Thesis and Project Options Available in Online Industrial Engineering Master’s

University of Arizona’s master’s in industrial engineering offers a large list of electives.

School: The University of Arizona

Program: Online Master of Science in Industrial Engineering


“The online Master of Science in Industrial Engineering allows students to choose a complete set of electives to develop the specific skills they are seeking. Students in the program explore such technical skills as production and process design, system modeling, optimization, and computer-integrated manufacturing, and study business fundamentals like cost estimation and financial modeling. There are three paths available to fulfill requirements – project, thesis or coursework,” said Dr. Young Jun Son, Systems and Industrial Engineering Department Head at the University of Arizona

Where it is: Tucson, Arizona

Format: Online

Degree you get: Master of Science in Industrial Engineering

Prerequisites: Graduated from an accredited engineering bachelor’s program or related discipline

Size of the program: Approximately 13 students

Number of credit hours: 30 (9 courses for project option / 8 courses for thesis option); 33 (11 courses) for course option

Thesis: Optional thesis and project tracks

How long it will take: 1.5 – 2 years

When to apply: Spring deadline is June 1. Fall deadline is Dec. 1.

Tuition and Fees: $35,000 – $40,000

Minimum admission requirements:

  • Transcripts (GPA > 3.0) 
  • Essay (statement of purpose)
  • Three letters of reference
  • Resume (no min. work experience)
  • International applicants: TOEFL (min. score: 79 internet-based; 550 paper-based) or IELTS (min. score: composite score 7; no other score under 6) or Pearson PTE (min. score: 60)

Not Required:

  • GRE

Who should take it?

  • Working engineering professionals
  • Engineers interested in management careers in technological organizations

Things to consider about the program:

  • Thesis and project might need to be defended on campus
  • Strong academic record recommended in some track options

Claim to fame:

  • Thesis and project options
  • Large selection of electives

Advancing your Career with an Industrial Engineering Master’s

Industrial engineering is key to the current lean economy. This branch of engineering involves optimizing industrial processes and implementing continuous improvement methodology. In a world looking to limit materials, downtime and energy, industrial engineers will be in high demand.

Since 1972, the University of Arizona has offered its modern industrial engineering curriculum. Now it has grown to have a wide range of course options as well as an online option.

“The online Master of Science in Industrial Engineering (MSIE) allows students to choose a complete set of electives to develop the specific skills they are seeking,” said Dr. Young Jun Son, Systems and Industrial Engineering Department Head at the University of Arizona. “Students in the program explore such technical skills as production and process design, system modeling, optimization, and computer–integrated manufacturing, and study business fundamentals like cost estimation and financial modeling.” 

Dr. Young Jun Son, the Systems and Industrial Engineering Department’s head at the University of Arizona.

Dr. Young Jun Son, Systems and Industrial Engineering Department’ Head at the University of Arizona.

As these students are able to tailor this long list of elective options to their career path, it isn’t shocking to hear Son explain that many of these students graduate with significant job opportunities at major corporations, research organizations and other universities. 

“The program is geared toward those with a Bachelor of Science in any engineering field who aspire to advance into management careers within technological organizations,” Son noted.

Industrial Engineering Curriculum Offers Course Only, Thesis or Project Tracks

The MSIE curriculum has three option tracks: thesis, projecunt and course-only work. Those taking the course-only option will need to complete 33 credit hours (or 11 courses) out of more than 40 course options. Those participating in the thesis need to complete 8 courses and those in the project option need to complete 9 courses.

As a result, students opting for the course-only stream will have greater control over their academic plan. Therefore, this option might be better suited for those who want to tailor their master’s to what they need for their career.

“There are three required courses in the program, and students have the flexibility to choose the remaining courses they would like to pursue,” said Son. Additionally, the University of Arizona ensures these courses are innovative by annually reviewing their content and updating as needed.

The project and thesis options are both graded and run in a similar fashion. Students will be required to work with an academic advisor and will need to create a written report. The student will then have to defend their work in front of a committee of academics in the field. Typically, this committee consists of three professors chosen based on the project or thesis topic or the student’s courses of study.

These oral defense presentations will need to be in-person or through a teleconference. However, the school is flexible, and faculty will work with students to arrange times and dates that will accommodate their busy schedules.

The major difference between the project and thesis options is that projects are more practical. Project topics have a practical significance and are based on applying the material taught in the curriculum. In other words, the project they complete will look into new ways to tackle a real-world industrial problem.

