Why more Industrial Engineers should consider a career in Data Science & Analytics

This blog post discusses why more Industrial Engineers should think about data science and analytics as a career path.

Introduction

Throughout the past year I have been exposed to data science and analytics during internships and personal projects. As an industrial engineering (IE) student, I never would have imagined that data science could be a career option. However, the further I get into understanding the field of data science and analytics, the more I realize IE's have the skills required to be successful data scientists.

Required Skills

Seen in the graphic below are the high level skills and background needed to become a good data scientist:

  • Computer Science & IT - Normally a scripting language such as Python or R to clean, transform, visualize, or aggregate data.
  • Math & Statistics - Understanding of how to set up statistic models and algorithms to better explore a dataset.
  • Business Knowledge - Taking the two previous skill sets and applying them to business processes and models that help businesses make smarter, data-driven decisions.
  • png11

    Industrial Engineering Curriculum

    At most universities today, Industrial Engineering majors include classes that cover topics shown in the above Venn diagram. Here at West Virginia University, IE students take multiple statistic courses, engineering management courses, and a python course. In addition to the intro to python course, our department now offers a data analysis class for IE's starting in the spring of 2019. This course builds upon the foundation of python by exposing students to python libraries such as pandas, numpy, matplotlib etc.

    To see how many other schools have incorporated these kinds of classes into their curriculum, I looked up the top 5 IE programs in the US according to US News. Below is the table of the top 5 IE programs:

    png12

    As you can see from the table above, the top 5 IE programs in the country all require and offer courses related to the core skills of data science. This shows that these schools and many others are making sure their graduates can analyze real world problems using data analysis skills developed in their undergrad. Many of these programs even offer in depth "paths" such as Analytics that allow students to take courses specific to data science.

    While most people may not think of IE's as data scientists, this blog post confirms that industrial engineering students are given a solid foundation in data science topics during their undergrad. I believe that more IE students should be interested and exposed to data science because they have all the basic skills needed to be successful. Most IE students across the country can use this undergrad foundation to further their data science knowledge by applying to data science and analytics masters programs.

    Salary Comparison

    According to glassdoor, the average salary for a data scientist with 1-3 years of experience is $109,919 per year. While an industrial engineer with 1-3 years of experience has an average salary of $62,585.

    This gap in average salary is a significant amount and should provoke students to think about their futures. Money aside, data science is also at the forefront of technology and new topics such as machine learning, AI etc. will all need data scientists capable of producing high quality statistical models.

    Conclusion

    In conclusion, I hope that any IE student reading this article stopped what they were doing and gave some serious thought to exploring data science and analytics as a potential career. I personally have started to pursue a career in data science and begun improving my data science skills.

    Thanks for reading and if you are interested in seeing some of the projects I am working on feel free to checkout my personal site here

    Sources

  • US News: Top IE Programs
  • Georgia Tech IE Program
  • University of Michigan IE Program
  • Purdue IE Program
  • UC Berkeley
  • Stanford Management Engineering Program
  • Average Data Scientist Salary
  • Venn Diagram Photo Credit
  • Chalk Board Photo Credit