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What Does a Career in Industrial Engineering Entail?

Industrial engineering is the study of methods that reduce waste and increase efficiency in production lines and similar processes. The goal of industrial engineering is to assess every product or service system to better integrate human assets, research and development, machines and equipment, relevant materials, and energy. A career in industrial engineering involves the ability to critically assess complex systems, such as supply chain management or manufacturing systems/production systems, and develop methodical improvements that range from small changes to sweeping revisions.

Industrial engineering economics principles apply to traditional factories and manufacturing processes as well as to the latest generation of computerized systems that integrate information management. The principles of industrial engineering apply to aspects of production systems and service organization such as workplace safety, improving productivity or operations research and development methods, and supply chain methodology. The industrial and systems engineering discipline requires a strong educational background in systems engineering and industrial engineering as industrial engineers work in and must be able to understand the vital factors and purposes involves in a wide variety of settings. Industrial engineer's work can be applied to factories, raw materials production, hospitals, and laboratories. Industrial engineers must be able to take all relevant factors into account when developing solutions. Industrial engineering programs provide this necessary education through in-person and at least partially online industrial engineering degrees.


Components of A Successful Career In Industrial Engineering

Problem-solving is the essence of industrial engineering, and industrial engineering is a multidisciplinary field that combines engineering principles with management science. The below described personal traits contribute to a successful career for industrial engineers.

  • Industrial engineers need critical thinking skills; they must understand business and other process situations and examine them for flaws and opportunities for improvement.
  • Creativity is a key to effective problem-solving for any industrial engineer, and this skill supports all other capabilities.
  • Strong oral communication skills and superior writing skills support the need to communicate with clients, colleagues, and remote parties to resolve issues.
  • Industrial engineering requires an aptitude for math, engineering principles, and business.

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How to Become an Industrial Engineer

  • Education is the beginning point; you need formal training in business, the management sciences, engineering, and an online associate or Bachelor of Science degree in industrial engineering.
  • Practical experience is a strong advantage with an associate or bachelor’s.
  • Apply for jobs.
  • Get certifications in eligible fields such as Certified Supply Chain Professional.
  • Get licenses in eligible fields such as licensed engineers.

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Typical Industrial Engineering Degree Requirements

industrial_engineering_degree_requirements The Associate of Science in Industrial Engineering requires about 60 credit hours that are divided among general education, computer studies, and engineering technology. This is not considered a full industrial engineering degree, but it does open-up entry-level opportunities in technology and technical work.

The online Bachelor of Science in Industrial Engineering is an entry-level degree in the field of industrial engineering. This four-year degree opens entry to mid-level positions. Admission to a bachelor’s program will require high school transcripts, SAT/ACT scores, and possibly even letters of recommendation.

The Master of Science in Industrial Engineering is a full professional qualification for industrial engineering practice and teaching at the college or university level. Admission for this degree requires an online Bachelor of Science in a related field.

Typical Industrial Engineering Certifications Needed

Industrial engineers can earn voluntary certifications on top of their degree in industrial engineering. When qualifying as a licensed engineer, industrial engineers must meet qualifications for their professional engineering licenses.

Academic Standards for an Industrial Engineering Degree

Admissions requirements for industrial engineering programs are straightforward. Applicants must have a high school diploma or equivalent such as a GED. The high school GPA must be at least 2.5 or higher. Most engineering programs look for four years of high school mathematics. Schools also usually require the SAT or ACT test as a guide for student selection. Most schools ask for an essay, and many schools also require a face to face interview.

Exam/Experience Needed for an Industrial Engineering Degree

industrial_engineering_degree_exam_experience The standard college admissions tests help schools rank their candidates. There is no single qualifying exam for the industrial engineering field of study. Lab courses and practicums are frequent requirements in bachelor’s and associate degree programs in industrial engineering. Near the end of the course of study for Bachelor of Science engineering programs, students may be able to arrange coursework to qualify for a professional engineer exam in the state where they attend or reside.

