Construction Management vs. Engineering Management

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Despite what some may think, engineers, do not work alone. Project development encompasses many different departments, not all of whom speak the same language. The individual who conceptualizes and funds a project is not always the best suited to build and market it, and vice versa. To achieve the best results, it is necessary to work in teams, and teams need leaders. That is where construction management and engineering management come into play.

Construction management and engineering management have several things in common. They both focus on product development, hold leadership roles, and act as the link between different stakeholders in an end-to-end process. Despite this, they also diverge in critical ways, namely in scope and scale.

Construction management is a specialized form of project management that oversees all aspects of a building project from beginning to end. Whether it is a residential, commercial, or industrial property, construction managers act as a liaison between three key stakeholders: owner, architect, and general contractor. With complete fluency in the fundamental and sometimes siloed processes of building projects, a construction manager must oversee all components and ensure cost and time budgets are met.

Engineering management is a study and practice of project management that is not as tethered to a specific discipline. Engineering managers may specialize in a particular area, such as biomedical, mechanical, or structural engineering, but the core skills of business and management are tailored to the field of engineering as a whole. These are engineers with management training. They often act as translators between the business and the engineering world, shepherding projects from concept to rollout.

Both disciplines offer numerous different degree options. Construction management students can pursue a bachelor’s of science (BS) or bachelor’s of arts (BA) in construction management, or go for graduate-level study with a master’s of construction management (MCM), a master’s of engineering (MEng) specializing in construction management, or a master’s of science in construction management (MS).

Engineering management students can pursue a bachelor’s of science in engineering (BSE), a master’s of engineering management (MEM), or a master’s of science in engineering management (MSEM). There are also masters of business administration (MBA) sub-specializations for each field.

Read on to get a side-by-side comparison of the two fields.

Construction Management Engineering Management

How do the fields define themselves?

Construction management is a specialized form of project management that oversees a building project from beginning to end.

Engineering management acts as the intersection of business and engineering, leading engineering projects from inception to rollout.

In what department is the program?

Most construction management programs are housed within a school’s engineering department.

Most engineering management programs are housed within a school’s engineering department.

What bodies of knowledge will the student focus on while studying?

Construction management programs typically focus on areas such as:

  • Project management
  • Alternative project delivery methods
  • Advanced procurement systems
  • Information technology in construction
  • Risk management
  • Sustainable site development

Engineering management programs have a core curriculum that focuses on areas such as:

  • Project management
  • Finance
  • Marketing
  • Qualitative analysis
  • Intellectual property
  • Supply chain management
  • Information systems
  • Contract management

Is project management part of the curriculum?

Project management is essential to the field of construction management and makes up a large block of the curriculum.

Project management is covered in virtually all dedicated engineering management programs.

What specializations are available in pursuit of this degree?

Construction management can be viewed as its own specialization of civil engineering. However, a few dedicated construction management programs do offer further specializations in:

  • Occupational safety and health
  • Infrastructure
  • Commercial and residential building
  • Construction methods

Engineering management has a wide range of specializations and concentrations, including:

  • Design and manufacturing
  • Infrastructure Management
  • Operations and supply management
  • Biomedical engineering
  • Structural engineering
  • Information systems

What established occupations can graduates pursue?

Graduates of construction management programs are prepared for jobs as:

  • Construction managers
  • Architectural engineers
  • Real estate developers
  • Sustainability consultants
  • General contractors

Engineering management graduates are prepared for jobs as:

  • Engineering department managers
  • Project managers
  • Entrepreneurs
  • Research and development directors
  • Quality assurance managers

In which industries will graduates be able to work?

Construction management is applicable in any industry where residential, commercial, and industrial building projects take place.

Engineering management is a broad field of study with applications in each sub-discipline of engineering.

Are there any emerging occupations that graduates can seek?

Recent graduates of construction management programs can seek out opportunities in sustainable building, 3D-print manufacturing, and the optimization of supply chain logistics.

Engineering is becoming synonymous with innovation, meaning that all industries will need professionals who can speak the language of both the business and engineering world.

How much time should students expect to spend pursuing a degree?

Undergraduate degrees in construction management typically take four years to complete. Graduate-level degrees in construction management can typically be completed in one to three years, depending on the program and intensity of study.

