An industrial engineer could...
|Reconfigure airport check-in services to shorten lines and make passengers happier.||Design a more-efficient car assembly line to save on manufacturing costs.|
|Streamline an operating room so that it is safer, faster, and easier to use.||Determine the fastest way to transport perishable goods cross-country, even during bad weather.|
Key Facts & Information
|Overview||You've probably heard the expression "build a better mousetrap." Industrial engineers are the people who figure out how to do things better. They find ways that are smarter, faster, safer, and easier, so that companies become more efficient, productive, and profitable, and employees have work environments that are safer and more rewarding. You might think from their name that industrial engineers just work for big manufacturing companies, but they are employed in a wide range of industries, including the service, entertainment, shipping, and healthcare fields. For example, nobody likes to wait in a long line to get on a roller coaster ride, or to get admitted to the hospital. Industrial engineers tell companies how to shorten these processes. They try to make life and products better. Finding ways to do more with less is their motto.|
|Key Requirements||Wide interests in both engineering and business, excellent math, logic, and communication skills, preference for the big picture, but still able to analyze small details|
|Minimum Degree||Bachelor's degree|
|Subjects to Study in High School||Biology, chemistry, physics, computer science, geometry, algebra II, pre-calculus, calculus, English; if available, statistics, business.|
|Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)||Little or No Change (-2% to 2%)|
|Interview||Read these interviews to see what industrial engineers say about their work—why they decided to become industrial engineers, what they like most about their work, what has been their most interesting project, and what they think is their most important contribution.|
Education and Training
To become an industrial engineer, you must have a bachelor's degree in industrial engineering. Recommended coursework includes statistics, computer skills, ergonomics, management science, quality control, sociology, psychology, organizational behavior, economics, finance, labor relations, and mathematics. Those who plan to specialize in manufacturing areas find it useful to study shipping, billing, and automated systems, along with computer science.
Graduate programs in industrial engineering are primarily for those who wish to enter academia. Employers consider production or manufacturing experience extremely useful; they also favorably view administrative experience in large-paperwork industries (such as insurance, health care, or brokerage). Many find joining a professional organization supportive of their careers (some join while still in school) because it helps them to keep them abreast of important topics and trends in industrial engineering.
Engineers should be creative, inquisitive, analytical, and detail oriented. They should be able to work as part of a team and to communicate well, both orally and in writing. Communication abilities are becoming increasingly important as engineers frequently interact with specialists in a wide range of fields outside engineering.
Nature of the Work
Engineers apply the principles of science and mathematics to develop economical solutions to technical problems. Their work is the link between scientific discoveries and the commercial applications that meet societal and consumer needs.
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. They are primarily concerned with increasing productivity through the management of people, methods of business organization, and technology. To maximize efficiency, industrial engineers carefully study the product requirements and design manufacturing and information systems to meet those requirements with the help of mathematical methods and models. They develop management control systems to aid in financial planning and cost analysis, and design production planning and control systems to coordinate activities and ensure product quality. They also design or improve systems for the physical distribution of goods and services and determine the most efficient plant locations. Industrial engineers develop wage and salary administration systems and job evaluation programs. Many industrial engineers move into management positions because the work is closely related to the work of managers.
Most industrial engineers work in industry for manufacturing or service companies. But since their skills are so versatile, industrial engineers can work in virtually any kind of industry or organization, including government agencies and consulting firms. They typically work standard 40-hour work weeks.
On the Job
- Analyze statistical data and product specifications to determine standards and establish quality and reliability objectives of finished product.
- Develop manufacturing methods, labor utilization standards, and cost analysis systems to promote efficient staff and facility utilization.
- Recommend methods for improving utilization of personnel, material, and utilities.
- Plan and establish sequence of operations to fabricate and assemble parts or products and to promote efficient utilization.
- Apply statistical methods and perform mathematical calculations to determine manufacturing processes, staff requirements, and production standards.
- Coordinate quality control objectives and activities to resolve production problems, maximize product reliability, and minimize cost.
