How to Become an Industrial Engineer

Industrial engineers optimize complex systems and processes within various industries, including manufacturing, healthcare, logistics, and supply chain management. They play a crucial role in improving efficiency, reducing waste, and increasing productivity. This comprehensive guide walks you through the steps you need to take to become a successful industrial engineer.

Steps to Become an Industrial Engineer

Industrial engineers need technical skills and knowledge that they can only develop through educational experiences. These steps will help you gain the qualifications you need to become a professional in this field. 

Step 1: Research the Profession

Before diving into any career path, it’s essential to understand what the job entails. Industrial engineers work to eliminate wasted time, money, materials, energy, and other resources. They are commonly found in a variety of sectors, such as: 

  • Manufacturing plants
  • Healthcare systems
  • Logistics companies
  • Consulting firms 

Their primary role is to analyze existing systems and procedures and find ways to improve their efficiency and effectiveness.

Step 2: Meet Educational Requirements

An engineering bachelor’s degree is typically the minimum educational requirement to enter this profession. Courses usually include subjects including:

  • Statistics
  • Production systems planning
  • Manufacturing systems design 
  • Quality improvement methods
  • Supply chain engineering management

Accredited programs provide the theoretical foundation and practical skills needed to excel in this field.

Step 3: Gain Relevant Experience

Real-world experience is invaluable in almost any profession, and industrial engineering is no exception. Internships or co-op programs are excellent ways to gain hands-on experience while you’re still in school. These opportunities not only provide practical knowledge but also offer a chance to network with professionals in the industry.

Step 4: Obtain Certifications 

While not strictly necessary for all positions, certifications like the Professional Engineer (P.E.) or Six Sigma can offer a competitive advantage in the job market. These certifications demonstrate a high level of competency and commitment to the field.

Step 5: Build a Portfolio 

A portfolio that showcases your projects, particularly those that have led to cost savings or efficiency improvements, can strengthen your candidacy when job hunting. These tangible examples of your work can often speak louder than a resume.

Additional Steps

For those looking to advance their careers further, pursuing a master’s degree in engineering or a related field can offer more specialized knowledge and potentially lead to higher-paying positions. Ongoing education through workshops or courses in new technologies and methodologies can also be beneficial.

Why Become an Industrial Engineer

Your career will shape much of your future, and it’s essential to understand both the rewards and challenges of the path you’re considering. Becoming an industrial engineer offers several benefits, including:

  • Job satisfaction: Industrial engineers often report high levels of job satisfaction due to the tangible impact they make in improving systems and processes. There’s a sense of accomplishment in knowing your work leads to more efficient and effective operations.
  • Financial benefits: According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median annual wage for industrial engineers is significantly higher than many other professions. Employees in some industries earn above six figures. 
  • Career growth: Industrial engineering is a field with diverse applications, offering you the flexibility to work in various sectors. The skills you gain can be transferred to multiple roles, providing an extensive range of career growth opportunities. 

This combination of financial, professional, and emotional rewards is a compelling reason to choose a career in industrial engineering. 

Where do Industrial Engineers Work?

Understanding the different settings in which industrial engineers operate can help you gauge if this career aligns with your personal and professional aspirations. Here are some typical workplaces:

  • Manufacturing plants: Industrial engineers in this setting focus on optimizing production lines, reducing waste, and improving quality.
  • Healthcare systems: Industrial engineers in healthcare optimize hospital workflows, patient care, and even medical equipment design.
  • Logistics and supply chain companies: Industrial engineers may work on optimizing distribution networks, reducing operating costs, and improving customer service.
  • Consultancies: Many industrial engineers work as consultants, helping companies identify areas for operational improvements and cost-saving measures.
  • Government agencies: This involves working on public projects to improve efficiency, reduce costs, and impact public policy.
  • Non-governmental organizations (NGOs): Industrial engineers in NGOs excel in sustainable practices, resource allocation, and operational efficiency.
  • Academic institutions: These industrial engineers engage in research, teaching, and development of new technologies and methodologies.

By understanding the variety of environments where industrial engineers can contribute, you’ll have a broader view of the career opportunities available in this field.

Industrial Engineer Salary

Many students major in engineering because of the potential for competitive salaries. Although salaries differ by employer, industrial engineering careers often pay well. 

Average Salary

According to the BLS, the median annual wage for industrial engineers was $96,350 as of May 2022. However, this figure can vary significantly depending on your level of experience, education, and industry.

Highest Industrial Engineer Salary

Specializations like systems engineering or operations research can command salaries well into the six-figure range. Certain employers also offer better pay. According to the BLS, industrial engineers who work for professional, scientific, and technical services earn median salaries that are $20,000 higher than those who work for fabricated metal product manufacturing. 

