Further Your Manufacturing Career with a Degree: The Full Guide for 2022
Manufacturing covers a wide variety of different roles, at different scopes, and even within different fields. You can work as an artisan and manufacture items by hand using ancient techniques, or you can work on the cutting edge of manufacturing. At the end of the day, there will always be ways to take your career further, and though artisans are manufacturers in their own way, this guide is going to help those actively working within the manufacturing industry.
There are many great ways that you can advance your manufacturing career. One of the best places to start is surprisingly simple, and that’s to think and see your manufacturing career as a career, not a job. There are many different roles and futures available to you within manufacturing, and when you see your work within manufacturing as a career, rather than just a simple job, you will find yourself far more dedicated and excited about the opportunities ahead of you. A job, after all, is just a means to an end; a career is a journey of choices you actively make for your future.
From working your way up the ladder to finding new ways to advance (like with a degree), this mindset will help you power through the training periods and help you get better job opportunities, as those around you know you are in it for the long-haul.
Manufacturing doesn’t have to be your passion. It can be simply something you are happy to do for work, but that doesn’t mean you cannot dedicate yourself to it.
A good way to turn your manufacturing job into a career is by simply being prepared to better yourself. Invest in training offer help when it comes to solving problems or offering advice. Being a great team player and one that is actively looking to work their way up instead of just out is already going to help you with your career goals.
Where you take your career doesn’t have to be small, either. You can want to work your way up to manager, supply chain innovator, engineer, supervisor, or technician. There are so many roles out there, but they will require training in one form or another.
One of the best ways to further your career, especially into leadership instead of specialization, is by thinking big. Manufacturing is big business, even if any single warehouse or manufacturing plant isn’t all that big size-wise. You have to remember it isn’t just the factory that you work in, but the entire supply chain that all works together to make products come to life.
Working along this supply chain, especially in higher-up or global positions, means big money. You will need to know how to think on this global scale and also how to think smart. Starting in an apprenticeship is a great way to begin, as it offers training and education, but you will need to continue pushing your skillset further. Certificates and degrees can be very useful for certain positions, and being willing to push yourself that final amount to go from a trained professional to a trained expert will set you apart from the others and prepare you for a whole new career phase.
There are so many ways to get into engineering and work your way up, but for many of the top jobs, you’ll want to look into furthering your education to get you over that final hurdle. With this guide, you’ll know what to look for in a degree, how to ensure it offers you the most for your career, and most importantly, how to complete it with ease.
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Why You Will Need a Degree
There are a few key instances where you will absolutely want to look for a degree to further your career. If you want to work your way into engineering, for example, you will need a degree. If you want to work your way up into management, when you haven’t worked in management and especially not on a global or at least national scale, then you will find a lot of hiccups along the way – hiccups that can be smoothed over with a degree.
Knowing why and when a degree will be right for you is a very important skill to have, especially considering that some degrees will require you to take time off from your career. Those full-time degrees are often more hands-on. For example, if you started after high school with an apprenticeship and decided you wanted to become an engineer, you will likely find it more useful to dedicate yourself fully to that engineering degree.
If you are looking to start work in a managerial (especially on an executive-level) role, then there are a few excellent options to consider.
You could earn a top masters in lean manufacturing, which covers not only essential leadership, business, and managerial skills but also focuses on the Lean and Six Sigma tools. This type of degree is designed for working professionals and is not only 100% online, but you also have six years to complete it once you start.
That being said, most will finish within a year.You can even take your managerial and leadership goals further and earn two degrees at once. Many who earn a manufacturing masters go all in and take on the five extra courses necessary to walk away with both the MSEN and the MBA. This option takes around 2 years to complete and is once again still designed for working professionals.
These masters even allow you to specialize in key areas like global leadership, healthcare management, operations management, or supply chain management. They are ideal if you were working the floor or working as an engineer and wanted to transition to a new role where you can oversee and provide greater influence than before.
