Mia, thank you for submitting the question and I’m thrilled you are looking into your future and how best to match your skillset, interests and career goals to ensure you choose the education that best meets your lifelong plan.
Industrial Engineering is definitely a diversified engineering field. I have my Industrial Engineering degrees, however, over the past 10 years, I’ve mostly worked on Project Management and Continuous Improvement Projects for my company and not much of the manufacturing, logistical and Six Sigma-type tasks most Industrial Engineers work through on a day-to-day basis. I worked in a large manufacturing facility in Wentzville (I’m sure you can guess where) as an Industrial Engineer for the Materials Department and I loved it! The position there was most representative of an IE – reorganizing work tasks, efficiency planning to reduce costs and eliminate waste (both in materials and human work moves/labor) along with streamlining production lines for efficiency and cost-savings. I was walking the manufacturing floor every day, interacting with personnel (both Union and Management) on a regular basis, attending and contributing to meetings on productivity and working through unexpected issues throughout the day (material shortages and re-aligning jobs to keep production moving or personnel shortages and how to maintain production at current speeds using inexperienced personnel – so training on the fly sometimes – to name just a few). It is an exciting environment on the manufacturing/production floor and offers a great training area for new engineers (of all disciplines). I did move on from that employer seeking advancement and pay increases and was hired in another manufacturing environment as a Continuous Improvement Engineer for a much smaller company. Unfortunately that company moved its operations out of state but I was fortunate to quickly find a Project Engineering position with the gas utility here in St. Louis. While I love the Project Management portion of my job, I do have to admit (as an IE) I truly miss the excitement of the manufacturing/production environment.
If you are looking for something that is never boring, never the same, lots of hands-on and offers learning opportunities every day, an Industrial Engineer in the manufacturing world is great! If you are looking for something a little more “calm” and in an office setting, some of the other disciplines in Engineering might be worth a second look. If you are interested in math, science and improving this world in small and big ways…definitely stay in the engineering field.
As for a mentor, I would love to help (I see we both live in O’Fallon!) and I have numerous friends and colleagues in various engineering disciplines which I’m sure we can find you not just one but maybe a few mentors to help you learn more about the various engineering disciplines before you make it through college. I also volunteer with FIRST Robotics and there are some very sharp, interesting and very helpful engineers in the program that are always willing to share their work experience, knowledge and connections with new engineers!
I’m wishing you the very best with your future education and career choice! Stay positive and never stop learning!!