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Industrial Engineer Job Description, Career as an Industrial Engineer, Salary, Employment

Definition and Nature of the Work, Education and Training Requirements, Getting the Job

Education and Training College

Salary Median—$65,020 per year

Employment Outlook Good

Definition and Nature of the Work

Industrial engineers determine the most effective ways to use the basic factors of production—people, machines, materials, information, and energy—to make a product. They are primarily concerned with increasing productivity through the management of people, methods of business organization, and technology. To solve organizational, production, and related problems efficiently, industrial engineers carefully study the product requirements, use mathematical methods to meet those requirements, and design manufacturing and information systems. 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, as well as determining 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.

Industrial engineers must be good at solving problems. They must combine their technical knowledge with a sense of human capabilities and limitations. They should be able to organize many details into a broad view of the total operations and organization of a company. Although much of their work is done independently, industrial engineers must also be able to cooperate with other engineers, technicians, and managers. They must be able to talk with production workers and be willing to understand their concerns. Since they may present their plans in the form of written reports or oral presentations, industrial engineers must have good communication skills.

Education and Training Requirements

A bachelor's degree in industrial engineering is required for almost all entry-level industrial engineering jobs. College graduates with degrees in a physical

An industrial engineer clocks a worker's time at an apparel plant. (© Martha Tabor/Working Images Photographs. Reproduced by permission.)

science or mathematics may occasionally qualify for some engineering jobs, especially in specialties in high demand.

Most engineering programs involve a concentration of study in an engineering specialty, along with courses in both mathematics and science. Many programs also include courses in general engineering. A design course, often accompanied by a computer or laboratory class, is part of the curriculum of most programs.

Getting the Job

The placement offices in universities or engineering schools can provide information about getting a job as an industrial engineer. Professional and trade publications as well as newspaper want ads and Internet job sites often list job openings. Applicants may apply directly to manufacturing companies that are likely to need industrial engineers.

Advancement Possibilities and Employment Outlook

Advancement usually depends on education and experience. Industrial engineers are often promoted to jobs as managers and executives. Others advance by improving their skills and becoming experts in one industry or in one phase of industrial engineering. Some start their own engineering consulting firms or manufacturing companies.

The field of industrial engineering is expected to grow about as fast as the national average for all occupations through 2014. The job outlook is good. As firms seek to reduce costs and increase productivity, they are anticipated to turn increasingly to industrial engineers to develop more efficient processes to reduce costs, delays, and waste. Because their work is similar to that done in management occupations, many industrial engineers leave the occupation to become managers. Many job openings are expected to be created by the need to replace the industrial engineers who transfer to other occupations or leave the labor force.

Working Conditions

Industrial engineers spend part of their time in factories, observing operations and trying to spot problems. At times, they must travel to construction sites, laboratories, industrial plants, transportation facilities, warehouses, and other places that are part of their company's total operations. Most of their time is spent in offices, where they monitor or direct operations, identifying and solving problems and working to improve efficiency. Many engineers work a standard forty-hour week. At times, deadlines or design standards may bring extra pressure to a job, requiring longer hours.

Where to Go for More Information

Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology
111 Market Place, Ste. 1050
Baltimore, MD 21202
(410) 347-7700

Institute of Industrial Engineers
3577 Parkway Lane, Ste. 200
Norcross, GA 30092
(800) 494-0460

Junior Engineering Technical Society
1420 King St., Ste. 405
Alexandria, VA 22314
(703) 548-5387

National Society of Professional Engineers
1420 King St.
Alexandria, VA 22314-2794
(703) 684-2800

Earnings and Benefits

Earnings for engineers vary significantly by specialty. Even so, as a group engineers earn some of the highest average starting salaries among those holding bachelor's degrees. Petroleum and nuclear engineers earn the highest median wage, while agricultural engineers earn the lowest. Beginning industrial engineers with bachelor's degrees earn a median annual salary of $49,567 in private industry. Those with master's degrees earn about $56,561 a year. The median annual income for all industrial engineers is $65,020. Benefits include paid holidays and vacations, health insurance, and pension plans.

Additional topics

Job Descriptions and Careers, Career and Job Opportunities, Career Search, and Career Choices and ProfilesManufacturing & Production