Updated on Oct 20, 2021
As technology spreads to every tiny aspect of our lives, role of engineering management is becoming more relevant in every domain and industry. Be it pharmaceutical company or an agricultural one, everyone is dealing with engineering challenges at some level – chemical, mechanical, civil, hardware electronics engineering dealing with tangible products while software and computer engineering dealing with the abstract information.
Understandably, there has been a steady increase in the demand for managers who understand technology and engineering aspects alike which gave rise to programs such as MEM (MS in Engineering Management), MIS (Management Information Systems), MIM (MS in Information Management), MSIS (MS in Information Systems) and so forth. With few differences, these programs aim at combining technical depth with business breadth so that the students can understand both management and engineering language. One theme that underlines all these programs is that they are core business programs with engineering electives. The focus is still on management courses such as statistics, analytics, supply chain etc and one can pick electives in database, programming, networks etc.
Remember that these programs, being core management programs, are likely to be biased towards applicants with some work experience.
Some of these course names might be confusing, so lets take a look one by one-
Core management programs with courses in Marketing, Finance, Management, Operations, Modeling and available engineering electives (not just software but industrial engineering, nanotechnology etc). Typically, prepare candidates for consulting, business analysis in any engineering related work function. Duke’s MEM program is leading in this category. Look at their electives to get a sense of the course offering. The incoming student profile at Duke's MEM is widely spread among various engineering majors.
MS in Management Information Systems degree programs provide more focus in the field of technology management. more like MEM for IT, so focusing on IT electives such as data mining, AI, networking etc. One might think of it as a less competitive version of MBA specializing in IS (but then, less reputed than an MBA too). Expect roles such as system analysts, data analysts, systems engineer, database admin after this.
MIS or MBA in the USA offers you a prestigious middle level to high-level management position, the difference between these two courses is the kind of management required. While MBA aims at more holistic management and administrative picture, MIS is more of a technical perspective.
The MEM degree is Master of Engineering Management, mainly suited for students with graduation in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) degree. It is good for those wishing to take a higher career in Technology. It offers management and leadership skills with a higher focus on technical disciplines. Some universities require you to have work experience while others don’t.
Whereas an MBA is a great option for graduates from any background, who wish to take their career forward in Management and Business Administration. For applying to top MBA programs in the US, you are required to have 2-3 years of work experience.
These are other variations of MEM and MIS programs. You will find some more such as MSTM, MSEM offered with various names in different schools. Before you decide which one to apply to, take a good look at the curriculum to ensure it suits your background and goals.
Here are some common questions that students have about these programs-
1. Should I go for MIS only if my profile is not good enough for MS in Computer Science (and other branches respectively for MEM)?
This is a misconception that MIS stands second to core engineering MS programs. I have known students with excellent profiles and a shot at top MS in CS programs to opt for MIS because of their career goals. It is important to understand the difference in career paths that stem from MS CS vs MIS. You should see which program aligns better with your career goals and not choose based upon its perceived reputation in your head.
2. If I want to do MBA later on, then should I still go for MIS/MEM?
Many MIS/MEM programs are offered by business schools (and some by engineering schools). As a result, you might be taking some courses along with the MBA students. I recommend doing MBA much later in career for either switching your career stream or to get a jump in career ladder within your industry. Doing a MIS/MEM (granted that it fits in with your aspirations now) will not rule out an option for MBA later on. You might be studying some of the courses again but you can still do it if you feel the need to do so.
3. Are the job prospects after MIS/MEM worse that MS or MBA?
Please understand that all these are different programs and hence comparing them is not ideal. MS and MBA have been there for a long time and have established reputation whereas MIS/MEM programs are comparatively newer and still building their base. And this is the reason that they are growing steadily in demand as well. Would you rather do MBA when fewer people were doing it and there was a higher demand or when the market is saturated and practically everyone has an MBA? Top MIS/MEM programs such as Duke, CMU, Stanford etc are highly competitive and graduating from them is highly rewarding in terms of career opportunities. So, I feel that if you graduate from a good MIS/MEM program, you will not be compromising on any job prospects compared to other fields. Currently, there is an employment boom for engineers (especially CS related) which may change later on. Therefore, job prospects after these programs depends on the industry demands and not the reputation of these programs alone. As is true for MS or MBA, doing MIS/MEM from higher ranked schools should open lucrative opportunities for anyone.
4. How can I make my MIS/MEM application stronger?
Make your MIS/MEM application better by:
5. So, should I apply for MIS or not?
If you want to get into IT consulting, Analytics, Project Management, Product Management etc kind of careers, then and ONLY then you should opt for MIS and NOT because it is less competitive or easier entry for US.
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