Carnegie Mellon University

17-646 Business for Engineers

Business for Engineers is a 6 unit mini semester course.

The course is developed to introduce fundamental principles behind business to engineering students. The knowledge should equip the students with a critical understanding of how their roles fit in the larger context of business and how their work is measured.

Target Audience

The course is focused on graduate students and undergraduate seniors pursuing engineering and science majors with 


no formal knowledge of business, or


some exposure acquired through one-off courses in accounting, marketing or economics at the high-school or undergraduate level, or


little to no prior exposure to business, or 


cursory knowledge of business acquired through unstructured or informal exposure i.e., communities, social networks, corporate journalism, television media, etc.

Enduring Principles

Engineering students embarking on professional or entrepreneurial careers will be well-served to understand the topics underlying the key enduring principles of business which will underscore the activities they engage in. These principles are:

  • that cost proposals with scientifically projected positive returns balanced with reliable growth and manageable risk play a crucial role in driving investment decisions in innovation and technology implementations

  • that financial performance measures are the “bottom line” that matter to the owners of and investors in the company’s business; they have been, are and will continue to be so  

  • that people, money, materials, networks, products, markets and ethics are combined to create wealth, an awareness of which is essential to be effective and successful as leaders and change architects

More course details can be found in the Business for Engineers syllabus.

After completing this course, students will:

  • Compare engineering proposals on the basis of their financial merit or financial value proposition measuring cash flow streams

  • Solve maximization problems using Microsoft Excel Solver to understand concepts of profit maximization

  • Solve minimization problems using Microsoft to understand concepts of cost minimization honoring known resource constraints

  • Solve revenue maximization problems using basic statistical concepts to understand significance of independent variables in driving dependent variables such as market share

  • Review, interpret and opine on financial statements of selected companies to reinforce financial performance measurement concepts including Gross Margin, Contribution margin, EBIT, Net Income, Debt Equity, Dividend Ratio, Cash Conversion cycle

  • Evaluate the treatment of engineering and R&D expenses within corporate financial statements and its rationale

  • Expose patterns of consumer behavior to define market/customer segments by practicing simple problems using data mining concepts such as regression using Google Trends and MS Excel

  • Determine how variation in supply and demand for a product influences its price

  • Summarize the enduring business principles that drive enterprises to commit funds to design and execution engineering initiatives

  • Conceive, build and present (in small groups of 3-5 students) a hypothetical business, its organization, execution and management

  • Analyze the issues and challenges around ethics, managing change and managing intellectual human capital, i.e., engineers