Becoming a Production Engineer: Salary Info & Job Description

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Get the truth about a production engineer's salary, education requirements and career prospects. Read the job description and see the pros and cons of becoming a production engineer.
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Pros and Cons of a Production Engineer Career

Production, or industrial, engineers can work in a variety of work settings from production and manufacturing companies to hospitals and non-profit organizations. While industrial engineers earn a high median salary, it is important to evaluate the pros and cons to determine if this is the right choice for you.

Pros of a Production Engineer Career
A production engineer may advance to a position such as quality engineer, technical specialist or facility planner*
Industrial engineers work in a variety of industries**
Salaries are high ($81,490 annual median salary in 2014)*
Because industrial engineers are not specialized, they enjoy a variety of daily activities*

Cons of a Production Engineer Career
Job outlook is slow (five percent growth in employment expected for 2012-2022)*
Position may require licensure*
Minimum of a bachelor's degree required for positions*
May require travel to job site to evaluate work processes*

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **University of Wisconsin, Platteville

Essential Career Information

Job Description and Duties

Production, or industrial, engineers work in businesses to develop efficient production methods and processes while eliminating waste. In a manufacturing business, they study the production routine to identify areas for improvement and waste elimination. Additionally, industrial engineers work with customers to improve quality and reduce costs through improved processes and procedures.

Engineers may also work in businesses to develop efficient methods for financial planning and logistics. Some industrial engineers develop job descriptions and performance evaluations that can influence how companies use and pay workers.

Job Prospects and Salary Information

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment for industrial engineers is expected to grow by five percent between 2012 and 2022 ( Industrial engineers can work in a variety of industries, including manufacturing, research and development, service industries and consulting firms. The slow growth rate for industrial engineers is attributed to the number of workers in the manufacturing industry, which is experiencing a decline, according to the BLS. The BLS reported the median annual salary for industrial engineers in 2014 was $81,490.

What Are Employers Looking For?

The minimum requirement for an industrial engineer is a bachelor's degree in industrial engineering. This degree program usually includes coursework in manufacturing processes, data analysis, advanced mathematics, physics and facilities planning. Advanced degrees in industrial engineering are required to work in research and development.

According to the BLS, industrial engineers are not commonly required to obtain a state engineering license, but companies working with government contracts may require licensure. Industrial engineers may obtain a state license by completing an engineering degree, gaining work experience and successfully passing the Fundamentals of Engineering and the Professional Engineering examination.

Skills for Production Engineers

Industrial engineers use mathematics and analytical thinking skills to troubleshoot problems in an organization and to find solutions. In addition, engineers must have good communication skills to work with customers, workers and vendors.

Job Postings From Real Employers

Employers looking for industrial engineers require that job candidates have a minimum of a bachelor's degree and some experience in the company's industry. Companies may also require experience in evaluating data and developing process improvements. Below are some examples of industrial engineer job listings available in April 2012:

• An Ohio employer sought an industrial engineer to improve manufacturing processes and implement lean manufacturing procedures. The employer required a bachelor's degree in industrial engineering and at least three years' experience in a manufacturing environment.

• A Wisconsin employer in the distribution industry looked for an industrial engineer to improve work areas, process flows and work methods. The candidate needed a bachelor's degree and 3-5 years' experience in a distribution environment to qualify for the position.

• An employer in Texas sought an industrial engineer for its distribution center to analyze and improve work processes, develop a productivity reporting system and determine capacity requirements for logistics. The candidate was required to have a bachelor's degree in industrial engineering and knowledge of distribution center activities and procedures.

How to Gain an Edge in the Field

Some employers of industrial engineers may not require licensure, but obtaining a state professional engineer license could increase the number of positions available. According to the BLS, five- or six-year cooperative education plans allow students to complete a graduate degree while gaining work experience in engineering and the funds to pay for school. A graduate degree in industrial engineering may lead to opportunities in research and development and teaching.

Other Careers to Consider

If a career analyzing and improving processes is appealing, but the sluggish job growth for industrial engineers is a deterrent, a career as a logistician may be a good fit. Logisticians focus on the logistics area of business and work to improve processes and procedures that improve the efficiency and cost of a company's supply chain. Some logisticians enter the field with an associate's degree in engineering or business, but many employers prefer candidates with a bachelor's degree in business or industrial engineering. The annual median salary for a logistician was $72,000 in 2011, with an expected growth in employment of 26% between 2010 and 2020, according to the BLS.

A degree in industrial engineering and a strong background in business and mathematics provide the opportunity for a career as a cost estimator. Cost estimators use data to analyze the cost in time, materials and labor to manufacture products. They must have excellent math skills and generally need a bachelor's degree. The BLS reports a 36% job growth for cost estimators between 2010 and 2020 and a $58,000 annual median salary as of May 2011.

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