Guide to College Majors in Manufacturing Engineering

Quality in a product or service is not what the supplier puts in. It is what the customer gets out and is willing to pay for. A product is not quality because it is hard to make and costs a lot of money, as manufacturers typically believe. Customers pay only for what is of use to them and gives them value.
--Peter Drucker

What is Manufacturing Engineering?

More than the average person might realize, engineers are creative pillars of modern society. While a painter focuses his creative energy towards expressing himself on a canvas, a manufacturing engineer works on the creation of things, processes, and technology. We rely on the vision and genius of our society's engineers every single time we turn on the television, drive a car, check our email, do laundry, or take showers. Basically, the work of an engineer is involved with almost everything we do.

Manufacturing engineers have the task of making manufacturing processes better, faster, and cheaper. Their success or failure directly impacts the advancement of technology and the spread of innovation. A professional in this field constantly reviews the allocation of resources, analyzes productivity, and seeks ways to maximize production while minimizing cost. Manufacturing engineering careers offer challenging opportunities that never fail to engage intellectual curiosity and push the edge of innovative thinking.

As the demands of the American consumer continue to increase, manufacturing engineers will work to develop products, buildings, systems, and various other human necessities. The U.S. Department of Labor predicts that job opportunities for manufacturing engineers will continue to grow over the next decade-albeit more slowly than other industries, due in part to outsourcing. But as companies strive to update production and processes to keep pace with the speed and efficiency of modern technology, the skill sets and knowledge of educated manufacturing engineers will be in increasing demand.

Is Manufacturing Engineering the Right Choice for You?

To achieve success in manufacturing engineering, a quality education is an absolute must. Engineers draw heavily on mathematical and scientific knowledge, and these are skills best developed in a manufacturing engineering degree program. A good manufacturing engineering degree program will provide students with an opportunity to fuse math and science with top-notch communications skills. But how can you decide if manufacturing engineering is the right field to pursue? There are several things to consider.

First, think about the scope of your engineering interests. Manufacturing engineering is just one facet of the engineering industry. Manufacturing engineers enjoy improving the production process from start to finish. They have the ability to keep the whole production process in mind as they zero in on a particular portion of the process. Successful students in manufacturing engineering degree programs are inspired by the notion of starting with a natural resource, such as a block of wood, and ending with a usable, valuable product, such as a desk.

Secondly, earning a college degree in manufacturing engineering involves intense and thorough study of advanced math and science, including calculus, computer science, physics, and other upper-level courses. Potential students should thrive in such courses. Proper preparation for an engineering education includes high school courses in math, science, computers, and computer assisted drafting.

Compare and contrast different manufacturing engineering programs to find the best fit. This is a good way to discover what qualities you're seeking in a program. Additionally, this type of research will help you figure out what questions to ask admissions counselors. The more information you can gather about a potential manufacturing engineering degree program, the better informed your decision will be.

It is also a good idea for prospective students to talk to an experienced manufacturing engineer. Ask questions about day-to-day job tasks, opportunities for career advancement, education requirements, and anything else you would want to know about your future career. This sort of career investigation will certainly provide a more complete picture of your future opportunities.

Manufacturing Engineering Degree Programs

Even within this highly specialized field of engineering, many choices exist. Whether you're a student interested in developing an initial set of engineering skills, or a professional engineer hoping to focus your general knowledge of manufacturing engineering, you'll enjoy plenty of appealing opportunities.

Online Degrees in Manufacturing Engineering

Recently, the options for studying manufacturing engineering have expanded to include distance learning. Online engineering degree programs enable more students to obtain a quality education without having to relocate to a physical campus. Online degrees have opened the doors to many future engineers, as well as professional engineers hoping to advance their existing careers. An engineering degree can open doors to many other related careers, including information systems management, computer programming, and business consulting.

Because the field advances quickly to keep pace with cutting-edge technology, many manufacturing engineers rely on distance learning to continually increase and improve their skills. Online education makes it possible for students to maintain commitments to full-time jobs while completing requirements to earn a degree. Online engineering students participate in online tutorials, web seminars, and interactive labs virtually. Students who enroll in distance learning degree programs enjoy a unique opportunity to tailor their own schedule and course load to fit in with existing commitments to jobs and family.

Certificate Programs in Manufacturing Engineering

Engineering certificate programs are a worthwhile option, both for new students seeking an introductory educational experience and for current manufacturing engineering professionals who want a more in-depth knowledge of their specialty. Online engineering certificate programs encourage students to improve their skills in a narrow, specific aspect of the field.

This allows manufacturing engineering majors to develop a focused expertise that could translate into stronger employment opportunities and job growth. In addition, when you complete the requirements for a certificate in engineering, many online degree programs allow you to transfer these credits toward a degree program. Certificate programs vary, and potential students should discuss particular degree programs with school admissions counselors.

Associate Degrees in Manufacturing Engineering

Engineering students pursuing an associate degree will discover opportunities in several engineering fields. Most associate's degree programs provide students with foundational knowledge of engineering technology -- a more vocationally-oriented specialization. Students who earn an associate's degree can qualify for many entry-level jobs in engineering technology fields. This is an attractive opportunity for students to get their feet wet in the classroom and on the job before deciding to pursue a more intense degree program.