What to Look for in a Degree
The first question to ask yourself when looking for a degree for yourself is your needs and what options there are. If you want to go into engineering and there aren’t any good options to work while studying, then you are going to have to make plans to tackle that degree full-time. On the other hand, even when there are online degree options, not every degree is going to be suitable to pursue while continuing your education.
You may wonder why an online degree isn’t designed for working professionals, and the answer is simple: it helps students save. You can continue to live at home and complete your degree without having to worry about the high accommodation costs and maintenance costs. You may even be able to offset some costs with a part-time job when you study online, as you don’t have to commute onto campus.
Those degrees do have their uses, but when your goal is to further your manufacturing degree with a management or lean manufacturing degree, you don’t need to use either option.
Before you apply, always get in touch with the admissions team. A quick chat with them where you outline what you want out of the degree and out of your career can help you decide if that specific degree is right for you and how precisely it can help you with your ultimate goals.
This one-on-one approach is what you need. You don’t need a university or college that just tries to usher you in as another body and another source of income. You need a university that cares about your goals and wants to help you fulfill them.
You may be surprised by how the meeting goes. After all, if the degree you ask about isn’t right for you, there may be another offered that is better aligned with what you want or a way to customize the degree as necessary.
How to Balance Your Career with Your Degree
Being able to balance your career and your degree without adversely dropping the ball on either of them can be a difficult skill – which is why preparation is essential. A good way to get started is by building up some new healthy habits.
A good diet, quality night sleeps, and even an exercise routine will all help you feel more rested and will help your brain work better overall. The reason why you want to start with these health routines the moment you even consider going for a degree is that it takes time to make them into a good habit.
Don’t be afraid to cut corners if you need to, either. If you eat better with meal plans, go for it. If you need to hire a cleaner every so often to keep your home clean and can afford it, do it. Problems like these are only problems if you don’t explore all the solutions and use the tools available to you.
Once you have built up a health routine that makes you feel better and learn better, you’ll then want to get started on the logistics. There are many ways to really succeed at both your career and your degree, and these tips will help:
1. Learn in Little Doses
If you try to binge your academic hours all at once, you are going to burn out and, worse, not absorb the information you are trying to learn. The best way to avoid this is by breaking up your academic requirements. If possible, see if you can switch to Flexitime at work. If you can go in a little bit later, and take a longer lunch in exchange for working later, then you can listen to a lecture in the morning, and do some studying during your lunch period, and be able to go home after work and just relax.
Even without Flexitime, splitting up your education is possible, and it will help you learn better and get the most out of your degree. If you think about it, this is exactly how it works if you were to attend an on-campus degree. You don’t learn like you did when you were a kid and had classes from morning till afternoon. Instead, you have breaks, with some days having more and some days having less.
The routine you adopt is up to you, but for the most success, remember to use dead time, too. Instead of setting aside time to study, for example, you can create voice notes on what you need to memorize and really remember and listen to those notes on your commute to work or when you are doing your laundry. This will reduce the amount of dedicated time and make it easier to manage your degree and your career.
2. Put What You Learn to Work, Literally
The second way to really get the most of your degree and your career is to put what you learn to work. Even just referring back to what you have learned during work and where it applies can be a great way to get your brain working on solving problems and seeing the value in what you have learned.
Not only can this be a great way to apply what you have learned and memorize better, but it can also actually work to help you show your value to your employer. Just remember that while good employers will absolutely want to bring you in when a higher-up position opens up, not all will. When they don’t, simply accept that it is time to move on and to find a new job.
The good news is that the more you train and the higher up the career chain you go, the more options exist – and right at home. Supply chain management, global management, and operations management especially need talented people who understand the ins and outs of the manufacturing process, especially if they have a degree designed to help you identify opportunities to make the entire process more lean and efficient.
Put what you learn to work, show your value, and use that as a negotiating chip to help you get promoted into the next phase of your career.