How to Become an Industrial Engineer: Career Path Guide
If you’re technically minded, have skills in math and science, and you have a keen interest in efficiency, then a career as an industrial engineer might just be perfect for you!
Good pay, technical challenge, wide job prospects, the chance to travel, different areas of specialty to choose from…this career can do no wrong.
Below, we’ll take a good look at what working as an industrial engineer is all about, including an overview of what industrial engineers are, what they do, and how you can become one!
What is an Industrial Engineer?
Industrial engineers are versatile professionals that find ways to eliminate wastefulness in an organization’s production processes.
Education Needed to Become an Industrial Engineer
To become an industrial engineer you typically need a bachelor’s degree in engineering, with a major in industrial, manufacturing, mechanical or production engineering. Some employers however, may require that you have a master’s degree in one of these areas, although it is relatively uncommon.
General Job Description for Industrial Engineers
Industrial engineers are responsible for investigating and reviewing the utilization of an organization’s resources, including personnel, facilities, equipment and materials, capital, and current operational processes and established practices.
Their aim is to recommend improvement in the effectiveness, efficiency or safety of operations in a variety of commercial, industrial and production environments. In order to accomplish their goals, industrial engineers may be involved with:
• Planning how systems will work
• Measuring work performance
• Establishing work standards and specifications
• Establishing quality standards
• Analyzing project costs and benefits
• Enhancing systems operations
• Evaluating proposed facility sites
• Determining the best way to pay workers
• Evaluating how well people do their jobs
General Job Duties of an Industrial Engineer
The job duties of an industrial engineer can vary from one job to the next, and one area of specialty to the next. In general however, they may responsible for performing the following duties:
• Reviewing production schedules, engineering specifications, process flows, and other information
• Gathering production information by observing staff in the workplace
• Planning and designing systems to increase productivity
• Preparing and presenting reports and recommendations
• Working closely with management and other staff
• Evaluating proposed sites for facilities
• Designing new buildings or redesign existing ones
• Using software to analyze information about existing systems and simulate new ones
• Planning systems to check the quality of finished products
• Setting budget limits
Areas of Specialty for Industrial Engineers
Industrial engineering is a broad field, with many separate areas of focus. Professionals in this field may choose to specialize in any of the areas in which they operate. For example, an industrial engineer may specialize in facility layout and design, production planning, logistics systems design, ergonomics, manufacturing, project management or operations research.
Licensing Needed for this Career
Depending on what your responsibilities on the job will be, some employers may require that you are designated as a Professional Engineer (P. Eng.) in the province, state or territory in which you work. Other employers may not require such certification.
Success Tip: If licensure is not required, it is still an invaluable asset to have.
Skills Needed to be an Effective Industrial Engineer
In order to succeed as an industrial engineer, you’ll need to have a certain knowledge base and skill set that will apply to any area of specialty you choose within this field. These skills include:
• Able to identify strengths and weaknesses of solutions, conclusions, or approaches to the problems
• Familiarity with relevant software
• A demonstrated ability to meet project schedules and budgets
• An excellent grasp of production principles, in manufacturing and/or business administration
• An excellent grasp of calculus, trigonometry, and other advanced topics in mathematics
• Able to deal with several issues at once, from workers’ safety to quality assurance
• Aptitude for analyzing, designing and implementing complex solutions
• Knowledge of CAD is often an asset
Industrial Engineer Salary
The salary level you could earn as an industrial engineer can vary, typically depending on the following factors:
• Your level of education
• Your level of experience
• The specific responsibilities of your job
• The size and type of your employer
• The region in which you work
• Many other factors
Industrial Engineer Salary Canada: According to Service Canada, the average salary level of Canadian workers in the Industrial and Manufacturing Engineers occupational group is $76,500 per year.
Industrial Engineer Salary United Kingdom: According to the National Careers Service, entry-level salaries for Mechanical Engineers* in the UK can be between £22,000 and £26,000 a year, and between £30,000 and £50,000 for those who are more experienced.
Industrial Engineer Salary United States: According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median salary level of American workers in the Industrial Engineers occupational group is $78,860 per year.
*Unfortunately there is no salary information available from reliable sources for the career Industrial Engineer in the UK. However looking at the salary of workers in the closely related group Mechanical Engineers will give us a good idea of what you could earn.
Working Conditions for Industrial Engineers
Working Hours: Many industrial engineers work normal business hours, although sometimes hours may need to be altered or extended in order to meet deadlines, or observe production at a client’s facility. Extended periods of travel may also be required, depending on the location of the project.
Work Setting: Depending on their tasks, industrial engineers work both in offices and in the very settings they are trying to improve. For example, they may watch workers assembling parts in a factory, or observe staff carrying out their tasks in a hospital. When performing technical work, such as analyzing data and preparing specifications, industrial engineers typically work in an office at a computer.
Work Environment: Industrial engineers often serve as the bridge between the technical and business sides of an organization. Because of this role, they often work with other professionals, including operations managers, production managers, and other stakeholders. Their work can be quite stressful, such as when dealing with resistance to their ideas/proposals, or when facing tight deadlines.
Who Creates Jobs for Industrial Engineers?
Industrial engineers can apply their skill set in virtually any type of organization, which makes their job prospects quite wide in scope. They often work for the following types of organizations:
• Automobile companies
• Engineering and manufacturing consulting firms
• Financial institutions
• Government agencies (all levels)
• Health care institutions
• Manufacturers (of all products)
• Transportation and logistics companies
• Insurance companies
• Department and retail stores
• Colleges and universities
• Private and public research organizations
Industrial Engineer Jobs
Our job board below has "Industrial Engineer" postings in Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia.
Career Advancement for Industrial Engineers
As an industrial engineer first entering the profession, you would likely work under the supervision of experienced engineers. As you gain knowledge and experience, you would move on to projects with more responsibility, and greater independence to develop designs, solve problems, and make decisions. You could also begin to supervise the work of junior engineers and engineering technicians.
Once you’ve gained a few years worth of experience, you may have the opportunity to move into a more specialized role. For example, you could become a technical specialist, such as a ‘quality engineer’ or ‘facility planner’. Rather than becoming a technical specialist, or after you’ve tried your hand at a specialist role, you could move into a management position, such as ‘Head Engineer’, or ‘Project Manager’, or even open your own consulting firm.
Careers Similar to Industrial Engineer
Listed below are careers in our database that are similar in nature to Industrial Engineer, as they may be in the same field, or they may involve many of the same skills, competencies and/or the same type of responsibilities.
References for this Career Guide
To find out more about what an industrial engineer does, what qualifications you’ll need, how much you could earn, and other details of this career, please consult the following resources:
Alberta Learning and Information Service website - Retrieved September 4, 2015: occinfo.alis.alberta.ca
Government of Western Australia website - Retrieved September 4, 2015 www.careercentre.dtwd.wa.gov.au
National Careers Service website - Retrieved September 4, 2015: nationalcareersservice.direct.gov.uk
Service Canada website - Retrieved September 4, 2015: www.servicecanada.gc.ca
United States Bureau of Labor Statistics website - Retrieved September 4, 2015: www.bls.gov
Scholarships for Becoming an Industrial Engineer
Looking for scholarships to help you on your way to becoming an industrial engineer? We’ve got you covered! Visit the following pages to find available scholarship and award opportunities:
Applicable Majors for Becoming an Industrial Engineer
The university majors below are applicable to a career as an industrial engineer, as they can teach you relevant skills and competencies. Click on the majors to find out what other careers are applicable to them!