What Is a Master's in Industrial Engineering?
January 18, 2023
A Master of Science in Industrial Engineering preps graduate students for top-tier management career opportunities in specializations like optimization, operations research, and healthcare.
Industrial engineers streamline processes, improve products, and optimize production systems across industries. Their efforts reduce production costs, increase efficiency, protect the environment, and ensure worker health and safety. Engineering graduate programs prepare these professionals for career opportunities across a broad range of fields, including healthcare, aviation, and computer science.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects that employment in industrial engineering jobs will grow ten percent through 2031, about twice the rate of the entire job market. This increase will account for an additional 30,600 jobs over the decade.
Earning a master's degree in industrial engineering can give you a competitive advantage when pursuing these roles. In addition, many industrial engineers find that earning a master's degree endows them with valuable skills leading to better prospects in the job market.
In this article, we'll explore the question what is a master's in industrial engineering? Topics include:
- What is a master's in industrial engineering?
- What do industrial engineers do?
- Why get a master's in industrial engineering?
- Which jobs are available for industrial engineers with a Master of Science in Industrial Engineering (MSIE)?
- Can I get my master's in industrial engineering online?
What is a master's in industrial engineering?
Master's degree programs build on what you learned as an undergraduate. Most master's programs require approximately 30 credit hours and two years of full-time study to complete; some can be completed in one. Most students pursue graduate degrees in areas they studied as undergraduates, but it is not necessary. You can pursue an MSIE without having taken undergraduate engineering courses, although you will almost certainly have to complete bridge courses before you can begin work on your graduate degree.
Many people pursue their master's in industrial engineering to advance to managerial, leadership, or senior engineering roles or to enhance their knowledge in specialized areas, such as inventory control, scheduling, and industrial economics.
Core courses in a graduate industrial engineering program include data analytics for engineering systems, planning and operations engineering, project management, and decision-making in complex environments. In addition, elective courses provide opportunities to explore personal areas of interest, including:
- Production analysis
- Quality management
- Supply chain engineering
- Supply chain risk management
- Systems reliability engineering
- Forecasting and time series analysis
- Simulation of production systems
- Advanced engineering economics
- Advanced manufacturing processes
- Experimental design
- Facilities planning and design
- Procurement management and global sourcing
What do industrial engineers do?
Industrial engineers are problem solvers. They improve processes and increase productivity in fields like automotive manufacturing, healthcare, aerospace, and financial services.
Here are some real-world examples of what industrial engineers do:
- Design admissions procedures in emergency rooms
- Decide how many elevators to install in new buildings
- Develop information systems for tracking hazardous materials
- Design medical devices to treat chronic issues
- Help clothing manufacturers minimize wasted materials
- Determine ideal locations to build new police and fire stations
- Integrate robotics into manufacturing lines
- Improve workflows of fast-food restaurants
- Manage baggage tracking systems for airlines
Why get a master's in industrial engineering?
Pursuing an advanced degree in industrial engineering can skyrocket your salary and significantly improve your potential for career advancement. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage for industrial engineers in the United States is around $95,000. The top ten percent of earners make over $129,000. Working professionals with master's degrees prime themselves to progress to management and senior-level positions, often nabbing salaries in this top tier.
As with most professions, location impacts how much you can make. Industrial engineers in Alaska, California, Louisiana, New Mexico, and Washington earn more on average than those in other states. Top-paying companies include Apple, Meta, Google, Western Digital, and ConocoPhillips.
A master's degree in industrial engineering can:
- Broaden your horizons
- Bolster your qualifications
- Change your professional trajectory
- Expand your knowledge
- Extend your network of fellow students, faculty, and future employers
- Increase your skill sets
- Widen your potential opportunities
Industrial engineers with master's degrees are well-equipped to transition into various roles across many practice areas, making them more competitive in the job market. In addition, according to a study conducted by the University of Chicago, industrial engineer ranked in the top ten happiest occupations. The study also indicated that those who merged creativity with technical expertise improved overall happiness in their organization. Industrial engineers use their knowledge and skills to implement creative solutions that benefit everyone.
How to choose an industrial engineering degree
What level of flexibility are you looking for in graduate school? What degree requirements and coursework would you like to complete? Are you looking for full-time or part-time study? These are all crucial factors to consider when choosing a college of engineering.
Accreditation is another important factor. Industrial engineers should seek programs accredited by the Accreditation Board for Engineering Technology (ABET). ABET accreditation ensures that your degree program has met the standards necessary to prepare you to enter STEM fields in the global workforce. ABET accreditation:
- Validates your Master of Engineering with globally recognized standards
- Broadens your employment opportunities, as many corporations require ABET accreditation
- Paves the way for international employment, as ABET accreditation is recognized worldwide
Admissions criteria vary by the graduate program. Common considerations include minimum bachelor's degree GPA requirements, GRE scores, letters of recommendation, prerequisite undergraduate courses, resumès, and purpose statements.
Which jobs are available for industrial engineers with a Master of Science in Industrial Engineering (MSIE)?
Common job titles for industrial engineers include:
- Data scientist
- Inventory controller
- Logistics engineer
- Manufacturing engineer
- Process engineer
- Project manager
- Quality control supervisor
- Quality engineer
- Supply chain analyst
- Systems analyst
These roles often require varying levels of experience and education. Managerial positions within the field often require a master's degree or specialization and offer more lucrative compensation. The median salary for production engineering managers, according to Salary.com, is just over $129,000, while specialist process engineers earn a median salary of just over $126,000.
Can I get my master's in industrial engineering online?
Higher education is more accessible now than ever. There are plenty of options to earn your degree on campus or online. Top industrial engineering programs include:
- Georgia Institute of Technology
- University of California, Berkeley
- University of Michigan, Ann Arbor
- Stanford University
- Massachusetts Institute of Technology
- Northwestern University
- Stevens Institute of Technology
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