What do industrial engineers do? Here's how the University of Buffalo website describes their responsibilities: "Industrial engineers determine the most effective ways to use the basic factors of production—people, machines, materials, information, and energy—to make a product or provide a service."
Granted, that's a pretty broad description, but there's a good reason for that. Industrial engineers work across numerous areas, including manufacturing, electrical, chemical, and mechanical engineering. Professionals in all of these fields use data analytics, troubleshooting, and problem-solving to implement process improvements and quality control. Engineering work is similar to management, applying mathematical and scientific techniques to analyze factors like personnel and project management in organizations.
In short, industrial engineers use their expertise to accomplish a great deal, impacting many aspects of operations and planning. So what jobs are available to professionals in industrial engineering, and how do they function as engineering managers? This article explores the skills and training you'll need to land a job in this broad set of industries, including aeronautics, automotive manufacturing, logistics and transportation, finance, and healthcare in public and private sectors. It discusses jobs in industrial engineering by addressing:
All industrial engineers perform similar tasks but apply them to various industries and settings. For example, an industrial engineer working in a hospital examines the work environment to assess its operational efficiency. They may focus on implementing a system to efficiently locate medical equipment or manage nursing staff, allowing management to lower costs and improve staff and patient morale. In a manufacturing plant, the engineers might focus more on the automation of production processes, workers' safety concerns, supply chain efficiency, transportation costs, or quality assurance of products. Any industry with complex operational systems can benefit from a trained industrial engineer's skills.
Industrial engineers use probabilities, statistics, and computer modeling to map out manufacturing processes and find opportunities for continuous improvement. Their goal is to examine inputs and outputs to identify gaps in efficiency and design initiatives where they can improve production processes and quality control.
Entry-level roles for engineers working in production are often on the manufacturing floor. By overseeing business processes at every stage, budding industrial engineers develop first-hand experience on-the-job. This pays dividends later in their careers; their experiences prepare them to collaborate more effectively to solve complicated problems.
Renewable energy, oil and gas, and robotics all have a solid growth outlook for the next decade. Industrial engineers are in high demand across these industries. They are also well paid, especially when equipped with a few years of work experience and industry certifications. For many higher-level positions offering top-tier pay, employers often seek engineers with master's degrees.
A full-time entry-level position as an industrial engineer in San Francisco pays about $92,000 per year, but for those who have moved beyond a bachelor's degree with a few more years of engineering experience under their belt, their average pay increases significantly to about $131,000 per year, with top positions paying about $159,000 per year.
You'll likely secure a smaller salary for a similar job title outside of the San Francisco Bay area (including Emeryville, San Leandro, Oakland, Richmond, and Berkeley). You'll also incur a lower cost of living: housing costs in San Francisco, for example, are more than double those in Richmond, VA.
Industrial engineer jobs go far beyond manufacturing into industries like finance, healthcare, city and environmental planning, and sales. Job titles include:
These positions help businesses with complex systems by improving problem-solving, quality control, process improvement, and optimization analytics.
Industrial engineers may also move into engineering management roles, using their skills to design control systems to analyze cost and production efficiency. These professionals lead teams of engineers in large-scale problem-solving initiatives. Process engineers evaluate the design, control, and operation of manufacturing or logistics processes and make recommendations for reducing costs or improving the quality of products and services. Industrial engineers use fundamental skills transferable to systems and management positions in various industries.
This segment of industrial engineering jobs includes companies that manufacture computers, communications equipment, and related components. This rapidly growing sector is projected to continue its expansion as the world relies more and more on integrated circuits and miniaturization technologies for audio and visual, semiconductor, navigational, and electromedical equipment manufacturing. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that industrial engineers in this sector earn median annual incomes of about $99,000 per year.
This sector offers industrial engineers job opportunities in expert professional and technical service in areas like bookkeeping and accounting, architectural design, consulting, and legal advice and representation. Industrial engineers in this segment earn similar annual median wages to computer and electronic product manufacturing, at approximately $99,000 per year. The lowest ten percent earn less than $61,000 annually, while the top ten percent earn over $129,000.
This significant and critical set of industries includes industrial engineering jobs related to manufacturing parts for motor vehicles, trailers, aerospace vehicles, railroads, and naval vessels. Industrial engineering jobs in these businesses focus on the quality and efficiency of production and operations as well as ergonomic design and safety of workers. Industrial engineers in transportation and equipment manufacturing earn annual incomes of about $97,000 on average per year.
Machinery manufacturing involves complex assembly operations like welding, stamping, and forging for the design and production of products like gears and levers. This complex fabrication requires industrial engineers to oversee the production process for the product and the employees working in the industry. Safety and ergonomics are essential for those who work in machining metalworks for industries like ventilation, HVAC, agriculture, construction, and mining. Industrial engineers earn an average salary in machinery manufacturing of about $80,000 per year.
After initial fabrication, metal is transformed into end products through welding and assembly of separate parts. Processes are similar to machinery manufacturing but may involve coordination with multiple sources of materials and fabricators. Industrial engineers in this sector may work with industry groups in architecture and structural metals, machine shops, forging and stamping, cutlery, hand tools, and other hardware. Industrial engineers in this segment earn an average income of about $78,000.
Industrial engineers can build robust careers by working their way up in any of the abovementioned industries. A mid-career shift can also provide an excellent path for boosting salary and responsibility.
While some industrial engineers begin their career with a bachelor's degree in industrial engineering or in a related field, a master's degree in industrial engineering often provides better opportunities for job growth.
An online master's in industrial engineering can provide flexibility for working professionals. Students can choose from full or part-time schedules in programs that combine synchronous classes, asynchronous classes, and concentrated campus experiences. Many of these master's programs can be completed in one year and may feature rolling start dates to accommodate busy schedules. Some students even find support from their employers through tuition reimbursement.
With the increase of online and hybrid master's program options, particularly in COVID's wake, remote learning is garnering more respect than ever before. Add the convenience of enrolling in any school worldwide without having to relocate, and you'll understand why online master's programs in industrial engineering continue to grow more popular every year.
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