MBA after Engineering

Gauri Chhabra

When it comes to an MBA degree, a singular point that we all look at is- the Return on Investment( ROI). Since graduate degrees in engineering are directly applicable to your chosen job field, thinking of an MBA after that  can seem a bit…nebulous. Getting an MBA as an engineer is much like learning to speak another language. You may have an innate understanding of business and an  uncanny ability to problem solve.
But is that enough reason to totally walk off at a tangent and go for an MBA?
Since an MBA is an expensive affair, it becomes all the more imperative that you have your path absolutely clear and etched out before you- especially when you plan to go that route after your Engineering degree.
Before we do that, let’s broaden the definition of what kind of engineers we are talking about here.
Now, there are  various categories of engineers who would be toying with the idea of an MBA. Students with an Engineering degree ( Computer Science and IT , Mechanical or any other), working professionals  eg Non IT Engineers in non-IT roles e.g. mechanical engineers working in a production planning role, electrical engineering students who get into the energy sector, power generation / distribution / transmission jobs and also engineers who are already in business oriented roles (like marketing and sales, finance etc).
Are you an engineer? Which category do you fall in? Why and how do you think an MBA after engineering will help?
Let’s explore
MBA requires analytics
and reasoning:
The entrance examinations for all MBA programs require basic Quantitative aptitude, reasoning and data interpretation- all skills honed in an Engineering program. Therefore, your engineering degree can be an added advantage for cracking the CAT, SNAP, MAT and other entrance examinations.
In consonance with ‘Make
in India’ program:
With the launch of ‘Make in India’ campaign, India has signalled a spurt of growth. It aims to increase the contribution of manufacturing in GDP to 25% from 16% as of now. This would set a spiral of growth in engineering jobs. With engineers having the capacity to devise creative solutions with limited resources, an MBA would be an added advantage as organisations are trying  to create an enabling environment where employees are encouraged to upgrade and expand their skills throughout their lives.
Need for a diversity of skill set
When engineers get into core engineering roles, at times they face an identity crisis, or a feeling of just being another-brick-in-the-wall  despite being ahead of the pack in their academic life.
For every 100 down in the trenches engineer, there’s the need for the management type that can walk in both worlds and guide the business activities of an engineering-centric firm.  These types of companies will be quick to acknowledge this type of diverse skill set.  The biggest benefit of being an engineer with an MBA, serendipitously, is that it allows you to think like an engineer, have the language of an MBA and  be a unicorn of sorts.
Moreover, if you hope to obtain a position that requires working with budgets and financial forecasting, graduate-level business education is advantageous.
Scale up to higher echelons of Management:
If you are already working as an Engineer and wish to move into that corner office, and leg up into the higher echelons of Management that oversees a team, an MBA is the right choice. This would help you move out of the shop floor, wriggle out of that lab coat and straight into strategic management. If you have an engineering background , it becomes an added advantage as you also understand the nuts and bolts of the business. Besides, once you get into a management role, you get out of the tactical stuff and you have an opportunity to get your salary bumped up by as much as 50- 60% which is way beyond the industry standards should you remain in the same role.
Overcome career crisis
A decade ago, midlife came in two forms- a life analysis and career paralysis. After 15- 20 years of work, professional used to hit a glass ceiling. Today, the career cycles have shrunk and shortened and the feeling of midlife crisis comes earlier. Within 3-4 years, all the excitement of joining a new company at a higher salary dies down. Then comes the itch for a change- to get into fields such as accounting, finance, analytics. This is the time  an MBA could help you make the transition or score the job of your dreams.
The flip side
It also needs a word of caution however. If you are an engineer today and are fresh out of college, sometimes directly going the MBA route may not be the best decision to take. The reason is simple- Your counterparts with an Engineering degree get to enter the job market first, postponing an advanced or MBA degree until the moment is right.  Your knee jerk decision can add on to additional education loan.
Moreover, an MBA might not make you very attractive to some employers. They may look at young, inexperienced MBA holders and assume they will be an expensive hire, not worth the cost when it comes to actual knowledge and lack of real-world experience.  In the startup world especially, there is a great deal of bias against MBA’s.  These maverick industries believe that your fancy degrees actually hinder rather than help business, with their formalities and dependence on traditional styles of management and growth.
Whatever your reasons might be, do be aware of the pitfalls of taking up the MBA route. Bschools, just like companies, have their own idiosyncrasies.
Summing up
Remember, when it comes to determining whether an MBA as an engineer is worth it, it is better to weigh all the options. What works very well for your peers might not be the roadmap for you. Consider your personality type, your career roadmap, and where is it that you see yourself at least five years from now. Are you building a life or a resume?
Use your logic and reasoning. You’re an engineer, after all.