Industrial Engineering: Associate, Bachelor & Online Degree Info

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What kind of job can you get with an associate's or bachelor's degree in industrial engineering? Find out degree program requirements, online options and info on courses and industrial engineering training programs.
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Study Industrial Engineering: Degrees at a Glance

Industrial engineering programs blend are a blend of business and engineering education. Industrial engineers are specialists in the improvement of production and quality and they make critical decisions that limit waste. Associate's degree programs in industrial engineering can prepare you for a career as an industrial engineering technician, assistant manufacturing engineer or quality control inspector in the healthcare, logistics or manufacturing industries. Bachelor's degree programs prepare graduates for an entry-level career as industrial engineers or engineering managers with the appropriate experience.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicted that several careers in the industry would experience slow or no growth during the 2010-2020 decade. For example, quality control inspectors were expected to have an eight percent growth, industrial engineers were expected to have a six percent growth and industrial engineering technicians were predicted to have a four percent growth. . While many careers offer a competitive salaries, the highest-paying opportunities are in architectural and engineering management, which may require a master's degree.

Associate's Bachelor's
Who is this degree for? Those interested in entry-level technician opportunities People who want to pursue an industrial engineer or management career
Common Career Paths (with approximate median annual salary) - Industrial engineering technician ($49,000)*
- Quality control inspector ($34,000 )*
- Industrial engineer ($77,000 )*
- Industrial production manager ($88,000)*
Time to Completion 2 years full-time 2 years with an associate's, 4 years without an associate's
Common Graduation Requirements - Roughly 65 credits in general, technical and specialty courses
- Roughly 125 credits
- Internship or co-operative education
Prerequisites -High school diploma or equivalent -Courses in science and math
-High school diploma or equivalent
Online Availability Yes Limited

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (May 2011 figures).

Associate's in Industrial Engineering

The associate's degree program combines general education classes with technology-based coursework. Programs offer a theoretical learning experience mixed with hands-on training in computer technology used in modern manufacturing environments. Most curricula require the completion of roughly 65 credits in general, technical and specialized courses. Graduates of the program understand organizational management, facilities planning and the techniques used to improve quality and production. You can select a group of elective courses in automation, drafting and design or quality engineering technology.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Training for entry-level technician jobs in a variety of manufacturing industries (aviation, motor vehicle, aerospace and semiconductor, etc.)
  • Median salary for industrial engineering technical above national median for those with same education level ($49,000 vs. $40,000)*
  • Offers a focused curriculum with the option to specialize

Cons

  • Advancement to supervisory roles can take many years of experience unless you possess a bachelor's degree
  • Several careers are expected to have little or no job growth over the 2010-2020 decade*
  • Program does not prepare you for opportunities as an industrial engineer

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (2011 figures).

Common Courses and Requirements

The associate's degree program provides hands-on training through a number of labs in operations management, quality control and system design. You will also take social and behavioral science, humanities and fine arts classes to satisfy the program's general education requirement. Following is a list of common courses you can expect to take:

  • Industrial safety
  • Materials in manufacturing
  • Planning and controlling production
  • Ergonomics
  • Workplace safety regulations
  • Manufacturing processes
  • Industrial leadership

Online Course Info

Online industrial engineering associate's degree programs exist and you can take courses purely online or through a hybrid (campus-based and online) format. Some programs offer only the general education classes online and require students to attend campus for specialty and technical courses. Keep in mind that the ABET accredits engineering programs and attending a non-ABET accredited program may affect your ability to obtain relevant licensing or certification.

Getting Ahead with This Degree

Supplementing your undergraduate education with industry-related workshops in project, process or supply risk management may improve employment prospects. The Institute of Industrial Engineers (IIE) offers a number of workshops for individuals using industrial engineering techniques. You can also pursue additional training through SAVE International, which offers Value Methodology Practitioner, Associate Value Specialist and Certified Value Specialist certifications. Joining a professional association, such as IIE or SAVE International, provides additional resources and proves to employers that you value the profession.

Other Degrees to Consider

If you like engineering technology, but you are concerned about the slow job growth for industrial engineering technicians, you might want to consider a civil engineering technology associate's degree program. Civil engineering technicians work on the construction of major structures, such as bridges, highways and residential development projects. Many colleges offer an associate's degree in civil engineering.

The BLS reported that civil engineering technicians were expected to have an average job growth (12%) during the 2010-2020 decade and a comparable median salary to industrial technicians, at about $47,000 annually in May 2011.

Bachelor's in Industrial Engineering

The bachelor's degree program takes the industrial engineering education a step further through a more involved set of requirements and a focus on technology. Programs may involve a strong research component to help you gain a deeper understanding of technological advancements in the manufacturing industry. You may also need to meet prerequisites in physics, chemical science and mathematics. Some programs require satisfactory scoring on a critical thinking or competency examination and you can expect to work closely with an academic advisor to plan courses and receive approval for some classes.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Can prepare you to earn a competitive salary (median annual salaries for industrial engineers were about $88,000 in May 2011)*
  • Involves a multidisciplinary approach to engineering and technology
  • Internships and co-operative education opportunities are common and provide you with hands-on experience

Cons

  • You may need a master's degree to qualify for management opportunities
  • Previous work experience is usually preferred for entry-level positions
  • A strong business administration background may be necessary for supervisory roles

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (May 2011 figures).

Common Courses and Requirements

The bachelor's degree program combines courses in general, materials, industrial and systems engineering. Students gain an understanding of how human characteristics, manufacturing tool design and industrial systems affect the manufacturing process. You can expect to take courses that explore economics (engineering economy), occupational safety (hazard control), technology (robotics or topics in computing) and hands-on courses (systems simulation).

In addition, many programs offer co-operative education opportunities, which allow you to work in an industrial engineering environment during your studies. Upon graduation, you will be able to design incorporated systems and understand modern concerns in the industry.

Online Course Info

Online bachelor's degree programs exist, but they are not common and finding a curriculum approved by ABET may prove difficult. Several programs are offered at the graduate degree level.

Getting Ahead with This Degree

California's Employment Development Department (EDD) revealed that many employers hire industrial engineers with at least two years of experience. Participating in co-operative education and internship opportunities early in your education can provide the necessary work experience to enter the field. Furthermore, the EDD reports that if you work with the government or public sector, you may need registration with your state's board of professional engineers. Registration typically requires a minimum of two years of work experience and satisfactory scoring on an engineer-in-training examination.

Other Degrees to Consider

Bachelor's degree programs in industrial engineering can prepare you for entry-level industrial engineer opportunities; however, if you plan to advance to management, you might want to consider a Bachelor of Business Administration with a concentration in industrial management. The BLS reported that industrial production managers would experience slower-than-average job growth (9%) during the 2010-2020 decade, but that they earned a median annual salary of $88,000 as of May 2011, higher than that of industrial engineers. Entry-level industrial production managers typically are required to have 2-5 years of experience.

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