Highest Paying States

Geographical location also plays a crucial role in determining salary. According to BLS data, states like Alaska, California, and Louisiana offer higher salaries due to a greater concentration of high-tech and manufacturing industries.

Industrial Engineer Career and Job Growth

Industrial engineering is a field that continues to evolve with technological advancements and changing industry needs. The BLS projects that employment for industrial engineers will grow at a rate of 12% from 2022 to 2032. This is much faster than the average rate for all occupations, which is 3%. 

Several factors contribute to this positive outlook:

  • Increasing efficiency: As industries strive for greater efficiency and cost-effectiveness, the skills of an industrial engineer become increasingly valuable.
  • Technological advancements: The rise of automation, AI, and other emerging technologies offers new avenues for industrial engineers to improve existing systems.
  • Sustainability: With a growing emphasis on sustainable practices, industrial engineers are well-positioned to contribute to initiatives aimed at reducing waste and conserving resources.

With promising salary prospects and robust job growth, a career in industrial engineering offers both financial stability and many opportunities for advancement.

Industrial Engineer Degrees

The type of industrial engineering degree you complete depends on whether you hope to start with an entry-level job or want to take on a more advanced position. Colleges offer both undergraduate and graduate degree options. 

Bachelor of Science in Industrial Engineering

The foundation for this career usually starts with an industrial engineering bachelor’s degree. Most Bachelor of Science in Industrial Engineering programs last four years and equip graduates with a mix of technical skills and an understanding of business operations.

The core curriculum for this degree includes: 

  • Mathematics: Calculus, Linear Algebra, Probability and Statistics
  • Engineering Fundamentals: Statics, Dynamics, Thermodynamics
  • Systems Design: Introduction to Systems Engineering, Human Factors Engineering
  • Operations Research: Linear Programming, Queuing Theory, Decision Analysis
  • Manufacturing Processes: Materials Science, CNC Machining, Lean Manufacturing
  • Quality Control: Statistical Quality Control, Six Sigma, Total Quality Management

Students can also choose elective subjects to specialize their skills. They include renewable energy systems, robotics, and data analysis. 

Master of Science in Industrial Engineering

Pursuing a master’s degree in industrial engineering offers numerous advantages, including the opportunity to specialize in areas like systems engineering, operations research, or supply chain management. A Master of Science in Industrial Engineering generally takes two years to complete if attending full-time. This additional education can make you more competitive in the job market and open the door to higher-paying positions.

Common classes for this degree include: 

  • Advanced Operations Research: Nonlinear Programming, Stochastic Models, Simulation
  • System Optimization: Multi-objective Optimization, Complex Systems Modeling
  • Specialized Engineering Modules: Advanced Quality Control, Sustainable Engineering, Human Factors in Systems Design
  • Project Management: Agile Methodologies, Risk Management, Resource Allocation

Master’s students usually have the opportunity to delve into specialized topics through electives and can often tailor their curriculum to align with career goals. Options may include:

  • Supply Chain Management: Logistics, Inventory Control, Global Supply Chain Design
  • Healthcare Systems Engineering: Medical Process Flow, Health Informatics, Biostatistics
  • Data Analytics: Machine Learning, Big Data, Data Visualization

With this advanced education, students can position themselves as experts in specific domains within industrial engineering, giving them an edge in the competitive job market.

Further Studies

For those interested in deep research or academic careers, doctoral programs in industrial engineering are also available. These programs typically last three to five years and involve in-depth research and a dissertation. Graduate certificates in specialized fields like Six Sigma or project management can also enhance your qualifications and career prospects.

Industrial Engineering Online Degree Programs

As technology advances, more educational institutions are offering online degree programs in industrial engineering. These programs provide an alternative to traditional on-campus education, making it easier for individuals who may have work commitments or other obligations to earn a degree in this field.

Benefits of Online Programs


Online programs often offer asynchronous courses, allowing you to complete assignments and view lectures on your own time. This is particularly beneficial for those who are balancing work and family responsibilities alongside their education.


Whether you live in a rural area or simply don’t have access to a university that offers an industrial engineering program, online courses make education more accessible. All you need is a reliable internet connection and a computer.


Online programs often have lower tuition fees and eliminate other expenses, such as commuting, housing, and campus meals. This makes them a more cost-effective option for many students.

Networking Opportunities

Many online programs offer virtual collaboration tools and forums to interact with peers and professors from around the world. This can provide valuable networking opportunities that may not be available in a traditional classroom setting.

