As engineering of all different forms becomes ever more important, and as the world grows smaller with greater communications technology, managers who can successfully bring together groups of engineers from throughout the world become ever more valuable.
It's one thing to be an excellent mechanical engineer, or civil engineer, or electrical engineer; it's another to be someone who can manage all those engineers and more, turning them into an effective crack team of engineering ability.
Most engineering in the modern world is not something done individually. It's work that requires a group of people, working together, to pull off. And to get that group to work correctly, most times, someone has to be a coordinator. The holder of a PhD in engineering management is the perfect person to fill that role.
Differences between an engineering management PhD and other PhDs in engineering
A PhD in engineering management is a little bit different from other versions of a doctorate in engineering, like a PhD in electrical engineering or a PhD in civil engineering. It in fact bears the most resemblance to a PhD in systems engineering.
A doctorate in engineering, in general, represents a holder's advanced knowledge of the procedures and techniques of engineering. But having a PhD in engineering management means something else. Instead of proving that the holder can work as an engineer, a PhD in engineering-management would prove that the holder can help manage a team of engineers, so that the team produces the best possible results.
A PhD in engineering management is thus about managing engineers. Engineering in general is about the application of certain principles in an attempt to achieve a particular goal, as opposed to the investigation of those principles and ideas directly (which is more classically put under the penumbra of "science"). A PhD in engineering management simply takes that mindset removes it one further step from the problem itself.
PhD in Engineering Management vs. Doctor of Business Administration
One of the primary issues surrounding engineering management PhD programs is the question of whether it makes sense to pursue them when other, similar degrees are already in existence, and may be more easily pursued. For example, a Doctor of Business Administration degree would fulfill many of the same purposes as a PhD in engineering management.
The question then becomes which degree to obtain. There are some advantages and disadvantages to each, but the answer for any given student will only come by examining the individual programs for each degree.
The main difference between such a business degree and a PhD in engineering management is that the PhD specifically concerns engineering, while the Doctor of Business Administration is more focused on business in general. As such the PhD would be better suited for individuals who are specifically planning on dealing with engineering projects and engineers.
Pre-requisites for a PhD in Engineering Management
Most programs will require students to have an undergraduate degree in order to apply for and attend a program in engineering management at the graduate level. Anyone interested in a PhD in engineering management should focus on studying math, science, and engineering throughout undergraduate college.
Studying business is also often a good idea for those interested in a PhD in engineering management, although ultimately, knowledge of engineering principles and techniques is often the most important prerequisite.