MBA or MS: An engineer's dilemma

HIGHER EDUCATION

MBA or MS: An engineer's dilemma

TO BE OR NOT TO BE An engineering degree,  along with an MBA, is a combination that is much sought-after in the industry.

In India, engineering is one of the most sought-after careers. In fact, India has approximately 214 engin-eers per million people. There are about five-and-a-half lakh sanctioned seats (including the number of seats in IITs) for undergraduate education in engineering. A research, published by the Observer Research Foundation, estim-ates that the growth rate in the number of graduate engineers is one of the highest in India. This growth rate of 9.7% (per annum) is much higher than that of China’s 7.6% and way ahead of those of the US, UK and Japan.

However, there are some disturbing aspects as well. Research also estimates that around 30% of fresh engineering graduates are unemployed even one year after they have graduated. Besides, many believe the quality of Engineering education at postgraduate and doctoral levels isn’t up to the mark, and leaves a lot to be desired. Quite often, the criticism forwarded against postgraduate engin-eering education is that it does not make a student readily employable.  

Given this backdrop, there is a vast majority of engineers who want to study further but face a dilemma not knowing whether to go for technical or management education. The choice, more often than not, boils down to choosing between an MS/MTech or an MBA. This MS/MTech versus MBA choice is unnerving for even the most prudent of students since both the options have their fair share of rewards and challenges. The fact that a huge number of these students lack work experience, at the time when this MS/MTech versus MBA choice has to be made, adds to the dilemma.

In such a scenario, it is vital for a student to weigh his options well so that he/she takes the right decision. Hence an in-depth understanding of career prospects after both MS/MTech and MBA becomes almost imperative.

On one hand, MS/MTech is a lucrative option for someone with a technical bent of mind. It is for students who aspire to become technical specialists. The MS/MTech programme involves developing an in-depth understanding of Engineering and technical side of business.  The choice of exams depends on whether one wants to pursue the programme in India or abroad.

An MS/MTech is a gateway to careers in industry, research and academics. The degree paves the way for technical positions in designing, development, maintenance, testing, manufacturing and production. These positions exist in organisations that require experts who have the know-how to design and manage specialised high technology systems and processes.

As a person becomes experienced, he/she can look forward to be in a supervisory role such as that of a project manager or a project leader. However, one can also decide to remain firmly rooted in research and development or to even get into technical training and consulting.

On the other hand, MBA provides a near perfect oppo-rtunity to a technical graduate looking to broaden his horizons and expand his sphere of learning. Engineering (techni-cal education) along with an MBA (management education) makes a patent combination that is much sought-after in the industry.

Organisations are constantly on the look out for engineers who not only have technical skills but also management skills. These engineers add immense value to an organisation by providing it with a synergistic blend of techno-managerial expertise that is required to manage several key organisational functions. An MBA goes a long way in improving an engineer’s employability. It opens up new vistas where an engineer can leverage his/her technical skills and take up a rewarding and challenging career.

An MBA provides an engineer with the skill set to enter into diverse fields such as Equity Research, Investment Banking, Operations Manag-ement, Supply Chain Manag-ement, Management Cons-ulting, Business Planning & Strategy, Marketing, Brand Management, etc. A number of organisations prefer recruiting from B-schools, those MBA graduates who have an Engineering background.

An MBA, with its greater emphasis on soft skills as compared to an MS/MTech, is also instrumental in putting an engineer’s career on a high growth path. The learning in an MBA complements the learning that an engineer goes through during  the undergr-aduate programme. These are some of the reasons why so many engineers prefer to apply for B-school entrance tests such as CAT, XAT, FMS, IIFT, etc. It is a well known fact that a lion's share of B-school students are engineers. According to CSR-GHRDC B-school survey, 2010 the percentage of engineers in some of the top Indian B-schools are:

*Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad, Gujarat - 92.9

*Indian Institute of Management - Calcutta, Kolkata, West Bengal - 93.9

*XLRI, Jamshedpur, Jharkhand - 87.5

*Management Development Institute, Gurgaon, Haryana - 90.0

*Jamnalal Bajaj Institute of Management Studies, Mumbai, Maharashtra - 81.0
It is difficult to mistake the greater popularity of an MBA vis-à-vis an MS or an MTech. Even IITs and institutes like NITIE have started their own postgraduate programmes in management, designed specifically for engineering graduates. These progra-mmes have fast become popular and receive a huge number of applications for admissions.

Whereas, on the other hand, there is a steep decline in the number of students who take up engineering at postgraduate and doctoral levels. About only 1 per cent of BTech students in an IIT opt to study for an MTech in India. Out of approximately 30,000 seats sanctioned by the AICTE for postgraduate degrees in Engineering, a large number remains unfilled.

The Rama Rao Committee, appointed for the review of postgraduate engineering education in India, has reported that the ratio of the output to the sanctioned number of seats for postgraduation in engineering (MTech/ME) varied from 0.48 to 0.6 in previous studies.

Nevertheless, the decision to opt for an MBA or MTech must be taken only after looking at one’s career goals, capabilities, interests, strengths and weaknesses. It should not be taken by focusing only on the popularity of a programme or the demand and supply dynamics of the job environment.

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