Manufacturing jobs have changed. In the past, there were those who created the rather rudimentary machines and many more who operated them or worked on the supply chain. These jobs do still exist, but they have largely been exported to other countries, leaving those in the United States of America and other similar countries with a conundrum.
The good news is that manufacturing encompasses so many different fields and so many different processes. If you want to either future-proof your career or are looking for a way to advance your manufacturing role, then one of the best ways to do either is with a master’s degree. Investing in management and business skills opens up a host of opportunities for you and allows you to work in a top-down capacity to bring products and materials to life.
To help you understand first what masters will be best suited for your goals, and also how to manage that degree while continuing to work, follow these top tips:
Understand What Role Suits You Best
There are so many different roles within manufacturing, and understanding precisely what role suits you best, not just in terms of what sounds great but also what will support your health and wellness the best as well, is key to success. You may like the idea of being in a high-powered, fast-paced position because of the prestige that comes with that role, but not be able to keep up with the demands it requires.
Finding the job that you love doing, that feels rewarding, and that pays the most is a great way to really customize your career. It doesn’t have to be glamorous, either. Manufacturing means working in every field, and bringing great ideas to life. Whether you work as an engineer, an operator, or a manager, all roles are very important.
To help you understand what role suits you best you should ask yourself these questions:
1. What Scope Suits Me?
Some prefer to work slowly, using artisan techniques that allow you to really dedicate your time and attention to the product that you are making. Others prefer to work on the digital side of things and create the framework. Others still prefer to work in a high-paying role, like in manufacturing management. It depends on what scope interests you the most. Some put their own wellness as a priority and want to find something that really helps them feel happy. Others are looking for a challenge that sees results and, most importantly, pays well.
2. What Are My Goals?
It is perfectly acceptable to choose a job just because the value is great. Being paid well for something you find simple is a great goal, as it allows you to be paid properly without overloading yourself. Others want to work in what they are passionate about. It all depends on your goals. If making money and being able to better provide for yourself or your family is your goal, then the jobs in manufacturing you are looking at will differ than if you want to really engage with the manufacturing process.
3. Where Can I Take the Role?
One of the steady truths you need to accept is that things change. The role in question may change, but more often than not, it is you that will change. Perhaps you will want to move on or move up, or perhaps even redirect your career in a new field. Regardless of how you change, it is key to continuously stay up to date with how you can take your career further and also what you will need to get there.
For example, if you want to move from the manufacturing floor to upper management, especially if you see very obvious ways that the entire process can become safer and more efficient, then there are very useful management degrees out there that can help you with those goals.
Choosing the Right Master’s Program
Understanding more about the role that suits you and what you want to do with your career can help you choose the right master’s program. Before you enroll, however, always get in touch with a course advisor and have a chat. They want their graduates to succeed because of their degree, and it is therefore in their interest to ensure that the students they take on get the most out of the degree in question.
In short, you want to have a discussion with them about your academic and professional goals and see if and why the degree in question is the right choice for those goals. It doesn’t matter if the degree name is the same because programs can vary drastically.
Another tip is to get in touch with recent graduates to see how they liked their degree and how useful they found it for their career.
Overall, however, there are three main paths ahead for you:
Furthering Your Technical Education
If you work as an engineer in manufacturing, then you can start by furthering your expertise with a master’s, and even with a doctorate program, if necessary. The level of education and expertise you work up to is entirely up to you, but the more hands-on programs are going to require in-person training and education, so you may find it either essential or at least beneficial to take time out of your career in order to dedicate yourself to your career. As the sort of roles, you would be applying for would demand these degrees, if not legally, then at least as an industry standard, taking time out to further your career won’t cause a hiccup in your career.
The other options, however, are more “nice to have” rather than essential and, as such, are best completed online and part-time so that you can continue to work and even put what you learn to use as you go.
