Industrial Engineers

Industrial engineers develop strategies to more effectively utilize energy, machines, and raw materials in manufacturing. They improve efficiency by focusing on human management, business organization, and technology. Industrial engineers use math to develop manufacturing and information systems to maximize efficiency. They also develop management strategies to provide effective cost analysis and budgeting, as well as develop control systems to improve product quality. In addition, industrial engineers strategically locate offices and factories to increase production and distribution efficiency. Since industrial engineers work closely with management, some become managers themselves.

The duties of an industrial engineer include:

  • Studying service and manufacturing processes and, if necessary, modifying schedules, process flows, and other specifics
  • Maximizing efficiency in the manufacturing of products or the delivery of services
  • Making management systems more cost-effective
  • Solving problems and minimizing production expenses through the use of quality control procedures
  • Coordinating with management and customers to determine production and design standards
  • Ensuring high standards of quality in production, through the coordination of planning and implementation
  • Collaborating with clients, vendors, management personnel, and staff throughout all the stages of design and manufacturing

Work Environment
Industrial engineers hold over 203,000 jobs. Some of their time is spent in offices, and some of their time is spent visiting job sites. An industrial engineer may visit a hospital or a factory, for instance, in order to improve the site's functionality or efficiency. They collect data and analyze it with special computer programs. They collaborate with other professionals in their efforts to solve problems. Travel is often required, since industrial engineers need to study workplaces and diagnose problems in many different locations. Industrial engineers typically work 40 hours a week.

The table below shows the industries which employ the most industrial engineers, and the distribution of the engineers among those industries:

  • Aerospace product and parts manufacturing – 8%
  • Architectural, engineering, and related services – 6%
  • Navigational, measuring, electromedical, and control instruments manufacturing – 6%
  • Motor vehicle parts manufacturing – 5%
  • Semiconductor and other electronic component manufacturing – 5%

How to Become an Industrial Engineer
A bachelor's degree in industrial engineering is required to start out as an industrial engineer. Practical experience is highly valuable to employers, so graduates of cooperative-education programs are at an advantage when applying for jobs.

Students who want to become an industrial engineer should study trigonometry, algebra, and calculus, as well as computer science, physics, and chemistry.

Undergraduate students of industrial engineering study in classrooms and laboratories for four years. Students take classes in manufacturing systems design, statistics, production systems planning, and more. Cooperative-education programs are available at most universities and colleges, and allow students to receive on-the-job training while completing their degree.

Five-year programs are available at certain colleges and universities. Students who complete these programs receive both a bachelor's degree and a master's degree. Engineers who hold a master's degree or higher are able to teach at universities and participate in research and development projects. Some cooperative-education plans last five or six years, and help students pay for school while gaining practical experience in their field.

These university programs are evaluated and accredited by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET).

The median salary of an industrial engineer is more than $76,000. The median salary is the salary at which 50% of the workers earned more and 50% earned less. The lowest 10% of engineers earn less than $50,000, and the highest 10% earn more than $112,000.

The following table shows the industries which employ the most industrial engineers, as well as the median salary of industrial engineers in those industries:

  • Semiconductor and other electronic component manufacturing – $83,620
  • Navigational, measuring, electromedical, and control instruments manufacturing – $81,850
  • Architectural, engineering, and related services – $80,990
  • Aerospace product and parts manufacturing – $80,940
  • Motor vehicle parts manufacturing – $72,840

Job Outlook
It's estimated that job prospects for industrial engineers will grow by 6% in the next decade. This growth is slower than usual, when compared to the average occupation. Industrial engineering can be useful to many different industries for many different reasons. These engineers are seen as highly valuable by organizations of all kinds (including nonprofits), because their job is to increase system efficiency and therefore reduce internal expenses.

Industrial engineers are very versatile, and may work in any of a large number of fields. Industrial engineers can be found in hospitals, research and development firms, major manufacturing industries, and consulting and engineering services, among others. Even for new and rapidly expanding industries, industrial engineers are very valuable, because of their knowledge of how to improve efficiency and save their employers money. Job growth will be slow, however, because the manufacturing industries which employ most of these engineers are expected to grow only gradually, or decline.

The skills of industrial engineers are useful to a wide range of organizations, like governments, nonprofits, and businesses. Industrial engineers minimize internal expenses through proper management, ensure product quality and thereby maintain satisfied customers, and maximize the efficiency and cost-effectiveness of all kinds of industries.

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