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Engineering, science and data processing managers.

Engineering, Science, and Data Processing Managers

Engineering, science, and data processing managers plan, coordinate, and direct technical and scientific activities. They supervise a staff of engineers, scientists, or data processing workers who perform technical tasks.

Nature of the Work

Engineering, science, and data processing managers have jobs similar to those of other managers, although they must also be familiar with the duties of those they supervise. They determine scientific and technical goals within broad outlines provided by top management. These goals may include the design of a new line of products, improvements in manufacturing processes, or advances in basic scientific research. Managers make detailed plans for the accomplishment of these goals. For example, they develop the overall concepts of new products or identify promising areas of scientific research to investigate. The forecast costs and equipment and personnel needs for projects and programs. They assign scientists, engineers, or computer specialists to carry out specific parts of the projects, supervise their daily work, and review their designs, plans, and reports.

Managers coordinate the activities of their unit with other units or organizations. They confer with higher levels of management; with financial, industrial production, marketing, and other managers; and contractors and equipment suppliers. They establish procedures and policies for those who work for them and carry out procedures and policies set by others. Managers hire, train, and evaluate personnel under them.

Engineering managers supervise engineering activities in testing, production, operations, or maintenance; or plan and coordinate the design and development of machinery, products, systems, and processes. Many are plant engineers, directing and coordinating the maintenance, operation, design, and construction of equipment and machinery in industrial plants. Others manage research and development activities that produce new products and processes or improve existing ones.

Science managers oversee activities in agricultural science, chemistry, biology, geology, meteorology, or physics. They manage research and development projects and direct and coordinate testing, quality control, and production activities in industrial plants.

Electronic data processing managers direct, plan, and coordinate data processing activities. Top level managers direct all computer-related activities in an organization. Others manage computer operations, software development, or data bases. They determine the data processing requirements of their organization and assign, schedule, and review the work of systems analysts, computer programmers, and computer operators.

Some engineering, science, and data processing managers head a section of perhaps 5 to 10 or more scientists, engineers, or computer professionals. Above them are heads of divisions composed of a number of sections, with as many as 50 scientists or engineers. A few are directors of large laboratories or directors of research or data processing.

Earnings and Working conditions

Earnings for engineering, science, and data processing managers vary by specialty and level of management. Salaries in 1988 ranged from about $40,000 to over $100,000 for the most senior managers in large organizations. Managers generally earned about 15 to 25 percent more than those they supervised. The average salary for Federal science and engineering managers was $54,900 in 1988.

Engineering, science, and data processing managers, especially those at higher levels, are often provided more fringe benefits than nonmangerial workers in their organizations. Higher level managers are often provided with expense accounts, stock option plans, and bonuses.

Engineering, science, and data processing managers spend most of their time in an office. Some managers also work in laboratories or industrial plants, however, where they may occasionally be exposed to the same conditions as production workers. Those in construction may spend part of their time at construction sites. Most work at least 40 hours a week and may work longer on occasion to meet project deadlines. Some may experience considerable pressure to meet technical or scientific goals within a short time or within a tight budget.

Qualifications and Advancement

Experience as an engineer, mathematician, scientist, or computer professional is the usual requirement for becoming an engineering, science, or data processing manager. Consequently, educational requirements are similar to those for scientists, engineers, and data processing professionals.

Engineering managers start as engineers. A bachelor's degree in engineering from an accredited engineering program is acceptable for beginning engineering jobs, but many engineers increase their chances for promotion to manager by obtaining a master's degree in engineering or business administration. A degree in business administration or engineering management is especially useful for becoming a general manager.

Science managers usually start as a chemist, physicist, biologist, or other natural scientist. A large proportion of scientists have a Ph.D. degree, especially those engaged in basic research, although some in applied research and other activities have lesser degrees. First level science managers are almost always specialists in the work they supervise. For example, the manager of a group of physicists doing optical research is almost always a physicist who is an expert in optics.

Most data processing managers have been systems analysts, although some may have experience only as programmers or in other computer specialties. There is no universally accepted way of preparing for a job as a systems analyst, but a bachelor's degree is usually required. A graduate degree often is preferred. Many systems analysts have degrees in computer or information science, computer information systems, or data processing; many started as computer programmers. A typical career advancement progression in a large organization would be from programmer, to programmer/analyst, to systems analyst, and then to project leader or senior analyst. The first managerial position might be as project manager, programming supervisor, systems supervisor, or software manager.

Experienced scientists, engineers, or computer specialists generally must demonstrate above-average technical skills to be considered for promotion to manager. In addition, superiors look for leadership, good communication skills, self-confidence, motivation, decisiveness, and flexibility, as well as managerial attributes such as the ability to make sound decisions, organize and coordinate work effectively, establish good personal relationships, and motivate others. Also, a successful manager must have the desire to manage. Many scientists, engineers, and computer specialists want to be promoted but actually prefer doing technical work.

Some science and engineering managers become managers in marketing, personnel, purchasing, or other areas or become general managers.

Employment and Outlook

Engineering, science, and data processing managers held about 258,000 jobs in 1988. Although these managers are found in almost all industries, almost half are employed in manufacturing, especially in the electrical and electronic equipment, transportation equipment, and chemicals industries. They also work for engineering, architectural, and computer and data processing services companies and business and management consulting firms, as well as government, colleges, universities, and nonprofit research organizations. The majority are engineering managers, often managing industrial research, development, and design projects.

Employment of engineering and science managers is expected to increase much faster than the average for all occupations through the year 2000. Employment growth of each type of manager is expected to correspond closely with growth of the occupation they supervise. The outlook for many of these occupations is in the Occupational Outlook Handbook, which is available in libraries and counselors' offices.

Underlying much of the employment growth of managers in science and engineering is the expected continued growth of research and development as companies improve and update products more frequently. Increasing investment in plants to expand output of goods and services and to increase productivity will also increase the need for science and engineering managers to be involved in developing, designing, operating, and maintaining production facilities. The development of new technologies, such as superconductivity and biotechnology, and efforts to develop new products using these technologies, will also increase the demand for these managers.

Employment of data processing managers will increase as the economy expands and as advances in technology lead to new applications for computers.

Despite this rapid growth in employment, most job openings will result from the need to replace workers who leave the occupation.

Because many engineers, scientists, and computer specialists are eligible for management positions, competition for these jobs is usually substantial.

Related Occupations and

Additional Information

The work of engineering, science, and data processing managers is closely related to that of engineers, natural scientists, computer personnel, and mathematicians. It is also related to the work of other managers, especially general managers and top executives.

A number of engineering-related organizations provide information on engineering careers. JETS-guidance serves as a central distribution point for information from many of these organizations. To receive an order form, write

JETS-guidance 1420 King Street, Suite 405 Alexandria, VA 22314.

Enclose a stamped, self-addressed, business-size envelope.

General information on careers in biological science is available from

American Institute of Biological Sciences 730 11th Street NW. Washington, DC 20001-4584.

General information on career opportunities for chemists is available from

American Chemical Society Career Services 1155 16th Street NW. Washington, DC 20036.

General information on career opportunities in physics is available from

American Institute of Physics 335 East 45th Street NewYork, NY 10017.

Further information about the occupation of systems analyst is available from

Association for Systems Management 24587 Bagley Road Cleveland, OH 44138

Many other sources of information on careers in engineering, science, and data processing are listed in the Occupational Outlook Handbook.

Douglas Braddock is a labor economist in the Division of Occupational Outlook, BLS.
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Author:Braddock, Douglas
Publication:Occupational Outlook Quarterly
Date:Dec 22, 1989
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