By Emmet Kyle McMahan
Industrial engineering is a broad field that ecompasses a wide array of sub-specialties. Focusing on applications ranging from industrial machinery to processes for capturing and utilizing energy, industrial engineers enable and improve the production of critical products and services.
Overview for an Online Master’s Degree in Industrial Engineering
Industrial engineering is a systems-related field. Individuals who work in industrial engineering learn how to create and modify systems related to the production and service fields. This means that they work on machinery, build complex systems designed to complete tasks, and learn how to manage a wide array of technical issues.
This field is in such demand because it is at the core of countless production areas. Virtually every product that we buy and use regularly has had some interaction with an industrial engineer. Moreover, the need for skilled industrial engineers has continued to rise as our production methods become more complex and rely more heavily on technology.
Manufacturing, distribution and transportation are three more common industries that an individual specializing in industrial engineering will work in. However, many other job paths are available to industrial engineering professionals. For example, individuals who are trained professionals in this field may also be able to find careers in energy, government, quality assurance, teaching, the supply chain industry and more.
Why earn an online master’s degree in industrial engineering?
Individuals who study industrial engineering will usually at least have a Bachelor of Arts or Bachelor of Science in the field. However, some people will advance further in their education, earning a master’s degree in industrial engineering. Though this is more time-consuming and may be more expensive, it can often be worth the extra effort to gain advanced training and skills.
An individual may want to get a master’s degree in industrial engineering because:
- Doing so may allow a person to specialize in a specific area of industrial engineering, allowing them to become experts in a certain subsection of the field.
- Individuals who get online engineering master’s degrees will almost always be able to demand a better salary than people who only have a bachelor’s degree.
- The extra time in school may enable someone to develop additional connections to their chosen industry, allowing them to enhance their job prospects.
- Some positions within industrial engineering require an advanced degree, like a master’s degree.
- More time in school should translate to more skills learned. This may open up entirely new career pathways, including those you previously may not have considered.
Master’s Degree in Industrial Engineering Curriculum and Common Courses
Different schools will require students to take different courses. Furthermore, some students may specialize in certain areas of industrial engineering, and those specializations will have different courses. However, most industrial engineering degree programs will require some form of the following courses:
- Chemistry. General courses in chemistry study the properties and behavior of matter, including the elements that comprise it. Graduate courses in chemistry for industrial engineers will tend to focus on chemical engineering, which is the study of designing and operation of chemical plants.
- Mechanics. These courses are a combination of mathematics and physics that describe relationships between matter, force and motion. For industrial engineering, they study the effect of force applied to physical objects.
- Systems design and analysis. Systems design and analysis is the study of a procedure to accomplish a stated goal. Industrial engineers study systems for the purpose of solving an engineering problem, generally by breaking it down into components.
- Engineering design. Courses on engineering design show students how to create functional products and processes. Engineering students typically learn highly iterative processes that result in gradual improvement over time.
- Electrical systems. These courses deal with the design and construction of electrical devices. Graduate-level courses in this discipline often specialize in a more specific field, such as electrical engineering, computer engineering, power engineering or electronics.
- Computer science. Computer science is generally the study of computation and automation with respect to information systems. Industrial engineering courses may specialize in topics like software programming or hardware design.
- Data science. These courses are a branch of computer science that deals with the management, process and storage of information. Graduate-level courses for industrial engineers are increasingly likely to focus on big data and data analytics.
Accreditation for Master’s Programs in Industrial Engineering
Accreditation is the primary way that stakeholders like students, employers and government agencies know that an institution of higher learning provides a quality education. Federal grant and loan programs routinely use it to determine if a student will receive tuition assistance or other forms of financial aid. State governments also use accreditation to qualify students for taking state licensure examinations in some professional fields like industrial engineering. In addition, prospective employers are very likely to consider accreditation when hiring job applicants, especially in technical fields.
Two types of college accreditation exist — institutional and programmatic accreditation. Institutional accreditation verifies that the institution itself meets a set of minimum standards, including the facilities, faculty and administration. Nineteen institutional accrediting organizations are currently recognized in the U.S., which are responsible for accrediting all the institutions within their designated geographic area.
