If excellent job prospects and pay aren't reason enough to pursue industrial engineering, consider the wide range of aptitudes you'll obtain while pursuing your education.
Image description
Ana Beirne-Meyer
Noodle Expert Member

January 13, 2023

Industrial engineer job descriptions vary drastically—and for good reason. Higher education provides these professionals with countless valuable skills across industries. Potential career paths include chemical engineering, electrical engineering, and systems engineering. So, which industrial engineering jobs are best?

Industrial engineering jobs are as diverse as positions in nearly any other field. Interested in aviation? Study industrial engineering. Fascinated by automation? Study robotics engineering. Financial engineering is a thing!

You get the picture. With a wide range of specializations and certifications, industrial engineers are primed to compete in various work environments.

So, what kind of jobs can you expect to nab with an industrial engineering degree? And, according to the experts, what are the best industrial engineering jobs out there? This article answers that question and covers the following topics:

  • What is industrial engineering?
  • Why choose industrial engineering?
  • How to become an industrial engineer
  • Industrial engineer jobs
  • Can I get my master's in industrial engineering online?

What is industrial engineering?

Industrial engineering optimizes production processes and service operations by implementing management methods for design, manufacturing, technology, and human relations improvement. Optimizing operations can bolster a company's efficiency, productivity, and product quality. Production process and systems engineering improvements increase profit and ensure safety and quality control.

Why choose industrial engineering?

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects employment of industrial engineers to grow by 10 percent between 2021 and 2031, accounting for approximately 30,600 jobs. In 2021, industrial engineers in the U.S. earned a median annual salary of $95,000.

If excellent job prospects and pay aren't reason enough to pursue industrial engineering, consider the wide range of aptitudes you'll obtain while pursuing your education. Industrial engineers require proficiency in many skills to perform their daily work. These professionals excel in continuous improvement, lean manufacturing, math, and creativity. Degree programs offer subjects that include engineering statistics, inventory control, supply chain systems, and computer science. With an industrial engineering degree and work experience, you'll also develop skills in organizational management, project management, problem-solving, and data analytics.

How to become an industrial engineer

Industrial engineers typically hold at least bachelor's degrees, though their majors can vary. For example, industrial engineers may hold manufacturing, mechanical engineering, or electrical engineering degrees. Typical subjects these programs cover include statistics, manufacturing processes, problem-solving, and computer programming.

Certifications can improve your odds of being hired as an industrial engineer. They boost the quality of your resume, displaying commitment and knowledge to your craft. They can also lead to higher salaries. The Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) and the Professional Engineer (PE) licenses stand out as excellent certifications in the field.

While master's degrees require more time and financial investment, they're top-level credentials likely to impress potential employers. As a result, they provide candidates with a more competitive edge in the job markets, while certifications offer a more expedient route to enter the workforce.

Industrial engineering jobs

Engineering experience and level of education will play a significant role in determining which industrial engineering job is right for you. The following section will cover some of the top job titles in the field, what you can expect to earn, and the skills required for each role.

Manufacturing engineer

Manufacturing engineers design systems of product development to improve cost, quality, and system durability. Skills necessary for this position include familiarity with production equipment, fabrication processes, tooling, and assembly of products to design production systems and provide cost estimators. Manufacturing engineers must be familiar with iterative engineering processes, as companies often reassess strategies for efficiency and cost-effectiveness. According to Indeed, the average annual salary of a manufacturing engineer in the United States is just over $80,000.

Process engineer

Process engineers contribute to production process improvement by working with a product's raw materials and the equipment employed in their development. The role applies to manufacturing, chemical, and biotechnology industries dealing with products such as pharmaceuticals and energy sources. Process engineers develop new systems to ensure process optimization and high-quality products. Skills required in this role include data analysis and risk assessment. The average base annual salary for a process engineer in the U.S. is just over $85,000, making it one of the highest-paying industrial engineering roles.

Business analyst

Business analysts prepare companies for economic success by assessing budgets, market trends, and product profitability. After analyzing collected data, they provide recommendations to inform business strategy. Master's degrees in data science can prepare you for these kinds of responsibilities as well. Communication skills are essential, as you'll need to convey findings to clients. Additionally, some business analysts develop or implement systems to assist in processes of engineering management or data engineering, which calls for skills like system design. Business analysts make about $81,000 per year on average in the United States.

Quality engineer

Quality engineers work to guarantee that a manufacturer's products and processes are up to standard. This position involves the inspection of products and the monitoring of production procedures. If a quality engineer comes across an issue in their evaluation, it is their responsibility to identify the source of the discrepancy. Top skills for quality engineers include continuous improvement, corrective action, and ISO regulations that standardize quality assurance internationally across industries. A quality engineer earns nearly $78,000 per year on average in the U.S., according to Indeed.

Project engineer

Project engineers specialize in all phases of a project to ensure efficient implementation. Engineers help management conceptualize goals in the planning phase of a project. This position collaborates with other experts in engineering and technology who require expertise in general engineering. Project engineers also help devise feasible schedules to meet goals. While project implementation is underway, project engineers monitor work, keeping project goals aligned. They also oversee budgeting and can propose modifications according to the project's progress. Communication and management are essential skills for project engineers, who regularly consult with stakeholders and team members. The average salary of a project engineer in the United States is nearly $81,000.

Sales engineer

Sales engineers combine skills in engineering and marketing with strategizing methods for the sale of technological products. This position requires a candidate with knowledge of the technical side of their products, as sales representatives must be able to explain the science behind the machines or services they are advertising. Not only do sales engineers need extensive knowledge of engineering concepts, but they also must have strong interpersonal and communication skills to appeal to potential buyers. Top skills for sales engineers include pre-sales, customer service, and technical support. The average base salary of a sales engineer in the United States is about $84,000.

Can I get my master's in industrial engineering online?

Industrial engineering positions typically require candidates to hold a bachelor's degree in mechanical, manufacturing, electrical, or general industrial engineering. Earning a bachelor's degree in one of these IE-related fields teaches you foundational knowledge, but your chances of securing the position are significantly higher with a master's degree.

Many industrial engineering programs with various specializations are available online. Online master's programs offer a more flexible learning model, expanding access to higher education. Esteemed universities including Tulane University, Case Western Reserve University, and Southern Methodist University offer engineering programs and provide online modifications for distance learning.

Questions or feedback? Email editor@noodle.com