Working Your Way into Management
One of the best ways to really stand out and work your way up into very popular management positions in manufacturing is with a master’s. This is ideal for those who weren’t in similar positions before. Perhaps you are a mechanical engineer looking to start work at a very large manufacturing plant and ideally in a management position, or alternatively are looking to switch careers into global supply chain management. Regardless, there are some excellent ways forward.
An excellent online masters degree in lean manufacturing can not only help you transition your career into management, but it can help you really stand out by focussing on Lean and Six Sigma tools as standard. You can, of course, specialize in one of the key management areas like global leadership, healthcare management, operations management, or supply chain management, so you can really customize your degree to suit your career goals.
Starting Your Own Business
While you can technically open your own business with just a few steps, that does not mean you know how to manage a business or how to make it succeed. If your goal is to start your own company (production, manufacturing, or consultancy), then know that there are excellent degrees out there to help. One of the best is the MBA, and if you are torn between earning a lean manufacturing degree and an MBA, then know you can actually tackle both of them at once.
With just five extra courses on top of your MSEN, you can earn your MBA. This typically takes around 2 years for most students, though you can spread it out further. The only restriction is that you must complete both degrees within six years of your state date.
With this in mind, it’s now time to look at just how you can avoid that extra-long degree time and work to successfully juggle your education and your career:
Ensuring Your Degree is Designed for Working Professionals
It is very, very important to keep in mind that not every online degree is designed for working professionals. There are online degrees and then online part-time degrees. You need the latter.
A good way to check is to see who the course was designed for. Very often, courses designed for working professionals clearly state that is who their student populace is. Even with degrees or specializations that require some on-campus training, there are still online options perfect for working professionals.
If you are ever unsure, just get in touch with the admissions team and let them know your plan to continue with your workweek. Let them know if that workweek is longer or in any way unpredictable as well, to learn what tools and features are available to help you balance your career and your degree.
Managing Your Masters with Your Career
To manage your masters while continuing to progress through your career, you will need to:
· Create a Routine and Stick to It
To manage your professional and academic times, you need a routine. It can be very hard to stick to one large chunk of time to learn and study as well, so break up your education time into smaller segments for the best results. Work out how much you would need to do per week in order to graduate on a schedule you are happy with, and break those hours up throughout the day and week. An hour here, two hours there, and you’ll find it’s not only easier to manage a degree while working, but you can actually learn and memorize better.
· Have a Great WFH Spaces
We all worked from home at one point or another, so if you already have a good office setup at home, then use it. If not, it’s time to create a stable place to study. This place should have good lighting, and ideally, be near a window so that you can see and take in the outdoors. Don’t be afraid to change things up, either. When it is warm enough, you may find that studying outside in your backyard is much more rewarding than being outside. Similarly, you may enjoy working in a café or a library. Just find what works for you and vary it up as needed.
· Use Dead Times to Revise
If you have concepts you need to revise, then create study sheets or voice notes and use the dead times of your day. Your commute is a great example. You can either listen to voice notes you have made if you drive or bike, or you can read notes if you take public transport like trains or busses. Washing the dishes? Same thing. Voice notes, in particular, will allow you to revise and go over key information over smaller chunks of time until it’s natural to recall, rather than a crash revision course.
· Put What You Learn to Use
One of the single best ways to not only revise but to actually further your career and start to see the benefits of your degree is to simply put what you learn to work. Many of the concepts you use can either be directly applied or at least used to help you make better decisions or recommendations.
As part of this suggestion, always let your employer know what you are doing and what value you can bring to the table. Having someone who knows the business and will also be academically prepared to manage a said business is great for them. You may not get a job right away, but they will keep you in mind, and if a spot opens up, then you can and should be the first person to recommend yourself for it.
Never underestimate the power of simply stating what you want out of your career. So long as you do good work and are dedicated, then stating your goals and actively working through a degree that would allow you to confidently do said job may be more than enough to help you progress your career. If not, then it can be the wake-up call that you need to start fresh somewhere else, with an employer that will recognize the hard work and dedication it takes.