Undergraduate degrees in engineering management typically take four years to complete. Graduate-level degrees in engineering management can typically be completed in one to three years, depending on the program and intensity of study.

Which schools offer online degrees in these fields?

  1. Indiana State University (BS)
  2. Rowan University (BA)
  3. Arizona State University (MS)
  4. University of Alabama at Birmingham (MEng)
  5. University of Southern California (MCM)
  6. The University of Texas at Arlington (MCM)
  7. Purdue University Polytechnic Institute (MS)
  8. Louisiana State University (MS)
  9. University of Washington (MS)
  10. Drexel University (MS)
  1. Arizona State University (BSE)
  2. Johns Hopkins University (MEM)
  3. University of Central Florida (MSEM)
  4. Ohio University (MEM)
  5. University of Massachusetts (MSEM)
  6. Drexel University (MSEM)
  7. Duke University (d-MEMP)
  8. The Pennsylvania State University (MEM)
  9. Northeastern University (MS)
  10. Salem University (BSBA)

What is the bottom line?

Construction management is a dedicated field of study and practice. Construction managers need a detailed understanding of each branch of a building project, and its undergraduate- and graduate-level programs reflect that. This is a degree for someone committed to working with key stakeholders on building projects.

Engineering management takes a customizable approach. While an undergraduate degree in a specific engineering discipline is often a requirement, master’s-level programs focus on skills that apply across several different areas. This is a degree for someone looking to take on a leadership role in product development.

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Featured Engineering Management Programs
Arizona State University Construction Management and Technology (MS)Visit Site
Arizona State University Engineering Management (BSE)Visit Site
Arizona State University Engineering: Engineering Management (MEng)Visit Site
Ohio University Online MEM - Engineering ManagementVisit Site
Ohio University Online MSCE - Construction Engineering & Management
Purdue University Global BSIT - Supply Chain ManagementVisit Site
Vanderbilt University Online M.Eng. - Engineering ManagementVisit Site
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Featured Construction Management Programs

Arizona State University

An online master of science in construction management and technology program offered through Arizona State University’s Del E. Webb School of Construction prepares students for higher-level leadership positions in the fields of facilities and construction management. Prerequisites for this program include proficiency in physics, precalculus math, the strength of materials, scheduling, estimating, contracts, and computer applications in construction.

To be eligible for admission, applicants must have earned a bachelor’s or master’s degree from a regionally accredited institution with a minimum grade point average of 3.0. Application requirements include a completed graduate admission application, official transcripts, a current resume, personal statement, and proof of English proficiency for students whose native language is not English.

Comprising 30 credits, the program includes courses such as facilities operations and maintenance; facilities project management; construction project management; construction productivity; construction company financial control; and trenchless construction methods.

  • Location: Tempe, Arizona
  • Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission
  • Expected Time to Completion: 48 months
  • Estimated Tuition: $1,022 per credit

Indiana State University

Indiana State University offers a bachelor of science in construction management program which can be completed entirely online. Combining experience and education in both managerial and technical skills, the program prepares students for leadership positions in the construction management profession. The curriculum is developed and taught by industry partners and full-time faculty members who have real-world experience working in this field.

Made up of 120 credits, the program includes courses such as introduction to construction; construction materials, methods, and equipment; environmental control systems; construction scheduling; commercial design and construction; statics and strength of materials; and ethics and construction.

Graduates will be ready to pursue entry-level management positions in the areas of estimating, field supervision, planning, expediting, scheduling, project administration, and quality control. They will be able to take up roles such as project engineers, project managers, safety managers, schedulers, superintendents, and estimators.

  • Location: Terre Haute, Indiana
  • Accreditation: American Council for Construction Education (ACCE); Higher Learning Commission
  • Expected Time to Completion: 48 months
  • Estimated Tuition: Indiana residents ($337 per credit); out-of-state ($438 per credit)

University of Southern California

University of Southern California’s online master of construction management program covers current practices and theories that prepare students for careers as industrial leaders in the real estate and construction industry. Special attention is given to the functions of constructors in real estate development. Students in this construction program will take courses from five different schools, that include: Viterbi School of Engineering; Marshall School of Business; School of Architecture; School of Policy, Planning and Development; and Gould School of Law.

