The traditional engineering career has been defined by two career paths: technical and managerial. An entry level engineer typically did not elect his/her career path until at least five years into a career. This meant that only a portion of engineers needed to learn management and leadership skills and then usually not until in the professional environment. Since this career distinction was not made until years into an engineer's professional life universities were not developing leadership/management skills in their students. Times have changed. With the globalization of the economy, and the increased competition in the marketplace, companies have realized that they need entry level engineers that are capable of working on multi-functional and multi-cultural teams,leading small work groups, and understanding the business and societal impact of engineering decisions. These skills are so critical that every engineer, regardless of their chosen track will need them to have a successful career. Universities are now being pressured to develop these skills in all of their engineering students. The purpose of this study was to gain a better understanding of the difficulties experienced by engineers as they transition into formal management positions in order to help universities and industry direct their efforts in the development of key leadership/management skills. The survey used for this study was centered on two works of research. The first is research conducted by Allen Howard for his PhD dissertation in which he identifies 9 common points of difficulty, or pain points, experienced by engineers transitioning into management. The second is a managerial aptitude test developed by Hans Thamhain. The survey was distributed to 220 engineering managers at a large engineering company. The results of the survey were statistically analyzed and significant results were found among a number of factors. Among the independent variables found to significantly affect the transition were engineering discipline, graduate degrees, one's managerial aptitude, the reason one chose to enter management, and graduation year. Perhaps the most beneficial result is that one pain point was found to be highly correlated to every other pain point.



College and Department

Ira A. Fulton College of Engineering and Technology; Technology



Date Submitted


Document Type





leadership, management, transition, engineer, difficulty



Technology Emphasis

Manufacturing Systems (MS)