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Physics Physics MSc to Industrial Engineer

  1. Aug 27, 2009 #1


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    Hi, I have BSc and MSc degree in physics (writing my thesis currently), and I have decided to change career and become an Industrial Engineer instead. Specifically I am fascinated by Operations Research.
    I am thinking to get an undergraduate degree and then PhD in IE. Does anyone have a suggestion?

    My MSc thesis is about Classical General Relativity. I think I have an overall good Mathematics knowledge, but I dont have any experience with computer simulations and numerical calculations.

    Is getting a second undergraduate degree stupid?
  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 27, 2009 #2
    In this case, I would say almost without reservation, that yes, getting the second undergrad degree would be stupid.

    This is from the FAQ for the Stanford OR grad program: "Applicants must have completed one year of calculus before applying. Students may complete the other background requirements (fifteen units of engineering/science, computer programming, and probability) after admission, or during the M.S. program. "

    I take it with an MSc in physics, you've probably taken a year of calculus.

    I work in operations management / industrial engineering at GE, and I can tell you that I haven't even seen anyone here with a master's in OR. The program I'm in requires any sort of engineering degree (mine is mechanical). One of the guys I work with has a criminal justice degree and relevant experience. Strictly analytical IE jobs are generally only found in consulting. If you just want to be a technical consultant, go for your grad degree in IE.

    If you want to actually be a practicing industrial engineer, you will enter the "supply chain management" organization within a company and will be considered a supply chain professional. As a supply chain professional you can focus on the industrial engineering side of things, but there typically isn't such a thing as an industrial engineering department or division. It's managers who happen to be more technically focused for a few years. The job title will be something like "Six Sigma Black Belt" or "Lean Leader." These positions will be filled by production managers and manufacturing engineers, and people in these positions will be expected to move on to other general management or quality positions.

    Because of the interdisciplinary nature of supply chain management, no strict technical specialization is usually required. If you can show general analytical skills and an ability to communicate well, you can get into supply chain management. Once in, you can choose the positions you like with a decent amount of flexibility.

    Without any work experience or a directly relevant degree, you could get into industrial management, but it may be at a lower level than you would want. I recommend applying to OR or IE grad programs. They will probably want to see some experience as well though to be sure you know what you are getting into this time. See if you can find a local APICS chapter and get involved there. You may want to go for the CPIM certification also. It's relatively easy to get with the basic study materials.

    An alternative option would be to work for a few years in the most prestigious job you can get (of any type) and then go for an MBA.

    Of course, with the economy how it is now, the labor market is flooded with experienced IEs and managers from Detroit.
    Last edited: Aug 27, 2009
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