While we might proudly wear the badge “nerd,” many engineers struggle to identify the correct skills, tools, and techniques to use when they are promoted to supervise the work of others. When I was first appointed to a management position, I was disappointed. Didn’t they understand how many years I went to school to learn technical skills? Didn’t they think I was smart enough? Little did I understand that “they” had recognized another set of skills – not just technical – that could benefit others and help me to grow both personally and professionally.
So, what do engineering managers do if it’s not 100% technical? The American Society of Engineering Management (ASEM) outlines eleven (11) skill areas to master in becoming a Professional Engineering Manager (PEM). These are:
- Introduction to Engineering Management,
- Leadership and Organizational Structures,
- Business Strategy and Planning,
- Financial Management,
- Project Management,
- Operations and Supply Chain Management,
- Sales and Marketing,
- Management of Technology and R&D,
- Systems Engineering,
- Legal and Regulatory, and
- Ethical Issues.
All of these skills require an interaction with teams of people who do the actual work in the organization as well as communication and information exchange with the senior executives of the firm.
Becoming a PEM requires learning these 11 areas in breadth and depth. PEM certification also requires an appropriate degree and a number of years of experience. Thus, PEM certification is based on three components: education, experience, and demonstrated knowledge.
Most engineering management professionals, like me, come to the profession from a technical background. Studying in college for an engineering degree teaches analytical thought, a disciplined approach to solving problems, and application of the scientific method. An engineering education may be narrow (high voltage power engineering) or more broad (chemical engineering).
Education requirements are common for most certifications. For example, PMP® certification (Project Management Professional) requires 35 hours of specific training in project management. PEM certification requires a college degree (BS or BA) while the work experience requirement is decreased if the applicant holds an engineering management degree (BS or MS) from an accredited school.
Nearly all certification programs require practical work experience to demonstrate active participation in the profession. More than a simple requirement, work experience validates learning and application of theory to real-world situations. We often learn more from the “school of hard knocks” than during a four-year college experience.
Candidates for PEM certification will need to demonstrate varied work experience depending on their degree program. Work experience requirements range from two (2) to five (5) years and the candidate must manage programs or projects within three or more of the 11 domains of engineering management (see above).
In some cases, the experience requirement is reduced by one year if the candidate participates in a 24-hour PEM Test Prep class. This waiver applies when the applicant’s degree is from outside the field of engineering management or from a non-accredited school. Stay tuned at www.simple-pdh.com as well will be offering PEM test prep classes soon!
All worthwhile credentials require a passing score on the actual certification exam itself. The PEM exam, like the PMP and NPDP (New Product Development Professional) certification exams, is a four-hour multiple choice test. A passing score of 70% correct answers on 200 questions is necessary.
ASEM offers a short set of practice questions to help candidates prepare for the exam. At Simple-PDH, we offer subject matter specific courses, like cost estimating, to help candidates gain and maintain their certification as Professional Engineering Managers. Contact us at [email protected] or 281-280-8717 for information on facilitated, on-line PEM test prep courses. And, keep your eyes out for a full set of practice questions to be released in early 2017.
Professional Engineering Management
Professional Engineering Mangers (PEM) help to accomplish the work of an organization by improving productivity and efficiency of operations and workers. Engineering managers ensure that technical experts are motivated and inspired to achieve high-quality project work and to increase the revenues of a firm. It is a rewarding career path, as I learned. Instead of discounting my years of education, becoming an engineering manager challenged me to find new and creative problem-solving methodologies, to encourage and support group collaboration, and to advance the needs of the firms, its employees, and customers in a profitable and cost-effective manner.
What challenges do you face as an engineering manager?
Study. Learn. Earn. Simple.
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