What Is Industrial Engineering? (Career Guide for Engineers)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated 5 February 2023

Published 27 September 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Industrial engineering is an industry that focuses on improving various operations and processes within a business. Someone who works within this field may combine science, mechanical, mathematical and engineering skills to increase efficiency, boost productivity, minimise production costs and optimise the quality of a product. Learning about this diverse line of work can provide you with the knowledge to determine if it fits your current career goals. In this article, we discuss the answer to what is industrial engineering?, review the duties of industrial engineers, explore how to become one in five steps and examine sample job opportunities.

What is industrial engineering?

Industrial engineering is a specific branch of engineering that works to optimise a variety of components like processes, systems and business operations. It's a field that has close relations to human resources because professionals in this branch often design and integrate mechanical systems that interact with people and information. It's a diverse field to pursue, requiring highly specialised knowledge of methods and principles to design, execute and evaluate the production of products or goods. The scale of industrial engineering goes beyond manufacturing and can encompass areas like entertainment, logistics and healthcare.

The primary goal of industrial engineering is to make a process more efficient and to increase the profitability of a company's business practices. They seek to provide more robust customer service and resourcefulness. When an industrial engineering professional performs their duties well, they can often make the work safer, easier and faster to perform. Therefore, the work usually provides more rewards and is less costly.

Related: What Does a Manufacturing Engineer Do? (Plus Skills)

What do industrial engineers do?

Industrial engineers perform a wide variety of responsibilities, such as:

  • assessing processes, systems and operations to identify areas where you can improve output quality

  • applying engineering methods and scientific principles to improve systems, system integration and company operations

  • designing or redesigning facilities, equipment, systems like information systems and processes such as quality assurance

  • making simulations of supply chains and process flows by using computer-aided engineering (CAE) and computer-aided design (CAD) tools

  • researching problems by studying simulations

  • analysing quantitative data and observing the problems that need improvement

  • reducing waste by coordinating materials, machines and labour

  • creating systems that are more efficient about energy consumption, cost and product quality

Related: What Does an Engineer Do? With Steps For Getting Started

How to become an industrial engineer in 5 steps

Here are five steps to help you become an industrial engineer:

1. Earn an academic qualification

To work as an industrial engineer, employers usually require a bachelor's degree in industrial engineering or a related field that includes coursework like engineering principles, mechanics, mathematics and statistical computing. You can use job listings to identify the educational requirements that companies look for in a candidate. Gaining a master's degree could give you an advantage to differentiate yourself from other applicants and it might help you qualify for senior-level positions.

2. Develop a contemporary skill set

Industrial engineering is a highly skill-based profession, so developing your current skill set can help you obtain the position that you desire. Sometimes employers request specific competencies from candidates, so research the job listings for this occupation to help you determine that necessary skills. You can also refer to industrial engineer sample resumes to identify the skills that companies often highlight. Try to diversify your capabilities by strengthening both your soft skills and hard skills. Soft skills refer to personality traits, like communication and time management, while hard skills are capabilities you learn, like computer computation and drafting.

3. Obtain certifications

The necessity of a certification can vary depending on an employer's requirements. However, earning a certification can help to improve your candidacy because it demonstrates you have gained essential knowledge in the field, while also differentiating yourself from candidates who don't have the same qualifications. There are many certifications you can pursue that align with your specialisation or expertise. Make certain to read each job description thoroughly to determine if a company requires a specific certification, a general accreditation or none at all.

4. Gain relevant work experience

Comprehensive work experience can help an individual elevate their candidacy status and differentiate themselves from other applicants during the job search. Gain practical working experience by using the work history requirements listed in job descriptions as your guide. Also, consider volunteer work and internships to boost your experience while you pursue a degree, certification or another qualification.

5. Update your resume

A properly formatted and polished resume can give you a significant advantage during your job search. Use resume samples to help you write and structure your resume. Refer to the job description and try to integrate the employer's specifications seamlessly into your document. When writing the employment history section, include your most recent or current job first. Check for proper grammar and tone as well, making sure that it's accurate and professional. Make certain that your resume is simplistic so that it's easier for an employer to scan through their software.

