MEMs see high employment rates
By Kristin Yu
Published on Friday, October 14, 2011
As undergraduate students anxiously attend the College’s career fairs in search of jobs, students in the Thayer School of Engineering’s Master of Engineering Management degree program experience consistently high success rates in finding employment through a substantial support network operated through both Thayer and the Tuck School of Business, according to program administrators interviewed by The Dartmouth.
The MEM program, combines the principles of engineering with those of business management, has been dually run by Thayer and Tuck for approximately 20 years, according to program director Robert Graves.
Within four to 10 months of receiving their degrees, 95 percent of MEM program graduates secure employment, according to Associate Director of Thayer School Career Services Jennifer St. Laurence.
Graduates of the program have experienced tremendous success in landing jobs at companies such as Goldman Sachs and Parsons Brinckerhoff, according to Graves. Members of the Class of 2011 had an average starting salary of $71,908, which is $10,000 higher than the $61,142 starting salary of students with their Bachelors in Engineering degrees, according St. Laurence. Thayer Career Services offers help to all MEM candidates, in areas such as crafting cover letters and resumes.
Although the employment rates of graduate students sharply dropped during the recession, the rates of MEM student employment remained constant, according to Graves.
“During the economic downturn over the past four or five years, we’ve had better job placements than even our counterpart at Tuck,” MEM Associate Director Ross Gortner said. “The key to this was that the major loss in jobs for MBAs was with the finance and consulting jobs. When those positions disappeared, our MEM students were still able to sit here and say, ‘I’m an engineer and there are many companies that will want to hire me.’”
At the recession’s outset, there was a noticeable shift in the type of companies in which graduates found employment, according to Gortner.
“They were going back to their traditional engineering roots and working for the [General Electrics] or the IBMs and those kind of companies that had high value for the kind of engineering talent that was coming out of this program,” Gortner said.
With extra years of experience and wider skill sets, MEM graduates are more likely to be employed than other graduate students, according to Gortner.
“If you finish with your BE degree and you go to the career fair here at Dartmouth, even if you’re an outstanding student, you’re only one of 800 students that are graduating and are looking for similar kinds of jobs,” Gortner said. “Our MEM students can go to the same career fair a year later and can say, ‘Not only was I a stellar undergrad student, but look at all the other skills that I’ve obtained over the last year that my counterparts don’t have.’”
The reported success of the program may explain the recent spike in program applicants, Gortner said. Each class is capped at 50 students, but the applicant pool has been consistently growing by 20 percent over the past five years, according to Gortner.
“We admit students that are undergraduate engineers who are looking to add value to their possible career options and opportunities by increasing their knowledge about management topics,” Graves said. “The MEM program here has a core that is advanced engineering and a core that is management in its topical content.”
One of the program’s major assets is an 18-person advising group called the Corporate Collaboration Council, which is composed of individuals ranging from managers to chief executives of their respective businesses, according to Gortner.
“Some of the [members of the council] are MEM alums, some are Dartmouth alums, some have no affiliation,” Gortner said. “Each student is matched with a mentor to help find an internship and then potentially to find full-time jobs.”
The assistance that the council provides also makes the MEM program attractive to applicants, according to current MEM student Allison McKendry who will graduate this winter.
“It’s such an incredible resource to have, to have someone that is so successful that is willing to take an interest in your career and help you get where you’re going,” McKendry said. “They do a great job of teaching students how to go out and market yourself correctly, how to find the jobs that you’re suited for, and how to network correctly.”
MEM students take a variety of courses, including a professional development workshop course that focuses on business and engineering ethics as well as other relevant skills, according to Gortner.
“We hired a staff member that is actually an improv actor to teach how to think on your feet,” Gortner said. “Many engineers tend to be more on the introverted side, so when they get out into the business world, we’re trying to help them to be able to communicate.”
Program participants must also complete a culminating experience project, which is usually completed as a summer internship, Gortner said. At the conclusion of the internship, students must prepare a final report and presentation on their experience for a review board of business professionals and Thayer and Tuck faculty, according to Gortner.
“The students have to leave campus and go and work for a company in the form of an internship,” Gortner said. “They can’t just go to a company and make copies and serve coffee — it has to be an actual academic experience. When they present, whereas a Masters of Science student would have four professors on their review board, I get relevant people from the industry to sit and serve on those review boards.”
The MEM degree also indicates a dual interest in technical and financial work to prospective employers, according to current MEM student Derrick Kuan.
“It’s hard to get into business and show interest in it if you’re in engineering, so the program really helps people to show interest in that kind of field,” Kuan said.
By combining elements of the technological and economic realms of knowledge, the MEM program equips its students with skill sets that can be applied to a vast number of employment opportunities, Graves said.
“There’s evidence that shows that MEM students are more likely to advance faster in their organizations,” he said. “You have not only the technical knowledge, but also the management knowledge.”
Although MEM students have access to more resources and contacts for networking, the MEM program emphasizes the acquisition of knowledge above all else.
“Between Thayer’s own Career Services office and the Corporate Collaboration Council, MEMs have a lot of resources available to them, but at the end of the day, it’s going to be their skills that gets them the jobs,” Gortner said. “It’s not just about being able to crunch the numbers like a good engineer can, because it’s also about the softer things, being able to give a good presentation, being able to write a proper report for your boss — those are the things that can make or break a good student.”