Students who choose the thesis option, however, will work more closely with their academic advisor on an original research topic. As a result, only applicants with exceptional academic records should select the thesis option. Some areas of research a student can choose from include:

  • Manufacturing or production systems
  • Healthcare systems
  • Service systems
  • Energy nexus
  • Water nexus
  • Quality and reliability
  • Modeling and simulation

Online Industrial Engineering Master’s Offers a Lot of Support

Those students choosing to take the MSIE online will learn from the same faculty as those on campus, and some of the courses are viewable live.

When watching a class live online, students are still able to ask questions and see the professor’s notes as if they were in the classroom. Students watching asynchronously don’t have to wait long to get the content of the lecture; it will be available online 10 minutes after the class is dismissed.

Additionally, these online students will have access to support services and 24-hour IT assistance in case any issues arise when completing their work in the evening or on weekends. As a result, students should feel free to work on their courses whenever it is most convenient for them.

Just as students should expect the program to have the same rigorous content and testing as the on-campus version, they should also expect the same admission standards. As a result, the online MSIE program admissions process is competitive, with a strong emphasis on an applicant’s academic record.

Students who are worried that their grades might not be strong enough for the program can look into the option of being admitted to the Graduate College as a non-degree-seeking student. You will be able to learn the content you need for your career and have the option to apply into the MS degree program after completing 12 credit hours of graduate level courses with a GPA of 3.0 or higher.

Though the University of Arizona doesn’t water down its online master’s program, it does realize that some students who have been out of the academic life for a while might be apprehensive. Son explains that the program is designed to accommodate this.

“Many of our students are working professionals,” assured Son. “Students who work full-time should know they are able to complete the program on a part-time basis if they so choose, and still complete the program within one and a half to two years. It is recommended that students dedicate at least six hours to coursework each week for each three credit-hour course.”

The University of Arizona has sponsored this post. It has no editorial input to this post – all opinions are mine. Shawn Wasserman

  • Required Courses
    • SIE — 530 Engineering Statistics
    • One of the following:
      • SIE — 540 Survey of Optimization
      • SIE 545 Fundamentals of Optimization
    • One of the following
      • SIE 561 — Traffic Modeling & Simulation
      • SIE 562 — Advanced Production Control
      • SIE 563 — Integrated Logistics and Distribution Systems
      • SIE 564 — Cost Estimation
      • SIE 565 — Supply Chain Management
      • SIE 567 — Financial Modeling for Innovation
      • SIE 583 — Computer Integrated Manufacturing Systems (CIM)
  • Optional courses
    • SIE 500A — Introduction to SIE Methods: Probability and Statistics
    • SIE 500B — Introduction to SIE Methods: Stochastic Processes
    • SIE 500C — Introduction to SIE Methods: Linear Programming
    • SIE 506 — Quality Engineering
    • SIE 508 — Reliability Engineering
    • SIE 514 — Law for Engineers and Scientists
    • SIE 515 — Technical Sales and Marketing
    • SIE 520 — Stochastic Modeling I
    • SIE 522 — Engineering Decision Making Under Uncertainty
    • SIE 525 — Queuing Theory
    • SIE 531 — Simulation Modeling and Analysis
    • SIE 536 — Experiment Design and Regression
    • SIE 544 — Linear Programming
    • SIE 546 — Algorithms, Graphs, and Network
    • SIE 547 — Computational Issues in Optimization
    • SIE 550 — Theory of Linear Systems
    • SIE 552 — Space Systems Engineering
    • SIE 554 A — Systems Engineering Process
    • SIE 556 — Fundamentals of Guidance for Aerospace Systems
    • SIE 557 — Project Management
    • SIE 599 — Independent Study
    • SIE 606 — Advanced Quality Engineering
    • SIE 620 — Selected Topics in Probability Modeling
    • SIE 631 — Distributed Multi-Paradigm Simulation Systems
    • SIE 636 — Advanced Experiment Design
    • SIE 640 – Large Scale Optimization
    • SIE 644 — Integer and Combinatorial Optimization
    • SIE 645 — Nonlinear Optimization
    • SIE 649 — Topics of Optimization
    • SIE 654 — Advance Concepts in Systems Engineering
    • SIE 678 — Transportation Systems

Written by

Shawn Wasserman

For over 10 years, Shawn Wasserman has informed, inspired and engaged the engineering community through online content. As a senior writer at WTWH media, he produces branded content to help engineers streamline their operations via new tools, technologies and software. While a senior editor at, Shawn wrote stories about CAE, simulation, PLM, CAD, IoT, AI and more. During his time as the blog manager at Ansys, Shawn produced content featuring stories, tips, tricks and interesting use cases for CAE technologies. Shawn holds a master’s degree in Bioengineering from the University of Guelph and an undergraduate degree in Chemical Engineering from the University of Waterloo.