Is Industrial Engineering Hard?

Industrial engineering is a branch of engineering that is concerned with the optimization of complex processes, systems, or organizations by developing, improving, and implementing integrated systems of money, people, information, knowledge, and equipment.

In simpler terms, industrial engineers improve the way people interact with technologies and systems. Industrial engineering is central to manufacturing operations.

In this article, we will explore frequently asked questions regarding industrial engineering, and decide whether industrial engineering is hard or not.

Is Industrial Engineering Hard?

Industrial engineering is hard. Industrial engineering is a difficult major because it requires you to take advanced math classes, multiple lab courses, and several challenging technical lessons. However, industrial engineering is easier than other branches of engineering such as mechanical and electrical.

Tough Quantitative Courses

All engineering majors are quite similar regarding the courses taken in the first two years of an engineering degree. These classes are often referred to as quantitative or “weed out” courses,

They are highly mathematical in nature and often the leading cause of students dropping out of engineering programs.

If you have qualified to study in an industrial engineering program then it is highly likely you have the intellectual ability to study the material. However, getting further in the program is highly dependent on your grit and perseverance to continue despite not understanding the material initially.

You will have to study the following quantitative courses as an industrial engineering major:

  • Calculus 1, 2, and 3
  • Differential Equations
  • Physics 1 and 2
  • General Chemistry 1 and 2
  • Linear Algebra
  • Probability and Statistics
  • Technical communication/English Compostion
  • Introduction to Engineering
  • Thermal Physics
  • Eelctricity and Magnetism
  • Mechanics
  • Introduction to Programming
  • Introduction to Computing

If you can get through the first two years of an engineering degree, then the rest of it will not be particularly difficult. Most students drop out of engineering programs in the first or second year.

At the time of starting college, most students have an inclination towards engineering but they are uncertain which branch of engineering they want to pursue in the future. This is perfectly alright. Most colleges will let you transfer to a different engineering discipline in the first or second year.

Challenging Technical Courses

Upon the completion of your quantitative courses, you will be able to the advanced technical courses that are specific to industrial engineering. These courses are typically taken in the junior and senior years of college.

Here are some technical courses you will have to take as an industrial engineer: computer graphics for engineers, industrial and manufacturing engineering tools, quality control and reliability engineering, simulation of industrial engineering systems, industrial and manufacturing engineering practicum, and industrial engineering design project.

For instance, the sensor year course, industrial engineering design project, will require you to submit a project/multiple projects to test your research and lab skills as well as your understanding of previous courses.

The technical courses will not be significantly more difficult than the quantitative ones but they will certainly be more in-depth and detailed.

Employers value your electives the most since it indicates to them that you can start working with minimal training. Hence, it would be wise to select electives that are relevant to the industries you want to work in the future.

Mastering Critical Thinking and Problem-Solving Sills

Critical thinking and problem-solving skills are central to industrial engineering. Engineers need to master the ability of holistic analysis but also pay attention to the small details.

As an industrial engineer, you will encounter problems that require a well thought, efficient, and innovative solutions. A good college education will make you a better problem solver.

For instance, an industrial engineer will have to use his creativity and innovative skills to speed up the delivery of goods for a company. Choosing a faster service may be more expensive and lead to a greater carbon footprint etc. In such cases, an industrial engineer will have to think outside the box to find an effective resolution,

Industrial engineers rarely come up with an effective solution on the first attempt. Instead, industrial engineers have to carefully scrutinize the problem at hand, experiment with different prototypes, take into account external factors, and after multiple attempts, they finally manage to find something worthwhile.

Is There A Lot of Math in Industrial Engineering?

Like all other engineering disciplines, there is going to be a lot of math in an industrial engineering degree. The amount of math you use in your industrial engineering career is highly dependent on the job or projects you are currently working on.

Is Industrial Engineering A Good Career?

Industrial engineering is a good career. Industrial engineers are highly paid professionals who are handsomely rewarded for their contributions in the form of health and dental benefits, gym memberships, and a chance to work alongside highly creative individuals and access to the latest technologies.

Industrial engineering is largely project-based. As an industrial engineer, you will get a chance to work on fascinating and interesting projects alongside highly competent, dedicated, and qualified individuals.

Employers will value your input and lure you with great benefits such as health insurance, gym memberships, flexible work options, paid vacations, and company stock.

Is Industrial Engineering a Dying field?

Industrial engineering is not a dying field at all. In fact, over the next decade, industrial engineering is expected to grow at a rate of fourteen percent which is higher than average. Industrial engineering is expected to thrive due to the digitalization of the economy and an increase in automation.

Automation and artificial intelligence are the biggest threats to the global labor market. Highly specialized fields such as industrial engineering are relatively immune from dying over the next few decades.

This is because technology has not yet reached the point where it can replicate human innovation, strategy, and optimization. Industrial engineering plays a huge role in the digitalization of the economy and is far from dying in the near future.

Unless the manufacturing of goods is going to vanish industrial engineers will continue to stay relevant for years to come.

Industrial Engineering vs Mechanical Engineering

Industrial engineering and mechanical engineering are two branches of engineering. Industrial engineering places greater emphasis on the improvement of productivity, product quality, and important processes. Mechanical engineering focuses on the operation, integration, and design of mechanical processes.

Industrial engineering and mechanical engineering are quite similar. Selecting between two can be a common conundrum for most students. Employers are often willing to hire both industrial and mechanical engineers for most jobs due to the overlap between the fields.

Mechanical engineering is more mainstream and offered by almost all engineering schools. Industrial engineering is not offered by all engineering colleges and is sometimes considered a subset of mechanical engineering itself.

Safety management, supply chain management, and sales engineering fall under the umbrella of what industrial engineers do. Mechanical engineering has more to do with the design and development of machinery and equipment needed for other fields.

Is Industrial or Mechanical Engineering Harder?

Mechanical engineering is slightly harder than industrial engineering because it covers more topics, is more mathematical in nature, and the material is more complex and intricate. However, the fields are quite similar which explains the slight difference in difficulty.

Industrial Engineering Examples

Here are some examples of what industrial engineers do:

  • Streamlining health care systems
  • Rethinking supply chains
  • Enhancing online user experience
  • Industrial Engineering Technician
  • Sales Engineer
  • Process Engineer
  • Shorten a roller coaster line
  • Speed up delivery of goods
  • Make assembly lines safer and more efficient


All branches of engineering are hard; this holds true for industrial engineering as well. Industrial engineering is a challenging field but you can overcome the difficulty through consistent practice and unflinching dedication.

Industrial engineering is slightly easier than electrical and mechanical engineering. This is because it is not as mathematical as some of the more mainstream branches of engineering.

Industrial engineering is an excellent field and definitely worth pursuing. You will get great benefits and an almost future-proof career. However, you can expect it to be a stressful and difficult field where you will have to constantly upgrade your skillset and handle tight deadlines.