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Industrial Engineers Careers: Employment & Salary Trends for Aspiring Industrial Engineers

Industrial Engineers at a Glance

Industrial engineers design and develop integrated systems that are used to manage industrial production processes. Industrial engineers also test and evaluate these systems in order to effectively manage production coordination, quality control, inventory control, logistics and material flow, cost analysis, and human work factors. These professionals are also responsible for managing staff, communicating with management, and conferring with vendors regarding purchasing and procedures.

Industrial engineers work in a wide variety of industries including oil and gas extraction, petroleum and coal products manufacturing, telecommunications, utilities, federal, state and local government, and paper manufacturing. Industrial engineers typically work 40+ per week. A small percentage, roughly 14.3%, works part-time.

Schools to consider:

Employment Trends

Job Outlook: Faster than average
Annual Openings: 13,000
Percent Growth: 20.3%
Total Jobs Held: 227,000 (including health & safety engineers)
Projected Employment: 270,000 by 2016 (including health & safety engineers)
The Best 500 Jobs Overall Ranking: 43

Source: “Best Jobs for the 21st Century,” JIST Publishing 2009. Farr, Michael and Shatkin, Laurence, Ph.D.; “Salary Facts Handbook,” JIST Publishing 2008. Editors @ JIST.

Companies are always looking for ways to cut costs without sacrificing productivity. This is true today, more than ever before. Industrial engineers will be called upon to develop more cost effective processes. In addition, a number of openings will become available as industrial engineers advance into management positions, retire, or leave the field completely.

Salary Trends

Industrial engineers earn an average salary of $71,430 per year. Industrial engineers in the 90th percentile can expect to earn around $100,980 per year, while 75th percentile industrial engineers can expect to earn $84,850 per year. Entry-level industrial engineers can expect to earn an impressive starting salary of around $44,790 per year. Industrial engineers in the oil and gas extraction industry currently earn the highest average salary at $85,710 per year, while industrial engineers in the paper manufacturing industry earn the lowest at $71,600.

Degrees and Training Programs

A bachelor’s degree or higher is preferred for entry into this field, although a small percentage of industrial engineers have an associate degree. Most employers prefer a masters degree or higher. Currently, 1.1% of all industrial engineers have a first professional degree, 4.5% have a doctoral degree, 20.2% of all environmental engineers have a master’s degree and 36.6% have a bachelor’s degree. Around 12.8% have an associate degree.  

Aspiring industrial engineers should enroll in an accredited engineering program. The Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology, Inc. (ABET) must accredit the program. More than 1,830 accredited programs are available at colleges and universities across the U.S. In addition to a degree from an accredited program, aspiring industrial engineers in all 50 states and the District of Columbia must obtain a license in order to work with the public. Licensed engineers receive the "PE" designation, which stands for "professional engineer."  

Coursework Required

Aspiring industrial engineers should excel in math and science. Successful completion of subjects in these areas is required for admission to all accredited engineering programs. Aspiring industrial engineers must have a strong background in calculus, trigonometry, algebra, geometry, chemistry, biology, and physics. Undergraduate students will take courses such as industrial practice I & II, engineering economics, and probability and statistics in engineering, as well as manufacturing processes, quality control, safety engineering, applied ergonomics, and industrial robotics.

Graduate students will take graduate level courses that cover data base design, engineering management, operations research, knowledge engineering, statistics and data analysis, scheduling models, programming, and algorithms for engineers.

Did you know that the number of industrial engineering graduates is too low to meet the demand for skilled engineers? It’s true. Industry reports claim that the U.S. is in third after Asia and India when it comes to churning out engineers. The good news is, because the supply doesn’t need the demand, graduating industrial engineers in the U.S.  will have their pick of top positions.