Industrial Technology Degrees: Associate, Bachelor's & Online Class Info

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What will you learn in an industrial technology degree program? Read about degree requirements, the pros and cons of an associate's and bachelor's degree and potential careers.
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Studying Industrial Technology: Degrees at a Glance

The industrial technology field creates a bridge between manufacturing technology, industrial engineering and machine craftsmanship. Professionals in the field pursue a wide range of careers in both hands-on and management occupations. If you pursue an associate's degree, you will learn the skills required for entry-level jobs in machine tool manufacturing, electronics or materials technology. Bachelor's degree programs offer training in production control, operations research and project management. Many programs offer an area of emphasis, including advanced manufacturing, design drafter technology or industrial engineering.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) revealed that industrial technology occupations will face average (19%) to slower than average (4-7%) job growth over the 2010-2020 decade. Pursuing the appropriate certifications and gaining relevant experience are essential to enjoying the best employment prospects. The associate's degree will not prepare you for an industrial engineer opportunity, although the degree provides the foundation for industrial engineering technician opportunities.

Associate's Bachelor's
Who is this degree for? People seeking entry-level, hands-on opportunities in multiple public, government or consulting sectors, including manufacturing, engineering and construction People who want to work as production or operations managers, engineers or in sales positions
Common Career Paths (with approximate mean annual salary) - Industrial machinery mechanic or maintenance worker ($48,000)*
- Machine drafter ($52,000)*
- Industrial engineering technician ($52,000)*
- Industrial engineer ($80,000)*
- Industrial production manager ($96,000)*
- Purchasing manager ($103,000)*
Time to Completion 2 years full-time 4 years full-time
Common Graduation Requirements - Roughly 60 credits
- Capstone course
- Roughly 120 credits
- Professional internship
Prerequisites High school diploma or equivalent High school diploma or equivalent
Online Availability Limited Yes

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

Associate's in Industrial Engineering

Associate's degree programs provide a foundation in the knowledge and skills required to obtain employment in manufacturing, production or engineering environments. The curriculum, which consists of hard science courses, supports a hands-on approach to learning technical, business and engineering concepts. You will learn the concepts and principles of industrial management and distribution and gain proficiency in technical skills and the physical sciences. Some programs offer concentrations in occupational safety and health, supervisory skills or construction technology.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Programs offer a varied curriculum with hands-on experience and may provide a concentration
  • Some opportunities offer a relatively competitive salary (e.g. Industrial engineering technicians earned $52,000)*
  • Some programs transfer to a bachelor's degree if you decide to continue your education

Cons

  • Industrial machinery mechanics and maintenance workers can expect average job growth of 19 %, while industrial engineering technicians (4%) and drafters (6%) will experience slower growth**
  • The associate's degree will not prepare you for a career in industrial engineering
  • Very few, if any, online programs are available at this time

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (May 2011 figures), **U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (2010-2020 job growth projections).

Courses and Requirements

The associate's degree builds your knowledge of machine processing, digital electronics and automation processes. Programs require roughly 60 credits in general education and core courses. Some programs offer a concentration, which requires additional courses and supports your career objective. You may also learn safety and occupational health principles. Following are some common courses offered by the program:

  • Manufacturing technology
  • Computer aided drafting
  • Safety management
  • Architectural drafting
  • Microeconomics
  • Interpreting technical drawings
  • Quality control

Online Degree Info

Locating an online associate's degree may prove difficult. The hard science requirement and hands-on nature of the program requires that you attend laboratory courses and use heavy equipment. Consequently, distance-education does not provide an ideal delivery format. You may find it easier to locate a suitable online bachelor's degree program.

Stand Out with This Degree

Project data management (PDM) and building information modeling (BIM) software programs are valuable tools in multiple industries that utilize industrial technology principles. Seeking training in these programs can improve job prospects. In addition, being open to opportunities in other industries or sectors will improve your marketability and access to career opportunities. If you can participate in an industrial engineering technology association on your campus, you may gain additional expertise in project management and other skills through collaborative projects.

Bachelor's Degree in Industrial Engineering Technology

The bachelor's degree offers the operational, management and supervisory education in addition to the knowledge provided by the associate's degree program. You will learn the concepts and theories relevant to the production and distribution of products or services from a managerial perspective. Upon graduation, you will demonstrate an understanding of science and technology as industrial problem-solving tools. Some schools provide research opportunities in topics including quality control, industrial sales and biometrics.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Salaries are competitive in the management occupations (industrial production managers earned $96,000 and purchasing managers earned $103,000 in average during 2011)*
  • The degree will prepare you for a career as an industrial engineer
  • It's a flexible degree that can transfer to multiple occupations in several industries

Cons

  • Industrial engineers (6%) and purchasing managers (7%) occupations were projected to grow slower than average over the 2010-2020 decade**
  • The manufacturing industry, which employs a large number of industrial engineers, will decline or grow slowly over the next decade
  • Advancement to high-level purchasing manager opportunities may require a master's degree

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (May 2011 figures), **U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (2010-2020 job growth projections).

Courses and Requirements

The bachelor's degree offers an operations- and management-focused curriculum coupled with fundamentals in engineering, materials and production planning. Programs usually require roughly 120 credits in general education, core, upper-division and emphasis courses. You will take a capstone course to validate the theories and concepts learned during classroom training. In addition, some programs offer collaborative projects or internships to develop your experience further. The bachelor's degree offers courses in operations research, industrial supervision, quality assurance, industrial safety, production and inventory control, cost estimating and lean manufacturing.

Online Course Info

The online bachelor's degree program delivers a complete distance-education option. You will learn business management, technical and industrial distribution and logistics concepts. The online degree offers courses similar to those provided by campus-based programs. Some schools structure programs for students who already possess an associate's degree in industrial technology. In this situation, you will complete the remaining credits required to finish a bachelor's degree.

Stand Out with This Degree

Licensing may improve your employment prospects if you pursue a career in industrial engineering. In addition, industrial engineers who work with government contracts are encouraged to pursue a license. Choosing a degree program accredited by ABET is the first step to pursue licensing. Upon graduation, you can take the Fundamentals of Engineering examination, which the National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying administers.

The bachelor's degree provides a broad education that offers the flexibility to work in multiple industries. The BLS revealed that positions in manufacturing will experience a decline or slow growth in jobs. As a result, in addition to seeking licensing, pursuing job opportunities outside the manufacturing industry will offer additional job prospects.

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