Your Career as an Industrial Engineer

Advice to the Aspiring Engineer

Trying to determine which educational route will pave the way to the most satisfying future? If you're a young women or man who wants a lively and interesting professional career with outstanding growth opportunities, you should consider industrial engineering. Becoming an IE places you into an exciting field of engineering which focuses on productivity improvement worldwide. It's a field which deals as much with human aspects of work as with today's sophisticated tools of work.

Why is the IE Different?

What sets industrial engineering apart from other engineering disciplines is its broader scope. An IE deals with people with people as well as things. An IE relates to the total picture of productivity improvement. (And productivity in simplest terms means getting the most out for the least put in.) An IE may be employed in almost any type of industry, business or institution, from retail establishments to manufacturing plants to government offices to hospitals.

An IE looks at the "big picture" of what makes society perform best - the right combination of human resources, natural resources and man-made structures and equipment. An IE bridges the gap between management and operations, dealing with and motivating people as well as determining what tools should be used and how they should be used.

High Demand for IE's

The demand for IE's has grown dramatically over the past two decades for one chief reason: the need for organizations to raise their levels of productivity through thoughtful, systematic applications.

The profit-making organization must have high productivity in order to compete in the domestic and world marketplace. The non-profit organization must have high productivity in order to sustain its position as a useful service unit.

Need for industrial engineers makes this profession particularly attractive in the financial standpoint; IE beginning salaries rank in the top group of the high-paying engineering disciplines and fast advancement of IE's up the job ladder is not unusual.

In fact, because so many IE's are moving into top management positions due to their unique training, the outlook for continued rapid growth in industrial engineering is excellent.

IE's are Really "Engineers Plus"

Like other engineering fields, including aeronautical, chemical, civil, electrical, mechanical, nuclear or petroleum, industrial engineering is concerned with solving problems through application of scientific and practical knowledge. But the IE differs from other engineers because he or she uses knowledge in a wider variety of applications.

The industrial engineering also applies problem-solving techniques in almost every kind of organization imaginable. There are IE's in banks, hospitals, government at all levels, transportation, construction, processing, social service, electronics, facilities design, manufacturing and warehousing. Hundreds of thousands of IE's are engaged in these and other activities worldwide.

Where is the IE's Workplace?

Because industrial engineering serves a broad cross-section of business, industry and institutions, the IE's work environment varies from office to plant to field. Choices can be made even after the IE begins his or her working career. Few other vocations offer a graduating student such a wide selection of places to work or kind of work to perform.

As an IE, for example, you might:

  • Get involved in long-range planning and facilities design for a major transportation facility.
  • Become a leader in the robotics program at a major automotive manufacturer.
  • Help design and install operations systems for a semi-conductor facility.
  • Create more productive work flow within a major hospital or other health institution.
  • Design a computer based management information system for any organization.

Industrial engineering is concerned with performance measures and standards, research of new products and product applications, ways to improve use of scarce resources and many other problem-solving adventures.

Are You an IE Candidate?

What kind of person becomes an industrial engineer? What interests do those who eventually become IE's usually have in their younger years? In most cases, there's early curiosity about how and why things work the way they do.

Would-be IE's will probably have a strong interest also in planning, organizing and doing worthwhile projects, such as science clubs, Junior Achievement and other groups.

Besides these traits, the future IE should have a strong desire to serve human needs and should especially enjoy working with other people.

High school testing and counseling programs assist young students to better grasp their own desires, talents and skills in planning their careers, and through this method you may have already aimed toward a career in engineering. Let's look at the scholastic requirements a prospective engineer should consider.

Math, Science, English Important

First, as might be expected, mathematics plays a key role in engineering know-how. If you have completed or are working toward three years or math (to the calculus level), you have a good start toward qualifying for entry into a school of engineering.

Another interest area should be science. Either chemistry or physics or both is usually required by an engineering school. And to help you understand the human factors which need to be combined with physical things, biology and social studies are recommended. Any opportunities to work with others should also be sought if you want to become an IE.

