What Does it Mean to Study Manufacturing Engineering?
More than the average person might realize, engineers are creative pillars of our society. While a painter focuses his creative energy towards expressing himself on a canvas, a manufacturing engineer works on the creation of objects, 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.
Is Manufacturing Engineering the Right Choice for You?
Being well-educated is a critical part of achieving success in the field of manufacturing engineering. Engineers draw heavily on mathematical and scientific knowledge, and these can both be developed in a manufacturing engineering degree program. But how can you decide if manufacturing engineering is the right field for you 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 need to be able to 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 and what questions you want to ask admissions counselors. The more information you can gather about a potential manufacturing engineering degree program, the better informed your decision can 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 might want to know about your future career.
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
Online engineering degree programs enable more students to obtain the education they need without the cost and hassle of relocating to a physical campus. Distance education has opened doors for many aspiring engineers, as well as professional engineers who are hoping to advance their existing careers. It makes it possible for students to maintain commitments to full-time jobs while completing requirements to earn a degree.
Students who enroll in online manufacturing engineering degree programs have a unique opportunity to tailor their schedule and courseload to fit in with their existing commitments to jobs and family. They may participate in lectures, tutorials, web seminars, and interactive labs virtually.
Online Certificate Programs in Manufacturing Engineering
Online engineering certificate programs encourage students to improve their skills in a narrow, specific aspect of the field. This means they can be a worthwhile introduction to the subject for all kinds of people: students fresh out of high school, professionals looking for a career change, or working engineers looking to brush up on their skills, just to name a few. In addition, many schools allow you to transfer credits earned in a certificate program toward a degree program, so they can benefit students looking to learn more about manufacturing engineering over time. (Specifics vary; potential students should discuss their situation with school admissions counselors to learn more.)
Online Associate Degrees in Manufacturing Engineering
Most associate's degree programs are designed to help students build their foundational knowledge of engineering technology.
Online Bachelor's 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
Because engineering involves applying science, math, and technology to real-world problems, engineering professionals find hands-on experience an important part of their 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. Meanwhile, major manufacturing companies may offer internships to students who excel academically, demonstrate leadership potential, are hard workers, and have the ability to communicate effectively.
The process of landing a summer internship or a semester-long co-op is very competitive, and with good reason. 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 official employment to particularly outstanding interns and co-op participants upon graduation.
What Can You Do With a College Degree in Manufacturing Engineering?
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 technology continues to advance, industrial engineers are applying manufacturing techniques to most other industries.
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 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 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 new technology on existing systems. In addition, they supervise teams of computer programmers, computer engineers and systems analysts.
Manufacturing Engineering 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
- Society of Manufacturing Engineers
- National Society of Professional Engineers
- The American Society for Engineering Education
- The Institute of Industrial Engineers
- National Academy of Engineering
- International Engineering Consortium
- The Junior Engineering Technical Society