering job because he didn't like to sit on a computer all day (B.S. in electrical engineering from UT Austin). He said he works as a consultant and makes 6 figures and it's his first year in consulting. He also said that the salary depends on how much you sell and that all the does all day long is make phone calls to people. Is this what a consultant does?
  • G.P.BurdellG.P.Burdell User Awaiting Email Confirmation Posts: 2,294 Senior Member
    No, he's in technical sales. I've never seen a technical sales job start in six figures, but you never know (I bet he has some lower base salary and he's quoting you what he "could" make). Usually, they're lower paying than manufacturing jobs and require less "engineering". At least when I was in school, the low GPA guys went into sales.

    Consulting can be several different things. First there are technical consultants. So if a manufacturing plant has a problem with a compressor, and the company's internal engineers can't figure it out (or don't have the time to figure it out), the company will call engineering consultants. They are basically very specialized technical experts that come in and solve the problem. An example woulf be Fluor.

    Then there are design consultants. If you're building a new plant or bridge, or whatnot, you'll call these companies. These engineers will spec out the new construction, including the technical aspects, the metallurgical aspects, the structural aspects, create all the draws and spec sheets, etc. Basically they'll design a plant of equipment on paper and hand it over for you to construct, or they'll have a construction group that takes over and makes what's on the drawings. An example is KBR.

    Then there are technology consultants. These consultants perform R&D to design new technologies (new types of pumps, new types of measuring instruments, etc.) and then try to sell that technology to existing companies (the technical sales guy makes the pitch). These are usually smaller companies that have niche markets.

    There are all sorts of other types of consultants. I wouldn't say that any live behind a desk. The closest are the design consultants, but even they have to get out to the site frequently.

    It sounds like your friend is blowing some smoke at you.
  • ken285ken285 Registered User Posts: 3,919 Senior Member
    And then there's management consulting (McKinsey for example), which has nothing to do with engineering. Most people that mention consulting on this board usually refer to this.
  • gthopefulgthopeful Registered User Posts: 1,828 Senior Member
    My cousin got his MBA after he obtained his BS in engineering.Although he majored in engineering during his undergrad, his consulting career has nothing to do with engineering.

    From my experience, consulting firms (such as McKinsey) just want smart people and they don't really care what they're trained in. When I get e-mails about opportunities with consulting firms, they just want someone that's completing their MS or PhD.
  • hmom5hmom5 - Posts: 10,882 Senior Member
    It depends what career track you want. Many don't want to function as an engineer, they want jobs in different industries that need the engineering background.

    A third of every graduating class at MIT has long gone to Wall Street. The engineer/MBA is the classic background for venture capital. Also a great combo for management positions of all kinds at tech companies.

    Management consulting firms like McKinsey indeed hire many straight out of college as well as many MBAs. The engineering background is very useful in many of their groups.

    To get the quality of MBA needed for the above jobs, you need to work 3-5 years after college before applying.
  • rheidzanrheidzan Registered User Posts: 401 Member
    Also, what are the typical salaries for beginning engineering consultants with no MBA and only a bachelors in engineering?
    I thought consultants are called consultants b/c they need lots of experience... ?
    So doesn't "beginning/entry-level engineers" contradict with "consultants"?
  • striver87striver87 Registered User Posts: 114 Junior Member
    Hmmm. I don't really think that's the case.I've heard of people who have an MBA, and they find it hard to get a decent consulting job.There was a blog that I read that asserts that an MBA is pretty much worthless if you never got it from Wharton(where my cousin obtained his MBA from) or Harvard business.On a next note, what about a JD after engineering?What benefits comes from that?
  • purduefrankpurduefrank Registered User Posts: 485 Member
    First of all, Harvard Law does not offer an MBA lol, that‘s just ridiculous. Second of all, there are at least 15 MBA programs that are highly worthwhile, not just Harvard and Wharton. Plus, there are many others that offer great benefits as well. I think the main concept here is that an MBA is not a ticket to earning a million dollar salary. An MBA is seen as a great complement to a BS in engineering, and it is a far better combination than a law degree. If you look at CEO’s of fortune 500 companies you will see many of them have an engineering background and an MBA. Consulting, while a very cool job IMO, is probably not an option for most people right out of undergrad. With the exception of top students from top schools, consulting firms usually don’t hire fresh undergrads. So, I think the moral of the story is go get some experience when you graduate, then, if you feel like you are ready to make a career change or switch into general management, go get an MBA from the best program that you can get into. It is valuable, and a necessity in many cases if you want a job in upper management.
  • striver87striver87 Registered User Posts: 114 Junior Member
    It was a mistake that I made.I meant to put "business".Yeah, you have a point.
  • hmom5hmom5 - Posts: 10,882 Senior Member
    Striver does have a point, there are many programs that give out MBAs that won't get you far. If it's not a top 20 program, you really have to look at recruiting at the school and the list of jobs grads have. There are regional schools that have good regional placement.

    If you want to consult for the big guys or work for a VC firm, you have to graduate from a top program.
  • G.P.BurdellG.P.Burdell User Awaiting Email Confirmation Posts: 2,294 Senior Member
    Consulting, while a very cool job IMO, is probably not an option for most people right out of undergrad. With the exception of top students from top schools, consulting firms usually don’t hire fresh undergrads.

    It depends on the type of consultant. Technology firms like IBM and Accenture hire plenty of new grads. Business consulting (Bain, McKinsey, etc) are the ones that primarily hire MBA's, but they'll also take experienced consultants from IBM and Accenture.

    It's not an uncommon path for someone to come right out of a BS, go to Accenture, work for 10 years to get to executive, then transfer over to McKinsey as a partner. With that path, you're 32, a partner at a business consulting firm, and no MBA.

    Of course, you've been traveling 5 days / week for 10 years and probably have no family. But on the plus side, you've traveled the world, probably have a few million sky miles, a few million hotel points, and you're upgraded every time you fly.

    Consulting is a hard lifestyle. There's a reason the average consultant quits in the first 4 years.
  • nitinkaryanitinkarya Registered User Posts: 215 Junior Member
    So, consultants travel a lot and it is very difficult for them to spend time with their families? Also, what are the typical salaries of management positions in engineering companies? Also, how hard is it and how long does it take to get into one of the management positions after graduating college? I know that you have to have 2 years of experience before you can even apply for an MBA program but what kinds of jobs are available for a B.S. in Electrical Engineering that have good salaries? How hard is it to climb the corporate ladder and attain one of the management positions in engineering, specifically electrical/computer?
This discussion has been closed.