Guide to getting a bachelor in industrial engineering
Industrial engineers work at the intersection of business and engineering. They design, devise, and optimize efficient systems that use machines, workers, information, energy, and materials to provide a service or make a product.
There is no shortage of industries in need of systems overhauls and optimization. An industrial engineer may use their expertise to design safer assembly lines in a factory, improve a rollercoaster ride at a theme park, or even streamline an operating room. Some of the technology and programs industrial engineers can expect to work with include scientific and analytical software, computer-aided design (CAD) tools, and industrial control software.
The Industrial Revolution is often taught as spanning the years 1760-1914. According to some scholars, however, there have been as many as 6 mini industrial revolutions, the last of which we are still in the midst of today.
What can you do with an industrial engineering degree?
Getting your bachelor’s in industrial engineering may bring a great deal of career flexibility and allow you to work in a wide range of industries. Some of the jobs typically pursued by industrial engineering graduates include:
- systems engineering
- industrial engineering
- process engineering
- energy efficiency engineering
- occupational health and safety management
- manufacturing engineering
- quality engineering
- supply chain management and analysis
- cost estimation
- manufacturing production supervision
- quality assurance inspection
Should you get a bachelor in industrial engineering?
Industrial engineering may be an excellent career for individuals who are detail-oriented, dependable, and analytical. Industrial engineering programs center on applying practical engineering knowledge to production processes and coming up with techniques and ideas for maximizing and optimizing output capacity and distribution of various goods and services.
Economic considerations are another way to determine if this is the degree for you. The below is a short-term comparison between the entire bachelor’s degree market and this degree. It is a snapshot of earnings 3 years after graduation.
Bachelor of industrial engineering
The above table provides a snapshot of earnings 3 years after graduation. We compare the earnings of all bachelor degree recipients to those who graduated from this specific program.
Industrial engineers can expect to earn $68,808 2 years after graduation, compared to the $53,471 an average bachelor’s degree holder earns.
The above is a longer-term estimate of degree performance. It is based on census survey data detailing people’s major, age, and salary.
On a long-term career trajectory, industrial engineers begin their careers closely aligned to their peers but then see increased growth around age 40, likely due to work experience and promotions.
How to pick an industrial engineering degree program
When picking a college or university for obtaining your bachelor in industrial engineering, one of the most important deciding factors is choosing an accredited degree program. The Accreditation Board of Engineering and Technology (ABET) is the gold standard for engineering programs. ABET has accredited over 850 different universities and colleges, across 4,361 degree programs.
Obtaining an industrial and systems engineering bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution informs your future employers that your program meets industry standards and has a proven track record of graduating technically competent engineers.
Systems engineering vs industrial engineering
You may come across bachelor’s degrees in industrial and systems engineering (ISE). These 2 fields overlap heavily. In fact, systems engineering was once simply considered a part of industrial engineering but has in recent years has come to be seen as a field in its own right.
The Systems Engineering Body of Knowledge (SEBoK) categorizes systems engineering into the following 3 types:
- Product systems engineering (PSE), which focuses on computer hardware and software
- Enterprise systems engineering (ESE), which addresses organizations as systems
- Service systems engineering (SSE), which focuses on service systems such as banks or supermarkets
A bachelor’s in ISE would likely cover the essentials of industrial engineering as well as ESE and SSE.
Can you get an industrial engineering degree online?
Due to the amount of in-person collaborative work required in certain engineering courses, as well as laboratory assignments and real-world projects, engineering degrees cannot usually be completed exclusively online.
Bachelor of industrial engineering
The above table shows the percentage of programs available either completely in person or fully online. Figures that do not add up to 100% indicate the existence of hybrid programs.
The best bachelor of industrial engineering programs
Find below our ratings of the comparative earnings, costs, and payback rates of different bachelor of industrial and systems engineering programs. Please review our methodology for more information on what metrics we look at and how to determine the comparative value between institutions.
Net cost: The median annual cost of all students that receive any aid. This does not refer to the “sticker price”, the price listed by the college.
Payback: The amount of time in years it takes to pay off the median net cost by the median earnings. For this calculation, the median earning of high school graduates (in the school’s home state) are deducted from the median earnings.
Earnings: The median earnings of students 10 years after enrollment. This includes both students that do and do not graduate, across all majors.
Degree premium: The difference between the school’s median earnings and the state median earnings at the same degree level. Also referred to as vs. state average
Ranking: The payback rate is divided by the degree premium (set as a percentage), the lower the number the higher the rank. (i.e. payback=1, degree premium 20% higher than state school median: 1/120% = .883.
Economic score: The economic score is calculated by dividing the payback by the degree premium percentage. The lower the score the better. For instance – if a school has a payback rate of 1 and earnings are 20% higher than the state median, the economic score calculation would be: 1/120% =.83
Grad rate: The percentage of students that graduate from the school or program. If a grad rate is in red, it is below the relevant state average; schools with graduation rates in the lowest 25% nationally are pushed to the back of our rankings tables.
