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Industrial Engineer Vs. Process Engineer

Industrial and process engineers typically work in manufacturing, but industrial engineers primarily design systems while process engineers design products. This article explores the differences between these professionals in greater detail.

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Comparing Industrial Engineers to Process Engineers

Industrial engineers and process engineers are both involved in producing items. Industrial engineers focus more on the manufacturing process while process engineers may consider product design improvements, changes to the materials used and revising the manufacturing process or technology used.

Job Title Educational Requirements Median Salary Job Outlook (2016-2026)*
Industrial Engineers Bachelor's degree $84,310 (2016)* 10%
Process Engineers Bachelor's degree $71,459 (2017)** 6% (engineers, all other)

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics; **PayScale

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  • Industrial Technology
  • Operational Research

Responsibilities of Industrial Engineers vs. Process Engineers

The main objective of an industrial engineer is to make manufacturing more efficient. They look for ways to improve the manufacturing process so that companies can save money. Their work requires them to study a number of factors, such as schedules, the order of operations involved and types of equipment used so that they can determine ways to make modifications that will reduce the time and money needed to complete products. Process engineers can work in a wide range of engineering fields and may be involved with all aspects of production. Their work can involve producing design plans for new products or modifying existing schematics to improve existing products. They look for ways to change the design, materials and method of production to correct malfunctions, improve performance and save money.

Industrial Engineers

Industrial engineers primarily work in manufacturing because their specific role is to find ways to more efficiently produce goods. It's common for them to spend time working in an office as well as a factory, where they may study the production process. While they're commonly responsible for making modifications to improve production, industrial engineers may also develop equipment or systems to perform specific tasks, such as moving equipment. Some industrial engineers specialize in working exclusively with the equipment used in automated manufacturing and are called manufacturing engineers. It's common for industrial engineers to study industrial engineering, mechanical engineering or another comparable field; with experience, a master's degree and a Professional Engineer (PE) license they can consider pursuing advancement to roles in management.

Job responsibilities of an industrial engineer include:

  • Studying the production process
  • Identifying aspects of production that can be improved
  • Developing system designs
  • Determining the needs of clients and vendors
  • Revising schedules and production processes

Process Engineers

There are a number of fields that process engineers can work in, so there are a number of academic options for those considering a career as a process engineer. While a degree in biochemistry may be ideal for those who work in biochemical or biomedical engineering sectors, those who focus on other types of products may benefit from majoring in materials science instead. Process engineers play a key role in determining product designs and production methods. Depending on which the industry, they may work in a laboratory or office and may also spend time in factories. Travel may be required in this field. Process engineers may work with teams and may also communicate directly with clients so they need good communication and interpersonal skills.

Job responsibilities of a process engineer include:

  • Using computer design software to produce design schematics
  • Testing prototypes to assess their performance
  • Evaluating data
  • Identifying technical issues
  • Preparing reports
  • Determining which equipment to use in the manufacturing process

Related Careers

Since operations research analysts can also be involved in assessing production methods and determining ways to improve manufacturing, those considering a career as an industrial engineer may also be interested in this career field. Those thinking about being a process engineer may also want to compare duties with those of biochemical engineers, who are involved with product design and processing goods such as food.

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