Students with an interest in manufacturing, engineering, and production can pursue an online master's in industrial engineering. Most programs are designed to accommodate working professionals, which means you can work full-time while earning your degree. Prospective students must hold a bachelor's degree in a related area of study, and you should demonstrate prior knowledge of the industrial engineering field.
An online master's degree can lead to a variety of prestigious career opportunities with higher salaries. This guide introduces some common courses students must complete, available specialties in the field, and what students can expect after graduation.
What to Know About Online Master's in Industrial Engineering Coursework
Students pursuing an online master's in industrial engineering enhance their training in specialized fields including production planning, inventory control, scheduling, and industrial economics. Students can usually complete a 30-credit master's program in about two years if they enroll full time. Most online programs are taught by the same instructors who teach on-campus programs.
Online industrial engineering programs let students complete coursework on their own schedules, which accommodates personal and professional responsibilities. Throughout their studies, students develop the skills and knowledge to thrive in a variety of careers across the industrial engineering spectrum.
What Common Courses are Offered in a Master's in Industrial Engineering Program?
Every online industrial engineering master's degree curriculum explores similar topics and issues, though differences do exist depending on the college or university. In general, students explore the fundamentals of industrial engineering, industrial quality control, advanced engineering statistics, and engineering cost and production economics. Below are a few example courses.
- Fundamentals of Industrial Engineering: This course explores basic concepts in the field, so students who do not hold an undergraduate degree in industrial engineering may find it particularly useful. Topics include human factors, quality control, work methods and measurement concepts, manufacturing processes, and operations research tools.
- Advanced Engineering Statistics: With a focus on quality engineering, students examine topics such as probability, modern quality improvement, statistical experimental design issues, factorial design at all levels, building models, and statistical inference. Students also learn to conduct data analysis using statistical software.
- Industrial Quality Control: Students explore concepts in managing quality assurance, uncovering statistical and operational principles of process control and acceptance sampling to explore quality problems on production lines.
- Industrial Simulation: The industrial simulation course focuses primarily on manufacturing and industrial applications using simulation modeling. Course topics cover random number generation, Markovian processes simulation, heuristics and decision theory, and mathematical programming. Students also explore Monte Carlo simulations from engineering viewpoints.
- Engineering Cost and Production Economics: Students in the engineering cost and production economics course focus on decision making for capital investments, learning to use resources to run cost-effective, efficient operations. Course topics cover budgeting activity-based costing, investment evaluation, and life cycle management.
What Specializations are Available in a Master's in Industrial Engineering Program?
Many online master's in industrial engineering programs offer students specializations geared toward their personal interests and career goals. Concentrations vary depending on the college or university, but they usually focus on specific areas of the field. For example:
- Operations Research: This specialization focuses on analytical methods in decision making. Students learn to apply concepts in computing and mathematical sciences to review problems in decision-making and derive effective solutions. Coursework explores issues in health, environment, defense, and other areas in the field.
- Manufacturing: The manufacturing specialization focuses on scientific principles and the production of goods across industries. Through this program, students explore ways to design, analyze, and improve processes and methods for manufacturing products. They focus on cost, quality, and time efficiency to ensure smooth operating for manufacturing facilities.
- Production and Management Systems: Focused on the distribution and production of goods and services, the production and management systems concentration prepares learners to schedule, do production planning, handle materials, and be aware of logistics. Courses in the concentration include robotic design and implementation, storage systems design and control, and supply chain environments.
What Exams or Projects Should I Expect?
Many online master's in industrial engineering programs require students to complete a final project or exam, such as a capstone, a thesis, or a research project. Capstones require students to leverage the skills and knowledge they learn throughout their programs to produce projects that demonstrate their competencies. Programs that require a thesis allow students explore an academic concept that builds upon the skills and knowledge they develop throughout the program.
How Can I Choose a Quality Online Master's in Industrial Engineering Program?
When evaluating industrial engineering online programs, students should pay special attention to accreditation. For instance, national accreditation is usually for career and technical schools, which typically offer very little liberal arts coursework. Students in these institutions have lower tuition rates and may be excluded from employer tuition reimbursement plans. Additionally, credits conferred by a nationally accredited institution do not easily transfer to regionally accredited schools.
By contrast, regionally accredited colleges and universities usually offer liberal arts-based coursework. While tuition rates may be higher than a nationally accredited school, students can use tuition reimbursement plans and credits are easy to transfer. For this reason, regional accreditation is considered more prestigious than national accreditation.
Career Opportunities With a Master's in Industrial Engineering Degree
Earning a master's in industrial engineering online opens graduates to a variety of career opportunities. Those interested in general industrial engineering can work as industrial or manufacturing engineers, while those interested in a more analytical approach can work as quality assurance engineers or operations research analysts. Meanwhile, degree seekers interested in management can work as industrial production managers.
