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Industrial engineers determine the most effective ways for an organization to use the basic factors of productionpeople, machines, materials, information, and energyto make a product or provide a service. They are the bridge between management goals and operational performance. They are more concerned with increasing productivity through the management of people, methods of business organization, and technology than are engineers in other specialties, who generally work more with products or processes.
To solve organizational, production, and related problems most efficiently, industrial engineers carefully study the product and its requirements, use mathematical methods such as operations research to meet those requirements, and design manufacturing and information systems. They develop management control systems to aid in financial planning and cost analysis, design production planning and control systems to coordinate activities and control product quality, and design or improve systems for the physical distribution of goods and services. Industrial engineers determine which plant location has the best combination of raw materials availability, transportation, and costs. They also develop wage and salary administration systems and job evaluation programs. Many industrial engineers move into management positions because the work is closely related.
Industrial engineers held about 126,000 jobs in 1998. Over 70 percent of these jobs were in manufacturing industries. Because their skills can be used in almost any type of organization, industrial engineers are more widely distributed among manufacturing industries than other engineers.
Their skills can be readily applied outside manufacturing as well. Some work in engineering and management services, utilities, and business services; others work for government agencies or as independent consultants.
Employment of industrial engineers is expected to grow about
as fast as the average for all occupations through 2008, reflecting industrial growth, more complex business operations, and greater use of automation in factories and offices. Because the main function of an industrial engineer is to make a higher quality product as efficiently as possible, their services should be in demand in the manufacturing sector as firms seek to reduce costs and increase productivity through scientific management. In addition to job growth, openings will result from the need to replace industrial engineers who transfer to other occupations or leave the labor force.
Median annual earnings of industrial engineers were $52,610 in 1998. The middle 50 percent earned between $42,690 and $73,870. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $35,250 and the highest 10 percent earned more than $87,010. Median annual earnings in the manufacturing industries employing the largest numbers of industrial engineers in 1997 were:
|Motor vehicles and equipment
|Electronic components and accessories
|Aircraft and parts
According to a 1999 salary survey by the National Association of Colleges and Employers, bachelors degree candidates in industrial engineering received starting offers averaging about $43,100 a year; masters degree candidates, $49,900.
(See introduction to the section on engineers for information on working conditions, training requirements, and sources of additional information.)