Industrial Engineers

Summary

industrial engineers image
Industrial engineers figure out ways to manufacture parts and products, or to deliver services, with maximum efficiency.
Quick Facts: Industrial Engineers
2012 Median Pay $78,860 per year
$37.92 per hour
Entry-Level Education Bachelor’s degree
Work Experience in a Related Occupation None
On-the-job Training None
Number of Jobs, 2012 223,300
Job Outlook, 2012-22 5% (Slower than average)
Employment Change, 2012-22 10,100

What Industrial Engineers Do

Industrial engineers find ways to eliminate wastefulness in production processes. They devise efficient ways to use workers, machines, materials, information, and energy to make a product or provide a service.

Work Environment

Depending on their tasks, industrial engineers work both in offices and in the settings they are trying to improve. For example, when observing problems, they may watch workers assembling parts in a factory or staff carrying out their tasks in a hospital. When solving problems, they may be in an office at a computer looking at data that they or others have collected.

How to Become an Industrial Engineer

Industrial engineers need a bachelor's degree, typically in industrial engineering. However, many industrial engineers have degrees in mechanical engineering, manufacturing engineering, industrial engineering technology, or general engineering.

Pay

The median annual wage for industrial engineers was $78,860 in May 2012.

Job Outlook

Employment of industrial engineers is projected to grow 5 percent from 2012 to 2022, slower than the average for all occupations. This occupation is versatile both in the kind of work it does and in the industries in which its expertise can be put to use.

Similar Occupations

Compare the job duties, education, job growth, and pay of industrial engineers with similar occupations.

More Information, Including Links to O*NET

Learn more about industrial engineers by visiting additional resources, including O*NET, a source on key characteristics of workers and occupations.

What Industrial Engineers Do

Industrial engineers
Industrial engineers develop job evaluation programs, amongst other duties.

Industrial engineers find ways to eliminate wastefulness in production processes. They devise efficient ways to use workers, machines, materials, information, and energy to make a product or provide a service.

Duties

Industrial engineers typically do the following:

  • Review production schedules, engineering specifications, process flows, and other information to understand methods and activities in manufacturing and services
  • Figure out how to manufacture parts or products, or deliver services, with maximum efficiency
  • Develop management control systems to make financial planning and cost analysis more efficient
  • Enact quality control procedures to resolve production problems or minimize costs
  • Work with customers and management to develop standards for design and production
  • Design control systems to coordinate activities and production planning to ensure that products meet quality standards
  • Confer with clients about product specifications, vendors about purchases, management personnel about manufacturing capabilities, and staff about the status of projects

Industrial engineers apply their skills to many different situations from manufacturing to business administration. For example, they design systems for

  • moving heavy parts within manufacturing plants
  • getting goods from a company to customers, including finding the most profitable places to locate manufacturing or processing plants
  • evaluating how well people do their jobs
  • paying workers

Industrial engineers focus on how to get the work done most efficiently, balancing many factors—such as time, number of workers needed, available technology, actions workers need to take, achieving the end product with no errors, workers' safety, environmental concerns, and cost.

To find ways to reduce waste and improve performance, industrial engineers first study product requirements carefully. Then they use mathematical methods and models to design manufacturing and information systems to meet those requirements most efficiently.

Their versatility allows industrial engineers to engage in activities that are useful to a variety of businesses, governments, and nonprofits. For example, industrial engineers engage in supply chain management to help businesses minimize inventory costs, conduct quality assurance activities to help businesses keep their customer bases satisfied, and work in the growing field of project management as industries across the economy seek to control costs and maximize efficiencies.

Work Environment

Industrial engineers
Industrial engineers figure out how to manufacture parts or products or deliver services with maximum efficiency.

Industrial engineers held about 223,300 jobs in 2012. Depending on their tasks, industrial engineers work both in offices and in the settings they are trying to improve. For example, when observing problems, they may watch workers assembling parts in a factory or staff carrying out their tasks in a hospital. When solving problems, industrial engineers may be in an office at a computer looking at data that they or others have collected.

Industrial engineers may need to travel to observe processes and make assessments in various work settings. 

The industries that employed the most industrial engineers in 2012 were as follows:

Aerospace product and parts manufacturing8%
Machinery manufacturing8
Architectural, engineering, and related services6
Motor vehicle parts manufacturing6
Management of companies and enterprises6

Industrial engineers must be able to work with other professionals to serve as a bridge between the technical and business sides of an organization. This requires being able to work with people from a wide variety of backgrounds.

Work Schedules

Most industrial engineers work full time. Hours may vary, however, depending upon the projects in which these engineers are engaged, and upon the industries in which the projects are taking place.

