What is an Industrial Engineering Degree?

Industrial engineering is about integrating workers, machines, materials, information, and energy, so as to eliminate danger and wastefulness in production processes. Therefore, the objective of degree programs in the field is to teach aspiring industrial engineers how to design systems that enable businesses to improve workplace safety, productivity, efficiency, and quality.

Foundational courses in industrial engineering cover subjects like calculus, statistics for engineers, facilities planning and logistics, project management, computer programming, inventory control, and human factors in engineering. More advanced topics include manufacturing and warehousing systems, productivity measurement, supply chain systems, computational statistics, and financing.

Program Options

Associate Degree in Industrial Engineering – Two Year Duration
At this level, there are two degree choices, both of which require two years of study: an Associate of Applied Science in Industrial Engineering Technology, and an Associate of Science in Industrial Manufacturing. The typical curriculum includes classes in mathematics, physical science, and social science. Coursework specific to the engineering field covers the following:

  • Production Management
  • Industrial Computerization
  • Quality Control
  • Computer-aided Design (CAD)
  • Technical Visuals and Drawings
  • Fundamental of Business

Bachelor’s Degree in Industrial Engineering – Four Year Duration
In almost all cases, a bachelor’s is the minimum degree requirement for jobs in the engineering field. At this level of education, students can select a concentration. Among the options are general industrial and systems engineering, supply chain logistics, manufacturing systems, and economics. Common coursework includes:

  • Designing Computer Software
  • Probability Assessment
  • Mathematical Modeling
  • Project Management
  • Inventory Management
  • Optimization (achieving design goals)

Master’s Degree in Industrial Engineering – Two Year Duration
The Master’s Degree in Industrial Engineering prepares students to enter management and leadership roles in the field. In addition to qualifying for industrial engineer and industrial production manager positions in a variety of businesses, they may find themselves working as supply chain managers or health and safety managers. Concentration options in master’s programs may include operations research, logistics and transportation systems, quality engineering and management, engineering management, and manufacturing systems.

These are some common courses offered at this level:

  • Hypothesis Testing
  • Data Modeling
  • Control Theory
  • Quality Control and Improvement
  • Facility Planning and Design
  • Multistage Manufacturing
  • Transportation and Supply Chain Systems
  • Warehousing Systems

Doctoral Degree in Industrial Engineering – Five to Seven Year Duration
Ph.D. programs in the field are focused on preparing students to present a thesis on an industrial engineering topic. Courses commonly cover:

  • Engineering Theories
  • Research Methodologies
  • Variance Analysis – the difference between budgeted and actual performance
  • Systems Design
  • Advanced Statistics for Engineering
  • Information Systems
  • Industrial Engineering Management

Degrees Similar to Industrial Engineering

Business Administration
Degree programs in business administration teach students how to operate a business from the perspectives of marketing, accounting, human resources, and operations. Typical courses include operations management, financial management, management information systems, business ethics and law, human resources, and marketing.

Management Information Systems / Systems Engineering
These degree programs are concerned with how to use math and science to develop innovative technologies that help run businesses. Students take courses in operations management, computer-based simulation systems, and statistical applications in business.

Engineering Technology
Engineering technology programs teach the engineering skills required to assist engineers in their work. Common classes are computers for engineering technology, construction methodologies, structural systems, strength of materials, and technical drawing.

Chemical Engineering
This degree field is focused on how the chemical, biochemical, and physical properties of substances can be changed to turn them into something else. Examples of this work are making plastic from oil, developing synthetic fibers for clothing, identifying ways to mass-produce drugs, and finding ways to solve environmental problems.

Robotics Technology
As its name implies, this field uses engineering principles to create and test robots to be used in various sectors. Coursework in the degree program covers robotics and robot design, testing, and repair.

Mechanical Engineering
Students of mechanical engineering learn about the science behind machines. They study statics and dynamics, thermodynamics, fluid dynamics, stress analysis, mechanical design, and technical drawing.

Skills You’ll Learn

Industrial engineering students learn how to combine technical knowledge with business acumen. Upon completing their studies, therefore, they have developed several transferable skills:

  • Math and Quantitative Skills
  • Research
  • Data Analysis
  • Detailed Thinking / Creative Problem-Solving
  • Patience
  • Willingness to Learn
  • Passion for Improving Methods and Systems
  • Quality Control
  • Cost Control
  • Understanding of Processes
  • Facility Design
  • Understanding of Human Factors
  • Organizational Management

What Can You Do with an Industrial Engineering Degree?

To function at the highest level of productivity, companies in many industries employ industrial engineers to improve processes, products, and systems.

Here are some examples of those industries and sectors:

  • Aerospace and Aviation
  • Aluminum and Steel
  • Banking
  • Construction
  • Consulting
  • Electronics Assembly
  • Energy
  • Entertainment
  • Forestry and Logging
  • Government Agencies
  • Insurance
  • Materials Testing
  • Medical Services
  • Military
  • Mining
  • Oil and Gas
  • Plastics and Forming
  • Retail
  • Shipbuilding
  • Transportation

Within any of these sectors, industrial engineers may be employed or contracted to manage a variety of tasks. Listed for each kind of work below is an example of a potential assignment.

Project Management
Conduct facility planning; revise designs of production plants and office buildings

Manufacturing, Production, and Distribution
Create instructions and documentation to optimize production and distribution

Supply Chain Management
Manage supplier relationships

Productivity, Methods, and Process Engineering
Identify efficient processes for work flow

Quality Measurement and Improvement
Work with design and production teams to maintain / improve product quality

Program Management
Manage program schedule, budget, and performance expectations

Ergonomics / Human Factors
Define ergonomics policies to minimize causes of employee injury and discomfort

Technology Development and Transfer
Determine if a technology- or a process-based solution is best

Strategic Planning
Develop long-range planning models, often five to ten years in scope

Change Management
Coordinate change programs and ensure that everyone involved understands and supports the change

Financial Engineering
Perform make versus buy versus lease analyses


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