3 Things for MEM Applicants to Know

Key advice for prospective students of Northwestern's Master of Engineering Management (MEM) program.

MEM director Mark Werwath The Round 2 deadline for Northwestern Engineering's Master of Engineering Management (MEM) program is March 15. MEM director Mark Werwath and MEM associate director Mandy Hatfield recently held a virtual information session primarily for prospective students before that deadline.

Werwath and Hatfield discussed what makes MEM unique, the student body makeup, the curriculum, job placement for MEM graduates, and how the program can help someone's career trajectory. benefit one’s career, as well as the student body. The session was recorded and can be viewed here.  

Listed below are answers to three common questions Werwath and Hatfield often hear from applicants.

What's the difference between an MEM and an MBA?

MEM is a Master’s degree that specifically targets engineers and STEM professionals to prepare them for a technology-centered workplace. While MBA programs provide a more general approach to management, an MEM degree can be a differentiator, according to Werwath, as students learn the fundamentals of business while relying on a base of engineering knowledge. This specialized approach allows for a unique experience that stands apart from that of an MBA.

“We focus on students who want to leverage their technical background," Werwath said. "They think of themselves as engineers and they want to continue in STEM.”

Among the top-performing CEOs in the world, a majority hold degrees particular to their industries. MEM gives students an alternative path to an MBA, one that may be better suited for their career goals and interests.” 

What part of the application is the most important?

MEM views student applications holistically. “We look at the overall picture of what you submit in your application,” Hatfield said.  

Werwath agreed, saying every aspect of the application has merit. Students must have the work and educational background needed to succeed in MEM and they must have applied those skills in the real world. Their previous education and GPA is also an indicator of whether or not they will be able to thrive at Northwestern.

“We want to set you up for success,” Werwath said. “That’s not to say you will have an easy time of it. That’s not to say it’s an easy program or that it’s not intellectually stimulating. You will have to put in the work. And that starts by putting in the work in the application.” 

While all elements of the application matter, Werwath reiterated the importance of the Statement of Purpose. This is a section where students really should tell their story and indicate why MEM is the right place for them. Werwath said applicants have been rejected based on their statement of purpose not being thought out or because it made clear the person was a better fit in a different type of program.

Do I need to have three different letters of recommendation?

Yes. All elements of the application are important and the three letters of recommendation should speak to the applicant’s leadership and knowledge. Only one letter should be an academic reference. The other two should focus on the applicant’s professional experience, and should ideally come from managerial positions.  

“We want people who know what you have done," Werwath said, "and who point to examples where you participated and helped propel an engineering project toward success.”

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