How to Become an Industrial Engineer

Industrial engineers
Industrial engineers must be able to work with other professionals.

Industrial engineers must have a bachelor’s degree. Employers also value experience, so cooperative education engineering programs at universities are also valuable.

Education

Industrial engineers need a bachelor's degree, typically in industrial engineering. However, many industrial engineers have degrees in mechanical engineering, manufacturing engineering, industrial engineering technology, or general engineering. Students interested in studying industrial engineering should take high school courses in mathematics, such as algebra, trigonometry, and calculus; computer science; and sciences such as chemistry and physics.

Bachelor’s degree programs include lectures in classrooms and practice in laboratories. Courses include statistics, production systems planning, and manufacturing systems design, among others. Many colleges and universities offer cooperative education programs in which students gain practical experience while completing their education.

A few colleges and universities offer 5-year degree programs in industrial engineering that lead to a bachelor’s and master’s degree upon completion, and several more offer similar programs in mechanical engineering. A graduate degree allows an engineer to work as a professor at a college or university or to engage in research and development. Some 5-year or even 6-year cooperative education plans combine classroom study with practical work, permitting students to gain experience and to finance part of their education.

Programs in industrial engineering are accredited by ABET.

Important Qualities

Creativity. Industrial engineers use creativity and ingenuity to design new production processes in many kinds of settings to reduce use of material resources, time, or labor while accomplishing the same goal.

Critical-thinking skills. Industrial engineers create new systems to solve problems related to waste and inefficiency. Solving these problems requires logic and reasoning to identify strengths and weaknesses of alternative solutions, conclusions, or approaches to the problems.

Listening skills. These engineers often operate in teams, but they must also solicit feedback from customers, vendors, and production staff. They must listen to customers and clients to fully grasp ideas and problems the first time.

Math skills. Industrial engineers use the principles of calculus, trigonometry, and other advanced topics in mathematics for analysis, design, and troubleshooting in their work.

Problem-solving skills. In designing facilities for manufacturing and processes for providing services, these engineers deal with several issues at once, from workers’ safety to quality assurance.

Speaking skills. Industrial engineers sometimes have to explain their instructions to production staff or technicians before they can make written instructions available. Being able to explain concepts clearly and quickly is crucial to preventing costly mistakes and loss of time.

Writing skills. Industrial engineers must create documentation for other professionals or for future reference. The documentation must be coherent and explain their thinking clearly so that others can understand the information.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

Licensure for industrial engineers is not as common as it is for other engineering occupations, but it is encouraged for those working in companies that have government contracts. Industrial engineers who become licensed carry the designation of professional engineer (PE). Licensure generally requires the following:

  • A degree from an engineering program accredited by ABET
  • A passing score on the Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) exam
  • Relevant work experience
  • A passing score on the Professional Engineering (PE) exam

The initial FE exam can be taken right after graduating. Engineers who pass this exam commonly are called engineers in training (EITs) or engineer interns (EIs). After getting suitable work experience, EITs can take the second exam, called the Principles and Practice of Engineering exam.

Several states require engineers to take continuing education to keep their licenses. Most states recognize licenses from other states, as long as the other state’s licensing requirements meet or exceed their own licensing requirements.

Advancement

Beginning industrial engineers usually work under the supervision of experienced engineers. In large companies, new engineers also may receive formal training in classes or seminars. As beginning engineers gain knowledge and experience, they move to more difficult projects with greater independence to develop designs, solve problems, and make decisions.

Eventually, industrial engineers may advance to become technical specialists, such as quality engineers or facility planners. In that role, they supervise a team of engineers and technicians. Many industrial engineers move into management positions because the work they do is closely related to the work of managers. For more information, see the profile on architectural and engineering managers.

Pay

Industrial Engineers

Median annual wages, May 2012

Engineers

$86,200

Industrial engineers

$78,860

Total, all occupations

$34,750

 

The median annual wage for industrial engineers was $78,860 in May 2012. The median wage is the wage at which half of the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $51,180, and the top 10 percent earned more than $118,300.

In May 2012, the median annual wages for industrial engineers in the top five industries employing these engineers were as follows:

Aerospace product and parts manufacturing$84,600
Management of companies and enterprises82,290
Architectural, engineering, and related services81,240
Machinery manufacturing72,920
Motor vehicle parts manufacturing71,580

Most industrial engineers work full time. Hours may vary, however, depending upon the projects on which these engineers are engaged, and upon the industries in which the projects are taking place.

