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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.

Engineering, science, and data processing managers 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 may develop the overall concepts of new products or identify promising scientific research areas to investigate. They 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 with 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, operations, 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.

Natural 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. Engineering, science, and 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 15 to 50 scientists or engineers. A few are directors of large laboratories or directors of research or data processing.

Working Conditions

Engineering, science, and data processing managers spend most of their time in an office. some managers, however, may also work in laboratories or industrial plants, 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 much longer on occasion to meet project deadlines. Some may experience considerable pressure to meet technical or scientific goals within short time or within a tight budget.


Engineering, science, and data processing managers held about 260,000 jobs in 1990. 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 career and management consulting firms as well as for government, colleges and universities, and nonprofit research organizations. The majority are engineering managers, often managing industrial research, development, and design projects.

Training, Other Qualifications, and Advancement

Experience as an engineer, mathematician, natural scientist, or computer professional is the usual requirement for becoming an engineering, science, and 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 career administration. A degree in career administration or engineering management is especially useful for becoming a general manager.

Natural science managers usually start as a chemist, physicist, biologist, or other natural scientist. A large proportion of natural 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 as programmers or in other computer specialties. There is no universally accepted way of preparing for a job as a system 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 and have experience 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 real 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, superior 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, to organize and coordinate work effectively, to establish good personal relationships, and to 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.

Job Outlook

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.

Underlying much of the growth of managers in science and engineering is the expected continued growth of research and development as companies update and improve products more frequently. Increasing investment in plants to expand output of goods and services and to increase productivity also will add to employment requirements for science and engineering managers involved in developing, designing, operating, and maintaining production facilities. The development of new technologies such as superconductivity and biotechnology also will add to efforts to develop new products using these technologies. 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, natural scientists, and computer specialists are eligible for management and seek promotion, there usually is substantial competition for these jobs.


Earnings for engineering, science, and data processing managers vary by specialty and level of management. Salaries in 1990 ranged from about $42,400 to over $106,000 for the most senior managers in large organizations. Managers generally earned about 15 to 25 percent more than those they directly supervised.

The average salary for Federal science and engineering managers was $58,200 in 1990.

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

Related Occupations

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.

Sources of Additional Information

Career Report on systems analysts are an excellent source of additional information.


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