If you’re considering a career in engineering, you may wonder where engineers work. A surprising number of engineers are employed in manufacturing. Despite factors such as automation, outsourcing and economic ups and downs, manufacturing is a huge industry in the United States. The industry employs more than 12.5 million workers, or around 8.5 percent of the American workforce, according to the National Association of Manufacturers.
Engineering and the Manufacturing Industry
When you think of the manufacturing industry, you may think of factories filled with production workers. However, engineers and other STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) workers play crucial parts in the manufacturing industry, as well.
Often, the role engineers play in this industry is involved in the early stages of manufacturing, long before the product makes it to the production line, the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported. Engineers and their STEM colleagues are the ones who are responsible for designing products. They develop an idea to solve a problem or make life easier. Before that idea can be turned into a mass-produced product, it must be tested and refined. Engineers create models or prototypes of their designs, thoroughly test and analyze them and modify them so that they are ready for the manufacturing process.
Engineers are also responsible for creating the machines, robots and technological processes and systems used in the manufacturing industry, according to the BLS.
A degree in industrial engineering is one path into the manufacturing industry. Industrial engineers apply engineering principles and practices to solving problems in the production process. By optimizing systems and processes that include machines, materials and employees, they reduce wastefulness and improve efficiency and productivity.
A bachelor’s degree in industrial engineering typically includes coursework in manufacturing systems design, production systems planning and statistics and probability, the BLS reported. Education in an engineering degree program takes place both inside and outside the classroom, and aspiring industrial engineers often gain hands-on experience through an internship or co-op program.
Of the industries employing the largest number of industrial engineers, most were part of the manufacturing industry. About 18 percent of the 257,900 industrial engineers working in the U.S. are employed in transportation equipment manufacturing. Another 13 percent work in computer and electronic product manufacturing. Machinery manufacturing accounted for another eight percent of industrial engineering jobs, while fabricated metal product manufacturing accounted for six percent. Interestingly, jobs in the manufacturing industry were among the highest paying and the lowest paying for industrial engineers. As a whole, the median annual wage for industrial engineers is $85,880, the BLS reported. However, those who worked in computer and electronic product manufacturing earned a considerably higher median salary of $94,120, while industrial engineers in fabricated metal product manufacturing made just $73,940.
Jobs for industrial engineers are growing rapidly, with the BLS predicting a faster than average increase of 10 percent over a decade.
Mechanical engineers design and develop machines, engines, devices, tools and sensors of all kinds. Robots, automobiles and heating and cooling systems are just a few of the projects mechanical engineers create. A mechanical engineering program accredited by ABET (the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology) includes coursework in basic science, differential equations, multivariate calculus and the principles of engineering and design.
Of the 288,800 mechanical engineers working in the United States, 13 percent work in the field of machinery manufacturing, the BLS reported. The transportation equipment manufacturing industry employed 12 percent of mechanical engineers, and the computer and electronic product manufacturing industry employed seven percent.
For mechanical engineers in all industries, the median salary is $85,880. Machinery manufacturing positions were the lowest paying, with a median wage of $77,400. Computer and electronic product manufacturing positions paid a significantly higher median salary of $91,440.
Historically, mechanical engineers have been among the highest paying occupations in manufacturing.
Biomedical engineers put science and math principles to use in developing the technology used to solve problems in the healthcare industry. They design the medical devices, equipment and computer systems and software used to diagnose and treat medical conditions. To earn a bachelor’s degree in biomedical engineering, students must take biological science courses such as physiology, math courses, computer programming classes and engineering courses such as biomaterials, fluid and solid mechanics, circuit design and engineering design, according to the BLS.
Around 22 percent of biomedical engineers works in the field of medical equipment and supplies manufacturing, and 11 percent work in navigational, measuring, electromedical and control instruments manufacturing. The median wage for mechanical engineers is $88,040, and those working in the field of medical equipment and supplies manufacturing earn wages very close to that figure, with a median of $88,190. Higher salaries are awarded in the field of navigational, measuring, electromedical and control instruments manufacturing where the median wage for biomedical engineers is $94,480.
There are only around 21,300 biomedical engineers working in the U.S.