Institutional accreditation doesn’t address the qualifications of specific degree programs, which is the purview of programmatic accreditation. This type of accreditation considers factors like a program’s course requirements and the faculty’s qualifications when deciding whether to grant accreditation to a particular program. About 60 programmatic accrediting organizations are currently recognized in the U.S.
The Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET) is one of the most programmatic accrediting bodies for industrial engineering. It consists of multiple commissions that evaluate programs within a particular discipline. For industrial engineering programs, the specific accrediting body is ABET’s Engineering Accreditation Commission. The basic requirements for ABET accreditation are generally the same for all graduate-level engineering programs. Key requirements include minimum semester credit hour (SCH) requirements for engineering topics, including appropriate standards for industrial engineering.
Online Master’s Degree Programs in Industrial Engineering
There are hundreds of programs for an online master’s in industrial engineering that you can choose from. Those listed below offer many advantages. Examining their similarities and the factors that make them stand out can help you make an informed decision about the best program for you.
Arizona State University Online – Online Master of Science in Industrial Engineering
Arizona State University has one of the largest online programs globally, and its M.S. in Industrial Engineering helps show why its offerings are so popular. ASU offers an array of courses in this area, including some relatively unique to the field, such as Web-Enabled Decision Support Systems and Reliability Engineering. In addition, it has more than 350 faculty members on staff, many of whom hold extensive engineering awards and credentials. This can help give students a unique and highly individualized approach to their master’s degree.
LSU Online – Online Master of Science in Industrial Engineering
LSU’s M.S. in Industrial Engineering is different from many other such programs. It requires 36 course hours to complete your degree, but the cost is much lower at a mere $750 per course hour. Of course, this requires students to invest more time in their various courses, but this is a good thing since it forces students to learn more to get their master’s degree. LSU also allows you to have a dedicated coach that helps you in your journey, giving you a mentor and invaluable advice as you obtain your degree and search for work.
NC State University – Online Masters of Industrial Engineering
This program is self-supported, meaning students who take this course are expected to be capable of learning on their own. While support is present, internships and a final thesis are not required to obtain a degree. This master’s degree will require 33 course hours, 27 of which must be over the 500 level.
Oklahoma State University Online – Industrial Engineering and Management
The M.S. in Industrial Engineering and Management from Oklahoma State University isn’t just a master’s degree in this discipline. Instead, it includes a specialty in industrial management. This allows students to learn greater skills than they would with another master’s degree. It also serves as an excellent launching pad for students who may be interested in obtaining a doctorate.
Penn State World Campus – Master of Engineering in Industrial Engineering
This 30-credit course will cost students $951 per credit, a relatively reasonable price within this realm. It also offers more unique course offerings, including the ability to study the interactions between engineering, business, and psychology. Many of these interactions come as a direct result of Penn State’s large world campus, enabling Master’s students to expand their traditional course offerings into much broader areas.
Purdue University – Online Master of Industrial Engineering
Purdue University routinely ranks as one of the top engineering schools in the country, and this degree can help individuals get a master’s degree from their online school. They offer many different courses, including Human Factors Engineering and Operational Research. In addition, no thesis-based programs are offered with their online programs, which should make it easier for busy students to obtain their master’s degree.
Texas A&M University – Online Master of Engineering in Industrial Engineering
Texas A&M’s Master of Engineering in Industrial Engineering is identical whether you receive it in person or online. This means that students who receive a master’s degree will have the same high-quality education and faculty whether they attend school in person or online. In addition, this master’s degree only requires 10 courses and doesn’t require a thesis. In some circumstances, your final exam may also be waived. These reasonable criteria make obtaining a master’s degree from Texas A&M much easier than in other schools.
University of Southern California Online – Master of Science in Industrial and Systems Engineering
This is a highly integrated program, meaning that people will have the chance to learn the material with other programs if they choose to do so. In addition, the program has an identical faculty to its on-campus programs, meaning that students who take this course will have the opportunity to learn from USC’s regular faculty.
