Today's industrial engineers work in many more settings than just factories. In recent years, information technology, energy sources, and computers have all relied on the skills of industrial engineers. Industrial engineers have expanded beyond factories and are now employed in:
hospitals and other health-care operations,
local, regional and national governments.
A college degree in industrial engineering is very diverse and, as opposed to other engineering disciplines, is very people-oriented. Budding industrial engineers learn to plan, design and implement complex systems for a given industry. They do this by taking into account every conceivable variable, from budgets, to machines, to humans.
In a nutshell, industrial engineering majors learn to use engineering and scientific principles to design, manufacture, or improve systems that involve both goods and services. Industrial engineers deal with how products are created, the quality of the product, and the cost of making the product.
Industrial engineers also deal with the design and workings of the factories that make the product. They design the workstations, automation, and robotics for systems all along the supply chain. Industrial engineers are also highly involved in any managerial aspects of modern businesses. These duties range from floor manager in the plant upward to CEO.
In addition, industrial engineers are concerned with worker safety and workplace environments. They balance the implementation of responsible processes with the other requirements of making a product or providing a service of high quality.
Industrial engineers also work in distribution systems, such as:
Regardless of the mode of transportation, industrial engineers work directly with routing, scheduling, and vehicle conditions. For example, an industrial engineer would be concerned with the problems inherent in getting a package delivered from Arizona to Milan, Italy.
In today's global marketplace, industrial engineering is fast becoming international engineering. Global boundaries are diminishing, thus requiring industrial engineers to be fluent in foreign languages and customs. International travel could very well be the norm for engineers, as companies expand and conduct more and more business with foreign governments.
One of the earliest applications of industrial engineering occurred in the early 20th century, and it was not done in a factory. Frank and Lillian Gilbreth, two of the discipline's earliest practitioners, determined that there must be a standardized way to operate in any given hospital.
This standardization provided for a comprehensive training procedure for doctors, nurses, technicians and other healthcare professionals. Thanks to the Gilbreths, operating times dropped and survival rates increased. As a result, today's engineers work in diverse fields like healthcare, transportation, lodging, food service, and other service industries.
Due to the fact that career options are near limitless for industrial engineering majors, they must receive a well-rounded education. This requires the study of:
In addition, it is wise for the industrial engineering major to focus on the physical and social sciences, including economics.
To enter a college degree program in industrial engineering, a candidate must first possess a high school diploma or a GED equivalent. Such a degree assures the institution housing the degree program that the candidate has received an appropriate education and is versed in a general course of study. College admissions officers often determine whether a student holds the potential of a successful industrial engineering major by looking for these prerequisites on a high school transcript:
English - 4 Years
Algebra - 1 Year
Calculus - 1 Year
Geometry - 1 Year
Precalculus - 1 Year
Trigonometry - 1 Year
Chemistry - 1 Year
Physics - 1 Year
Foreign Language - 2 Years
Social Studies - 2 Years
Computer Science - 1 Year
After core high school classes have been taken and a diploma awarded, potential industrial engineering majors have a much better chance of attending the school of their choice.
Some of the most productive and successful professionals in the industrial engineering field share many of these common traits:
Oral and written communication,
designing and improving systems,
problem solving, and
Students entering into an industrial engineering degree program should expect to enroll in many of these types of classes:
Industrial Cost Control
Robotics and Automation
Methods & Work Measurement
Although various engineering institutions offer Associate Degrees, most careers in the field of industrial engineering require, at a minimum, a bachelor's degree. Since the area of systems technology is so specialized, and since proper training and education are vital to the safety of so many people, a bachelor's degree is the beginning option for a career in the industry.
A bachelor's degree generally takes four years to complete. The bachelor's degree courses typically include core engineering classes available to all disciplines in addition to specialized industrial engineering classes.
A Master of Science in Industrial Engineering is a higher level of education for the engineer who already possesses a bachelor's degree. A master's degree often focuses more specifically on certain areas of industrial engineering.