Most programs provide some form of practical training and education to equip graduates to move immediately into real-world work environments. The practical training can be internships, projects, or collaborations. Online students can usually engage a workable internship arrangement near their home areas.

Industrial Engineering Fields of Study

When pursuing a career in industrial engineering, there are three levels of education to consider. Students can enter the field in as little as two years with an associate degree but the bulk of job opportunities will request a bachelor’s degree. Some upper level and specialized roles will require an M.S. in industrial engineering. To get maximum exposure to jobs, all levels of education need experience. Industrial engineering is a practical profession that relies upon creativity and general knowledge, in addition to engineering specialization.

The field of industrial engineering is broad and involves business management as well as engineering. Students can enter the field with an online bachelor’s degree. The course of study will include principles of general, mechanical, and electrical engineering. Students can enter the field of industrial engineering with degrees in mechanical, general, or electrical engineering. Some successful industrial engineers majored in systems engineering, manufacturing, or supply chain management.

Mechanical Engineering
Mechanical engineering is one of the oldest forms of engineering. This discipline involves the use of heat and mechanical power. It is the field of study that combines knowledge of materials, design, and engineering to create and maintain mechanical or machine-based systems. Mechanical devices exist nearly everywhere and on a range of scale from tiny devices to large systems like spacecraft.

Electrical Engineering
Electrical engineering is one of the later fields of engineering; it came into full-blown usage in the late 1800s with the rise of electric power. The field manages technology of electricity. The scale of electric-powered devices and machines runs from small items to building-sized systems like electrical generators. Electrical engineering today includes electricity, electronics, and electromagnetic systems.

General Engineering
The field of general engineering prepares students to work in nearly every type of engineering-based job or career. The general engineering degree prepares students to take the Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) exam and then the Professional Engineer Exam.

Systems Engineering
This field is focused on maintaining engineering systems and processes. A systems engineer will focus on the efficiency and productivity of a single machine, a single process, or an entire factory or business.

Online Associate's Degree

The online associate level degree is not an engineering degree, as that requires a bachelor’s. This two-year format uses hands-on applications, labs, and projects to prepare graduates to work as engineer assistants, technicians, and computer control operators. Students can begin their careers in industrial engineering with an online associate degree in Industrial Engineering Technology or some similar variation on the industrial engineer theme. These courses typically combine drafting with technical training.

Example Industrial Engineering Coursework:

  • Technical Writing
  • Computer Aided Drafting
  • Principles of Microprocessors Technology

Online Bachelor’s Degree

The online bachelor’s degree in industrial engineering is the entry level for the profession. Many industrial engineers migrate to the profession from related fields like general engineering or mechanical engineering. The degree requires about 125 credit hours and typically takes four years to complete. The coursework includes a strong background in general education. The core must mix business and management education with the technical and engineering work.

Example Industrial Engineering Coursework:

  • Manufacturing Processes with lab
  • Statistics and Quality Control
  • Human Factors in Engineering and Ergonomics

Online Master’s Degree

The online Master’s degree takes between 30 to 36 credit hours and typically about two years for completion. The master’s is a threshold degree for research and educational positions at the college and professional levels. Many employers seek candidates with a master’s degree and a relevant concentration or specialization. In addition to experience, the master’s is a powerful combination for high-paying leadership and senior-level positions.

Example Industrial Engineering Coursework:

  • Productivity Measurement and Analysis
  • Financial Optimization
  • Experimental Design and Analysis

Degree Level, Tuition and Costs

Online Associate’s Degree

Degree Level Tuition Total Costs
Private $3,600 $14,000
Public $15,000 $24,500

Online Bachelor’s Degree

Degree Level Tuition Total Costs
Private $33,000 $48,000
public, in-state $10,900 $22,000
public, out-of-state $27,500 $39,000

Online Master’s Degree

Degree Level Tuition Total Costs
Private Schools $31,000 $43,500
Public Schools $9,800 $19,900

Potential Careers & Salaries for Industrial Engineering Grads

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) offers clear evidence that there is a direct relationship between educational attainment and median salary in the US. There is a similar relationship between experience and salary as more experienced workers consistently get higher pay than their less experienced co-workers.

