Studies & Degrees in Industrial Engineering
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Industrial Engineering Study Programs
Described as a “people-focused” form of engineering, industrial engineering is the design and creation of various systems that help people and organizations thrive. Unlike many other engineers, who work on devices like cell phones, structures like bridges, or machines like airplanes and centrifuges, an industrial engineer works on systems and is specially trained to make those systems more efficient. This could include anything from an automobile manufacturing plant to a hospital or a service. Industrial engineers are the ones who integrate different systems and ensure that they work well with their human users.
Like all engineering fields, industrial engineering combines scientific knowledge with real-world, hands-on applications. For many students, this makes it more exciting than pure science, and more intellectually stimulating than a simple skilled trade such as carpentry. It is an ideal field for people who want to work with both their brains and their hands.
- Good teamwork and ability to work with others
- Keen attention to detail
- Analytic, logical mind and ability to perform complex problem-solving operations
- Some mathematical ability is necessary.
Most programs in industrial engineering are fairly similar. They will require essentially the same sequence of courses and projects for all four years of college. At the graduate level, however, there is more opportunity to choose a topical concentration. The more common concentrations are thinks like manufacturing and operations research (using mathematics to model various organizational operations). Another interesting option is ergonomics, the study of the human body and ways to make it more comfortable during day-to-day operations. Ergonomics experts are the ones who design more comfortable furniture, computer keyboards, etc., to help increase workflow and help people avoid stress or repetitive-motion injuries.
Industrial engineering is a fairly career-specific course of study. A degree in industrial engineering is necessary for any job in that field, but will be of little value in any other line of work. Thus, it is a good idea to study up on the day-to-day work of industrial engineers and decide whether it appeals to you before selecting this major.
Some of the most desirable and competitive jobs in industrial engineering may be found at design firms that work on such questions as how to create a more comfortable office chair. An industrial engineer, well-trained to deal with the interactions between multiple variables, would have the ability to understand the nuance of the project, and would have a central role in ensuring that the final product met all specifications and was optimized for use “in the field.” Industrial engineers often find that this close connection between their work and its applications is one of the most exciting and rewarding aspects of their job.