Master’s in Industrial Engineering vs. MBA

Master’s in Industrial Engineering vs. MBA


Some of the most significant business innovations happen on the production line. In manufacturing facilities, Internet of Things devices collect data that reveal valuable insights related to operations, materials and other key factors to enable more efficient processes. Increasingly smart, versatile, and affordable robots have become integral to applications from assembling cars to meatpacking. Similarly, 3D printing makes cheaper, faster prototypes and could bring about long-term savings on labor and materials.
master's in industrial engineering vs mba
Industrial engineers develop and improve these increasingly sophisticated production processes, allowing organizations to thrive in a fast-paced marketplace and scale their operations. And the vital responsibilities of technical leaders come with career opportunities: According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, positions in the field are emerging at a faster-than-average rate with over 25,000 new jobs projected between 2016 and 2026.

If you’re interested in pursuing a career in industrial engineering management, you may weigh the value of a master’s in industrial engineering vs. an MBA. Understanding how these degrees prepare students to excel in different approaches to leadership will help you to choose the path that suits your long-term objectives. As the demand for highly skilled experts in manufacturing and automation continues to mount, an in-depth engineering education can help professionals usher in the next wave of business advances.

Related Content: Master’s in Industrial Engineering vs. Systems Engineering

How Does Industrial Engineering Compare to Business Management?

Industrial Engineer Job Responsibilities

  • Observe production operations and gather data.
  • Develop recommendations to optimize efficiency.
  • Set standards for quality control and reliability.
  • Establish management control systems to monitor the use of resources.
  • Communicate with managers, staff members, clients, and vendors.
  • Implement strategies that boost productivity.

General and Operations Manager Job Responsibilities

  • Coordinate departments involved in production, sales, and distribution.
  • Set tasks and schedules for staff.
  • Identify opportunities to function more effectively and efficiently.
  • Review financial statements and performance data.
  • Track supplies and budget.

Industrial engineers perform many duties that are similar to a general/operations manager’s. In both roles, a leader must establish clear goals for teams, solve complex problems while staying within a budget, and set the conditions for organizational growth. Strong communication is crucial for managers and industrial engineers since they must explain tasks to employees and report to decision-makers with varied areas of expertise.

However, there are vital distinctions between management opportunities for industrial engineers and other leadership disciplines. Industrial engineers mainly find full-time positions in businesses that rely on keeping production facilities operating efficiently, such as manufacturers of transportation equipment, computers, and electronics. To improve practices in these businesses, industrial engineers commonly split their time between performing administrative tasks in an office environment and gaining a first-hand perspective on the manufacturing floor.

Many industrial engineers are brought into a workplace as outside consultants rather than hired internally. The BLS reported that 13% of jobs in the field are at professional, scientific, and technical services firms. That proportion could expand thanks to increasing demand for industrial engineering skills in healthcare.

Hospitals and life sciences firms adopt industrial engineering concepts to achieve more efficient care delivery and better outcomes for patients. Industrial engineers can propose a variety of improvements, including redesigning facilities to make treatment workflows faster and less wasteful. Engineering expertise also aids the development and adoption of Internet of Things medical devices that deliver a detailed look into patients’ well-being.


What is the Difference between an MBA and a Master’s in Industrial Engineering?

There is significant overlap between the typical curriculum for a graduate-level business program and a degree in industrial engineering. Both paths involve exploring leadership techniques to keep highly skilled workers on-task toward an organization’s objectives. Students learn best practices to estimate costs, build financial models for long-term planning, and explore how to plan for the effects that automation may have on essential processes.

But an industrial engineering education concentrates on the unique demands of production control rather than broader business topics. MBA students may prepare for managerial roles by taking courses in financial accounting, business strategy, leadership, and ethics. By contrast, industrial engineers complete a program that centers on the challenges involved in cutting-edge approaches to manufacturing. M.S. in Industrial Engineering programs are ideal for professionals who wish to further develop their mastery over engineering practices and concepts and gain a foundation in manufacturing business practices, such as quality management, financial modeling and supply chain management.

Industrial Engineering Learning Outcomes

Industrial engineering students learn to:

  • Create quantitative models to plan, analyze, and control production systems
  • Apply statistical methods to gain insights into engineering projects
  • Implement optimization techniques to meet design goals
  • Run and analyze simulation experiments
  • Draw on quality engineering principles to guide improvements
  • Determine the reliability of a system or component

As manufacturers adopt technology like advanced robotics, machine learning systems, and Internet of Things, organizations need professionals with sophisticated engineering skills to lead technical teams into the future. However, a study conducted by Deloitte and the Manufacturing Institute warned that the industry’s skills gap could leave 2.4 million jobs unfilled between 2018 and 2028.

Organizations are looking for professionals who can apply state-of-the-art approaches to traditional production lines and automated processes. A master’s in industrial engineering could help experts who combine technical knowledge and leadership capabilities seize career opportunities at the forefront of the next generation of manufacturing operations.

About the University of Arizona’s Online Master of Science in Industrial Engineering

The online Master of Science in Industrial Engineering from the University of Arizona equips professionals with the skills they need to lead manufacturing and production control. Students can customize the 100% online curriculum to fit their interests and career goals, choosing from a flexible array of electives and options to complete a research project or thesis. Courses taught by the UA’s faculty of expert educators, researchers and engineers prepare graduates to succeed in a variety of organizations with insights into high-tech processes and real-world problem-solving.


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