Home Experience KU KU Online MBA Blog What Are the Differences Between an Engineering Management Degree and An MBA?

What Are the Differences Between an Engineering Management Degree and An MBA?

15 Nov
Woodblock illustration of a man walking up stairs while evaluating the career benefits of an online MBA versus an MEM degree.

Deciding between an Engineering Management (MEM) degree and an MBA can be pivotal in shaping your career. This article explores the key differences, addressing whether an MEM or MBA is better suited for your professional goals. Discover the unique advantages of MBA degrees and understand how they compare with MEMs in terms of job prospects and salary potential. This comprehensive guide delves into the specifics of each degree, including their focus areas, the job opportunities they unlock, and their long-term benefits, providing a clear comparison for professionals at a career crossroads.

Reflect on Your Background and Goals

If you've been working for several years in a technical field and are looking to advance your career, you're likely weighing the differences between a Master of Engineering Management (MEM) and an MBA (Master of Business Administration) degree. Both of these high-level degrees are considered excellent options for employees hoping to climb the corporate ladder and secure an executive management position. However, before making a choice, there are several factors to consider including your educational background, current career, personality type, job preferences, and future aspirations.1

While technical students may feel compelled to pursue an engineering management degree, given their backgrounds, this is not necessarily the best choice. As one of the most well-recognized and respected degrees in the world of business, an MBA offers several advantages to technical students.

The Key Differences Between MEMs and MBAs

The main difference between an MEM and MBA is clear from the name: a Master of Engineering Management degree is more closely focused on engineering and other technical disciplines. This means MEMs are less broad than an MBA and subsequently, more limited in the career opportunities they unlock.

There are also several other distinct differences that separate these two business management degrees:

1. An MEM focuses on data science, analytics, and statistics.

Because engineering management is highly focused on technical skills, students without a background in technology or engineering may struggle with the curriculum. By comparison, an MBA has a stronger focus on finance and marketing, which highly technical students may find challenging.2

2. An MBA covers a much broader range of subjects.

With an MBA, you'll be taught managerial skills in all kinds of fields, including marketing, operations, finance, human resources, and IT. This means it can be a more challenging degree but with a more rewarding outcome.3

3. MBA graduates can attract higher salaries in the long-term.

While the average salaries of MBA and MEM graduates are similar, to begin with, top-level MBA salaries can reach up to $400,000 per annum.4

4. An MBA is more highly regarded.

Very few businesses view an MEM as better than (or even equivalent to), an MBA degree. For decades, the MBA has been widely recognized as the most comprehensive management degree and will long remain the first choice for managerial positions.5

Career Path Differences

Master of Business Administration (MBA)

An MBA sets you up for a rich and varied career in whatever field you excel in, be it engineering or agriculture. All MBA programs focus on the five key areas: accounting, management, economics, finance, and marketing.6 These five subject areas are considered the core tenets of business. Anyone wishing to manage a company or to start their own is expected to excel in these areas.

Many MBA graduates go on to work in executive-level roles in diverse industries; a broad spectrum of options available should they wish to change career paths.

Typical job roles achieved by MBA graduates include chief executive officer (CEO), director of finance, operations manager, HR director, marketing executive, and business development manager..7

Master of Engineering Management (MEM)

With an MEM, students are required to cover courses including finance, accounting, project management, leadership, and communication. Additional elective courses usually include various subjects like decision making, entrepreneurship, quality management systems, and business law for engineers.

MEM students usually have prior experience in an engineering or technical role and are often restricted to continuing down this career path. While there is still a wide range of technology and engineering-related roles available, an MEM is a more limiting degree.

Typical job roles achieved by MEM graduates include chief technology officer (CTO), chief of engineering, project manager, engineering logistics manager and, chief of research and development.8

Completion Time

Another point to consider is the time requirements when considering an MEM versus an MBA degree. On average, MBA programs take two years to complete, whereas a Master of Engineering Management can be completed in 12-15 months.

While an MEM may seem quicker and easier to achieve, there are fewer courses offered for part-time or online completion, making it less attractive to full-time career professionals. If you elect to pursue an online MBA, you'll find you have much more flexibility to complete the program. This is particularly advantageous to students with work and family commitments.1

MEM Versus MBA Checklist

Eligibility Criteria:

  • MEM: Engineering degree
  • MBA: Any bachelor’s degree


  • MEM: 8-15 months
  • MBA: 14-24 months

Focal Subjects:

  • MEM: Statistics, data science, project management
  • MBA: Finance, marketing, HR

Key Skills:

  • MEM: Problem-solving, project management, leadership
  • MBA: Communication, innovation, strategy

Job titles:

  • MEM: Project manager, CTO, chief of engineering
  • MBA: Finance/HR director, operations manager, CEO

Take that First Step Towards a Rewarding Future in Business Management

Whether you're technically-minded or not, a business management degree will help accelerate your journey towards a top-level, executive position. The University of Kansas offers a top-ranked online MBA that will prepare you for the fast-paced corporate world.

Our reasonably priced, AACSB-accredited online MBA program will provide you with the advanced business acumen and innovative thinking required to excel in today's competitive business environment. You’ll benefit from the flexibility of an online program while also receiving top-quality, in-person training through our award-winning faculty.

Speak to one of our advisors today and discover the incredible benefits and convenience of an online MBA from a premier institution like KU.