Admission rate: The percentage of applying students that are admitted.
University of Connecticut-Waterbury Campus
Admission rate: 97%
Grad rate: 65%
Net cost: $8,046
Vs. state average: $0
Economic score: 0.65
Florida State University
Admission rate: 33%
Grad rate: 81%
Net cost: $9,789
Vs. state average: $6,356
Economic score: 0.77
University of Connecticut-Avery Point
Admission rate: 95%
Grad rate: 63%
Net cost: $9,981
Vs. state average: $0
Economic score: 0.79
University of Connecticut-Hartford Campus
Admission rate: 97%
Grad rate: 66%
Net cost: $9,842
Vs. state average: $0
Economic score: 0.80
University of South Florida
Admission rate: 50%
Grad rate: 72%
Net cost: $8,355
Vs. state average: $1,374
Economic score: 0.81
SUNY Maritime College
Throggs Neck, New York
Admission rate: 73%
Grad rate: 69%
Net cost: $20,616
Vs. state average: $20,941
Economic score: 0.94
Arizona State University Campus Immersion
Admission rate: 89%
Grad rate: 67%
Net cost: $11,706
Vs. state average: $0
Economic score: 0.96
University of Michigan-Ann Arbor
Ann Arbor, Michigan
Admission rate: 27%
Grad rate: 93%
Net cost: $15,336
Vs. state average: $3,646
Economic score: 0.98
University of Connecticut-Stamford
Admission rate: 92%
Grad rate: 71%
Net cost: $11,982
Vs. state average: $0
Economic score: 0.99
University of Washington-Seattle Campus
Admission rate: 56%
Grad rate: 84%
Net cost: $13,297
Vs. state average: $0
Economic score: 1.05
How much does a bachelor in industrial engineering cost?
The average cost of obtaining a BSE in industrial engineering varies depending on whether you attend a private or public college or university.
If obtaining your industrial and system engineering degree at a public institution, you can expect to pay around $16,433. At a private college or university, the cost may be around double, averaging $30,641.
Public university graduates can expect to earn an average of $69,068 after graduation, while private university graduates earn a slightly higher $72,885 with their industrial and systems engineering bachelor’s degrees.
See above how cost and earnings vary depending on the type of institution. Payback refers to how many years it takes students to cover the median costs while earning the median salary. Payback is calculated by subtracting the median earnings of a high school graduate from the median earnings related to this degree.
Financial aid and scholarships for industrial engineering majors
One of the best ways to reduce college costs is to apply for a variety of scholarships and financial aid programs available to industrial and systems engineering students.
The first step is to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). This gives you the opportunity to receive financial aid every year that you’re in school. It’s also recommended to visit your school’s financial aid advisor to learn about any additional financial assistance or aid your institution may offer.
After you’ve completed the FAFSA, search for engineering scholarships. You may be surprised at the number of scholarships available to industrial and systems engineering students and may even find a few scholarships you uniquely qualify for.
What to expect from an industrial engineering degree program
The first 2 years of an industrial engineering program usually consist of a series of core courses and chosen electives. Junior and senior years are often more specialized, focusing exclusively on industrial and systems engineering.
What are the admission requirements for a bachelor in industrial engineering?
Depending on the college, there may be certain ACT, GPA, and SAT scores required for admission, along with high school STEM prerequisites.
How long does it take to get a degree in industrial engineering?
Most industrial engineering students complete their bachelor’s degree program within 4 years.
Internships are a great way to get a feel for the type of work you may do in the future. They can also help you learn about the major employers in the field. Industrial and systems engineering internships are usually completed during junior or senior year. If a company appreciates the work you did during your internship and you’ve built a good relationship with your coworkers, you may be offered a full-time position immediately after graduation.
FE and PE exams
Many industrial engineering graduates take the Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) exam when nearing graduation, allowing them to start on a career path towards their Professional Engineer (PE) license. Engineers with a PE are highly sought-after and command higher compensation and pay.
The FE is offered in 7 disciplines:
- electrical and computer
- industrial and systems
- other disciplines
As an industrial engineering student, you are not restricted to the FE Industrial and Systems. However, due to the challenging nature of the exam, it is recommended to choose the discipline you are most prepared to be tested in.
After completing the FE and working in your respective field for at least 4 years, you have the opportunity to complete the PE Industrial and Systems exam and become a professional licensed engineer.
The Twelve Principles of Efficiency by engineer and business theorist Harrington Emerson was published in 1912. It was one of the first American books about systematizing and applying scientific thinking to management.
What type of courses are there in an industrial engineering program?