With a completed bachelor's degree and master's degree, you may pursue a PhD in any engineering related field. A PhD will open the door to careers in college or university administration and postsecondary education. PhD programs are research intensive, and their completion time varies.
The industrial engineering major can prepare a student for a careers as an industrial engineer, systems analyst, production control manager, quality control manager, operations research analyst, industrial cost control manager, manufacturing engineering manager, systems designer, or plant manager, among others. After graduate work in industrial engineering (the MS or PhD) a professional may work as an engineering scientist.
As opposed to engineers in other specialties, the industrial engineer is more concerned with increasing productivity through the management of people, the methods of organization and the available technology. As stated before, a majority of industrial engineers working the manufacturing field but are branching out into many other industries.
In order to solve problems encountered in product manufacturing and service industries, industrial engineers must study the product and its requirements. They use mathematical models, such as operational research models, to meet production requirements, and to design manufacturing and information systems. They not only develop, but also manage control systems that aid in financial planning per product. This is also an effective way of cost analysis.
Not only do industrial engineers design financial systems, they also improve, upgrade, and reconfigure these systems. They also develop wage, payroll, and salary administration systems and other job performance and evaluation systems. This is the main factor for industrial engineers moving into management positions. They are so closely related to every nuance of the corporate system, they can often be the best source for overall company evaluation.
Health and safety engineers are very similar to industrial engineers. They both deal with the entirety of a production process. Health and safety engineers promote worksite safety and corporate health by applying models and systems of the industrial process. These engineers must be able to recognize and then diffuse hazardous situations before they come to pass.
In addition to manufacturing and service industries, industrial engineers apply the discipline in a variety of industries and positions, including:
Management Engineer: As a management engineer, the engineer is primarily responsible for the systems and procedures to make people more effective in their positions.
Ergonomist: An industrial engineer that is concerned with the proper tool usage and health systems to prevent stress and injury.
Operations Analyst: An operations analyst is responsible for integrating people and machines effectively.
Quality Engineer: A quality engineer designs processes and systems that ensure the quality of products or services.
The kinds of projects that industrial engineering graduates could find themselves working on include:
Designing the admissions procedure at a hospital.
Discovering a new way to assemble a product that will prevent worker injury.
Representing a company in the design and construction of a new plant.
Performing motion and time studies.
Developing prototype units for the cellular phone car adapter market.
Developing a hardware protection program for spacecraft.
Developing a supplier quality program.
Implementing lean manufacturing concepts.
Developing and launching a complete material handling system.
Developing the conceptual layout of a dockyard and ship repair facility.
Working on a design project to make a medical device to treat sleep apnea.
Representing manufacturing and purchasing issues on a design team.
Teaching industrial engineering courses.
These are just a few areas where businesses use industrial engineers. In essence, for a company to function at the highest level of productivity, an industrial engineer more than likely designed and implemented the system that brought the company to that point.
According to a 2002 study by the United States Department of Labor, the median annual salary of industrial engineers was $62,150. Most professionals reported earning between $50,160 and $75,440, although the highest 10 percent earned more than $90,420. Median annual earnings in the manufacturing industries employing the largest numbers of industrial engineers in 2002 were:
Semiconductor and other electronic component manufacturing:
Navigational, measuring, and control instruments manufacturing:
Architectural, engineering, and related services:
Aerospace products and parts manufacturing:
Motor vehicle parts manufacturing:
Health and safety engineers earned a median annual salary of $58,010 in 2002, while the highest 10 percent of professionals earned more than $87,250.
According to a 2003 salary survey by the National Association of Colleges and Employers, bachelor's degree candidates in industrial/manufacturing engineering received starting offers averaging about $47,051 a year, while master's degree candidates averaged $54,565 a year.
No national comprehensive licensing body certifies industrial engineers. Most employers rely on the solid training that graduates received during their degree programs. Instead, most licensing and certification is reserved for the products designed and developed by industrial engineers.
Since an industrial engineer can effectively function in any field, the must conform to the certification bodies that oversee their particular specialty. Some states do require additional licensing as an engineer. Please consult local statute and licensing boards for more information.
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