Bachelor of Science in Engineering

The Bachelor of Science in Engineering is the foundation for the majority of manufacturing engineering careers. Most BSE programs focus heavily on the general concepts of engineering, math, science, and technology. Intense and rigorous, BS programs also emphasize the combination of strong engineering skills with the ability to effectively communicate. Students pursuing a BS in Engineering should also expect to study humanities, history, and ethics.

Co-ops, Apprenticeships and Internships

Students in manufacturing engineering degree programs enjoy several potential career paths. One helpful way to narrow down the options is to participate in engineering-related cooperative education programs (co-ops) and internships.

Because engineering involves applying science, math, and technology to real-world problems, engineering professionals find hands-on experience a critical part of a quality education. Students have the opportunity to gain solid work experience as interns and co-op associates, and manufacturing companies are able to find bright, motivated young engineers early in their careers.

The process of landing a summer internship or a semester-long co-op is very competitive, but this should be a priority for any manufacturing engineering student who isn't already in the industry. Major manufacturing companies offer internships to students who excel academically, demonstrate leadership potential, are willing to work hard, and have the ability to communicate effectively. It is not uncommon for a student to intern at the same company for multiple summers, and it is also not uncommon for companies to offer full-time employment to outstanding interns and co-op participants upon graduation.

What Can You Do With a College Major in Manufacturing Engineering?

  • Industrial Engineer. Industrial engineering often overlaps with manufacturing engineering. With a similar focus on manufacturing processes, industrial engineers focus on the product development process and seek to constantly streamline and improve manufacturing techniques. Professionals working in this field often pursue advanced training in quality assurance and operations management. Industrial engineers find work in several industries, including manufacturing, technology, and service. As modern technology continues to advance, industrial engineers are applying manufacturing techniques to most other industries.
  • Business Consultant. When a manufacturing company is having trouble addressing problems, they often hire a business consultant to offer advice and potential solutions. Successful engineering consultants are experts in particular niches or industries. Business consultants are able to look at problems objectively, formulate plans for improvement, and most importantly, effectively communicate with clients. Business consultants with degrees in manufacturing engineering are especially valuable to companies seeking to update and streamline production and assembly procedures. Knowledge of proven business and management principles is necessary for this career.
  • Operations Research Analyst. An operations research analyst studies processing and manufacturing procedures in order to determine areas for improvement and growth. Professionals in this field rely on extensive research and observation to make decisions and solve problems. Like a manufacturing engineer, operations research analysts are able to view the bigger picture of a production process in order to gauge how to make the individual components of the process cheaper and more efficient. Operations research analysts focus on the end result and continually try to improve their products. This type of position is found in various parts of the engineering industry, including manufacturing engineering and industrial engineering.
  • Engineering Technician. Engineering technicians apply scientific, mathematic, and engineering theories and methods to solve technical problems in various fields of engineering. Most engineering technician jobs require an associate degree. Engineering technicians in the manufacturing industry generally assist more experienced engineering professionals in research, product design, manufacturing procedures and various related tasks. The function of an engineering technician generally involves practical and physical assignments, like using an engineer's plan to build a prototype of a product or utilizing computer assisted drafting tools to generate virtual models.
  • Engineering Managers. Engineering managers are experienced engineering professionals who are successfully able to combine their command of engineering technique and theory with excellent communication skills. In general, an engineering manager guides, oversees, and directs teams of engineers and is responsible for the productivity and results of her team. Many engineering managers work in the manufacturing industry, and a background in manufacturing engineering is a solid foundation for future engineers hoping to pursue this advanced career path.
  • Information Systems Managers. Systems managers develop, modify, and monitor information systems, which collect and track data and enable users to recall and pull up information quickly. Information systems managers have to keep up with constantly changing computer technology and create plans to implement the latest technology on existing systems. In addition, they supervise teams of computer programmers, computer engineers and systems analysts. Information systems managers rely on their manufacturing engineering degrees constantly, in order to appropriately address the requirements of managing information systems.

Certification, Licensure and Associations

Professional Engineer (PE) Certification and Licensure. In order to qualify for a Professional Engineer license, a candidate generally needs a bachelor's degree from an ABET-accredited engineering program, a passing score on a state examination, and four years of work experience. More recent graduates have the option of dividing this licensure process into two segments. The Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) exam is often taken immediately after graduation and the Principles and Practice of Engineering exam is taken after four years of working in a chosen engineering field.

Manufacturing Technologist Certification (CMfgT). Qualified candidates for the Certified Manufacturing Technologist Certificate (CMfgT) must pass a three-hour, 130-question multiple-choice exam. The exam covers math, manufacturing processes, manufacturing management, automation, and related subjects. Additionally, a candidate must have at least four years of combined education and manufacturing-related work experience.

Certified Manufacturing Engineer (CMfgE). Candidates qualifying for the Certified Manufacturing Engineer Certificate must pass a three-hour, 150 question multiple-choice exam which covers more in-depth topics than the CMfgT exam. CMfgE candidates must also have eight years of combined education and manufacturing-related work experience, with a minimum of four years of work experience.

Certified Engineering Manager (CEM). The Certified Engineering Manager Certificate is also designed for engineers with eight years of combined education and manufacturing experience. The test is four hours long and has 160 multiple-choice questions. The CEM certification exam covers business processes, teamwork, responsibility and other management-related categories.

Other Associations and Certification Bodies

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