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Program Manager vs. Engineering Manager: What Are the Differences?

Learn about the two careers and review some of the similarities and differences between them.

A career in management can offer many opportunities for growth and development. If you’re interested in working in this field, you may be wondering what the difference is between a program manager and an engineering manager. Both positions require strong leadership skills and the ability to motivate a team, but there are key distinctions between the two. In this article, we discuss the similarities and differences between these two management positions.

What is a Program Manager?

Program Managers are responsible for the coordination and completion of projects within the guidelines of budget, schedule and scope. They oversee all aspects of a project from start to finish and ensure that all team members are on track to meet deadlines. They also develop and implement quality control procedures to ensure that the final product meets all standards. Program Managers typically work in an office setting, but they may also travel to meet with clients or vendors. They typically report to an Executive or Senior Manager.

What is an Engineering Manager?

Engineering Managers are responsible for leading and overseeing a team of engineers to ensure that they are meeting deadlines, working efficiently and producing high-quality work. They collaborate with other managers to plan and execute projects. Engineering Managers also develop budgets and timelines for projects and track progress to ensure that projects stay on schedule and within budget. They report to upper management on the status of projects and make recommendations for improvements. Engineering Managers typically have a background in engineering and experience working on engineering projects.

Program Manager vs. Engineering Manager

Here are the main differences between a program manager and an engineering manager.

Job Duties

Both program and engineering managers help their teams create new products, services and technologies. They may do this by creating goals for their teams and departments, then helping employees reach those goals by assigning tasks, providing feedback and overseeing projects until completion. Another key difference is the type of tasks these two roles typically assign to their teams. Program managers often assign tasks related to the overall product or process, while engineering managers usually assign technical tasks that engineers use to improve their skills and create better products.

Job Requirements

Program managers and engineering managers typically need a bachelor’s degree in business administration, engineering or another related field. Some employers prefer candidates to have a master’s degree as well, but it is not required for entry-level positions. Additionally, many program managers and engineering managers pursue certifications through the Project Management Institute (PMI) or the American Society for Quality (ASQ). These organizations offer training programs that teach professionals how to use project management software and other tools they might need on the job.

Work Environment

Both program and engineering managers work in office settings, but they may also travel to visit their teams or clients. Engineering managers often spend more time on the job working with engineers than other employees. They may also need to be available for emergencies that occur at all hours of the day.

Program managers typically have a lot of interaction with clients and stakeholders, so they may spend more time traveling than an engineering manager. They may also need to attend meetings and events where they can promote their programs.


There are several similarities in the skills used by program managers and engineering managers. Both roles require excellent communication skills, as they need to be able to coordinate with different teams and individuals to ensure that projects are on track. They also both need to have strong organizational skills to keep track of deadlines, budget and other important details.

However, there are some differences in the skills required for these two positions. Engineering managers typically need to have a more in-depth knowledge of engineering concepts and principles, as they need to be able to understand the work their team is doing and provide guidance when necessary. They may also benefit from having project management experience, as they will often be responsible for overseeing multiple projects at one time.

Program managers usually need to have a more comprehensive understanding of business concepts and processes, as they are often responsible for developing programs that meet the needs of the company. They also need to be able to manage people effectively, as they will often be working with teams of employees to implement programs.


Program managers earn an average salary of $95,919 per year, while engineering managers earn an average salary of $127,339 per year. Both of these salaries can vary depending on the size of the company, the location of the job and the level of experience the manager has.


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