The University of Wisconsin-Madison – Online Master of Industrial Engineering
This master’s program allows students to study many areas, including data analytics, supply chain management and quality control. It also notes that leadership and communication skills are explicitly taught for this master’s degree. This may give engineering students a leg up in the competition, as it will allow them to learn critical interpersonal skills that can be highly useful in the real world.
Vanderbilt School of Engineering – Master of Engineering in Industrial Engineering
This program ranks very high in its ability to help students learn, regularly appearing in the Top 20 lists of Master’s in Industrial Engineering rankings. It allows students to learn in live, online classes, conduct real-world projects and get experience in project management. All of these skills are highly critical when preparing for a career in engineering.
What can I do with a master’s degree in industrial engineering?
Industrial engineers with a master’s degree generally look for ways to improve efficiency in production processes. They design and implement systems that integrate energy, information, machines and workers to provide a product or service. Specific duties typically include reviewing documents such as engineering specifications, process flows and production schedules for the purpose of understanding the activities that take place within the workflow. Industrial engineers also develop management control systems that facilitate cost analysis and financial planning. Conferring with management about manufacturing capabilities and project statuses are also common duties of an industrial engineer with a master’s degree.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects an employment growth for industrial engineers of 10 percent from 2021 to 2031, which is higher than the overall growth of seven percent for that time period across all occupations. The employment of 301,000 in 2021 will increase to 331,600 by 2031, for a total increase of 30,600 positions. About 22,400 positions in industrial engineering will become available each year during that period, most of which will be due to workers leaving this occupation. Driving factors for job growth in industrial engineering include increased interest in cost-saving measures by large companies that stand to benefit from optimized production processes, more efficient supply chain management and expertise in automation.
The median annual salary for an industrial engineer in the U.S. is $96,350 as of May 2021, according to the BLS. The full salary range for this occupation is from less than $62,730 to more than $134,990 per year, but most industrial engineers earn annual salaries between $77,600 and $117,000.
Manufacturing engineers focus on the design and operation of systems that produce physical products, generally for the purpose of improving quality and reducing cost. These systems typically include equipment for handling materials, machine tools, robots and computer networks.
The average annual salary for a manufacturing engineer in the U.S. is $83,980 as of April 2023, according to Ziprecruiter. Most manufacturing engineers earn annual salaries between $68,595 and $92,340. The bottom 10 percent make less than $51,447 per year, while the top ten percent make over $143,348 annually.
Operations Research Analyst
Operations research analysts help organizations make decisions and solve problems through the use of mathematical logic. Common duties include identifying problem areas in business and logistics operations, which usually involves collecting and organizing information from multiple sources. Operations research analysts also analyze the data they collect to obtain meaningful insight into a problem and its possible solutions.
The median annual salary for an operations research analyst in the U.S. is $85,720 as of May 2021, according to the BLS. The full salary range for this occupation is from less than $50,440 to more than $149,640 per year, but most operations research analysts earn annual salaries between $64,060 and $113,980.
Supply Chain Manager
Supply chain managers, also known as purchasing managers, buyers and purchasing agents, choose suppliers based on many factors such as availability, reliability, price, quality and technical support. They also negotiate contracts and review the quality of products. Purchasing managers typically oversee the work of buyers and purchasing agents, so their procurement tasks are more complex.
The median annual salary for a purchasing manager in the U.S. is $131,350 as of May 2021, according to the BLS. The full salary range for this occupation is from less than $80,000 to more than $210,000 per year, but most industrial engineers earn annual salaries between $101,790 and $166,980.
Quality Control Engineer
Quality control (QC) engineers are a type of industrial engineer that designs and implements QC programs that ensure a finished product meets quality standards. They identify defects and their causes, allowing them to develop solutions that often involve working with a supplier.
The median annual salary for a quality control engineer in the U.S. is $107,560 as of May 2021, according to the BLS. The full salary range for this occupation is from less than $67,720 to more than $178,470 per year, but most industrial engineers earn annual salaries between $85,350 and $139,430.