A bachelor in industrial engineering often begins with a series of core courses and electives. In the final 2 years of study, students take specialized courses related to their major. Industrial engineering students can expect to take specialized courses such as:
Engineers frequently use simulated procedures to solve complex systems analysis problems. Event simulation courses emphasize random processes, model building, and the construction of computer simulation models for use in engineering projects.
Manufacturing processes are how a company creates or assembles its products. These are often highly complex systems. Industrial and systems engineering students learn to design, analyze, and oversee the operation of manufacturing processes.
Computer-aided design (CAD) and computer-aided manufacturing (CAM) play an important role in industrial engineering and manufacturing. With CAD, engineers use professional tools like AutoCAD or SolidWorks to design their products in 3-dimensional space. Once designed, they can be added into precise drawings, dimensionalized, and sent off for production. CAM tools allow industrial engineers to take a CAD model and manufacture it using tools like laser cutters or CNC machines.
Courses in operational planning and control focus on the scheduling and control of materials, finances, and people to most efficiently produce the desired quantity and quality of outputs. Essential analytical methods for operations planning and control are covered, including forecasting systems, production planning, inventory control systems, scheduling systems, and project management.
Ambitious engineers can learn data analysis and programming languages to further enhance their effectiveness on the job and increase their employability. Learning a data analysis language such as MATLAB (Materials Laboratory) allows industrial engineers to process large datasets and extract useful insights. Programming language knowledge can be used for automation and programming manufacturing tools such as CNC machines.
What types of degrees are there in industrial engineering?
Depending on your college and university, the title of your bachelor in industrial and systems engineering may vary.
The most common degree titles include:
- Bachelor of Engineering (BEng or B.E.)
- Bachelor of Science (B.Sc. or B.S.)
- Bachelor of Science Engineering (B.Sc.Eng.)
- Bachelor of Engineering Science (B.Eng.Sc.)
- Bachelor of Technology (BTech.)
- Bachelor of Applied Science (B.A.Sc.)
Most of these titles are interchangeable, as long as they were earned at an accredited institution.
What careers can I have with an industrial engineering degree?
A bachelor in industrial engineering is a highly versatile degree, opening doors to many career opportunities. Engineering career paths typically follow a level progression, such as Level I, II, II, all the way up to the senior engineer level, letting you progress and move up as you gain experience.
Those looking to enter senior roles may pursue a master’s in industrial engineering after completing the bachelor’s. It is somewhat more common to earn a master’s in this field than in other engineering disciplines due to a great number of roles requiring specialized training.
Frequently asked questions
What is the difference between industrial and systems engineering?
Industrial and systems engineering are frequently combined into the single title ISE, though subtle differences exist between the 2. Systems engineering can be thought of as a subset of industrial engineering that applies systems thinking to solving industrial engineering problems. Systems thinking involves breaking down complex relationships into manageable parts.
What jobs do industrial and systems engineers typically get?
Industrial engineering graduates typically work as manufacturing technicians, industrial electricians, supply chain analysts, manufacturing production supervisors, industrial designers, industrial mechanics, and similar job titles related to industry and manufacturing.
What is the future of industrial engineering?
The industrial engineering field is expected to continue its rapid growth. Analysts project that demand for industrial engineers is expected to grow approximately 14% between 2020 and 2030.
What skills do industrial and systems engineers need?
Working as an industrial and systems engineer demands many of the same skills as most engineering disciplines, including problem-solving abilities, excellent communication, the ability to plan projects, critical thinking, and management skills if you oversee other team members or engineers.
Is industrial and systems engineering a good major?
An industrial and systems engineering degree is versatile and provides a wide range of skills. It may enable you to work in a number of adjacent engineering-related disciplines such as supply chain management, project management, quality assurance, and various other technical industrial roles.
Do industrial engineers travel a lot?
The travel time required for industrial engineers depends on the company and the role they work in. For most industrial engineers, a standard 40-hour workweek with minimal travel is customary. Some industrial engineers have extensive travel requirements because they are expected to be at various worksites and plants, sometimes even abroad.
How can I improve my industrial engineering skills?
If you’d like to improve your industrial engineering skills beyond what you learned in college and university, it’s important to remember that learning doesn’t stop after graduation. You can join various professional organizations, ask your employer to sign you up for industry seminars and conferences, and learn additional skills on your own through books, videos, and research.
Institute of Industrial and Systems Engineers (IISE)
The IISE is the world’s largest professional membership organization for industrial and systems engineers. They have local chapters in many parts of the world, as well as various initiatives to support engineering students and young professionals, including online courses.
The National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying (NCEES) is a nonprofit organization dedicated to advancing professional licensure for engineers and surveyors. They administer both the FE and PE examinations for engineers.
Obtaining a PE license is an excellent way to stand out in your field and opens up a wide range of additional employment opportunities. The NCEES provides information about the PE exam, which can be taken after working in your engineering discipline for 4 years and previously passing the Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) exam.