- Confer with vendors, staff, and management personnel regarding purchases, procedures, product specifications, manufacturing capabilities, and project status.
- Draft and design layout of equipment, materials, and workspace to illustrate maximum efficiency using drafting tools and computer.
- Review production schedules, engineering specifications, orders, and related information to obtain knowledge of manufacturing methods, procedures, and activities.
- Communicate with management and user personnel to develop production and design standards.
- Estimate production cost and effect of product design changes for management review, action, and control.
- Formulate sampling procedures and designs and develop forms and instructions for recording, evaluating, and reporting quality and reliability data.
- Record or oversee recording of information to ensure currency of engineering drawings and documentation of production problems.
- Study operations sequence, material flow, functional statements, organization charts, and project information to determine worker functions and responsibilities.
- Direct workers engaged in product measurement, inspection, and testing activities to ensure quality control and reliability.
- Implement methods and procedures for disposition of discrepant material and defective or damaged parts, and assess cost and responsibility.
- Evaluate precision and accuracy of production and testing equipment and engineering drawings to formulate corrective action plan.
- Complete production reports, purchase orders, and material, tool, and equipment lists.
- Schedule deliveries based on production forecasts, material substitutions, storage and handling facilities, and maintenance requirements.
- Regulate and alter workflow schedules according to established manufacturing sequences and lead times to expedite production operations.
Companies That Hire Industrial Engineers
Explore what you might do on the job with one of these projects...
- Ball Launcher Challenge
- Balloon-Powered Car Challenge
- Crash! Can Cell Phones Survive a Drop Test?
- Devising an Algorithm for Solving Rubik's Cube
- Does Your Cell Phone Radiate? Measuring Cell Phone Electromagnetic Radiation
- Domino Theory
- Hit the Slopes: Build Your Own Ski Lift
- Juice Box Geometry
- Linear vs. Logarithmic Changes: What Works Best for Human Senses?
- Making Patterns with Rubik's Cube
- Marble Machine
- Mix It Up: Transferring Heat by Convection in a Tank
- Pounding Papyrus: How Ancient Egyptians Made the World's First Paper
- Simple Circuit Logic with Switches: An Electric Puzzle
- Skipping Science: An Experiment in Jump Rope Lengths
- Smart Medicine Cabinet: Build a Sensor That Reminds Patients When to Take Medication
- Tasty Arrangements: How to Position Food in Microwave Cooking
- The Pasta Puzzle: How Much Water is Required to Cook Pasta?
Do you have a specific question about a career as an Industrial Engineer that isn't answered on this page? Post your question on the Science Buddies Ask an Expert Forum.
- Institute of Industrial and Systems Engineers: https://www.iise.org
- O*Net Online. (2016). National Center for O*Net Development. Retrieved July 1, 2017, from https://www.onetonline.org/
- Institute of Industrial and Systems Engineers. (n.d.). What IE's Say About Their Work. Retrieved April 9, 2019, from https://www.iise.org/Details.aspx?id=719
- Institute of Industrial and Systems Engineers. (n.d.). Industrial Engineering the Magic at Disney. Retrieved April 9, 2019, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=krCjsxDhNyM
- National Academy of Engineering. (2012, February 6). Industrial Engineer: Tanya Kiefer. Engineer Girl. Retrieved March 19, 2014, from https://www.engineergirl.org/3061/Tanya-Kiefer
- The Princeton Review. (n.d.). A Day in the life of a Industrial Engineer. Retrieved April 9, 2019, from https://www.princetonreview.com/careers/79/industrial-engineer
- National Science Foundation. (n.d.). Profiles of Scientists and Engineers: Systems and Industrial Engineers. Science360. Retrieved April 9, 2019, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tvARUV2iCMU
We'd like to acknowledge the additional support of:
- Northrop Grumman
Explore Our Science Videos
Make Your Own Lava Lamp
Walking Water Experiment
Paper Rockets - STEM Activity