Public Industrial Planner
Public industrial planners may also be known by other names, such as urban planners and regional planners. They develop land use plans for building or revitalizing physical facilities such as manufacturing plants.
The median annual salary for a public industrial planner in the U.S. is $79,540 per year as of May 2021, according to the BLS. The full salary range for this occupation is from less than $49,960 to more than $121,460 per year, but most public industrial planners earn annual salaries between $62,130 and $100,500.
How much do industrial engineers make?
Starting Salary for Industrial Engineers
OwlGuru.com reports that the average starting salary for an industrial engineer in 2021 ranged from $56,470 to $69,690 per year, equivalent to an hourly wage between $27 and $33 per hour. The bottom end of this range was the salary for the bottom 10 percent of industrial engineers, while the top end was the salary for the bottom 25 percent. These figures assume the industrial engineer has little to no professional experience in that occupation.
Average Salary for a Master’s Degree in Industrial Engineering
Salary.com reports that the median salary for an industrial engineer with a master’s degree is between $143,075 and $150,820. In comparison, industrial engineers with a bachelor’s degree have a median salary between $142,055 and $149,733.
What’s the most an industrial engineer makes?
Compared to the median annual wage of $152,350 in May 2021, the highest-paid industrial engineers in the U.S. make more than $208,000 per year, according to the BLS. These figures are for all workers in this occupation, but the specific industry significantly affects the pay of industrial engineers. For example, the most lucrative industry is scientific research and development services, which has an average annual salary of $187,240. The management of enterprises also offers better pay than other industries, with an average annual income of $164,060.
Tips for Increasing Salary Potential
Specializing in emerging technologies is one of the most effective ways of increasing your salary potential as an engineer. In the case of industrial engineering, the most promising technologies with respect to income include information services. These industrial engineers may work on web search portals, libraries and other types of archives. The oil and gas sector also provides opportunities for industrial engineers to increase their income, including extraction and pipeline transportation. Additional specialties in this occupation with high income potential exist in the financial sector, including accounting, bookkeeping, payroll services and tax preparation.
Continuing Education after a Master’s Degree in Industrial Engineering
A master’s degree may not be the end of formal education for an industrial engineer. Paths for continuing education include advanced certifications and doctorate degrees.
A state-issued Professional Engineer (PE) license is available to all engineers, which requires a passing score on the Principles and Practice of Engineering exam. This test verifies that engineers with four years of post-graduate professional experience meet minimum competency standards in engineering. This experience may include entry-level work and apprentice programs that provide on-the-job-training (OJT).
Project Management Professional (PMP) certification is for industrial engineers who specialize in project management. It shows that they possess various project management skills, such as planning new projects, starting them and guiding them through their various phases. PMP certification is conducted entirely online, so industrial engineers can study at their own pace.
Industrial engineers who specialize in manufacturing may benefit from becoming a Certified Manufacturing Engineer (CMfgE), which requires engineers to demonstrate comprehensive knowledge about manufacturing practices. Qualification requirements for this certification include eight years of combined education and work experience in manufacturing, with at least four years of experience. A CMfgE certificate can lead to a position as a lead engineer with a higher salary.
Doctorate in Industrial Engineering
Most industrial engineers won’t benefit financially from a doctorate degree in their discipline, especially considering the time and expense needed to earn one. University-level teaching roles are the primary exception to this general rule, although some leadership roles in the industrial sector may include a doctorate in industrial engineering as a required or at least preferred qualification. These degrees often require a dissertation and oral exams.
Financial Aid Information
Advanced education typically requires students to obtain financial aid, especially for technical disciplines like industrial engineering. Many students have already exhausted their financial resources earning their undergraduate degree, so they must often decide between entering the workforce or getting assistance with tuition. These methods include loans, scholarships and internships.
Lenders are generally interested in financial factors such as credit history and debt-to-income (DTI) ratio when considering applications for student loans, rather than academic qualifications. The interest rates for these loans typically start at around five percent and go up from there, based on the student’s financial picture. Fixed rates remain constant throughout the term of the loan, but variable rates change based on market conditions. Many lenders also offer a discount of about 0.5 percent for borrowers who agree to pay with automatic payments. Payments on student loans are normally deferred until the student graduates.