Potential Challenges of Online Programs

Lack of Hands-on Experience

Industrial engineering is a field that often benefits from practical, hands-on experience. Online programs may lack lab components or real-world project opportunities that are commonly found in traditional programs.

Self-Discipline and Time Management

Online courses require a significant amount of self-discipline and excellent time-management skills. Without the structure of a traditional classroom, some students may struggle to stay on top of their coursework.

Limited Interaction with Instructors

Many online courses offer virtual office hours and discussion forums. However, the level of interaction with instructors may not be as frequent or as personalized as in an on-campus setting.

Technology Requirements

Online programs require a reliable internet connection and a computer that meets specific hardware and software requirements. Some students may find this to be a barrier.

Tips for Success with Online Programs

Create a Study Schedule

One of the keys to succeeding in an online program is organization. Create a study schedule that allocates specific time slots for lectures, assignments, and revision. Stick to this timetable as much as possible to maintain a steady pace throughout the course.

Leverage Online Resources

Many online programs offer a variety of resources, from video lectures and e-books to interactive quizzes and discussion forums. Make the most of these to enhance your understanding of the course material.

Stay Engaged

Participate actively in online discussion boards, group assignments, and virtual classroom sessions. Engaging with your peers and instructors not only enhances your learning experience but also helps in building a professional network.

Seek Help When Needed

Don’t hesitate to ask for help. Whether it’s academic or technical support, most online programs offer various channels to get the assistance you need. This could be in the form of virtual office hours, email consultations, or dedicated support forums.

Test Your Tech

Before your course starts, make sure your computer meets all the necessary technical requirements. Test your internet speed, video streaming capabilities, and any required software to avoid technical glitches once the course is underway.

Balance Work, Life, and Study

One of the major challenges of online education is balancing it with other commitments. Make sure to allocate time for work, family, and leisure activities in addition to your academic responsibilities. This balance is crucial for long-term success.

By following these tips and being proactive in your learning, you can overcome many of the challenges associated with online programs and make your educational journey a successful one.

ABET Accreditation for Engineering Degree Programs

When considering an engineering degree program, one critical factor to keep in mind is whether the program is accredited by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET). ABET accreditation is a hallmark of excellence and ensures that the program meets specific quality standards recognized both nationally and internationally.

Importance of ABET Accreditation

Standard of Quality

ABET accreditation is an assurance that a college or university program meets the quality standards of the engineering profession. An ABET-accredited engineering degree is often a prerequisite for various licensure exams and certifications.

Increased Employment Opportunities

Employers value degrees from accredited programs because they know that graduates have received a high-quality education that prepares them for real-world engineering challenges. Some companies exclusively hire from ABET-accredited programs.

Transferability of Credits

If you plan on continuing your education or may need to transfer to another institution, credits from an ABET-accredited program are more likely to be recognized and accepted.

Global Recognition

ABET accreditation is internationally recognized. This can be beneficial if you are considering employment or further education outside your home country.

How to Verify ABET Accreditation

Before enrolling in an engineering program, you should confirm its ABET accreditation status. This can generally be done in the following ways:

  • Check the school’s website: Accredited programs often display the ABET logo or accreditation status on their website, usually under the program details or accreditation section.
  • Visit ABET’s website: ABET maintains a database where you can search for accredited programs by institution, degree level, and discipline.
  • Contact the institution: If you’re unable to find the information online, consider reaching out to the school’s admissions or academic offices to confirm accreditation status.

Choosing an ABET-accredited program is a crucial step in ensuring that you receive a quality education that will be valued by employers and set you on the path to a successful career in engineering.

Industrial Engineer FAQ

What degree do I need to become an industrial engineer?

A bachelor’s degree in industrial engineering or a closely related field is usually the minimum requirement. However, a master’s degree can provide advanced training and specialization options.

What do industrial engineers do?

Industrial engineers optimize systems and processes in various industries. They work on improving efficiency, reducing waste, and implementing new technologies to achieve organizational goals.

How long does it take to become an industrial engineer?

It generally takes four years to complete a bachelor’s degree in industrial engineering. If you opt for a master’s degree, add another two years to that timeframe. Gaining professional experience through internships or co-op programs during your education can also be beneficial.

How much do industrial engineers make?

As of May 2022, the median annual wage for industrial engineers was $96,350, according to the BLS.

What skills do I need to be an industrial engineer?

Key skills for industrial engineers include problem-solving, analytical thinking, communication skills, and proficiency in software tools relevant to the field, such as CAD or project management software.

Are there internship opportunities for industrial engineers?

Yes, internships are a crucial part of gaining the practical experience needed to excel in this field. They can be found through university career services, professional networking, and job search platforms.

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