This article will cover what earning your master’s degree in industrial engineering will entail. There are different courses, field studies, and internships unique to industrial engineering, which are discussed below.
Industrial engineering is an in-demand career field, with significant growth in industries like renewable energy, oil and gas, and robotics. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects that employment in industrial engineering disciplines will grow 14 percent through 2030. This translates into close to 200,000 jobs requiring advanced engineering degrees.
Earning a master’s degree in industrial engineering will make any candidate more competitive for these emerging roles.
Industrial engineers apply engineering skills to complex manufacturing, efficiency, and productivity issues. They work to improve processes or systems that make up a larger framework like a manufacturing line. Earning a master’s degree in industrial engineering signifies a mastery of the skills required to improve any process.
A critical decision for any aspiring graduate student is the choice to attend courses online or in person. There are important pros and cons to each route, and this article will discuss how to make the right choice for you.
Finally, one of the most important decisions to be made is how to navigate the financial cost of attending a program and the resultant return on investment of your education. Pursuing graduate-level education can be expensive, but some routes may be less costly or pay the most return at the end of the program.
Master’s in Industrial Engineering
Master’s degrees are post-secondary education programs that build upon undergraduate knowledge through two to three years of concentrated study. A master’s program provides college graduates with the opportunity to increase their understanding of their undergraduate major. Additionally, graduate programs enable students who studied an outside discipline for their undergraduate education to learn about and enter a new field.
Learn more about becoming an industrial engineer in our complete career guide.
These two types of students make up the demographic in most graduate programs: students who earned their undergraduate degree in the field and are returning for more education and students who are switching careers entirely.
Industrial engineers in the United States and most countries only require a bachelor of science degree in industrial engineering. So why do many people still choose to pursue a master’s degree when it isn’t always necessary for entry-level positions? Essentially, a master of science in industrial engineering is considered an advanced degree, and it may help individuals progress in their careers to managerial or leadership roles.
Experienced industrial engineers will also benefit intellectually from a master’s degree. Students will learn advanced methods to optimize efficiency in their work. They will develop a strong understanding of ordinary manufacturing processes, warehousing systems, and distribution methods. Additionally, graduate study is great for refreshing students’ quantitative and qualitative reasoning skills developed during undergraduate study.
These skill sets are precious to employers, and a graduate degree signifies a level of mastery that would otherwise take years of work experience to equate. To answer whether you need to get your master’s degree, you need to consider where you are in your career and where you want to be.
For some engineers, four to five years after earning their undergraduate degree, they reach a stagnation point in their careers. They have gained the necessary skills to demonstrate experience in their job, but they haven’t jumped to the next level, whether a managerial or senior engineer position.
This is where a graduate degree comes into play. Earning a graduate degree in industrial engineering will distinguish you from your peers and make you a stronger candidate for promotions and pay raises.
MS in Industrial Engineering Curriculum
The courses taken in a master’s in industrial engineering program cover the core disciplines of industrial engineering. Specifically, master’s degree students will study advanced manufacturing, plant design, and logistics. Most graduate programs will require approximately 30 credit hours of coursework, spread out around ten courses.
Some common courses that you will take include quality control and improvement, facility planning and design, manufacturing systems, transportation, supply chain systems, and warehousing systems. Graduate students will typically specialize in a focus area during their studies. These focus areas include manufacturing, operations research management science, production engineering, process design, systems engineering, human factors, or data analytics.
When selecting a focus area, it is important to consider the industrial engineering job you want after graduating. Focus areas are tied to internships and field studies in the industry, which are excellent ways to network and secure a future career after graduation.
Many prospective graduate students wonder how difficult the course load will be compared to their undergraduate experience. Generally, graduate courses are more difficult than undergraduate courses, but schools offer some built-in methods to ensure your success. Quite often, graduate programs will include one or two general courses. These courses are designed to refresh students who have a significant gap in years since their undergraduate study. They are also designed to teach students the knowledge necessary for further, advanced courses outside the field. These general courses can be an excellent refresher for students with a large time gap since their undergraduate studies.
Online Master’s in Industrial Engineering
Higher education is more accessible now than it ever was. Because of this, industrial engineers have a wide choice of options to complete their master’s education. The decision is not just whether to attend school online or in person. Now institutions offer various programs, like hybrid (a mix of in-person and online), online asynchronous, and live online courses.
Choosing an online or in-person industrial engineering program depends mainly on the options at the institution and your lifestyle. Online learning is a legitimate and widely accepted route to earning a master’s degree, but it may not be suitable for everyone.
