Industrial engineers are engineers who specialize in finding ways to eliminate waste in production processes. They devise methods to use workers, materials and equipment in the most efficient way possible. Like all engineering careers, becoming an industrial engineer requires years of work experience and higher education.
According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, most industrial engineers have a bachelor’s degree in industrial engineering. Entry-level jobs require a bachelor’s degree, and companies highly value past work experience, so students interested in becoming industrial engineers should pursue internships and engineering cooperatives while in college.
High school students interested in pursuing industrial engineering should pursue subjects such as mathematics, computer science, chemistry and physics. Bachelor’s degree programs are typically four year programs and include a combination of classroom lectures and hands-on training. Students usually study subjects including statistics, production systems planning and manufacturing design, and often pursue internships and engineering cooperatives while in school. Some colleges also offer five or six-year programs that combine a bachelor’s and master’s degree. These programs often combine coursework with paid internships or other work that allows students to work professionally while earning their degree.
Licensing for industrial engineers is usually not required, and is not as common as other engineering licenses. However, licensing is encouraged for industrial engineers who plan to work in companies with government contracts. Engineers who hold a license are known as Professional Engineers (PEs). Becoming a PE requires passing two exams, having relevant work experience and a degree from an accredited institution.
Industrial engineers work in a variety of settings, ranging from offices to labs and factories. As of 2010, the industries employing the largest number of industrial engineers included aerospace product and parts manufacturing, architectural and engineering services, navigational, medical, electromedical and control instruments manufacturing, motor vehicle parts manufacturing and semiconductor and other electronic component manufacturing.
As of May 2010, the median salary of industrial engineers was 76,100 dollars. This is lower than the overall engineering salary of 83,340 dollars; however, wages for industrial engineers can vary depending on the type of work they do. For example, engineers working with electrical component manufacturing had a median salary of 83,620 dollars, while those working in motor vehicle parts manufacturing made an average of 72,840 dollars.
Job growth for industrial engineering is expected to grow six percent from 2010 to 2020, which is slower than the national average of 14 percent. Job growth is also slower than all other engineering professions, which are expected to grow by 11 percent. The nature of industrial engineering makes workers in this field attractive to employers who are looking to control costs and increase efficiency; however, many industrial engineers are employed in industries that are either growing slowly or declining, such as the auto industry.
Despite slower-than-average growth, industrial engineering is still a good career option for people looking to gain versatility in a variety of engineering fields and work environments, and though it requires years of schooling and professional training, the high salary and versatility make industrial engineering a good career option.