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Which degree...ME vs IE

Discussion in 'Professional Certifications and Degrees' started by Josh C, Aug 14, 2015.

  1. Josh C

    Josh C New Member

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    I've been working in quality (automotive) for the past two years after a forced career change, with the last year as a QE. I'm trying to work towards an engineering degree in order to A) increase my knowledge and B) be able to apply for my same job (or better) in a more preferred location. (Multiple recruiters/HR people have told me I'm out of luck with my current degree, even with the right experience) Right now, the only online programs I am aware of are Lamar University's Industrial Engineering and U North Dakota's Mechanical Engineering.

    Anyone with more experience in the field have thoughts on which degree is better for the Quality field / related prospects? Or know of any other program options?

    From looking at postings I feel like more places want ME, though I think the IE track may be better suited to the type of tasks I like to work on. Any thoughts would be much appreciated.
     
  2. Jennifer Kirley

    Jennifer Kirley Moderator Staff Member

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    My understanding of the fields is that Industrial Engineering is more about plant management and Mechanical Engineering is more product related. So if trajectory in QA is your goal, I would lean toward Industrial Engineering.
     
  3. reynald

    reynald Member

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    Well I'm an Industrial Engineer. I can give you a glimpse of the curriculum but please be aware that this varies much from university to university.

    First the core courses which I think would be common for all universities:
    1. At least 9 units of statistics: (1) an introductory course - probability, distributions, hypothesis testing (2) advanced - Design of experiments, regression analysis, and others I can't remember (3) industrial uses - Acceptance sampling, statistical quality control, Monte Carlo simulation
    2. Probably 10 units of production related units: (1) process analysis and methods improvement (i.e. the Lean stuffs), (2) production/operations management
    3. Engineering economy and some managerial accounting and macro-economics
    4. Operational Research and other quantitative methods - linear programming, optimization techniques

    Then what varies are
    1. If you are taking a track on systems engineering as well you will have to study some standards on systems engineering, BPMI (I don't really know about these things)
    2. If you want to specialize on Information Management Systems you will take units in database management and other IT stuffs (my track)
    3. Some universities offer backgrounds on different industry processes (in these units IE overlaps with ME and even Chemical Engineers)
    4. And more other things, the university would probably align these to the current industry needs.


    Now based on my experience, I was a fresh IE grad when I was hired as a Quality Engineer. I don't know a lot of things but somehow I knew what questions to ask (and search in forums live the Cove). I can confidently say my degree helped me a lot.
     
  4. reynald

    reynald Member

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    One more thing: some people label IEs as jack of all trades, master of none. I don't buy that. For me, IEs are masters of efficiency. The goal is to produce more quality outputs using less inputs (regardless of industry). Each of the courses is designed to help the IE figure how to make that happen.
     
  5. equilibrium

    equilibrium Member

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    Thank you for the insight, reynald.

    Let me offer a slightly different take. Engineering is one of the most varied fields I've personally ever encountered. I've only worked with a small sample of people in engineering roles, but I do know that many of them didn't have degrees in an engineering discipline. They did however have years of experience and product knowledge, and probably filled in knowledge "gaps" with a course or two along the way. Also bear in mind they likely had to work into that role, so there are limited opportunities for this.

    In my view, it ultimately relies on the individual. The "hard way" approach is certainly not for everyone. Ultimately, a degree represents a certain set of tools the individual has. That person still has to know how and when to use them, and that is really only gained with experience.
     
    Last edited: Aug 19, 2015
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  6. reynald

    reynald Member

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    Totally agree with this. This made me remember what I realized early on my career. Reading/studying about it improves my knowledge. Trying it out improves my skills. And there is a difference.

    I once has a colleague that can seem to recite all the statistical jargon and acronyms that I haven't heard of (that is knowledge). He was young and was very vocal on what he knows that you don't know. When given a real (and messy) data to do some exploratory analysis though he was stuck, don't know how to start, and can't give a conclusion (that is lack of skills). (He was also such an a**h*le when giving "smart/technical" comments like 'do this', 'you should have done that'...and when people could no longer take him they ask, 'can you show me how' and he can't)

    In this era of accessible information, knowing about something would not always give you a competitive advantage. Some people can easily fake it by googling about it. Skills though is non-googleable. It can't be faked, and I think can only be acquired by years of hard work.
     
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  7. Ronen E

    Ronen E Well-Known Member

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    The problem is that when you go for a position, it's not that easy for the recruiter to accurately assess your skills. Knowledge is easier, hence the quest for certificates and titles.

