Group of business partners discussing ideas

While you can pursue an MBA and then figure out how to apply some of the concepts you’ve learned to engineering businesses, you can also consider pursuing another option: the Master’s of Engineering Management. This special type of degree teaches business management through the very specific lens of engineering, allowing you to get a tailored education for two very dynamic fields. 

If your goal is to really hone in on how to apply concepts to and manage an engineering-based business, a Master’s of Engineering Management may be a great hidden gem option for you. But what are the differences between a Master’s in Engineering Management vs. MBA

Comparing the two different master’s degrees side by side can help you figure out which one covers the topics you care about most, which one aligns with your career goals, and, most importantly, which one gets you the best ROI on your degree. 

What is a Master’s in Engineering Management?

A Master’s in Engineering Management is a multidisciplinary degree that bridges the gap between engineering, technology, and business management. Like an MBA, it has a business focus, but unlike an MBA, it pulls problems, challenges, and examples solely from engineering businesses and focuses on how business topics are applied to the engineering space. 

The principal areas of focus include:

  • Data Analytics
  • Product Management
  • Product Design
  • Operations
  • Supply Chain Management

There are often two tracks of study from which to choose: technical and management. For those looking for what is the most innovative and cutting edge, you’ll likely want to focus more on the technical. Working professionals that follow the more management focused side of these programs study how business topics change and adapt given the engineering nature of a company or industry.

Whether the tech or business pathway, both are geared to real-life working experiences and often draw on the student’s previous job experiences in order to inform lessons and key learnings. Looking holistically, the focus of the program remains squarely on the application of business theories to the engineering space in the Master’s in Engineering Management vs. the MBA, which is broader. 

What is an MBA?

Many know of or about MBAs, but it’s good to hone in on the basics and goals when you’re weighing your options about whether or not it’s the program for you. It is definitely an area of study that has seen a lot of change over the years. 

The crux of the program overall is an emphasis on general management and business skills. One of the benefits of an MBA is that it offers a wide lens of different aspects of a business. Many offer both theoretical and experiential opportunities in learning. This is great for students who know they want to go into “business”, but can be too broad for students who know certain industries or roles they want to pursue. 

With an MBA, students get to choose from a pool of concentrations that mesh with their interests and outlook for the future:

  • General Management
  • Finance
  • Marketing
  • Business Analytics
  • Consulting
  • Entrepreneurship
  • HR
  • International Business

What are the Differences Between a Masters in Engineering Management vs. an MBA?

The Master’s in Engineering Management and MBA are similar but offer key differences. Makes sense, right? It’s easy to understand why there appears to be no clear-cut differences between the degrees and how to choose which degree is best for you. However, both are highly respected in the U.S. and abroad and provide a vetted and proven pathway to great accomplishments.

An MBA is often deemed the most popular degree across the globe because of its industry-agnostic versatility. It provides a 360-degree view of management. A Master’s in Engineering Management is more niche, and  offers a more targeted approach for students who know they want to build  and focus on a business career in the engineering space. It provides training that is geared to the techno-managerial and is rich in data and stats.

Application Requirements

Let’s look at the differences front and center in the chart below:

  MBA Master’s in Engineering Management
Prerequisite Degree Bachelor’s Degree Bachelor’s Degree w/ emphasis in STEM or engineering
Background Work experience NA or two years
Supporting Docs Letter of motivation Letter of recommendation
Requirements for International Students TOEFL TOEFL or IELTS

While these are general requirements to apply for the programs, each university may change the requirements slightly to better align with their specific program. Make sure to check with each university you’re considering applying to.  

Program Content

One of the most interesting parts of comparing an MBA vs. a Master’s in Engineering Management is comparing all of the different subject areas and coursework. It’s helpful to list out the variations in content side-by-side to get a good sense of what each program covers or doesn’t. 

  • Analytical skills
  • Leadership skills
  • Foundational skills
  • Electives
  • Co-curricular
Master’s in Engineering Management:
  • 5 Core courses
  • 5 Track courses


Pathways or Tracks
  • Analytics, Leadership & Innovation
  • Health, Technology & Innovation
  • Experiential
Master’s in Engineering Management:
  • Applied Biomedical Engineering
  • Applied and Computational Mathematics
  • Applied Physics
  • Civil Engineering
  • Computer Science
  • Cybersecurity
  • Data Science
  • Electrical and Computer Engineering
  • Healthcare Systems Engineering
  • Information Systems Engineering
  • Materials Science and Engineering
  • Mechanical Engineering
  • Space Systems Engineering
  • Structural Engineering
  • Systems Engineering
  • Technical Leadership

The above outline is probably the best way to really choose which program best meets your needs. Compare the possible tracks against where you imagine your career going and/or what’s most interesting to you. Which would help you achieve that dream best? That is the program that is likely best for you. Looking for more general business? Try an MBA. Know you want to be in engineering? Try the engineering management. 

Career Outlooks

The differences really become clear when you compare Master’s in Engineering Management vs. MBA career outcomes. They are markedly distinct. Businesses that are hiring will look for two unique skill sets.

Fields that are in high demand for MBAs include banking & finance and marketing, while some possible job options include financial advising, management consulting, e-commerce business consulting and more. 

When earning a Master’s in Engineering Management, many pursuing this option agree that professionals get “two for the price of one.” Meaning, a Master’s in Engineering Management provides for a degree in both technical and business management. This stands in stark contrast to the MBA that only offers an outlook on business from a general standpoint. It is definitely a huge plus on the resume, and many companies view it as a competitive edge.

Career pathways for those with a Master’s in Engineering Management are:

  • Engineering Manager
  • Chief Engineer
  • Director of Engineering
  • Engineering Project Manager
  • Senior Lead Analyst

Master Business Engineering with Johns Hopkins EP

To sum up the MBA or Engineering Management question, a Master’s in Engineering Management is designed to provide engineers with leadership skills in the context of the field of engineering and preparation for leadership in technical organizations. An MBA prepares students for more general roles in business. However, both are well respected and reap tremendous career benefits for the long term.

If you’re still weighing your options and looking for some additional insight, reach out to our admissions team. They’re ready and waiting to help you understand your options—including the top-ranked part-time, online Johns Hopkins Engineering for Professionals Master’s in Engineering Management program—and put you on the right path towards achieving your personal and professional goals.