Why Engineers Should Develop Project Management Skills

Last updated: Mar 7, 2023

Have you ever considered all the moving parts it takes for a project to be successfully completed?


Engineering teams rely on strong leadership, communication, and management to ensure projects are completely on schedule and within budget. Developing project management skills is essential for engineers who want to skillfully lead successful projects, become more efficient, and add value to their organization.


What is Engineering Project Management?

Engineering project management uses project management methodologies and processes to manage all aspects of projects, including scheduling, purchasing of materials, approval of plan documentation, and budget and cost management. Effective project management ensures work is delivered to specification, completed on schedule and within or below budget, and follows all regulatory or legal requirements.


6 Benefits of Studying Project Management for Engineers

There are many ways that gaining project management knowledge can benefit engineers.


6. Improve Efficiency

Studying project management allows engineers to learn the processes, procedures, and language to improve project planning, delivery, and handover. Since you’ll have a better understanding of how projects operate, including the phases of project management, you’ll be able to find areas of improvement and opportunity.


“Almost all functions in a company benefit from project management skills, and particularly engineers,” according to Tracie Thompson, PMP, Corporate Director of Project Management, Systems Company GM, L3 Harris Technologies.

“While engineers specialize in the technical scope and requirements of a program, development of skills in decomposition of work scope, budgeting, scheduling with required constraints, risk and opportunity management, and change control will not only advance their skills but ensure successful program execution. Successful program execution results in career advancement and positions with increased responsibility. It also improves efficiency and allows focus on the specific requirements of the programs. At many companies, basic project management skills are required for most engineers to advance, particularly system engineers.”

A project manager displaying his management skills.

5. Gain a Common Operating Language

Studying project management will provide you with a common operating language and vision for how project management is conducted. You can make informed decisions and communicate with the project managers and leaders in your organization. Additionally, you’ll have the knowledge to review past projects to see how they could be improved by applying the structure outlined by leading project management organizations like the Project Management Institute (PMI).


4. Replicate Success

Instead of reinventing the wheel for every single project, creating templates, checklists, and standard operating procedures (SOPs) allows you to repeat success without starting from scratch for every project. Creating a flexible SOP that you can apply to multiple projects will help you standardize the majority of needed tasks from one project to the next, so that you can work smarter, not harder.


3. Go Beyond Execution

Once you create a standard framework for project management that you execute consistently, you’ll have time to focus on areas of opportunity, such as monitoring the project’s key performance indicators, communicating more with the client, and conducting risk assessments, according to Thompson.

“When [engineers] fully understand the scope, schedule, and budget of a project, along with the quality and technical requirements, it allows for better identification of risks and opportunities for project success. The ability to escalate that risk, identify and manage change, and develop corrective action for variances to the plan relate directly to on time delivery and quality and therefore future business. Satisfied customers return. Minimizing change, managing schedule and risks results in lower program costs and therefore more profit.”

Two engineers working together on a project.

2. Deliver Value to Your Organization and Clients

The goal of project management is to ensure that projects are executed on schedule, within scope and budget, and deliver value to the customer. Mastering the tools and techniques means you’ll be able to be consistent, which is a huge asset as an engineer.

According to Christian Knutson, an engineer who earned his Project Management Professional (PMP) certification, “Once you become consistent in the way you manage your projects, the people you work with will become increasingly confident in your ability to organize, execute and succeed. From an engineering career standpoint, being consistently effective is a major asset.”


1. Advance Your Career

Developing project management skills is a great way to advance your engineering career for several reasons.


First, developing project management skills provides you with a foundation of leadership, communication, and strategic assessment knowledge that positions you for leadership roles on your team and organization, whether that’s becoming a senior engineer, director, or higher.


Also, studying project management can allow you to pursue engineering project manager roles, which can be a great next step for engineers looking to lead project teams.


Finally, project management skills are applicable across all industries, so studying them means you can move to a different company or even another industry if you want a career change.


Project Management for Engineers

USF Corporate Training and Professional Education’s Project Management for Engineers workshop allows engineers to build a foundation for effective project management. In this fully self-paced course, you'll learn how to lead successful projects, earn organizational buy-in for your decisions, and gain a workbook of tools to guide you in every step of the project management process.


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