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In the US economy, better education can open doors and once open, work experience can lead to greater rewards. The measure of experience is well-described in the comparison of entry-level, mid-career, and late-career median salaries for these industrial engineering and related professions.

Industrial Engineering Median Salaries by Occupation

Occupation Entry-Level Mid-Career Late-Career
Cost Estimators $48,600 $60,100 $64,700
Health/Safety Manager $58,100 $78,600 $86,500
Engineer Technician $47,100 $55,800 $65,900
Industrial Production Manager $62,400 $68,400 $76,600
Management Analyst $54,500 $73,100 $85,200
Occupational Health & Safety Specialist Technician $51,100 $57,300 $66,800

Annual Median Salary by Occupation

Occupation Annual Median Salary
Cost Estimators $53,700
Health/Safety Manager $75,600
Engineer Technician $53,900
Industrial Production Manager $68,400
Management Analyst $64,700
Occupational Safety &Health Specialist $54,700

Important Questions to Ask (FAQ)

How long does it take to earn an Industrial Engineering bachelor’s degree online?

Full-time students can complete a bachelor’s in industrial engineering online in four years. If they wish to accelerate the term of study, some online schools permit acceleration through testing that demonstrates competency. Students can use coursework taken during summer sessions to shorten the overall time required for graduation.

Many online students attend part-time. Using part-time attendance will lengthen the amount of time necessary to complete the program. In most programs part-time is anywhere under 15 credit hours per semester.

How much does an online Industrial Engineering bachelor’s degree cost?

The range of costs for a four-year online bachelor’s degree depends on the type of school and student’s residence. When adding tuition, expenses, and room and board, the prices end up as you see here:

  • Private schools average in the range of $190,000
  • Public schools at out-of-state rates average about $160,000
  • Public schools at in-state rates average about $85,000.

Does the school have the major(s) you’re considering?

Schools arrange majors to suit their ideas on coursework and the best way to prepare graduates. The labels do not translate exactly between different schools. Students should look past the label and examine the course structure for completion of the major.

It is important to align the choice of major with the student’s career goals. Some degrees open a wider path to career options than others. For example, a degree in industrial engineering may be more specific than a degree in general engineering, yet both majors support entry-level graduates in the field of industrial engineering. Students that have a firm idea of the narrow area of concentration can choose a major in that field. Students with a less certain idea can take a broader major and accomplish a similar mix of coursework in supply chain management, research and development, etc.

How many students graduate “on time,” in four years?

industrial_engineering_students_graduate_on_time The US Department of Education provides a convenient tool for researching the on-time (4-year) and 150% of on-time (6-year) graduation rate for each accredited school. The provides detailed information. On-campus four-year programs have completion rates of about 60% at the six-year mark. Private schools’ average 53% on-time graduation and public schools average about 35%.

A significant trend in US education is moving towards longer terms of attendance and later graduation. On the whole, nationally, more students complete at 6 years rather than at the on-time date. The impact of longer terms for completing a degree can cause large increases in education expenses and a subsequent increase in student debt.

What kind of accreditation does the online program hold? How is it regarded in the field?

University HQ strongly recommends consideration of the school’s accreditation. It is important to select an accredited school, and a school accredited by an approved agency. The approved agencies have recognized status with the US Department of Education, the Council on Higher Education Accreditation, or both.

The most widely accepted form of accreditation comes from the Department of Education’s regional accreditation agencies. Employers and other educational institutions regard this as reliable accreditation to ensure high-quality education. Regional accreditation adds value to a degree because the Department of Education, most employers, and nearly all schools accept the credits and degrees. The Department of Education requires accreditation from an authorized agency for participation in the federal student loans program.

There are several types of accreditation. There is regional, as mentioned, and there is program accreditation, also widely accepted and conformation of a high-quality industrial engineering program. The national accreditation can work but is generally not accepted as widely as regional. Some regionally accredited schools do not accept credits from nationally accredited schools.