    In Australia there's also an opposite problem - employers have come to believe that you can only do a job right if you've done the same thing before, which means, if true, that nobody can learn anything (not to mention that in order to get the skills you have to have some job first, for which you won't have the skills when recruited, by definition).

    When I recruited engineers I looked for people that are able to truly learn and implement quickly. I gave applicants a 1.5h task - something that they've never done before, or know anything about - and watched how they coped. I didn't really care about the outcome, I was more interested to see how they reacted and how effective / efficient that was. During the test I provided a workstation with Internet access and all the relevant software (spreadsheet etc.), because these are tools that are available in real engineering jobs. I also answered their technical questions because on our team a member could always ask a peer or the manager if stuck.
     
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  8. BradM

    BradM Moderator Staff Member

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    I have limited experience in Industrial Engineering; it was my minor Degree. So taking Reynald's excellent list, I refined a bit to the minor program:

    1. Probably 3 units of production related units: (1) process analysis and methods improvement (i.e. the Lean stuffs), (2) production/operations management
    2. 3 units of Operational Research and other quantitative methods - linear programming, optimization techniques

    I took all the statistics classess, but they weren't part of the core IE program.

    This is horribly limiting and painting with a broad brush....
    Say you have a large mfg. facility and you need someone to calculate optimal production rates, figure out where the logjams are going to occur, what the flow rates are going to be (Little's Law), inventory levels. You need some to set up production models and the such. That's when you would be most keen on somebody with an IE degree.

    However....
    As competition gets more fierce and profit margins smaller, companies will be cultivating ways to increase profit/ cut costs. So Quality By Design will begin to increase in importance. Having a ME degree which gives you knowledge at the initial, engineering level.

    I would suggest... Know Thyself. If setting around and building mathematical models, queuing Theory, and such sounds boring and not challenging, certainly the ME is your path.
     
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  9. DavidD

    DavidD Member

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    I don't think I'm impartial on this matter but I'll share my opinion anyway. I'm a mechanical engineer by education but a quality engineer by profession. I there aren't really alot of QEs that I've found who didn't start as Mech, Chemical, etc. I know 1 or 2 who were Industrial/systems with a quality/Reliability focus.

    I've found that an ME is an excelent generalist with broad knowledge and usually adapts well to quality roles. If you want to end up elsewhere, I think it also gives more options.

    All this being said, I'm currently going back for a masters in IE w/ a focus on Quality and Reliability. If you already have an undergraduate degree, this might provide an avenue. I haven't looked recently but I believe there are a number of online Masters programs.

    Look at Arizona State University and Penn state and cal state Mendoza hills.

    David
     
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  10. Scott K

    Scott K Member

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    wish I saw this earlier but I'll give my 2 cents anyway... I've been an IE since 1990, starting out in traditional IE work like time studies, line balancing, equipment layouts, ergonomics and project management but moved into QA around 1997 and pretty much stayed. I have 4 quality engineers on my staff right now - 2 are IEs, one is ME, and the other is Biomedical Engineer. If hiring a newly graduated engineer I would consider a couple of things for a QE... is this position going to be more involved in supporting the product design group, or the manufacturing engineering group? For the former I'd lean towards an ME, for the latter and IE. But not so much a lean as to exclusively consider only that kind of engineer for the role.
     
  11. ncwalker

    ncwalker Well-Known Member

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    They say that IEs are people who couldn't hack ME and drop to an easier graduation track. :)

    That said, there is a lot of attractiveness to all the statistics an IE has to take compared to an ME. Someone above said they are "efficiency experts" and I tend to agree.

    My advice: Get your ME over your IE. That opens doors and you may NOT want to stay in quality. An ME can typically do an IE type job fairly well, less so in the other direction. (And I am talking the impression the job market has, not necessarily reality). THEN when you have the degree, if you want IE, you can always go for a masters in IE and make the company pay for it. If you were in a quality engineer position, I'd more likely cover your education costs in that way as your employer.
     
  12. Miner

    Miner Moderator Staff Member

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    MEs are not just limited to product design. They commonly perform jobs entitled Manufacturing Engineer or Process Engineer. These are more focused on manufacturing processes, whether on process design, improvement, establishing best operating conditions and more.
     
  13. ncwalker

    ncwalker Well-Known Member

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    Good point, Miner. When people ask me what an ME does, my answer is "transfer energy from one form to another." That's the shortest synopsis I can give of what is actually involved.
     

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