3 answers

Which will be more important in the next 10 years: business or engineering?

Asked Weston, Florida

I aspire to study both business and engineering when I go to college, but I am at a crossroads as to which to focus more heavily on. Should I find a five year program where I receive a Bachelors of Science and my MBA? #business #engineering #buildingandselling

3 answers

Donald’s Answer

Updated Paoli, Pennsylvania

Dear Patrick,

You've chosen two very important fields to look at for future growth and opportunity. And either, on its own may yield good results and in my experience, the levels at which you intend to practice your profession will play a major part in your ultimate decision. An engineer or business person who plans to work in a specific field of practice would do well to specialize in the area of their main interest. The general skills you received in school will give you enough latitude to hopefully take advantage of growth over the next ten years and beyond. I would, however, recommend that you look at the following and consider if they might be right for you.

An engineer with a business background is a very valuable person to have in a company and may give you an edge over other candidates with just an engineering background. The best ideas, even well conceived and well executed are rarely successful unless they can be produced economically and most importantly, each product must have a customer ready to buy or utilize your product, idea or service. You'll need an understanding of business to couple with your engineering skill to make that a reality. When it comes to bottom lines, both engineering and business acumen will play important roles. Perhaps a engineering major with a business minor might serve you well. I think the MBA is much more valuable to you and your employer after you have some practical experience. You might also get your employer to help pay for your MBA.

A Business degree with an engineering background will also give provide a similar edge, but from a different perspective. All Businesses require a certain set of requirements from accounting, marketing, sales, purchasing etc etc. Not all require engineering. If you're also interested in engineering, a minor in your chosen field may bolster your credibility and value to a company. If you're a purchasing person buying technical equipment, it is important to have at least a basic understanding of what you're buying and if you have the knowledge to understand how it fits into the program you're supporting, that is going to help you make a better decision. Again, I think the MBA is for later in your career. If you demonstrate an ability to apply your full expertise to your position, many companies will help pay for your MBA.

You might ask yourself, "if I had unlimited opportunities in the field of my choice, had all the resources to obtain the optimum credentials and I could not fail........what field would you choose". If you're going to invest a significant amount of time, effort and resources in your career, make sure it's in the field you have passion for. If you wake up every morning looking forward to going to work, you'll do well regardless of which way you choose to go and with the appropriate credentials you'll have the flexibility to take advantage of whichever way the economy moves.

Hope this helps,

Don Knapik

This professional recommends the following next steps:

  • Talk to an engineer who is in a field you potentially want to go into. Ask what were the challenges when she first started. What are her likes and dislikes about her job? And importantly, what are her responsibilities and where does she see herself in ten years? How do these answers align with your thinking?
  • Do the same for a business person and compare the answers to what best suits your likes and talents to the answers you received from the engineer..
  • Based on your interests and talents, create a list of pro and con for each and see where that might put you in your decision making process.

Joe’s Answer

Updated Englewood, Colorado

As an engineer you would expect me to recommend engineering, but in reality the skills one gets from an MBA are so far reaching and useful in today's career world that you really can't go wrong. As you think about engineering in the future think of some of the areas that are growing edges right now: machine learning, automation, statistics. There is potential for a lot of self-managing systems. The engineers will probably have more involvement with those systems. The MBA however may give you more versatility.

This professional recommends the following next steps:

  • Ask, "Am I more about the people or more about the details?" MBA will highlight more of your people skills with strategizing. Engineering will highlight more of your detail focus.
  • Explore what specific areas of engineering interest you. Ask, "What is the future of that profession?"

Sam’s Answer

Updated Houston, Texas

Hello Patrick,

If you have the time/money you should get your engineering degree and business degree at the same time.

If you have to choose one major over the other, choose engineering. A business degree is relatively easy to get because it can be obtained 100% through an online program. Engineering, on the other hand, requires you to be physically present in a classroom at a college/university. So it would be much easier to do engineering now, get an engineering job, and then get your business degree later.

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