Industrial Engineering Degrees and Careers

What You'll Do

industrial engineering degree professionals

By Sarah Stevenson

While most engineering fields are concerned with specific products, systems or processes, industrial engineering focuses on managing people, organizing businesses and optimizing the use of technology in ways that increase efficiency in a variety of workplace settings. Today's companies need to compete in an increasingly global market, and industrial engineers help them do just that by improving both productivity and quality—whether the result is a streamlined operating room in a health care setting, an optimized production schedule for manufacturing, or a long-range and detailed financial plan.

Industrial engineers may be called upon to perform a wide range of tasks in their effort to reduce wasted time, energy and money in the workplace:

  • They use mathematical models or computer simulations to determine the best possible design for information, production and distribution systems.
     
  • They work on a managerial level, assisting with strategic planning, financial analysis, salary administration and job evaluation programs.
     
  • They work with human factors and ergonomics, optimizing the interaction between employees and their physical and technological workplace environment.

Job Opportunities

There are job opportunities for industrial engineers in a mind-boggling variety of industries. Industrial engineering isn't just about manufacturing; it's also called for in service industries, health care, shipping and logistics, banking, entertainment, forestry and logging, the military, and all levels of government. However, the greatest numbers of industrial engineers are employed in manufacturing sectors such as aerospace manufacturing, motor vehicle parts manufacturing, and the manufacture of navigational, measuring, medical and other instruments. 

The Future of Industrial Engineering

An ongoing need to improve productivity in order to keep up in a fiercely competitive marketplace, as well as an interest in increased efficiency of production to reduce environmental impact, will ensure that industrial engineers have plenty of job opportunities in the future.

Degrees & Schools

  • Associate's Degree in Industrial Engineering: While a bachelor's degree is usually the minimum education required to start work as an engineer, 2-year associate's degree programs are available in industrial engineering technology, allowing the degree holder to begin work in a technician capacity or transfer to a four-year program.
     
  • Bachelor's Degree in Industrial Engineering: A bachelor's degree is required by most entry-level industrial engineering jobs. Usually, the first two years of the program are spent studying pre-engineering and general education subjects, while the last two are devoted to core engineering curriculum.
     
  • Master's and Doctoral Degrees in Industrial Engineering: Graduate degrees usually specialize in a particular area of study within industrial engineering, such as human factors engineering, computer simulation or supply chain management.
     
  • Online Industrial Engineering Degrees: Online and distance learning programs in industrial engineering are available at all levels, from associate's degrees in industrial engineering technology to doctoral-level study.

Salaries

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics' 2018-19 Occupational Outlook Handbook, the median national annual salary for industrial engineers is $84,310. Actual salaries may vary greatly based on specialization within the field, location, years of experience and a variety of other factors. National long-term projections of employment growth may not reflect local and/or short-term economic or job conditions, and do not guarantee actual job growth.