Industrial engineers devise efficient systems that integrate workers, machines, materials, information, and energy to make a product or provide a service.
What they do
Industrial engineers typically do the following:
- 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
Industrial engineers apply their skills to many different situations, from manufacturing to healthcare systems to business administration. For example, they design systems for
- moving heavy parts within manufacturing plants
- delivering goods from a company to customers, including finding the most profitable places to locate manufacturing or processing plants
- evaluating job performance
- paying workers.
Some industrial engineers, called manufacturing engineers, focus entirely on the automated aspects of manufacturing processes. They design manufacturing systems to optimize the use of computer networks, robots, and materials.
Industrial engineers focus on how to get the work done most efficiently, balancing many factors, such as time, number of workers needed, available technology, actions workers need to take, achieving the end product with no errors, workers’ safety, environmental concerns, and cost.
The versatility of industrial engineers allows them to engage in activities that are useful to a variety of businesses, governments, and nonprofits. For example, industrial engineers engage in supply chain management to help businesses minimize inventory costs, conduct quality assurance activities to help businesses keep their customer bases satisfied, and work in the growing field of project management as industries across the economy seek to control costs and maximize efficiencies.
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, industrial engineers may be in an office at a computer where they analyze data that they or others have collected.
Industrial engineers must work well on teams because they need help from others to collect information about problems and to implement solutions.
Industrial engineers may need to travel to observe processes and make assessments in various work settings.
How to become an Industrial Engineer
Industrial engineers must have a bachelor’s degree. Employers also value experience, so cooperative education engineering programs at universities are also beneficial.
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.
Bachelor’s degree programs include lectures in classrooms and practice in laboratories. Courses include statistics, production systems planning, and manufacturing systems design, among others. Many colleges and universities offer cooperative education programs in which students gain practical experience while completing their education.
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. Some 5-year or even 6-year cooperative education plans combine classroom study with practical work, permitting students to gain experience and to finance part of their education.
Programs in industrial engineering are accredited by ABET
The median annual wage for industrial engineers was $88,020 in May 2019. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $57,290, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $134,070.
Employment of industrial engineers is projected to grow 10 percent from 2019 to 2029, faster than the average for all occupations. This occupation is versatile both in the nature of the work it does and in the industries in which its expertise can be put to use.
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. This versatility arises from the fact that these engineers focus on reducing internal costs, making their work valuable for many industries. For example, their work is important for manufacturing industries that are considering relocating from overseas to domestic sites.
Similar Job Titles
Continuous Improvement Engineer, Engineer, Facilities Engineer, Industrial Engineer, Operations Engineer, Plant Engineer, Process Engineer, Project Engineer, Quality Engineer, Research and Development Engineer (R and D Engineer), Efficiency Engineer
Electrical Engineer, Materials Engineer, Validation Engineer, Energy Engineer, Industrial Engineering Technician
The trade associations listed below represent organizations made up of people (members) who work and promote advancement in the field. Members are very interested in telling others about their work and about careers in those areas. As well, trade associations provide opportunities for organizational networking and learning more about the field’s trends and directions.
- American Society for Quality
- American Society of Safety Engineers
- Board of Certified Safety Professionals
- Institute of Industrial and Systems Engineers
- National Society of Professional Engineers
- SAE International
- Society of Manufacturing Engineers
- Society of Women Engineers
- Surface Mount Technology Association
Magazines and Publications
- Industrial Engineer Magazine
- Industrial and Systems Engineering Magazine
- Journal of Industrial Engineering and Management
- Control Engineering Magazine
While originally focused on streamlining manufacturing processes, the field of industrial engineering now improves processes and systems in virtually all industries, to make them more efficient, yielding less waste, and costing less. To maximize efficiency, industrial engineers balance many factors such as the number and type of workers involved in a process, available equipment, safety, environmental impact, and cost. They might design faster production methods… choose new materials to make longer-lasting products… or devise ways to move customers through a line faster at an amusement park. Some engineers focus entirely on automated manufacturing and work with robots and computer networks. Industrial engineers often rely on teams to identify problems and solutions in their work. They generally work in offices… or travel to the settings they are analyzing to identify improvements. For example, they may watch workers assemble parts in a factory, then return to an office to analyze the data they have collected. Most industrial engineers work full time, but hours may vary depending on the needs of specific projects. Industrial engineers need a bachelor’s degree, in industrial engineering or a related engineering field. Employers value practical experience in the field, which many programs offer as part of a degree program.
Content retrieved from: US Bureau of Labor Statistics-OOH www.bls.gov/ooh,
CareerOneStop www.careeronestop.org, O*Net Online www.onetonline.org