Colleges normally offer many scholarships to students who attend their degree programs, which may be based on the student’s discipline of study or personal attributes. Independent industry groups also offer scholarships for students who want to pursue studies in that field. In the field of industrial engineering, the Institute of Industrial Engineers (IIE) provides two fellowships for graduate students who are IIE members. These include the Graduate Research Award and the Pritsker Doctoral Dissertation Award.
Engineering internships provide students with an opportunity to gain practical experience while learning to apply what they learned in school. In the case of industrial engineering, internships are typically paid positions at the low end of the pay scale that bridge the gap between school and a job that pays the market rate for that position. Interns typically work under the direct supervision of an experienced professional who can evaluate their work. At the end of an internship, students should have a much better idea about whether a career in industrial engineering is right for them.
How much does a master’s degree in industrial engineering cost?
As you can imagine, there is a wide range of costs for obtaining this degree. Programs that offer advanced degrees in industrial engineering typically cost between $10,000 and $30,000, but some fall outside that range.
What is certain is that getting this degree through an on-campus program is an expensive proposition. If you’re considering a master’s degree in industrial engineering, you should check into financial aid or scholarship options. Some employers will also offer you tuition assistance or cover a portion of your tuition.
It’s also worth noting that earning a degree online can sometimes save money, reducing costs related to supplies, living and travel expenses. Furthermore, most online schools come with some degree of flexibility. This will allow you to continue working while getting your degree.
Is a master’s degree in industrial engineering worth it?
A master’s degree in industrial engineering will generally be worth it, although you probably won’t need to get one right away. This field is highly competitive, so getting to the journeyman level will typically require an advanced degree such as an MS or MBA to distinguish yourself from the other applicants. However, it will probably take you a few years to get to this point, during which you can look for ways to get your employer to pay for your graduate degree. For example, extending a contract is a common way of trading some of your time for tuition. Regardless of your exact strategy, a career in engineering can easily last more than 30 years, so you should time your graduate studies to suit your needs.
How long does it take to earn an online master’s degree in industrial engineering?
In practice, an online master’s degree in industrial engineering takes about two calendars to obtain. This figure assumes you continue to work full time while studying at night and on the weekends. Self-paced courses don’t have the common problem of scheduling conflicts or classes failing to secure the enrollment needed to teach it. Specializing in a particular concentration of industry can increase the number of courses you need to complete, thus increasing the amount of time you need. On the other hand, it’s possible to earn your master’s degree in industrial engineering in one year of full-time study without any other demands on your time.
Is a master’s degree required to advance as an industrial engineer?
If you go far enough in your industrial engineering career, you’ll probably reach a point where the lack of a master’s degree will slow your advancement. This is especially true if you want to teach, in which case you’ll probably need a doctorate. In addition, some upper management positions may require a master’s degree. Furthermore, multidisciplinary roles are also more likely to benefit from an advanced degree in industrial engineering.
Are industrial engineers in demand?
The above-average job growth in industrial engineering expected over the next decade indicates that the overall demand for these engineers will remain strong. Manufacturing companies are under increasing pressure to cut costs, which is increasing the need for industrial engineers who can make processes more efficient. In addition, the disruption of supply chains due to the global pandemic has also made workers in this occupation more valuable.
What industries are hiring industrial engineers with a master’s degree?
Industries with the highest demand for industrial engineers during the next decade include the manufacture of aerospace vehicles and parts. Machinery manufacturing in general will continue to require industrial engineers, as will the executive management level of organizations in many industries. Companies that provide architectural and engineering services are also likely to maintain a strong demand for industrial engineers. The continuing miniaturization of devices in the healthcare sector provides another need for industrial engineers who specialize in mechanical engineering.
Is an online master’s degree in industrial engineering the same as an on-campus degree?
Some individual employers still have a preference for mechanical engineers who earned their degree through in-person classes. However, educational institutions don’t typically identify courses that were earned online on their transcripts, nor do they include words like “online” or “distance learning” on diplomas.