Students must use extreme care when selecting a program that has no accreditation or accreditation from an agency not recognized by the Department of Education or the Council on Higher Education Accreditation. Unless that school is providing your terminal degree, you should probably keep looking.

Software, Technology & Skills Needed

Industrial engineering requires familiarity and strength in using data analysis, communications, and enterprise software. Industrial engineers must be able to quickly adapt to software environments and technology involved in assigned areas for investigation and resolution.

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Industrial Engineering Scholarships

  • Institute of Industrial Systems Engineers Scholarship
    Amount: Up to $4,000
    Deadline: November 15

    The awards are up to $4,000 per student. Eligible undergraduate and graduate students may apply. The program seeks to reward outstanding scholarship and campus leadership. Eligible students must have a GPA of 3.4 or higher, be enrolled full-time, and be a member of the Institute.

  • The Henlein Society
    Amount: $1,250
    Deadline: May 15

    The society awards three scholarships in the amount of $1,250 to female undergraduates pursuing degrees in engineering, math, or sciences.

  • Society of Women Engineers
    Amount: Various
    Deadline: May1, December 1

    The award is meant for a female student at an ABET-accredited BS or MS program in engineering, engineering technology, or computer science. Applicants can submit a single application and compete for all awards for which they are eligible. The application windows are as follows: for freshmen, the period runs from March 1 - May 1; for sophomores through graduate students, the application window runs from December 1 - February 15.

  • Society of Women Engineers- Re-Entry Scholarships
    Amount: Various
    Deadline: May 1, December 1

    The society established non-traditional scholarships to help women re-enter the engineering profession. These awards focus on women that have had a two or more years interruption in their education. Eligible applicants include full or part-time students. There is no minimum GPA requirement, students entering any year of graduate or undergraduate education in engineering may apply.

Professional Organizations

  • ASQ
  • ASSP
  • AMT


American Society for Quality

The ASQ is the American Society for Quality; this organization promotes quality standards in industrial, manufacturing, and related processes for providing goods and services. The association takes a broad view of quality and efforts to raise standards in processes of every kind. They promote best practices, provide education and continuing education, and they advocate for change. Students can benefit from membership by exposure to experts, information, and opportunities to network at conferences and events.



American Society of Safety Professionals

American Society of Safety Professionals is an old and well-established organization dedicated to advocacy for workplace safety. As a membership organization comprised of occupational safety and health professionals, the ASSP works to increase awareness of workplace injuries, occupational health risks, and fatalities. The association a has more than 38,000 members in 80 countries. Its efforts are global, as is the difficulty of creating and maintaining safe workplaces. The organization features symposiums, conferences, and many networking and information sharing events. Students can join this organization and benefit from the educational and networking resources.



Institute for Operations Research and the Management Sciences

INFORMS is the Institute for Operations Research and the Management Sciences. The organization has about 12,500 members in more than 90 countries engaged as professional and students. The membership reflects the many applications of industrial engineering and the management sciences in government, military, academic and business organizations.

This international organization has a large membership, fourteen journals, and more than one hundred and fifty communities. INFORM promotes best practices and advances in operations research and analytics. The group promotes management sciences that improve operational processes, decision-making, and overall outcomes. Students can benefit from the peer-reviewed knowledge platforms that offer a constant flow of ideas, research, news, and information. The field of industrial engineering has countless applications and settings. Students can gain from exposure to the real-world applications of the study of industrial engineering.



The Association for Manufacturing Technology

The Association for Manufacturing Technology represents member companies and professionals in the manufacturing technology fields. This includes nearly every type of business that converts some raw materials into products. AMT uses a motto that its members make modern life possible. Manufacturing engineering and industrial engineering are essential parts of the AMT approach to manufacturing. The organization engages in advocacy to increase US manufacturing and profitability. Students can join this organization for information, education, and networking benefits.

Choosing an Accredited College

University HQ recommends selection of an accredited college or university for a degree program in industrial engineering. Regionally accredited institutions and engineering programs with programmatic accreditation offer the best value and usefulness for college credits and degrees. Some schools have special accreditation from ABET and other accreditation agencies outside of the approval lists offered by the Department of Education and the Council on Higher Education Accreditation. Students should carefully consider that these ABET programs also have regional accreditation for maximum acceptance by employers and other educational institutions.

