Industrial management programs prepare people to use math and science to design and operate production systems. Students learn to schedule, control for costs, and analyze risks. They also learn to control for quality and improve productivity.
If you're an engineer, you start to see a fork in the road about five years after graduation. One path is to continue in your technical specialty. The other path is to go into management - and that is the path that about two-thirds of engineers have chosen by their tenth year in the work force.
So why not start out on that path from the very beginning? Study industrial management. This program teaches you how to plan and manage industrial and manufacturing operations. It combines engineering and business subjects.
The engineer's mind-set is to improve processes by applying scientific methods. But this program is not about improving a motor or a dam or a nuclear reactor. Instead, it's about improving an industrial business.
You learn how to measure the components of the industrial process. For example, you measure the amount of labor that contributes to the process. You measure how much waste the process produces. And you learn how these measurements are revealed in the accounting records of the business. You learn to develop systems so that managers can monitor these indicators and make decisions. You study how a business can raise funds, hire people, and bring in new technology to improve a process.
You can earn a bachelor's degree in this field with four or five years of full-time study beyond high school. This usually is good preparation for entering the work force. About 40 colleges in the U.S. offer this bachelor's program.
You may also be interested in getting a masters' degree. At some universities you can take the bachelor's and master's program in one five-year sequence. Another route is to get the bachelor's in another field - perhaps another branch of engineering - and then get a master's in this field. This master's program is available at about 100 graduate schools of engineering.