Job Outlook

Industrial Engineers

Percent change in employment, projected 2012-22

Total, all occupations

11%

Engineers

9%

Industrial engineers

5%

 

Employment of industrial engineers is projected to grow 5 percent from 2012 to 2022, slower than the average for all occupations. This occupation is versatile both in the nature of the work it does and in the industries in which its expertise can be put to use. In addition, because industrial engineers’ work can help with cost control by increasing efficiency, these engineers are attractive to employers in most industries, including nonprofits.

Because they are not as specialized as other engineers, industrial engineers are employed in a wide range of industries, including major manufacturing industries, hospitals, consulting and engineering services, and research and development firms. This versatility arises from the fact that these engineers’ expertise focuses on reducing internal costs, making their work valuable for many industries. For example, their work is important for manufacturing industries considering relocation to domestic sites. In addition, growth in healthcare and changes in how care is delivered will create demand for industrial engineers. Firms in a variety of industries are seeking new ways to contain costs and improve efficiency, leading to more demand for these workers.

Employment projections data for Industrial Engineers, 2012-22
Occupational Title SOC Code Employment, 2012 Projected Employment, 2022 Change, 2012-22 Employment by Industry
Percent Numeric

SOURCE: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employment Projections program

Industrial engineers

17-2112 223,300 233,400 5 10,100 [XLS]

Similar Occupations

This table shows a list of occupations with job duties that are similar to those of industrial engineers.

Occupation Job Duties ENTRY-LEVEL EDUCATION 2012 MEDIAN PAY
Architectural and engineering managers

Architectural and Engineering Managers

Architectural and engineering managers plan, coordinate, and direct activities in architectural and engineering companies.

Bachelor’s degree $124,870
Cost estimators

Cost Estimators

Cost estimators collect and analyze data in order to estimate the time, money, materials, and labor required to manufacture a product, construct a building, or provide a service. They generally specialize in a particular industry or type of product.

Bachelor’s degree $58,860
Health and safety engineers

Health and Safety Engineers

Health and safety engineers develop procedures and design systems to prevent people from getting sick or injured and to keep property from being damaged. They combine knowledge of systems engineering and of health and safety to make sure that chemicals, machinery, software, furniture, and other consumer products will not cause harm to people or buildings.

Bachelor’s degree $76,830
Industrial engineering technicians

Industrial Engineering Technicians

Industrial engineering technicians help industrial engineers implement designs to effectively use personnel, materials, and machines in factories, stores, healthcare organizations, repair shops, and offices. They prepare machinery and equipment layouts, plan workflows, conduct statistical production studies, and analyze production costs.

Associate’s degree $50,980
Industrial production managers

Industrial Production Managers

Industrial production managers oversee the daily operations of manufacturing and related plants. They coordinate, plan, and direct the activities used to create a wide range of goods, such as cars, computer equipment, or paper products.

Bachelor’s degree $89,190
Logisticians

Logisticians

Logisticians analyze and coordinate an organization’s supply chain—the system that moves a product from supplier to consumer. They manage the entire life cycle of a product, which includes how a product is acquired, distributed, allocated, and delivered.

Bachelor’s degree $72,780
Management analysts

Management Analysts

Management analysts, often called management consultants, propose ways to improve an organization's efficiency. They advise managers on how to make organizations more profitable through reduced costs and increased revenues.

Bachelor’s degree $78,600
Materials engineers

Materials Engineers

Materials engineers develop, process, and test materials used to create a range of products, from computer chips and aircraft wings to golf clubs and snow skis. They work with metals, ceramics, plastics, composites, and other substances to create new materials that meet certain mechanical, electrical, and chemical requirements.

Bachelor’s degree $85,150
Occupational health and safety specialists

Occupational Health and Safety Specialists

Occupational health and safety specialists analyze many types of work environments and work procedures. Specialists inspect workplaces for adherence to regulations on safety, health, and the environment. They also design programs to prevent disease or injury to workers and damage to the environment.

Bachelor’s degree $66,790
Quality control inspectors

Quality Control Inspectors

Quality control inspectors examine products and materials for defects or deviations from specifications.

High school diploma or equivalent $34,460

Contacts for More Information

For more information about industrial engineers, visit

Institute of Industrial Engineers

For information about general engineering education and career resources, visit

American Society for Engineering Education

Technology Student Association

For more information about licensure as an industrial engineer, visit

National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying

National Society of Professional Engineers

For information about accredited engineering programs, visit

ABET

O*NET

Human Factors Engineers and Ergonomists

Industrial Engineers

Suggested citation:

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition, Industrial Engineers,
on the Internet at http://www.bls.gov/ooh/architecture-and-engineering/industrial-engineers.htm (visited September 16, 2014).

Publish Date: Wednesday, January 8, 2014