There are some key points to consider before you make a final choice. The first is what level of flexibility do you want in your studies? Do you have other priorities besides school, like family or work? In this case, it may be better to have asynchronous courses that you complete according to your schedule.
It’s important to consider networking. Networking with fellow students, faculty, and future employers is one of the most valuable aspects of an industrial engineering master’s degree. This is where you expand your knowledge and contacts within the profession, and it can be what lands you your next job. Face-to-face networking is limited in online programs, but many schools are trying to bridge the gap with online networking events. Before you start an online program, make sure your school has virtual networking events to help you expand your network.
Prospective students often wonder if the coursework will be more difficult in an in-person program. But, the difficulty of an online program versus an in-person program will depend on the student. Essentially, online and in-person curriculums are the same. Students need to choose the method of delivery that will best facilitate their learning.
Finally, you have to consider the brand that your degree will carry. Employers are always happy to see a relevant master’s degree on your resume, but they will also check the school that you attended for reputability. Your master’s degree is like a brand that you attach to yourself. Attending a program with a more prestigious reputation and a physical campus will give you greater credibility in the eyes of an employer, no matter if you are online or in person.
Internships and Field Study
Depending on the college or university, internships or professional field studies may be worked into the course load for an industrial engineering program. Internships and field studies are students’ opportunities to expand their practical knowledge and experience in the field. Many graduate students have only worked in one or two industrial engineering roles before getting their master’s degree, so it is important to gain additional outside experience. Internships are typically completed during the summer semesters of graduate school when students are not taking courses. Unlike the typical undergraduate internship experience, graduate-level internships generally are paid. For the two or three months that a student is interning with a company, they can expect to be treated like a fully qualified employee. Field studies occur during the fall and spring semesters and are conducted as a graduate class. The research for these studies is often funded by industry, but students are typically not paid for these.
Internship and field study experiences also allow students to network within their field. Industrial engineering graduate programs are important recruiting pipelines for engineering companies, and it is common for students to receive job offers after their first or second internship. This is one of the great aspects of a graduate program; it can launch a new career avenue.
Degree Program Cost
Every school is different in what they charge for a graduate degree in industrial engineering, and often schools with higher prestige will charge higher for their program. The good news about industrial engineering masters’ programs is that they require fewer total credit hours than undergraduate degrees. They are often slightly cheaper than full undergraduate tuition.
According to US News and World Report, the average national tuition cost for an industrial engineering graduate program for 2020-2021 was $11,895 for in-state tuition and $24,576 for out-of-state tuition. Federal student aid, grant programs, and loan financing are available for masters’ programs through the federal and private loan agencies.
To review the type of loan financing available for your graduate program, visit the federal student aid website and fill out a FAFSA form first. This form will inform you of the federal grants and loan programs available to you for your master’s degree. It is highly recommended to review your federal student aid options before turning to private lenders. There are also numerous scholarship and grant programs that students can apply for to lower the cost of tuition.
For in-person, full-time industrial engineering programs, it is important to consider the cost of forgoing a salary for two to three years while you are earning your degree. Many students cannot afford this break in income, so they opt for programs that allow them to work part-time or even full-time while studying.
Career advancement opportunities open significantly after completing your master’s degree in industrial engineering. It can be important to weigh the costs of earning your degree with the return on investment in lifetime income. Generally, adding a graduate degree to your resume will increase your salary.
Nationally, industrial engineers experience a significant pay increase in average salary. The average salary for an industrial engineer with a master’s degree is $81,000, according to PayScale. These statistics capture the added value of a graduate degree for an industrial engineer that returns to the same position after their education.
The actual value of a graduate degree is its ability to unlock higher-paying job opportunities through advancement. Industrial engineers with master’s degrees can quickly network and progress into senior and management positions.
With a graduate degree, industrial engineers can move into industrial production manager, architectural and engineering manager, and industrial engineering manager. These positions command significantly higher salaries, ranging from $92,000 to $152,000 annually.
Master’s in Industrial Engineering Prerequisites
Applying to an industrial engineering graduate program requires students to fill out an application form, answer admissions essays, and submit GRE test scores. The process of testing, filling out applications, and meeting admissions deadlines can take six months to a year of preparation before the first day of classes. Applications submission deadlines are different at every school, and it is important to speak with an admissions counselor before sending an application.
Industrial engineering is an important career field, and students should be excited about the prospect of furthering their education and securing a higher-paying job after graduation. The two or three years of studying are often difficult and time-consuming, but it will be well worth the time and investment to have the degree on your resume.