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What Do Industrial Engineers Do?

Growth Trends for Related Jobs

When a business needs to develop or improve a manufacturing process or a system for providing service, it turns to the industrial engineer. In a nutshell, industrial engineers are the experts who figure out how to get work done. In today's economy, companies are turning more and more to automation and complex networks to produce goods and services. Demand for the skills of the industrial engineer are growing as a result.

What Is an Industrial Engineer?

Industrial engineers develop, design or improve processes to manufacture products and deliver services. The problems industrial engineers must solve often involve complex interactions with uncertain outcomes. They are responsible for bringing together people, information, machinery, energy and materials within the business. They must integrate these resources efficiently to minimize waste. Some industrial engineers work on broad problems and projects. Others specialize in specific areas like financial and economic systems, quality and statistics, operations research or supply chain engineering.

What Do Industrial Engineers Do?

Industrial engineers typically start projects by conferring with stakeholders. They discuss product specifications with clients and delivery schedules with vendors. They meet with customers and talk about purchasing and supply chain issues, and also confer with staff concerning operations. Industrial engineers review production processes and procedures for gathering and coordinating the materials, components and other resources needed to accomplish necessary tasks. An industrial engineer develops specific production procedures and systems. For example, the engineer might design a system to move heavy parts to where they are needed in a factory. Each step of the way, he focuses on maximizing efficiency, safety and work performance.

How to Become an Industrial Engineer

Entry level positions require a bachelor's degree in industrial engineering or a related field like electrical or mechanical engineering. Some universities offer dual-degree programs that take five years and combine a bachelor's and a master's degree. Employers want people with some work experience, so many students participate in cooperative programs and internships. High school students can prepare for an industrial engineering program by taking courses in algebra, calculus and trigonometry along with classes in chemistry, computer science and physics. In college, students combine classwork with extensive laboratory work. Courses include manufacturing systems engineering, production systems planning and statistics.

Entry-level industrial engineering jobs do not require a license. To advance to leadership positions, industrial engineers do need a professional engineer's license. To qualify, candidates must graduate from an Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET)-accredited engineering program, pass the Fundamentals of Engineering exam and have four years of work experience. They are then eligible to take the Professional Engineer examination. Licenses are issued by individual states. Most states accept PE licenses from other states as well.

How Much Does an Industrial Engineer Make?

The median salary of industrial engineers was $84,310 as of May 2016. The 10 percent of industrial engineers making the least earned less than $54,010. The top 10 percent made over $127,390. The best salaries were in the computer and electrical product manufacturing industry, where the median salary was $92,810. Those in scientific, professional and technical services firms had a median salary of $92,210. The job outlook for industrial engineers is good. Increasing reliance on computer networks and automation is increasing the demand for industrial engineers. A 10 percent increase in employment opportunities is expected from 2016 to 2026.

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About the Author

Based in Atlanta, Georgia, William Adkins has been writing professionally since 2008. He writes about career, employment and job preparation issues. Adkins holds master's degrees in history and sociology with a focus on employment and labor from Georgia State University. He has conducted research sponsored by the National Science Foundation to develop career opportunities for people with disabilities.