Undergraduate Student Handbook
Established as the world’s first industrial engineering (IE) program in 1908 by then-Governor of Pennsylvania General James A. Beaver, the Harold and Inge Marcus Department of Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering has graduated more 8,000 students and has made a name for itself as one of the top industrial engineering programs in the country.
Despite this rich tradition, many people don't understand what, exactly, an industrial engineer does. What follows below will give you a brief picture of what industrial engineering is all about and the variety of career opportunities available to IE graduates.
What does an industrial engineer do?
To start to answer the above question, one might first consider what an engineer does. Simply put, engineering is the application of scientific and practical knowledge in order to solve problems. For certain engineering disciplines, such as civil and electrical, we have a reasonable understanding of the type of problems solved. Even though industrial is an engineering discipline, the problems they solve are very often interdisciplinary in nature.
The Institute of Industrial Engineers defines its members as “engineers concerned with the design, improvement, and installation of integrated systems of people, materials, equipment, and energy. They draw upon specialized knowledge in the mathematical, physical, and social sciences together with the principles and methods of engineering analysis and design to specify, predict, and evaluate the results to be obtained from such systems.” Industrial engineers differ from other types of engineers in that they must be concerned with people as well as things, which makes them a prime source of management talent.
One of the confusing aspects about industrial engineering is the name itself. The name implies that you would expect to find these engineers in industry, which indeed you do. But you also find them in banks, hospitals, government agencies, transportation centers, construction companies, social services, etc. There are currently some 200,000 industrial engineers employed in enterprises throughout the United States.
The Engineer’s Joint Council (Publication 224) predicted that “Industrial Engineering will grow more rapidly than any other engineering group.” On average, there are some 7,000 job openings occurring annually with less than 5000 new IE graduates per year to claim them. According to the College Placement Council, “Industrial Engineers are sought after by more types of employers than is true for any other formal curriculum.” Thus, as an industrial engineer you could be concerned with the quality of cookies coming off a production line, the scheduling of a hospital’s operating room, the location of the next motel for a motel chain, the installation of a welding robot in an automobile fabrication line, the tracking of inventories for a food distributor, the designing of an automatic material handling system for an airfreight carrier, or the ergonomic design and layout of an airplane’s cockpit. (Find more here.)
The combinations of the IE’s talents and the variety of problem areas seem endless. The challenges and opportunities are there for those who become IE graduates. How does the IE curriculum at Penn State prepare you for these challenges and opportunities? Read on.