What are the main focuses in industrial engineering

Technical specialization in industrial engineer

Does it matter which focus you choose as an industrial engineer - in relation to what you will do later in your job?

I'm studying industrial engineering with a focus on production technology at the FH ... in the first semester. But the technical subjects do not satisfy my interest in physics in the least (had a physics LK). Now I am faced with the decision to switch to the FH ... to study industrial engineering with a focus on physical technologies and to deal more with physics.

How does the technical focus affect your later professional activity? Most advertisements are looking for an “industrial engineer” without any further information on specialization. Are industrial engineers with a certain specialization preferred?


A quick general warning beforehand: We generally start with this series, if you take the résumé as a basis for orientation, with the start of your career after completing your studies. There are occasional exceptions if - as here - there is a clear connection to a later professional career; but we do not want to and cannot be a student adviser.

Let's start with a key question: What should a specialization be based on in the course of study?

First there is the complex “inclination / interest / talent”. It is not possible to do without these aspects entirely, but I urgently warn against making them the sole criterion for decision-making. After all, a job should not only be fun, it also has to feed us. And that for about 40 years.

Therefore, one should also take a look at the labor market. Ideally, how this market will look at the time of entry into the profession and how the demand situation will likely develop over the next few decades. The latter is completely illusory; the former is also associated with the general risk of forecasting. With sufficient accuracy, however, you can take as a basis what the market wants “now”. But that's just the demand side. You still do not know how many new graduates will fight with you one day for the beginner positions on offer.

In your particular case, you have looked around and found that there is practically no search for a specialization in your basic subject. That may be true, it even sounds very likely. But that doesn't mean that specialization doesn't play a role when starting a career! Imagine one day a company is looking for an industrial engineer. And this operation has nothing to do with physical technology. If such a specialized candidate is the only one to apply, he may be accepted despite the “wrong” specialization; if he is one of 50, someone else comes into play.

And even a company specializing in physical technology that is looking for a beginner for AV, for example, could, in case of doubt, give preference to applicants who specialize in manufacturing technology, because at that workplace the focus on the industry is not necessary and other technical aspects are decisive And then there is another important argument: the better the exam grade, the better the chances of starting a career. An incline-oriented course of study helps a lot again.

What remains is the realization that the dependency between study specialization and the work performed is dramatically reduced during later employment. On the other hand, the starting position still has a formative influence on the entire career. Do you understand why I like to stay out of pure study questions? But I can add two negative criteria: In general, caution is advisable for courses or specializations that are completely new. Regardless of any existing demand in the economy, the first graduate years often have the disadvantage that “nobody” knows the appropriate designation and the applicants also have to fight for general acceptance.

Particularly careful consideration is also required if a specialization is not new but is only offered at a single university. Then you should have a very close, special relationship to this particular topic if you decide to do it.

In general, every specialization makes it easier to get into companies and positions to which this orientation fits - and makes it more difficult to gain a foothold in jobs that do not match. All of this applies in a very broad context. As far as industrial engineers are concerned, their observations coincide with my experiences. This occupation is already an interface function between technology and business administration, most of the time the “Wirtsch.-Ing.” Is searched for. Generally speaking, you rarely hear the call for further specialization during your studies. But in specific individual cases, the hiring company that is looking for an industrial engineer for controlling prefers those applicants for whom this term plays as large a role as possible in the examination certificate.

Now you, dear sender, could ask a little annoyed what you should do now. Well, in the first semester I would be a little reluctant to give momentous reviews of what interests you and what doesn't. The basics are taught up to the intermediate diploma, but they only have something to do with the later professional practice to a limited extent. It won't be much different at another university of applied sciences either. What will not comfort you now, but it is still correct: in fifteen years you will be roughly at the level of your professional capacity. Then, when you re-read your problem today, you will smile wisely. So do not do anything now that will result in either an extension of your studies or the risk of a lower exam grade. And if you wanted to have a lot to do with physics during your studies and later in your job, then of course other disciplines would have been conceivable than the one you chose (the physicist at the university, for example).

The industrial engineer is already an engineer with a very “unusual” specialization, namely the one on the commercial / business side. An industrial engineer should rather be someone who does not primarily want to have a lot to do with physics, but a lot with business administration. Apart from a few exceptions, the “technical depth” of a business engineer. not considered sufficient to be employed as a development, design or manufacturing engineer, for example. This is reserved for classic engineers ("classic" in the sense of non-business engineer).

Short answer:

The question of a special subject in the course is an extremely complex topic that eludes a general answer. One thing is certain: inclination as the only criterion is not advisable.

Question No .: 2005
Number of the VDI nachrichten edition: 13
Date of the VDI nachrichten edition: 2006-03-31

A contribution by:

  • Heiko Mell

    Heiko Mell is a career advisor, author and freelancer for VDI nachrichten. He is responsible for the career advice series within VDI nachrichten.