Manufacturing through 3D metal printing.

Manufacturing Engineering vs. Industrial Engineering

From solar panels and semiconductors to heavy equipment and automobiles, US manufacturing is making a comeback.

As a result, manufacturing and industrial engineers are in demand. Engineering offers many career options including aerospace, environmental, civil, and electrical—and both manufacturing and industrial engineers play vital roles.

So, manufacturing engineering vs. industrial engineering—which is right for you? Let’s take a closer look.

Compare the Fields

Manufacturing engineer jobs and industrial engineer jobs share similarities. They both require technical knowledge, management skills, and manufacturing expertise. But manufacturing engineer jobs and industrial engineer jobs involve different tasks and fulfill different needs.

What Is Manufacturing Engineering?

The role of a manufacturing engineer involves the design, operation, and maintenance of integrated systems and specialized equipment.

As a manufacturing engineer, you’ll work primarily in plants developing solutions to production issues. The role of a manufacturing engineer also includes cost-benefit analyses and operation of computer-aided software to design and produce products.

Manufacturing engineer jobs are collaborative. If you enjoy working with other professionals and like solving puzzles, a manufacturing engineer job may be a good fit.

What Is Industrial Engineering?

Industrial engineer jobs are focused on improving processes within an organization.

As an industrial engineer, you’ll analyze products and methods across a range of industries to determine the technology and equipment needed to increase productivity. You’ll also evaluate staffing levels, job responsibilities, and how organizations can best support their workforce.

Manufacturing Engineering vs. Industrial Engineering Jobs

Supply chain vulnerabilities revealed during the pandemic led to increased investment in manufacturing.

As the US economy rebounds, BLS projects 12% growth for manufacturing engineering jobs and industrial engineering jobs through 2032. Much faster than average growth means increased demand for manufacturing and industrial engineers.

Manufacturing Engineers Jobs Outlook

According to the Institute for Supply Management® , there are 18 manufacturing industries in the United States. They include textiles, metal products, chemical products, plastics, computer and electronic products, and transportation equipment.

To ensure productivity and profitability, manufacturing engineering jobs are essential to these industries. For example, the National Council of Textile Organizations reports the US is the second largest exporter of textile-related products in the world, totaling $29.7 billion in 2021.

This means you have a wide range of manufacturing engineering jobs to choose from, including:

  • Automation Supervisor
  • CAD/CAM Specialist
  • Design Engineer
  • Material Planner
  • Simulation Engineer
  • Industrial engineer
  • Operations research analyst
  • Engineering technician
  • Information systems manager

Depending on the industry and your level of education, compensation for manufacturing engineering jobs varies. Payscale lists a mean annual salary of $76,726 for a manufacturing engineer.

Figures from, accessed May 2024.

Industrial Engineers Jobs Outlook

Industrial engineering jobs combine technical skills with soft skills, such as adaptability and conflict management. Opportunities include industrial designer, supply chain analyst, mechanical designer, industrial electrician, and quality engineer.

An industrial engineer can expect a mean annual salary of $103,150, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. But, similar to the role of a manufacturing engineer, your work environment and level of education influence your salary.

Figures from U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), dated May 2023.

Manufacturing Engineering vs. Industrial Engineering Education

In addition to math and physics, degree programs for manufacturing engineering include mechanical design, thermodynamics, hydraulic, and electrical systems.

Programs for industrial engineer jobs include many of the same subjects as manufacturing engineering, such as math and physics. For such programs, classes tend to focus more on product and operations planning, business management, and organizational processes.

Exciting Opportunities in Manufacturing Engineering

If your interests are more in the science, technology, and innovation of engineering, then manufacturing engineering is the career for you.

For example, consider additive manufacturing—the process of using digital technologies (such as CAD software or 3D object scanners) to direct hardware to deposit material, layer upon layer, in specific geometric shapes. In contrast to traditional processes that would involve removing material through machining, carving, or other means, additive manufacturing actually adds material to create something new. Growing demand for prototyping applications in industries such as healthcare, automotive, aerospace, and defense—along with increasing investment in 3D printing—are expected to expand the global additive manufacturing market at a 21.6% compound annual growth rate (CAGR) from 2023 to 2030 according to a January 2024 report from LinkedIn.

As conventional engineering methods continue to merge with new technologies (also referred to as Industry 4.0), manufacturing plants are becoming more automated than ever before. Technologies such as cloud computing, service-oriented architecture (SOA), and artificial intelligence (AI) are helping to enhance communication and control, while allowing for more effective levels of troubleshooting and analysis.

Your Engineering Career Starts with a Degree from Michigan Tech

If you are seeking the role of a manufacturing engineer, aspiring to leadership positions, or pursuing an entrepreneurial path, an engineering degree from Michigan Tech is an excellent place to start. We are ranked among the Best Engineering Schools in the nation by U.S. News and World Report and one of the Top 25 STEM Colleges by Forbes. MTU is also ranked the #3 best accredited online college in Michigan.

Our Master of Science in Manufacturing Engineering prepares you to work on the leading edge of smart manufacturing, modeling, simulation, sustainability, additive manufacturing, and advanced materials. We also offer a flexible, online Graduate Certificate in Manufacturing Engineering to help prepare working professionals in the management of larger manufacturing engineering systems.

For undergraduate students, a Minor in Manufacturing Engineering and several Enterprise initiatives related to manufacturing are available.

Find more information about graduate programs in the College of Engineering and online degrees and certificates at Michigan Tech Global Campus.