Help needed - deciding between Industrial engineering and Business Information Systems

I feel like this should not be that difficult, but my high school senior son is torn between applying to Engineering programs (interest in industrial engineering) and Business school (interest in business information systems). My husband and I are biologists, so we aren’t well-positioned to figure this out.
My son has leaned toward STEM for many years, but this past summer wanted to explore something different and did a week-long business program at Drexel U. He is an introvert, so he doesn’t see himself schmoozing on the golf course making deals. But he is now intrigued by using his quantitative skills in a business setting, hence the interest in BIS.
For many college apps, he needs to decide if he’s applying to Engineering or Business. We can see the differences in the curricula, especially the math in engineering, but we would love to better understand how job opportunities will vary for these two paths. Or how to determine which is the better overall fit? Thanks in advance for help!

If he is good at math, I would recommend IE. Typically, the curriculum in engineering is more rigorous which will stand him in good stead in the future. It’s easier to move from engineering to information systems than vice versa.

Some IE programs (Purdue, Iowa State) offer concurrent BS/MBA 5-year programs, which may satisfy both of his desires with only one more year of study.

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My son just graduated IOE at Michigan. He wanted to go into the business sector. Michigan has multiple opportunities to explore your interest. He did IOE with Entrepreneurship minor (which is amazing at Michigan), and one in sustainability.

I look at IOE as business engineering. If BIS is in Ross that is the second hurdle after getting accepted.

Compare the two side by side and talk with your AO on the subject. Talk to both department heads /professors. Getting a job from Michigan will not be an issue in either. IOE can go into just about any sector.

Hint : IOE are having to learn more computer programming languages which will only help in the future.

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Another vote for IE. My H is an IE/MBA.

It’s much easier to transfer out of engineering than in if he changes his mind later.


Caveat: This is an engineering forum, so we do have a bias. :slight_smile:

Choice of school can make a difference between the two programs. There is a lot of variation between BIS programs, and also between Industrial Engineering programs (but less so due to ABET accreditation). It’s worth it to take a look at the curriculum for both majors at the school.

Since engineering is more rigorous, it’s recommend to try out engineering first, and if it isn’t the right fit, to transfer into another major. Most of the engineering classes you take as a Freshman (math, physics, chemistry) can be used in your other major to met the math/science requirements. Consider how easy it is to change majors (from engineering to business) at that school. At most schools it’s very easy, at others it’s much harder (usually it’s harder to transfer into Engineering, but some business schools can also be very selective).

With Industrial Engineering (often called Industrial and “Systems” engineering), a school could offer a standard program (focus on the “industrial”), while others offer much more in the way of options and electives. Check out Georgia Tech’s program and it’s multiple Concentrations as an example. The better IE programs have the most flexibility.

Bachelor of Science in Industrial Engineering | ISyE | Georgia Institute of Technology | Atlanta, GA

Here is another example of IE flexibility at one of the larger ISE programs. Students with a B.S. in industrial and systems engineering from the University of Florida go on to develop careers in many different industries. Below is a breakdown of where UF ISE students go after graduation.

  • Consulting (~20%)
    • Accenture, Manhattan Associates, Invisors Consulting, Deloitte, Convergence Consulting, Next Turn Consulting, Capgemini, Booz Allen Hamilton
  • Technology (~15%)
    • Amazon, Citrix, IBM, Facebook, Intel, Microsoft, Oracle, Voalte
  • Consumer Goods (~15%)
    • Proctor & Gamble, PepsiCo, Kraft, Anheuser-Busch
  • Energy (~5%)
    • NextEra Energy (Florida Power & Light), GE Power
  • Defense (~5%)
    • Harris, Raytheon, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, Collins Aerospace
  • Entertainment (~5%)
    • Walt Disney, Norwegian Cruise lines

(note that this doesn’t add up to 100%, 35% end up in “other”, as IE’s can go into almost any industry/field. Logistics is another popular field).

Back to using UF as an example (it’s what I know), use these links to compare UF’s “Information System” major (IST), in the College of Business to UF’s Industrial and System Engineering major (ISE). The overview and the “model system plan” gives you a great idea of what the curriculum is for both programs and how they differ. Note the easier math/science requirement in IST and how both majors share a lot of classes in the first two years (like Statistics, Macro/Micro-economics, etc.).


Most IOE programs have like 6 major sectors to go into but it’s actually more broad then that…Healthcare is actually a large one and not listed above.

My S20 sounds like your son. He started in Scheller at Georgia Tech and transferred to their ISyE program after the first semester. He really likes his classes. He likes the mix of math, CS, and business.

If your son enjoys math but not chem or physics (like my son) he could possibly test out with AP/IB credits or just take them over the summer at a local CC which is what S20 did. His advisor actually suggested that route.

My vote would be for IE. Look at the ISyE page on the GT website. BTW, #1 ranked IE program 27 years in a row.

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Thank you everyone for the helpful replies- much appreciated, even if there is some bias on the Engineering forum. My son is taking Calculus 2 as a senior, so he thinks he can probably handle the math in Engineering. @knowstuff we are in MI, so UM is definitely on my son’s list. We are hoping he will be accepted (his brother is at UM now). He was wondering how competitive it would be to get a Business minor from Ross. Did your son explore that at all? Do you know if access to the Entrepreneurship minor is restricted?

I can see how programming skills will be valued by employers in many settings. Our high school does not offer any CS classes (small town), but my son is taking Intro Computer Programming as dual enrollment in the Spring. He has said in the past he isn’t interested in being a serious coder, but his experience is limited to one middle school summer experience so far.

Schools that offer flexibility for students to change their minds will be a priority to some extent. Unfortunately, at UM it’s very unlikely to switch from ENG to Ross BUS. We have also explored the UM School of Information Curriculum | umsi where student job outcomes include jobs as data analysts, business analysts. At UM, it’s an upper division program where you need to apply as a sophomore - we haven’t been able to get clear answers on how competitive it is. But that could be a back-up plan if ENG is not the right fit.

It seems like there is probably more than one path that could work for him, and maybe that is a good thing, even if it feels hard to help him decide which box to check on these college apps.

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So Calc 2 as a senior is awesome. My son had Calc 3 and said Michigan’s math is unreal. They are known for hard math BTW.

Only like 100 business minors and yes it’s hard but… You can take business classes without it. In engineering you have only so much leeway but Michigan makes it work out. Entrepreneurship minor just sign up and write another essay why. You get interviewed. Lots of my sons classes were taught by CEOs of companies. He really loved it and did it all as a senior. My suggestion is to break it up and start as a junior. He took 18 credits or about like every semester except his senior year.

School of information is awesome. His mentor for his Mixed Reality organization he started at Michigan is from there. Not sure about the competition but I would call. They are all super nice people. He worked and I got to talk with their graduate students… They love, love this problem… FYI…

Don’t rule out Michigan State. They have a really good engineering program…