Tips for Fresh Graduates: What to Do after Getting an Industrial Engineering Degree
Graduating with an industrial engineering degree is a noteworthy accomplishment. With your industrial engineering degree, you are one step closer to obtaining lucrative industrial engineering jobs that are in demand.
According to the United States Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median industrial engineering salary in May 2018 was $87,040 per year or about $41.84 per hour. Moreover, the BLS highlights that the demand for industrial engineers between 2018 and 2028 is expected to grow faster than average at a rate of eight percent compared to other jobs in the United States.
Some of the richest people in the world are engineers, and some of the most successful engineers started in industrial engineering, including Tim Cook and Kuntoro Mangkusbroto.
But as a fresh industrial engineering graduate, you still need to plan strategically to get access to these coveted industrial engineering jobs.
Luckily, there is engineering advice you can seek and best practices you can apply to get your first role as an industrial engineer in the professional job market. Here's what you can do after earning your degree.
Prepare for and pass the Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) exam
If you plan to advance from an industrial engineer to a professional engineer (PE) later on down your career, then it's crucial to pass the Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) exam.
Getting your license to become a PE requires passing the Principles and Practices of Engineering (PE) exam. As one of the core steps to sitting for the PE exam, you must pass the FE exam first. Passing the FE exam requires reviewing the reference materials provided by the National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying (NCEES).
Preparation is especially important if you plan to take the Industrial and Systems CBT FE exam as only 59 percent of examinees passed this exam, as of July 2019.
NCEES primarily designed the FE exam for individuals to take the exam within 12 months of earning their degrees. So, it's beneficial to take the FE exam as a recent graduate while the information is fresh in your mind.
Team up with your former classmates to study as a group and create a study schedule you can commit to, so you improve your chances of earning a passing score on the exam. Once you pass the exam, you can become an engineer-in-training (EIT) or engineering intern as you prepare for your PE exam.
Network like never before
Networking is a necessary component of getting a job. But if you want to get your first professional industrial engineering job, it's crucial to supercharge your networking. Start by thinking strategically, get engineering career advice, and join professional organizations, such as the Society of Manufacturing Engineers, and attend their networking events.
Get a mentor to give you valuable engineering career advice once you join a professional network and consider going on informational interviews to learn about what employers are searching for in the industrial engineers they hire.
Reach out to former classmates who are employed at the companies you aspire to work for. It's worth asking for a referral as research shows that referrals have accounted for 30 percent of employers' new hires. However, it's important to take the time to build and nurture relationships genuinely before asking a colleague to put in a good word for you.
Get an internship and join a co-op program
Internships are not just for current engineering students. You can get an internship as a recent industrial engineering graduate, too.
Ohio State Industrial and Systems engineering graduate Jeff Barkas used his internships to help gain valuable experience that prepared him for his role as a business analyst at McKinsey and Company. Getting an internship requires reaching out to the right people.
So, start with your career services center or Industrial Engineering department at your college or university. Barkas earned access to valuable engineering career advice and internships by focusing on a niche that led him to work with professors in a smaller size class. This helped him build a rapport and develop a relationship over time so he would have access to internships in his field.
Cooperative education programs or co-op programs also can provide access to valuable industrial engineering jobs. You can earn a decent living on an industrial engineering salary from a co-op program, too.
ZipRecruiter reports that the average industrial engineering salary from a co-op program in the United States is $51,404 per year, as of 2019. Companies like Universal Orlando and Disney, as well as schools like Georgia Institute of Technology and Northwestern University, offer access to industrial engineering jobs through co-op programs.
Go where the jobs are
Your industrial engineering degree does not limit you exclusively to a role that bears the industrial engineer title. You can use your degree to open doors to other types of roles related to your degree, including a systems engineer, business analyst, or field engineer.
It's also important to consider the industry you plan to work in as different industries may pay different rates for industrial engineering jobs. For instance, the BLS highlights that the top-paying industries for industrial engineers in May 2018 included the professional, scientific, and technical services industry ($94,870) and the computer and electronic product manufacturing industry ($93,760). So, start off by focusing your job search in these areas.
Also, consider your location. The BLS highlights that most industrial engineers worked in Michigan, Indiana, South Carolina, Minnesota, and Connecticut in May 2018. But some of the highest-paid industrial engineers were located in Texas, California, Washington, Wyoming, and Massachusetts. This may be due to several factors, such as the demand for industrial engineers in the area and the need for higher compensation to match the cost of living in that state.
As a fresh industrial engineering graduate, you have several options for getting access to in-demand industrial engineering jobs. But if you want to earn a high-paying industrial engineering salary, it's essential to have a plan.
Use this engineering career advice and put the best practices mentioned here into action. By applying these tips, you'll get your first professional role as an industrial engineer before you know it.