These professionals improve manufacturing processes and standards for their companies. They identify useful standards for production and focus on improving manufacturing methods using mathematical calculations and statistics. They also enforce quality regulations for products within their companies.
- Median Salary: $87,040 per year
- Currently Employed: 257,900
- Expected Job Growth in Next 10 Years: +10%
These engineers are responsible for resolving issues within company production lines. They incorporate safety and cost-saving strategies, leading teams to help through change implementation. They also ensure machines and equipment can adapt to production conditions within their companies.
- Median Salary: $68,000 per year
- Currently Employed: N/A
- Expected Job Growth in Next 10 Years: N/A
Quality Assurance Engineer
Quality assurance engineers identify issues with software before products are launched. They point out bugs during the testing phase and document their findings. Additionally, they create monthly quality assurance status reports and undergo customer and regulatory audits for their companies.
- Median Salary: $68,500
- Currently Employed: N/A
- Expected Job Growth in Next 10 Years: N/A
Operations Research Analyst
These professionals conduct analyses to support decision makers and produce briefing and reports that document their findings. They also conduct experiments with simulation models to collect operations data, exploring ways to allocate resources.
- Median Salary: $83,390
- Currently Employed: 114,000
- Expected Job Growth in Next 10 Years: +27%
Industrial Production Manager
Industrial production managers manage workers and equipment to meet production goals and maintain company efficiency. They collaborate with sales and logistics teams and communicate about inventory and sales to ensure fluency throughout production.
- Median Salary: $103,380
- Currently Employed: 170,600
- Expected Job Growth in Next 10 Years: -1%
What's the Expected Job Growth for Industrial Engineering Careers?
According to BLS data, industrial and manufacturing engineers experience job growth rates around 10% -- as fast as the average for all careers in the United States. Quality assurance engineers and industrial production managers, on the other hand, are projected to see declines in job growth. Some occupations in the field are experiencing growth rates much faster than the U.S. average, including operations research analysts, who have a projected 27% growth rate.
Professional Organizations for Careers in Industrial Engineering
Graduates of master's in industrial engineering online programs should explore professional organizations for more development opportunities. Memberships with these organizations offer benefits like networking events, industry publications, member discounts, and access to online forums. Below are a few such organizations.
- Institute of Industrial and Systems Engineers: IISE provides its members with connections and tools that support integrated and systemic approaches to complex business problems and issues. It sponsors conferences, publishes academic journals, and offers an exclusive career center.
- Society of Manufacturing Engineers: SME is a nonprofit student and professional organization that promotes and advocates for education and career advancement within the manufacturing industry. The organization also works to attract more engineers to the industry.
- Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers: A professional organization formed for electrical and radio engineers, IEEE now encompasses a variety of engineering fields. The IEEE is the world's biggest organization for technical professionals, offering annual conferences, academic publications, continuing education, and industry standards.
- The American Society of Mechanical Engineers: ASME is a not-for-profit membership organization that promotes engineering around the world. They focus on the science, practice, and art of the field from a variety of viewpoints, providing certifications and networking events to help support members in their professional development.
- National Society of Professional Engineers: NSPE is a national organization committed to supporting licensed professional engineers across all disciplines in the industry, boasting nearly 30,000 members. It does advocacy work on behalf of the industry and offers networking opportunities and continuing education for its members.
How to Pay for a Master's in Industrial Engineering Degree
Students pursuing a master's in industrial engineering online have options to pay for their degrees, including scholarships from professional organizations, federal financial aid, program scholarships, and fellowships or assistantships. Students should explore a variety of avenues to find the best option that aligns with their specific needs.
- Free Application for Federal Financial Aid
All students should complete the FAFSA to determine their eligibility for federal financial aid. Through financial aid, students can earn various types of loans with different terms and lower interest rates than private loans. FAFSA can also determine grants and work-study opportunities.
- Scholarships from Professional Organizations
Professional organizations often feature scholarship opportunities for students at all levels of study. Scholarships from these organizations usually relate to the organizations and their missions, and their websites outline scholarship requirements so students can determine their eligibility before applying.
- Program Scholarships
Students can often pursue scholarships directly through their programs. This allows them to use their skills in their areas of study to earn scholarships. Students should review all scholarship requirements before applying to ensure they are eligible.
- Fellowships or Assistantships
Fellowships are merit-based scholarship opportunities that reward graduate research work and project participation in a particular area of study. Assistantships help graduate students pay tuition through cash compensation and tuition waivers in exchange for teaching or doing research.