Finally, three years of English is virtually certain to be a requirement for entry into a college engineering program.

Now, what about overall grades? Because engineering disciplines are looking for leading students, you should at least be in the top half of your high school graduating class, and the better your grades the better the chance of acceptance in an engineering school.

Many Sources for Help

Where do you find out about engineering colleges which offer an industrial engineering program? What financial assistance may be available? Check with your teachers and counselors as a first source, but don't overlook your school or local library for reference books on various colleges and their programs.

If a school of engineering is nearby, your teachers can help you arrange a visit to talk with personnel there about your possible enrollment. If no school is close at hand, write or phone schools or interest to you. Many have toll-free phone numbers which usually are available at libraries.

Degree Requires Four Years

The bachelor of science in industrial engineering (BSIE) degree requires four years of study, and is offered by nearly 100 accredited universities programs in the United States and Canada. You'll find that many colleges and universities offer work-study and co-op programs to assist qualified students who are short on funds.

If your resources are limited, you could choose to enroll in a community college for the first year or two, then transfer to an engineering campus. And should you find that professional engineering is not your choice for a career, you could receive a degree in technology, in which both two and four-year degrees are offered. As a technologist, you would be working with engineers in one of several fields.

Listings of engineering colleges along with basic information is available from all of the following:

Career Information

Institute of Industrial Engineers
25 Technology Park/Atlanta
Norcross, Georgia 30092

Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology
345 East 47th Street
New York, New York 10017

Using Your IE Degree

Areas of employment after graduation, as discussed earlier, are almost unlimited. Although most industrial engineers start to work for manufacturing industries, more and more are attracted to other fields.

Most hospitals, for instance, have established IE departments, sometimes calling them management engineering departments but manning them with IE graduates.

Municipal, state, and federal government agencies are finding positions for industrial engineers to handle their productivity efforts.

Still More Opportunities Exist

Airlines, railroads, food services, educational and public service agencies, retail trade, professional and trade associations are all employing an increasing number of IE's.

Other opportunities exist in management consulting, computer service centers and similar organizations. All will give you an excellent chance for personal career growth.

Production, personnel, management service, cost control, sales and other functional areas provide avenues of advancement in addition to IE departments. There are IE's who've become presidents of large corporations; where you stop is up to you.

Institute Can Benefit You

When you enroll at a college or university teaching industrial engineering, you'll probably find there's a student chapter of the Institute of Industrial Engineers.

The Institute is comprised of thousands of students and practitioners of industrial engineering, and as the professional society serves as a primary source of up-to-date information in this fast-changing field. The Institute is the IE's link to effective continuing education, because learning doesn't stop with a college degree.

Exchanging Ideas Major Benefit

By joining an IIE student chapter, you can benefit from idea and information exchange with other students seeking careers in industrial engineering. In this fellowship, you will also be paving your way toward involvement with a senior IIE chapter after you graduate.

As a student member, you will become acquainted with the full range of valuable services offered by the Institute and you will receive Industrial Engineering, the monthly IIE magazine which keeps you abreast of happenings throughout the entire industrial engineering field.

Productivity-What It's All About

No challenge to a young women or man can be greater than improving productivity - the applications of knowledge and skills to provide improved goods and services to enhance the quality of life, both on and off the job.

This must be done without waste of physical and human resources while maintaining the environmental balance. To continue to satisfy the needs and desires of mankind, the rate of productivity improvement must be greater than the increases of cost. Failure to accomplish this in recent years has contributed to inflation, recession and worldwide unrest.

IE's are Productivity Catalysts

Industrial engineers are the "productivity people" who must provide leadership and integrate technology. they include the human factor in finding workable, effective solutions to production problems while retaining high standards of quality.

Want to join the engineering profession which is "people oriented"? Then by all means, become an IE!

* Taken from the brochure Planning Your Career as an IE/The People-Oriented Engineering Profession brochure produced by Institute of Industrial Engineers.