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Programs Choosing an IE program-- balancing business and engineering

  1. Nov 29, 2017 #1
    I'm a HS senior and I'd like to be an industrial engineer. When I Iook at the courses I'd be taking, at some schools it's far more technical and in line with a typical engineering degree, while other programs are much more business-focused. Ideally I'd like to take a lot of math but not a ton of physics/science. Basically, I want to take as much physics/science as I need to get a decent paying job and no more.

    As far as I can tell, I don't think many industrial engineers use thermodynamics or electrical engineering on a regular basis. But maybe I'm wrong? At the same time, engineering degrees seem to be valued better than business degrees. Worcester Polytechnic Institute's industrial engineering program is ABET-accredited but only requires a few true engineering courses. It's more business/operations research focused, I think. (WPI IE major requirements here).

    Would programs like WPI's put me at a disadvantage?

    If it matters, the other schools I'm considering are: Northeastern, Cal poly SLO, MIT, University of Pittsburgh, University of San Diego, San Jose state, Harvey Mudd, University of Arizona

    Any recommendations for which school would be best?
  2. jcsd
  3. Dec 1, 2017 #2


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    Why are you choosing industrial engineering.
    The undergraduate degree does a great of of preparing you for a few things.
    -Operations research (your undergrad experience has to be math/science heavy)
    -Process Engineering
    -Project engineering (including project management)
    -Operations/Manufacturing engineering

    It can prepare you for other things to. It depends on what you want to do with your degree. why are you choosing industrial engineering. We can't tell you whether an engineering or business focus would be better, because we don't know what you want.
  4. Dec 1, 2017 #3
    I like making things efficient and I like math. I also like that IE involves more interaction with people than other types of engineering. But I like that IE still draws from the engineering design process. I wouldn't say I necessarily only like math that's easily applied to real life, but I'm not too interested in rigorous proofs and very abstract concepts, which is why I don't plan on studying pure math.

    Looking at some of the things IEs do, making a hospital or airport run more efficiently is interesting to me. I'm not as interested in jobs pertaining to efficient manufacturing.

    Sorry if I wasn't clear earlier. I guess my interests tend toward the business side, in that I want to use math/operations research to solve problems. My concern is that my degree might be seen as less valuable or it'll be harder to get a job if it's too business focused.
  5. Dec 1, 2017 #4


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    I think you have a some good ideas. IE could be good.

    You mentioned it in passing -- OR (operations research) could be quite interesting to you and useful as well. If you can figure out how to marry computing and applied math, esp. with respect to optimization, a lot of doors open up which is useful in a lot of ways. I think it is basically impossible to know what you want to do several years down the line as a HS senior, though this is the judgment call you need to make.

    for anything in this vein, MIT is very hard to beat (and hard to get into). In certain areas nearby, Carnegie Mellon does great here.

    One nit: if you get good at it, rigorous proofs may grow on you over time. They tend to act as a compass when you are lost at sea with very difficult real world problems, and oddly can become fun on their own. Again, a lot of this is between hard to impossible to know while still in High School.
  6. Dec 1, 2017 #5


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    It sounds like industrial engineering is what you want to do. If you want to get something more math oriented, go operations research if you can. Note math heavy doesn't mean doing proofs. The best way to describe it is industrial engineering is doing the work while operations research is the science behind it. operations research is designing algorithms to improve make a hospital run better, industrial engineering is taking an algorithm someone else wrote, and using it to make a hospital run better. OR won't be abstract, dont worry! Also you can do IE undergrad and try to get into a OR grad school, or vice versa if you want.

    Note... there will be a lot of crossover in the coursework. One can be an OR guy and get an IE's job, and vice versa. But you would be better off taking the program you want. If you desire, maybe pick a school that has both, call and talk to a counselor about the differences. I want to let you make your own decision, but if you are looking for difficulty, an OR degree will likely be harder (more rigor) and looks at with more prestige. Also some IE programs will be more "math heavy" for lack of a better term and closer to OR. If a school doesnt have OR, the skillset and classes might be embedded in IE.

    As for which school to pick, I would learn as much as you can, email professors, and schedule visits. While on campus arrange a talk or interview with a professor. Try to get an idea of what the school will be like. Is it Cornell University in frozen wasteland of upstate NY, or is it columbia in the middle of the city. When comparing schools, how it feels to you fit wise is more important than rankings. That being said, comparing a rank 10 and 100 school, 10 might be a better bet even if you like 100 better. If I liked rank 20 better than rank 10, I would go to the rank 20 school. Its a judgement call.
  7. Dec 1, 2017 #6


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    Also as far as wpi... the olny two required business courses

    Cat. I This course explores the use of data mining and analytics to create business intelligence and use it for improving internal operations and understanding customers and supply chains. It provides an introduction to the concepts and methods of data analysis for decision-making. Students will learn a comprehensive set of spreadsheet skills and tools, including how to design, build, test, and use spreadsheets for business analyses. Students will also develop an understanding of the uses of business data analyses for decision-making, forecasting, and obtaining and maintaining a competitive advantage. Industrial Engineering majors may not receive credit for both BUS 2080 and MA 2210.

    Cat. I Operations are embedded in a constantly changing network of relationships with various stakeholders including customers and suppliers. Within the organization, scarce resources (including financial, human, and technological) need to be ethically allocated and aligned with strategic goals. This course focuses on process analysis, design, and implementation within the constraints of stakeholder networks and available resources.

    3020 is almost a required course for what you say you want to do.
    2080 is a course that is pretty much required for anyone that wants to be involved in the decision making of any organization.
  8. Dec 2, 2017 #7
    Yeah, I'm not really sure if I'd rather be in IE or OR. OR programs are pretty rare at the undergrad level and it seems like you basically need a graduate degree to get a job. So I think IE for undergrad and maybe OR for grad school makes sense for me. It seems like there are more jobs for IE than OR at the undergrad level, when I looked at OR job listings they usually asked for lots of experience and higher degrees. I want to have a choice of going straight to work from undergrad or grad school-- who knows, in that time I may completely change interests and decide to go study something totally different in grad school.

    Hmm yeah I may have been a little hard on proofs. I just took an online class that included a weekly problem where we'd thoroughly explain our answer and exactly how we arrived at it (or demonstrate why something is true), which I think is designed to help us make an easier transition into proofs later. Answers were graded primarily for how well you explained/thoroughly "proved" your answer-- I think my worst grade was a problem that I got right but failed to consider all cases. Didn't mind those and will be taking the second part of the course in spring.

    Sorry, I was unclear again. WPI's OIE courses are listed as part of business, but I guess that's not really my point anyway. There are barely any "traditional" engineering courses required for WPI. As far as "traditional engineering courses" (so not IE specifically and not a GE), look at WPI vs Cal poly:

    1 CS course
    3 technical electives (can be IE)
    3 courses on a project that's not IE (but not necessarily engineering)
    Choice of 2 physics courses and 1 chemistry course, or vice versa

    Cal poly:
    3 physics courses
    Mechanics of materials
    CS for scientists and engineers
    Electric circuits theory/lab
    Materials engineering/lab
    10 units (3-4 classes) of technical electives, can be math/stats/IE/other engineering

    I'm not sure if cal poly is unusually heavy in those general engineering courses but most I've looked at are more similar to cal poly than WPI. I'd rather not take all those courses, but I don't want to "pay the price" of not taking them down the line. WPI is still ABET-accredited as an engineering degree though.
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