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What is Industrial & Systems Engineering?

The Industrial and Systems Engineering is the most versatile engineering discipline, industrial engineering, opens doors for careers in variety of business, manufacturing, and service environments, including transportation, technology, health care, aerospace, engineering consulting, and supply chain management, among many others.

Like other engineering fields, the base curriculum of study in industrial engineering includes mathematics and the physical sciences, and knowledge is enhanced with study in other broad topics which cross many engineering disciplines: operations research, manufacturing, human factors, and statistical analysis. Such broad knowledge defines the several roles of industrial engineers, to improve, integrate, inform, and innovate.


Industrial engineers are improvement engineers. ISEs help organizations add value by eliminating waste, maximizing quality and productivity, and using resources effectively.


Industrial engineers are integration engineers. ISEs bring people, processes, and technologies together to solve complex problems in all types of organizations.


Industrial engineers are information engineers. ISEs use computer-based tools to collect data, organize and analyze information, and present solutions for decision-making.


Industrial engineers are innovation engineers. ISEs use a holistic approach, combining engineering expertise with a business perspective, to solve modern, often large-scale, problems.

Industrial and systems engineers are found in a variety of organizations, working to make processes and systems better.  Particular examples of industrial engineering solutions include:

  • Reducing waiting times for rides at an amusement park,
  • Designing the crew areas and controls for the international space station,
  • Integrating computer voice systems for order-pickers in a warehouse,
  • Planning the flow of materials to the assembly line in an automobile factory,
  • Scheduling shifts for hospital nurses and airline pilots,
  • Creating software for efficient routing of package delivery trucks,
  • Integrating systems for satellite tracking of shipments,
  • Finding the optimal locations to build ambulance and fire stations,
  • Improving the quality of cellular phones,
  • Determining the reliability and maintenance needs for the air conditioning system of a hospital,
  • Designing vehicles for special populations,
  • And many, many others

The outlook for the industrial engineering profession, published by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, is bright.

"Industrial and systems engineers are expected to have employment growth of 20 percent over the projections decade, faster than the average for all occupations. As firms look for new ways to reduce costs and raise productivity, they increasingly will turn to industrial engineers to develop more efficient processes and reduce costs, delays, and waste. This should lead to job growth for these engineers, even in manufacturing industries with slowly growing or declining employment overall. Because their work is similar to that done in management occupations, many industrial engineers leave the occupation to become managers. Many openings will be created by the need to replace industrial engineers who transfer to other occupations or leave the labor force." 

Read more about Industrial Engineering

Do you like solving problems? Are you interested in science? Do you like working with people? Are you an organizer? Would you like to study a blend of business and technical subjects? Are you interested in the way individual parts of a system work together? Are you looking for a challenge? If so, then you are invited to join us!

Our faculty members are internationally recognized as experts in all aspects of industrial engineering and are active in professional research and practice.  Several members of our faculty have won highly competitive teaching and research awards from the University and are fellows of several industrial engineering professional societies, including the Institute of Industrial Engineers, the Society of Manufacturing Engineers, and the American Society of Mechanical Engineers.  Five IE faculty hold chaired professorships, including the Dean and an Associate Dean of the University’s College of Engineering.  Our faculty excel in the classroom, as evidenced by consistently high course and teacher evaluations as well as numerous campus-wide teaching awards.  The faculty also possess diverse industrial experience, which they bring to the classroom and to their research initiatives.  They hold doctorates from Case Western Reserve University, Drexel University, Lehigh University, North Carolina State University, the University of Oklahoma, Penn State University, Purdue University, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Texas Tech University, and the University of Virginia.

Our faculty, with guidance from the OU College of Engineering and our advisory board, ensure that our curriculum is at the forefront in preparing our students to meet the needs of industry and research.  Our flexible undergraduate curriculum is designed to provide students with an outstanding professional educational experience that is practical, modern, and progressive.  Our undergraduate program has been accredited  by the Engineering Accreditation Commission ABET since 1966.  We offer a number of undergraduate options which allow students to focus on a number of elective paths, and we offer programs for our undergraduates to earn graduate IE and MBA degrees at an accelerated pace.  Our graduate students also have a number of paths to pursue in their graduate program, focusing on theory, methodology, and application in the classroom as well as in their research.  Our graduate program was recently ranked 33rd among all doctoral degree granting IE programs in the nation by U.S. News & World Report.

Our undergraduate program continues to pursue quality students, and undergraduate enrollment continues to increase.  We are in a period of growth, as is the industrial engineering profession, and we want to continue to attract quality individuals to learn with us.  In addition boasting of the quality of our student body, we are proud to have one of the most diverse set of students in the College of Engineering.  Our students work together, as evidenced by the long hours spent in several IE meeting spaces, and foster teamwork that will be expected in industry and research environments.  Our student teams have been very competitive in national and regional competitions.  We have a number of National Merit Scholars, OU Scholars, and members of the OU Honors College among our undergraduates, as well as winners of several prestigious campus awards.  Our graduate students have received numerous awards, including the Halliburton and the National Science Foundation Fellowships. Our school is recognized throughout the University for its collegiality and friendly atmosphere, both among students and among students and faculty.

Located on the beautiful Norman campus of the University of Oklahoma, the School of Industrial Engineering provides a wonderful and engaging experience to undergraduates, graduates, faculty, and staff.  During their last semester, our undergraduate seniors work in teams with area companies to solve real-world problems. This "internship experience" helps students develop industry contacts and eases the transition from academic to professional life, as they gain professional experience in developing teamwork, communication, presentation, and technical writing skills. Among the companies which have sponsored and participated in the senior design program include: Alcatel, Cintas, the Federal Aviation Administration, General Motors, Hitachi, Integris Hospital, Lucent Technologies, Oklahoma Natural Gas, UPS, the United States Postal Service, Xerox, and York International, among many others.  A number of our undergraduate students are involved in research initiatives, where they work closely with faculty, in roles that are traditionally limited to graduate research assistants.  Such research projects are often the result of partnerships with industry and research funding organizations, providing students with valuable work and research experiences.  In cooperation with the National Science Foundation, we offer undergraduate research opportunities in integrated manufacturing and other lucrative industry and research fields.

A degree in industrial and systems engineering from the University of Oklahoma opens many doors to exciting careers in manufacturing, transportation, technology, healthcare, aerospace, and supply chain management, among many others.  We have an excellent placement rate for our graduates, and recent graduates have gone on to successful careers in companies that include: Accenture, American Airlines, Argent Consulting, Burlington Northern Sante Fe Railroad, Bell Atlantic, Boeing, ExxonMobil, the Federal Aviation Administration, Hilti, IBM, JB Hunt, Lockheed Martin, Motorola, Raytheon, Sabre Group, Southwest Research, Union Pacific, UPS and Walt Disney, among many others.  Further, many of our students pursue graduate studies, recently including Georgia Tech, Harvard University, Johns Hopkins University, the University of Michigan, the University of Oklahoma, and the University of Virginia, among others, in a variety of graduate programs.  In the words of one of our graduates, “Industrial engineering provides a student with a wide range of career paths within the technical or business world. It provides one with significantly more career options upon graduation and throughout one's entire career.”