In the academic world, Industrial Engineering (IE) and Engineering Management (EM) are similar enough that it can be easy to confuse the two; especially since a number of programs seem to merge the two disciplines.

In response to this confusion, researchers from the University of Missouri - Rolla (now the Missouri University of Science and Technology) set out to determine a general usage for each of the terms. By studying the individual departments’ course offering, they were able to produce a general comparison of these two areas.

The following table compares the most popular terms Universities used to describe a Bachelor’s in Engineering Management (BEM), a Master’s in Engineering Management (MEM), and a Bachelor’s in Industrial Engineering (BIE):

 
Engineering Management
(BEM and MEM)
Industrial Engineering
(BIE)
Most Popular Term Differences
·Management
·Project Management
·Business
·Problem Solving
·Organization
·Cost/Finance
·Communication
·Technology
·Design
·Information
·Improvement
Most Popular Terms in Common
·Engineering or Engineers
·Systems
·People or People/Human Factors
·Manufacturing/Production

 

According to these findings, it seems that EM courses focus on training middle management and executive positions; while IE courses focus on training facilitators and team leaders. Or to put it another way, EM works to improve the business while IE is concerned with the design and improvement of a system.

In the table below, a similar comparison is made of the core courses offered in each of these disciplines:

 
BEM
 
BIE
Most Popular Course Differences
·General Management & Leadership
·Accounting
·Marketing
·Project Management
·18 Hrs on Emphasis Area
Vs.
·Ergonomics, Human Factors, Work Design
·Production Planning, Inventory Control, Scheduling
·System Analysis
·Automation, Simulation, or Manufacturing Processes
·Facilities Design, Material Handling, & Plant Layout
Most Popular Course Similarities
Total Quality Management
 
Vs.
Statistical Process Control & Quality Methods
Operations & Project Management
Vs.
Operations Research
Senior Seminars & Internships or Senior Design
Vs.
Senior Design or Project
Most Popular Courses in Common
·Economics (Micro and/or Macro and/or Engineering)
·Probability & Statistics

 

In general, there isn’t much overlap between the core courses for each discipline, beyond one economics and one probability and statistics course. Additionally, while the two areas seem to have similar courses covering quality, design, and operation, the EM courses focus more on management while the IE courses focus more on field work.

Upon closer inspection of the courses, researchers found that BEM curriculums had more overlap with BIE curriculums than vice versa. They also noted that BIE curriculums and BEM curriculums with a focus on IE are too similar to differentiate. Thus, while the integration of the latter is considered to be a more valuable degree, they are similar enough to remain staunch competitors.

Given this knowledge, it seems to me that the best path would be to go with a BIE to begin one’s career and a MEM to round it out later. As I mentioned in an earlier article, engineering teams would likely not accept a manager right out of university. As such, the BIE seems to give you more tools for entering the real world, while the EM course will be of most value later in your career. At which point there are plenty of online MEM courses to choose from.

Table Data: ASEE & University of Missouri; Elrod, Rasnic & Daughton

 

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