Why Study Industrial & Systems Engineering?

You’ve probably heard the old joke:  “To the optimist, the glass is half full.  To the pessimist, the glass is half empty.  To the engineer, the glass is twice as big as it needs to be.”  Industrial engineers are different.  We optimize the glass by adding more liquid.  Faster, easier, more efficient; that’s what being an industrial engineer is all about. 

Improve the World The word "industrial" doesn’t capture the full essence of what we do.  Industrial engineers are systems engineers who focus on the integration of people, materials, information, equipment and energy to design, implement, and improve systems.  This focus on the big picture makes industrial engineering the most people oriented engineering discipline.  If there is a better way, IEs are the ones who find it; whether it’s streamlining an operating room, distributing food and shelter after a natural disaster, manufacturing superior microchips, or optimizing the flow of products around the world. 

Career Flexibility.  The most distinctive aspect of industrial engineering is the flexibility it offers.  Industrial engineers can work in any context or environment.  Many IEs are hired as project managers and move into supervisory or management roles where they continue to draw on their technical background.  Your job and career choices are limited only by your imagination. 

High Demand.  The United States Department of Labor predicts that over the next decade the demand for industrial engineers will rise 14%.  In 2008, IEs were the third highest employed engineers behind only civil and mechanical engineers.  The average starting salary for an IE in 2009 was $58,358. 

Be Happy.  Industrial engineers enjoy what they do.  According to a University of Chicago study, the occupation “industrial engineer” was in the top 10 of America’s happiest people when it came to job satisfaction, the only engineering discipline on the list.  The study indicated that job satisfaction and overall happiness were enhanced in jobs where people used creativity, as well as technical and scientific expertise, while helping others.