Accreditation is a key to value, and it is also a factor in student financial aid. The US Department of Education does not permit federal student loans at institutions that do not have accreditation from an approved accreditation agency.

Online vs. On-Campus vs. Hybrid

Industrial engineering students can select the type of education they want to use to accomplish their online associate degree, bachelor’s degree, or master’s. They can attend on-campus classes and lectures, they can learn through online courses, and they can create a mixture of both types, called a hybrid program.

On-campus learning is the traditional classroom style where students learn the same lessons at the same time. This type of learning is called synchronous learning because students do it together. On-campus education may not work for persons with jobs or businesses that they cannot leave. Many people choose to blend education with ongoing employment, business, or personal obligations; these students can choose online education.

Online coursework is the ideal method for people with jobs, businesses, or other reasons not to leave home or attend on campus. Online learning is convenient and flexible; students can set a schedule that meets their needs and preferences.

Hybrid degree programs mix online and on-campus programs to give the student the advantages of each type of learning. Students can limit online learning to classes that do not require a campus presence such as labs or team projects.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are there 100% online industrial engineering programs available?

While there are many online engineering programs, it’s uncertain if you’ll be able to find one that is 100% online and is focused on industrial engineering. If you are looking for a bachelor’s degree in industrial engineering, you will likely need to complete some in-person labs and other hands-on learning. However, there are a number of online master’s programs available in this specialty. This is likely because master’s programs in these fields require that you already have a significant amount of on-the-job experience, so there is less reason to require in-person labs. After all, you will already be doing the job of an engineer if you have been accepted into these programs.

How difficult is industrial engineering?

Engineering in general is considered one of the more difficult disciplines you can choose as an undergraduate major. Industrial engineering makes constant use of calculus, trigonometry, and other advanced math concepts. This is a big reason why engineering is considered difficult – the advanced math requirements. However, out of the many types of engineering you could choose from, industrial engineering is considered one of the easier options. This, environmental, and architectural engineering are all on the list of easier engineering choices. So, if you are interested in engineering but maybe want to go a little easy on yourself, this is definitely a good option for you.

Does the College Have Post-Graduate Job Placement Help & Assistance?

University HQ recommends a close look at the resources that a school, college, or university commits to post-graduate job placement and career assistance. Schools are in an ideal position to attract interested employers, coach students for interviews, and operate a program to generate employment opportunities. Schools can start early in the college career with career counseling so that the student moves towards their goals effectively and efficiently during the course of study.

The school has many resources that can help students get off to a great start in their after-graduation careers. Most schools have an extensive network of alumni, partners, supporters, and thousands of employers that have previously hired their graduates. When turned to the advantage of seniors and graduates, the school community can boost careers and help with critical early jobs.

Why You Need to Consider the Overall National Rankings of the College and The Effects on Your Career or Salary

The national ranking of the school that you attend can impact salary. Employers rely on the school to provide high-quality education and equip graduates with the expected level of knowledge and skills. Rankings impress employers because of the factors used to rate schools. Rankings reflect schools high graduation rates, low dropout rates, and high success rates for graduates.

The other part of rankings that influence employers is the reputation of the school and faculty. In some fields, such as software engineering, there are no long-standing traditions. The entire computer industry is relatively young. Employers look to schools that have experienced faculty. Employers in the computing science fields appreciate teachers that have been in the midst of public and private information systems and that have wrestled with the barriers and issues that these systems must solve.

When selecting a school, students should place some weight on the rankings and reputation. However, rankings may or may not predict the full student experience. Many students value the scholarship aspect, the competition, or the sense of teamwork and support, which cannot be ranked. The learning environment can have a tremendous impact on the student experience and the student’s performance. In order to learn about the campus culture, you should read reviews from current or previous students. When two schools seem more or less equal, then that may be the best occasion to use rankings to make a selection.

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