Industrial engineers determine the most effective ways to use the basic factors of productionpeople, machines, materials, information, and energyto make a product or to 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. Although most industrial engineers work in manufacturing industries, they may also work in consulting services, healthcare, and communications.
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 and design production planning and control systems to coordinate activities and ensure product quality. They also 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 facilities, and costs. Industrial engineers use computers for simulations and to control various activities and devices, such as assembly lines and robots. 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.
The work of health and safety engineers is similar to that of industrial engineers in that it deals with the entire production process. Health and safety engineers promote worksite or product safety and health by applying knowledge of industrial processes, as well as mechanical, chemical, and psychological principles. They must be able to anticipate, recognize, and evaluate hazardous conditions as well as develop hazard control methods. They also must be familiar with the application of health and safety regulations.
Industrial engineers, including health and safety, held about 194,000 jobs in 2002. Six in 10 of these jobs were in manufacturing industries, and an additional 1 in 10 worked in professional, scientific, and technical services firms, many of whom provide consulting services to manufacturing firms. Because their skills can be used in almost any type of organization, industrial engineers are more widely distributed among industries than are other engineers.
Overall employment of industrial engineers, including health and safety, is projected to grow about as fast as the average for all occupations through 2012. In addition, many openings will be created by the need to replace industrial engineers who transfer to other occupations or leave the labor force. Employment of industrial engineers is expected to increase as fast as the average while that of health and safety engineers is expected to grow more slowly than average.
Because the main function of industrial and health and safety engineers is to make a higher quality product as efficiently and as safely as possible, their services should be in demand in the manufacturing sector as firms seek to reduce costs and increase productivity. The concern for health and safety within work environments should increase the need for health and safety engineers.
Median annual earnings of industrial engineers were $62,150 in 2002. The middle 50 percent earned between $50,160 and $75,440. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $40,380, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $90,420. Median annual earnings in the manufacturing industries employing the largest numbers of industrial engineers in 2002 were:
Semiconductor and other electronic component manufacturing
Navigational, measuring, electromedical, and control instruments manufacturing
Architectural, engineering, and related services
Aerospace products and parts manufacturing
Motor vehicle parts manufacturing
Median annual earnings of health and safety engineers were $58,010 in 2002. The middle 50 percent earned between $46,580 and $71,980. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $37,230, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $87,250.
According to a 2003 salary survey by the National Association of Colleges and Employers, bachelorís degree candidates in industrial/manufacturing engineering received starting offers averaging about $47,051 a year and masterís degree candidates averaged $54,565 a year.
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2004-05 Edition,
Industrial Engineers, Including Health and Safety, on the Internet at
(visited July 09, 2004).