What Do Industrial Engineers Do? Are you looking for a challenging and innovative career path where you can have a tremendous impact by optimizing complex processes, systems, or organizations?

Do you dream about finding creative ways to eliminate waste of time, money, materials, man-hours, machine time, energy, and other resources that do not generate value?

Are you interested in coming up with unique ideas to help factories reach their highest potential?

Would you like to find ways to use the principles of psychology in settings you are trying to improve, such as by watching workers assembling parts in a factory?

The field of industrial engineering offers unique opportunities to make a REAL difference by find ways to eliminate wastefulness in production processes and devising efficient systems that integrate workers, machines, materials, information, and energy to make a product or provide a service.

Industrial engineers

  • Determine the most effective ways to make a product or provide a service using the basic factors of:
    • production
    • people
    • machines
    • materials
    • information
    • energy
  • Concerned primarily with increasing productivity through the management of people, methods of business organization, and technology.
  • Study product requirements carefully and then design manufacturing and information systems to meet those requirements with the help of mathematical methods and models.
  • Develop management control systems to aid in financial planning and cost analysis.
  • Design production planning and control systems to coordinate activities and ensure product quality.
  • Design or improve systems for the physical distribution of goods and services, and determine the most efficient plant locations.
  • Develop wage and salary administration systems and job evaluation programs.


  • Optimizing delivery of goods from company to customer, including finding the most profitable places to locate manufacturing or processing plants.
  • Innovating systems to evaluate job performance.
  • Designing systems to pay workers.

Famous Industrial Engineers

  • Lillian Moller Gilbreth – considered to be the first true industrial/organizational psychologist, studying workplace patterns and ergonomics; received the first Gilbreth Medal for distinguished contributions to management from the Society of Industrial Engineers
  • Mike Duke – vice chairman in charge of international operations of Wal-Mart; set a goal to make Wal-Mart as energy-efficient as possible and to open Wal-Marts in countries like Russia
  • Tim Cook – American business executive and current CEO of Apple, Inc., taking over from Apple founder Steve Jobs
  • H. John Riley, Jr. – Director of Allstate Corporation and former Chairman of Cooper Industries, Ltd., a diversified manufacturer of electronic products, tools, and hardware
  • Henry Gantt – American engineer and management consultant known for his work in the development of scientific management; created the Gantt chart, an important tool in project and program management and employed in major infrastructure projects, including the Hoover Dam and Interstate highway system

Areas of Employment

  • Computer and electronic product manufacturing
  • Machinery manufacturing
  • Aerospace product and parts manufacturing
  • Motor vehicle parts manufacturing
  • Engineering services
  • Consulting firms

Career Guidance Suggestions for Pre-University Students

Coursework to consider:
  • Pre-algebra
  • Geometry
  • Advanced algebra
  • Engineering fundamentals
  • Chemistry
  • Calculus
  • Trigonometry
  • Statistics
  • Physics
  • Robotics
  • Programming
  • Economics
  • Psychology
  • Human resources
  • Operations research
  • Manufacturing processes
  • Work analysis and design
  • Production systems
  • Quality control
  • Materials handling
  • Differential equations
Suggested extracurricular activities:
  • Competitions
  • Summer programs
  • Afterschool programs
  • Clubs
  • Internships
  • Online puzzles and games
  • Online courses
  • Maker Faires
  • Design projects
Local programs offered by:
  • Science centers and museums
  • Professional societies like IEEE
  • Universities
Important Skills
  • Critical thinking skills: create new systems to solve problems related to waste and inefficiency, requiring logic and reasoning to identify strengths and weaknesses of alternative solutions, conclusions, or approaches to the problems.
  • Listening skills: solicit feedback from customers, vendors, and production staff; listen to customers and clients in order to fully grasp ideas and problems the first time.
  • Math skills: use the principles of calculus, trigonometry, and other advanced topics in mathematics for analysis, design, and troubleshooting.
  • Problem-solving skills: must deal with several issues at once, from workers’ safety to quality assurance.
  • Communication skills: explain instructions to production staff or technicians before making written instructions available; communicating concepts clearly and quickly is crucial to preventing costly mistakes and loss of time.
  • Writing skills: prepare documentation that is coherent and explains one’s thinking clearly so that others can understand the information.
  • Creativity: design new production processes in order to reduce the use of material resources, time, or labor.

Links and Resources