Online Engineering Management Master’s Degree at University of Idaho Interview

University of Idaho’s program teaches the business side of engineering

Program Description:

“The Engineering Management Program at University of Idaho is a multi-disciplinary master’s degree level program offered online via distance education. This program is designed for engineering professionals moving into technical management roles. Students will explore the analytical, technical, and human resource aspects of managing in a technical environment. Students will have the opportunity to expand their knowledge in their chosen field of expertise through courses in multiple departments, thus providing broad flexibility to focus the design of their program.” Sandy Lieske Assistant Professor and Program Coordinator 

Where is it: Online, based in Moscow, Idaho with centers in Idaho Falls and Boise.

Format: Online although some courses are offered in a live format

Degree you get: Engineering Management – M. Engr.

Size of the Program: ~50 current students

Number of credit hours: 30 credits

And that will take how long? 4 years depending on the number of credits taken each semester

When does it run:  Start on any term. Complete enrolled courses by end of term.

Fees: $20,000 – $25,000

Minimum Admission Requirements:

  • Transcripts, GPA +3.0
  • Essay
  • Resume
  • Letters of Reference
  • TOEFL, 79

Not Required

  • GRE

Who should take it?

  • Managers new to their position
  • Engineers looking to develop skills in engineering management and leadership
  • Target audience: Working professionals with an engineering background (5 years of work experience, about 25-35 years of age)

Claim to fame:

  • Course selection is flexible: 4 required courses and various electives customized for various disciplines
  • Choice of comprehensive exam or capstone projects


Sandy Lieske, Program Coordinator of the graduate level Engineering Management (EM) program at the University of Idaho (U of Idaho), is no stranger to distance education. She achieved her second Master’s degree in Management of Technology 19 years ago through distance education when the concept was relatively new. This makes her a good fit to run this distance learning program today.

Sandy Lieske, Program Coordinator of the MEM program at U of Idaho. Image Courtesy of Lifetouch.









“The advantages are clear,” said Lieske. “It’s difficult to go to campus as a full time working professional, you may not have the time, or you may live too far away. The EM program reaches working professionals all around the world.  I even had a student deployed in the Middle East last semester.”

Even for the classes that are offered live, Lieske explains local students still tend to choose the online version due to the flexibility it offers. This is clearly a program for the working world.  To that end, the program’s target audience are managers who may be relatively new to their position or engineers looking to broaden or refresh skills in engineering management and leadership. This typically, but not always, means a professional with around 5 years of work experience between the ages of 25-30.

If you are planning to enroll in an EM program, Lieske suggests that you integrate your work experience with your assignments wherever possible to leverage course material into the workplace.  However, not every student is employed while they are taking the course and must therefore be assigned topics.

Basing the assignments on workplace examples has the added benefit of making each report fundamentally different (to curb cheating). However, it does create more marking hours for the professors.

One strength to the U of Idaho program is the flexibility of the course selection. “The only required courses are Statistical Analysis, Enterprise Accounting, Engineering and Technology Management Fundamentals, and Leadership and Organization Behaviour. The remaining courses taken are quantitative and qualitative electives focused on both engineering management and traditional engineering discipline areas.  Our program, by design, is multi-disciplinary and we partner with departments across the University to offer classes for our program,” said Lieske.

Much of the content is recorded lectures. U of Idaho ensures that the lectures are re-recorded on a regular basis to ensure they are fresh. That’s good since there is nothing worse than a 30 year old instructional video featuring cardigans and horn-rimmed glasses.

“Lecture slides, the syllabus, discussion boards, and assignments can all be delivered online on U of Idaho’s online platform BBLearn. Each instructor can change the format of BBLearn to better suit their course and students,” noted Lieske

“If one-on-one assistance is needed then students are encouraged to pick up the phone and call the instructor. Students can work on the course at their own pace, although many courses do have regular due dates for assignments and exams that are published at the start of the semester.  Professors do work with students when flexibility is required on due dates,” assures Lieske.

One possible setup of U of Idaho’s online platform, BBLearn.

However, learning from a strictly online format does have its drawbacks. When Lieske took her distance classes, “it was structured as a cohort program.  Students in the program got together three times per year at the start of each trimester.  Now, however, there is often a lack of community in online education as students do not have the opportunity to meet one another. U of Idaho is working to improve on this issue. One approach is to use course discussion boards as a way to get students interacting on specific.   It is key for us to engage the students more.”

When asked what separates an EM degree from an MBA, Lieske suggests that “in my 32 years at HP, prior to U of Idaho, there were successful engineering leaders with MBAs as well as those with EM degrees.  From my perspective, an EM program is a unique way to focus on individuals with engineering backgrounds who want to improve and expand upon their leadership capabilities.  Our program still includes a few topics you may find in a typical MBA program but is much more focused on leveraging and extending our students technical backgrounds.”

For those keeping up with the 2013 survey by WCET, and who are worried about the quality control and accessibility for those with disability experienced by some online courses, Lieske assures that U of Idaho is on the right end of the curve.

“The department undergoes assessments every year based on goals set and results achieved for the year. We see how the program has affected our graduates in their field and continuously work to improve our courses. Standards do exist for our courses and they are changed when needed.  We have regular communication with our students and are often able to provide flexibility in case of emergencies which are impacting the student’s ability to finish an assignment or course.  Most of our students are working professionals and we understand that family and work often must take priority.”

Why would you not get an EM from U of Idaho:

  • You are unsure you will have the time to complete a course before the end of each term
  • You want a more socially engaging experience


Core Courses:

  • EM 510 Engineering Management Fundamentals (3 cr)
  • BUS 513 Leadership and Organizational Behavior (3 cr)
  • ACCT 582 Enterprise Accounting (3 cr)
  • STAT 401 Statistical Analysis (3 cr)


Quantitative Electives:

  • 500 level engineering courses focusing on quantitative analysis of subject


Qualitative Electives:

  • EM 486 Software Assisted Project Management
  • BUS 456/504 Quality Management
  • BUS 531 Design for Six Sigma
  • BLAW 420 Commercial Law
  • CE 482 Project Engineering
  • Stat 446 Six Sigma Innovation
  • ME 552 High Tech Entrepreneurship
  • ME 577 Design for Manufacture and Assembly
Written by

Shawn Wasserman

For over 10 years, Shawn Wasserman has informed, inspired and engaged the engineering community through online content. As a senior writer at WTWH media, he produces branded content to help engineers streamline their operations via new tools, technologies and software. While a senior editor at, Shawn wrote stories about CAE, simulation, PLM, CAD, IoT, AI and more. During his time as the blog manager at Ansys, Shawn produced content featuring stories, tips, tricks and interesting use cases for CAE technologies. Shawn holds a master’s degree in Bioengineering from the University of Guelph and an undergraduate degree in Chemical Engineering from the University of Waterloo.