Admission requirements for the program include A bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution with a satisfactory grade point average, a completed online application, electronic transcripts from all colleges and universities attended, a current resume, a personal statement, two letters of recommendation, and TOEFL or IELTS scores for international students whose first language is not English.

Consisting of 32 credits, the program includes coursework in construction practices; construction accounting, finance, and strategy; construction planning and preconstruction; project controls; construction methods and equipment; sustainable design and construction; and building information modeling and integrated practice.

The program opens up opportunities in real estate development, construction management, architectural engineering, project management, building and design management, and more for graduates.

  • Location: Los Angeles, California
  • Accreditation: Western Association of Schools and Colleges, the Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC)
  • Expected Time to Completion: Full-time (18 to 24 months); part-time (36 to 36 months)
  • Estimated Tuition: $2,199 per credit

Featured Engineering Management Programs

Johns Hopkins University

Preparing engineers to advance to executive and management roles as managerial and technical leaders of public and private organizations, this master of engineering management program offered by Johns Hopkins University has been ranked among the nation’s best by U.S. News & World Report. Apart from management courses, students in this program will have the opportunity to choose a specialty track that aligns with their goals and interests.

The faculty of the program includes experienced technical executives and leaders who discuss challenges that students are likely to face as professionals. There are more than a dozen tracks available, some of which include: applied biomedical engineering; applied physics; computer science; civil engineering; cybersecurity; electrical and computer engineering; data science; and mechanical engineering.

Applicants to the program must either be in the last semester of undergraduate study or hold a bachelor’s degree from a regionally accredited college or university with a GPA of at least 3.0. Additional application requirements include official transcripts from all post-secondary institutions attended and proof of proficiency in English via TOEFL or IELTS scores for international students. GRE scores are not required for admission.

The program consists of ten courses which include planning and managing projects; technical organization management; strategic communications in technical organizations; finance, contracts, and compliance for technical professionals; and executive technical leadership.

  • Location: Baltimore, Maryland
  • Accreditation: Middle States Commission on Higher Education
  • Expected Time to Completion: Must be completed within five years
  • Estimated Tuition: $4,755 per course

The Pennsylvania State University

Penn State World Campus offers an online master of engineering management degree program enabling students to blend their technical expertise with essential management and business skills. Courses in this program are taught by the same faculty members who teach on campus and graduates of this online program will receive a diploma that will be identical to the one earned by on-campus students.

To get accepted into the program, applicants must possess a bachelor’s degree from a regionally accredited U.S. institution with a grade point average of 3.0 or a degree that is deemed comparable. Application requirements include a reference letter, official transcripts from each institution attended, a current resume, statement of intent, and TOEFL or IELTS scores for international applicants.

The program comprises 33 credits including courses such as engineering management science; ethics and values in sciences and technology; organizational behavior; negotiations; engineering for energy and the environment; economics and financial studies for engineers; and engineering management strategy.

  • Location: University Park, Pennsylvania
  • Accreditation: Middle States Commission on Higher Education
  • Expected Time to Completion: 24 months
  • Estimated Tuition: $996 per credit

Drexel University

Drexel University’s online master of engineering management program is a certified graduate program by the ASEM (American Society of Engineering Management). Graduates of this program will automatically qualify for the Certified Associate in Engineering Management (CAEM) without having to take the exam. The faculty of the program includes industry-experienced professionals with real-world experience.

For admission to the program, applicants will need to have a four-year bachelor’s degree in engineering or sciences, preferably from an ABET-accredited institution or equivalent, a cumulative undergraduate grade point average of 3.0, A completed application, Official transcripts from all colleges or universities attended, Two letters of recommendation, a current resume, and TOEFL scores for international students. Relevant professional work experience is strongly recommended.

Made up of 45 credits the program includes courses such as leading and managing technical workers; analysis and decision methods for technical managers; design thinking for engineering communications; meeting engineering leadership challenges; and engineering project management.

Graduates will be prepared to take up roles such as architectural and engineering managers, automation engineers, chemical processes engineers, computer systems analysts, and logistics managers.

  • Location: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
  • Accreditation: Middle States Commission on Higher Education
  • Expected Time to Completion: 24 months
  • Estimated Tuition: $1,342 per credit

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