Related: How to Create an Industrial Design Resume (With an Example)

What industries do industrial engineers work in?

Industrial engineers can perform their duties within a wide range of industries. Here are just some of the industries they can work in, including:

  • healthcare

  • transportation

  • financial services

  • computers

  • information systems and technology

  • robotics

  • manufacturing

  • science

  • energy sector

  • architecture

  • construction

Related: 14 Types of Engineering Jobs (With Salary Information)

Jobs that involve industrial engineering

Here are five sample jobs that involve industrial engineering:

1. Mechanical engineer

National average salary: $51,994 per year

Primary duties: A mechanical engineer studies the forces and engineering principles that impact motion, designs mechanised systems, tests prototypes, monitors the production processes of their designs and works in teams. Additional responsibilities a mechanical engineer may perform include the following:

  • performing experiments to determine product designs you can improve

  • writing technical documents about the functionalities and safety regulations of mechanical devices

  • designing, building and installing various components that meet the proper requirements

  • creating designs and plans that use advanced CAD technology

  • determining the budget and overall scope for a mechanical development project

Read more: What Is a Mechanical Engineer? (With Duties and Salary)

2. Manufacturing engineer

National average salary: $54,003 per year

Primary duties: A manufacturing engineer evaluates the manufacturing processes in a company, identifies issues in areas such as product design; designs solutions; implements these solutions and works with finance, marketing and design teams. Here are some other responsibilities that a manufacturing engineer might perform:

  • reviewing current manufacturing processes to determine areas where you can make improvements

  • researching and creating new products, processes and equipment

  • identifying problems and resolving them promptly

  • crafting and implementing more cost-effective measures

  • ensuring manufacturing equipment, products and processes meet safety stands and regulations

3. Computer engineer

National average salary: $63,654 per year

Primary duties: Computer engineers assess computer software and hardware needs; build physical components such as circuit boards, design computer programs; test their designs; use debugging skills to improve software designs and work in teams. Computer engineers have other responsibilities they perform as well, such as:

  • performing regular hardware and software analysis using current technological and test tools

  • handling computer-related problems and providing expert technical aid to other personnel and staff members

  • protecting the organisation's cloud system to ensure that it's secure from outside forces like hackers and bugs

  • making sure that current computer systems and equipment are up to date regularly

  • drafting blueprints for new computer equipment and determining what the management team needs

4. Robotics engineer

National average salary: $63,795 per year

Primary duties: A robotics engineer is a professional who uses their mechanical and technical expertise to craft and develop robotic devices. The robots they create can perform a variety of tasks, many of which help to limit the need to perform complex or highly repetitive actions. They perform additional responsibilities as well, such as:

  • building robotics electronics, designing mechanisms and writing software

  • programming highly complex robotics systems to perform simple and intricate tasks

  • calibrating current robotic and mechanical systems to achieve optimal efficiency

  • troubleshooting robotics systems when there are errors to ensure the device to working properly

  • identifying problems, collecting relevant data and creating useful solutions for robotic devices

Read more: How To Become a Robotics Engineer (With Steps and Salary)

5. Systems engineer

National average salary: $65,734 per year

Primary duties: These professionals assess the computer systems used in different industries, identify systemic weaknesses, identify hardware and software improvements, install improvements, provide technical assistance and work in multidisciplinary teams. Other responsibilities for systems engineers might include the following:

  • managing the installation and development of computing and networking infrastructures

  • monitoring systems within the current network to limit productivity bottlenecks

  • using a variety of available technologies to find the best solutions

  • troubleshooting and fixing technical issues that arise

  • installing application software and operating systems for different platforms

Tips for succeeding in industrial engineering

Here are a few tips to help you succeed in the industrial engineering field:

  • Create an impressive and diverse portfolio that showcases your capabilities and expertise. You might share your portfolio with a mentor, colleague or someone else in your professional network to provide meaningful feedback.

  • Consider pursuing an advanced engineering degree in your relevant specialisation and industry, as this might help you qualify for a promotion or higher-ranking senior position.

Salary figures reflect data listed on Indeed Salaries at time of writing. Salaries may vary depending on the hiring organisation and a candidate's experience, academic background and location.

Explore more articles