Master of Mechanical Engineering and Master of Engineering Management: What’s the Difference?

The differences between a Master of Mechanical Engineering and a Master of Engineering Management can be confusing. Compare each degree and learn which master's is best for you.

Mechanical engineering manager working alongside engineers in industrial engineering setting

If you want better opportunities in your engineering career, obtaining an advanced degree can be the first step. Both a Master of Mechanical Engineering and a Master of Engineering Management and Leadership can be beneficial to engineers who want to expand their roles and salaries, but the degree program you choose will depend on your desired career trajectory.

An on-campus or online Master of Mechanical Engineering may be best for those who want to focus on the technical and hands-on aspects of mechanical engineering. An on-campus or online Master of Engineering Management and Leadership may be better suited for aspiring leaders who want a role that blends business and technical considerations. In this post, you’ll learn about the similarities and differences between the two degrees so you can make an informed decision before enrolling in a program.

Industry 4.0 has changed the engineering landscape. Engineers are more commonly relying on and utilizing advanced technologies like big data, machine learning, artificial intelligence, and virtual reality to perform their jobs. As Industry 4.0 technologies grow, it’s becoming more common for engineers to take part in C-Suite and executive-level meetings and positions, helping inform business and product strategies. This puts skills like communication, financial optimization, business acumen, and collaboration at the forefront of many engineering positions. Rice University’s degree programs help prepare you for this dynamic landscape to position you as an Industry 4.0 leader.

What is a Master of Mechanical Engineering?

Rice University has 11 graduate engineering specialty programs ranked in the Top 30 programs in the U.S. by the U.S. News & World Report 2023, and our mechanical engineering specialty ranks at #29 on the list. Our Master of Mechanical Engineering program will build on your undergraduate education to prepare you for more challenging roles in mechanical engineering. It’s a graduate degree geared toward students who want to advance their hands-on employment opportunities. You’ll hone valuable skills like problem-solving and critical thinking while gaining advanced knowledge pertaining to your chosen specialty.

With a specialty in mechanical engineering, you’ll have the opportunity to study concepts like fluid mechanics, heat transfer, statics and structural dynamics, solid mechanics, material properties analysis, and the design and control of mechanical systems. On-campus Master of Mechanical Engineering (MME) students at Rice will also gain hands-on experience with real-world challenges, as well as networking opportunities and expansion of soft skills like communication. You’ll be able to choose courses that align with your desired area of study, tailoring your education to your career goals.

For either an on-campus or online Master of Mechanical Engineering degree, you should have completed an undergraduate degree and earned a strong GPA (3.0 or above, though requirements vary by program). Some programs require your undergraduate degree to be in a related field, like engineering or math. You’re usually encouraged to submit recent GRE scores, and working experience in a relevant engineering position is often not necessary. Rice University also requests two official letters of recommendation from figures who are familiar with your academic performance.

What is a Master of Engineering Management?

A Master of Engineering Management and Leadership degree prepares engineers for management and leadership roles in their field by imparting technical engineering skills, soft leadership skills, and business and financial knowledge.

Engineering managers are responsible for overseeing one or more engineering teams and their projects, ensuring that work is done correctly and efficiently and that each team has the resources needed to succeed. While exact responsibilities may vary by business or position, engineering managers generally perform tasks like creating schedules, allocating resources, assisting with troubleshooting and design, and proposing new products. They’re also responsible for acting as liaisons between their teams and upper management, communicating aspects like project value, employee performance, issues that have arisen, and data-informed product or business strategy decisions.

Rice’s Master of Engineering & Leadership program sets itself apart from other programs by preparing students to enter the world of Industry 4.0, which will require an understanding of techniques and technologies like data analysis, cloud computing, automation, robotics, machine learning, and additive manufacturing. In today’s world of engineering, you’ll need to have a firm grasp on Industry 4.0 technologies for tasks like enhancing efficiency through software and algorithms, using programs to create virtual models of products, and leveraging data to inform product strategies and features.

Those who want to become engineering managers will need to earn a bachelor’s degree in engineering or a related field and gain hands-on experience in an engineering role. As you work and gain experience, you should build on your knowledge by completing MOOC or other skills-based continuing education programs to earn certificates related to your field. This helps create strong foundational knowledge that prepares you for the next step: completing a master’s program in engineering management, like Rice’s Master of Engineering Management & Leadership program (MEML@Rice).

Compare Mechanical Engineering Masters and Engineering Management Master's Degrees

To determine the degree path that’s best suited for your career aspirations, you should have a thorough understanding of the differences between a Master of Mechanical Engineering degree and a Master of Engineering Management. Simply put, a Master of Mechanical Engineering degree is an industry-specific advanced degree that expands your technical skillset and knowledge to make you a stronger and more capable engineer, preparing you for advanced roles like a senior mechanical systems engineer. MEML@Rice is valuable for engineers in any industry, and it builds technical, business, financial and soft skill sets to prepare you for engineering leadership roles like senior engineering manager.

The chart below breaks down these and other differences between a Master of Mechanical Engineering and a Master of Engineering Management & Leadership at Rice.

Differences between a Master of Mechanical Engineering and a Master of Engineering Management & Leadership at Rice University

Master of Mechanical Engineering (MME) Master of Engineering Management & Leadership (MEML)
Undergraduate Experience Bachelor’s degree in engineering required Bachelor’s degree in engineering strongly recommended; program may consider other related majors like computer science or math
Delivery Format (Modality) On-campus only On-campus or 100% online
Work Experience Relevant work experience not required, but resume may be requested Relevant work experience strongly recommended
Curriculum Depth: graduate students delve deeper into the technical aspects of mechanical engineering Breadth: graduate students get a broad, generalist view of engineering management, leadership, project management, product, automation and digital transformation for Industry 4.0, and more
Duration Varies by program and enrollment status, but generally takes full-time students 1-2 years to complete Varies by program and enrollment status, but generally takes full-time students 1-1.5 years to complete and part-time students 1.5-2 years
Career Outcomes Advanced technical engineering roles in mechanical engineering or systems engineering Senior management and leadership roles across engineering practice areas, often with an increase in salary

See if Rice University's Master of Engineering Management & Leadership is Right For You

If you’re ready to elevate your engineering career, connect with a Rice Enrollment Coach using the form above to learn more about applying to MEML@Rice.

Rice MEML program becomes 1 of only 9 programs to earn distinguished ASEM Certification.

Learn More About MEML@Rice

If you’re ready to take the next step to advance your career, fill out the form to connect with a Rice Enrollment Coach.