Industrial engineers have an important role to play in business, manufacturing and the economy at large. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), these professionals find ways to eliminate waste in production processes. They might, for example, help a business determine how many factory workers it needs to ensure production meets demand, or how many machines.
Many industries from manufacturing to health care are potentially open to industrial engineers. They must draw on a wide breadth of skills to do their jobs effectively, so having the right training is essential. This is where industrial engineering programs come into play.
What to Expect: Industrial Engineering Programs
Industrial engineering majors must master a number of different disciplines before entering the field, including math, business, science and psychology. According to The College Board, students typically learn how to perform tasks such as creating factory schedules, setting up customer service systems and setting delivery routes.
Examples of potential course topics include:
- Engineering economics
- Inventory management
- Management science
- Manufacturing engineering
The College Board notes that industrial engineering majors often work on case studies and master working in teams. They also learn how to flesh out, research and propose their ideas with a focus on both logistics and cost. Industrial engineering degree programs are offered at both the undergraduate and graduate levels, with the latter emphasizing research and managerial skills.
Potential Careers for Industrial Engineering Majors
Industrial engineer is only one of the occupations for which this type of training could be well suited. Here are a few potential career paths for grads, as well as the latest employment and training trends from the BLS:
- Industrial engineers devise the most efficient ways to use workers, resources and information to make a product or offer a service. According to the BLS, most possess bachelor's degrees in industrial engineering, though graduate degrees may be prudent for those who want to teach college courses or work in research and development. The BLS foresees demand for industrial engineers growing by about 5 percent between 2012 and 2022, slightly slower than the national average for all occupations.
- Industrial production managers oversee daily operations and manufacturing facilities. Common tasks include planning, coordinating and directing the activities necessary to create a wide range of different products. Most industrial production managers have a bachelor's degree in industrial engineering or a related field, plus one to five years of work experience. Some choose to earn master's degrees or MBAs with an emphasis in industrial production. The BLS expects demand for these professionals to stay about the same between 2012 and 2022, though that could change as more companies transition their manufacturing processes back to the United States, a trend called "reshoring."
- Health and safety engineers develop procedures and design systems to ensure products -- and their production -- do not harm people or property. The BLS reports that most health and safety engineers possess a bachelor's degree in an area like industrial engineering. Master's degrees are generally unnecessary, but can help candidates enter the field at a higher level. The BLS projects demand for these professionals to grow 11 percent between 2012 and 2022.
These are only a few of the many careers industrial engineering graduates might pursue. Others listed by The College Board include industrial designer, engineering manager and sales engineer. Prospective students can learn more about industrial engineering degree programs and related careers by contacting schools directly, or visiting The College Board or BLS online.
"Industrial Engineering," College Board, https://bigfuture.collegeboard.org/majors/engineering-industrial-engineering
"Industrial Engineers," Bureau of Labor Statistics, January 8, 2014, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/architecture-and-engineering/industrial-engineers.htm
"Industrial Production Managers," Bureau of Labor Statistics, January 8, 2014, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/management/industrial-production-managers.htm
"Health and Safety Engineers," Bureau of Labor Statistics, January 8, 2014, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/architecture-and-engineering/health-and-safety-engineers.htm