What you need to know
Industrial engineers find ways to eliminate wastefulness in production processes. They devise efficient systems that integrate workers, machines, materials, information, and energy to make a product or provide a service.
Depending on their tasks, industrial engineers work either in offices or in the settings they are trying to improve. For example, when observing problems, they may watch workers assembling parts in a factory. When solving problems, they may be in an office at a computer, looking at data that they or others have collected.
Some of the things a industrial engineer might do:
- Review production schedules, engineering specifications, process flows, and other information to understand methods that are applied and activities that take place in manufacturing and services
- Figure out how to manufacture parts or products, or deliver services, with maximum efficiency
- Develop management control systems to make financial planning and cost analysis more efficient
- Enact quality control procedures to resolve production problems or minimize costs
- Design control systems to coordinate activities and production planning in order to ensure that products meet quality standards
- Confer with clients about product specifications, vendors about purchases, management personnel about manufacturing capabilities, and staff about the status of projects
- Creativity: Industrial engineers use creativity and ingenuity to design new production processes in many kinds of settings in order to reduce the use of material resources, time, or labor while accomplishing the same goal.
- Critical-thinking skills: Industrial engineers create new systems to solve problems related to waste and inefficiency. Solving these problems requires logic and reasoning to identify strengths and weaknesses of alternative solutions, conclusions, or approaches to the problems.
- Listening skills: These engineers often operate in teams, but they also must solicit feedback from customers, vendors, and production staff. They must listen to customers and clients in order to fully grasp ideas and problems.
- Math skills: Industrial engineers use the principles of calculus, trigonometry, and other advanced topics in mathematics for analysis, design, and troubleshooting in their work.
- Problem-solving skills: In designing facilities for manufacturing and processes for providing services, these engineers deal with several issues at once, from workers’ safety to quality assurance.
- Speaking skills: Industrial engineers sometimes have to explain their instructions to production staff or technicians before they can make written instructions available. Being able to explain concepts clearly and quickly is crucial to preventing costly mistakes and loss of time.
- Writing skills: Industrial engineers must prepare documentation for other engineers or scientists, or for future reference. The documentation must be coherent and explain their thinking clearly so that the others can understand the information.
The average pay for industrial engineers in the United States ranges from $57,950 to $136,930 as of May 2020.
The specific pay depends on factors such as level of experience, education and training, geographic location, and specific industry.
Employment of industrial engineers is projected to grow 10 percent from 2019 to 2029, faster than the average for all occupations.
Because they are not as specialized as other engineers, industrial engineers are employed in a wide range of industries, including major manufacturing industries, consulting and engineering services, and research and development firms.
Many companies will be seeking to make use of new technologies to automate production processes in many different kinds of industries, including manufacturing industries. Those with knowledge of manufacturing engineering may find better prospects for employment.
Industrial engineers need a bachelor’s degree, typically in industrial engineering. However, many industrial engineers have degrees in mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, manufacturing engineering, industrial engineering technology, or general engineering. Students interested in studying industrial engineering should take high school courses in mathematics, such as algebra, trigonometry, and calculus; computer science; and sciences such as chemistry and physics.
Several colleges and universities offer 5-year degree programs in industrial engineering that lead to a bachelor’s and master’s degree upon completion, and several more offer similar programs in mechanical engineering. A graduate degree allows an engineer to work as a professor at a college or university or to engage in research and development.
Discover some of the courses you will take pursuing a degree in Industrial Engineering.