IEM students' career paths

The career paths of graduates in the IEM sector were analysed over a 30-year period using the web. Industrial Engineering and Management is an interdisciplinary, highly sought-after field of engineering, which provides the skills needed for employment in a wide range of business development and management roles. It combines knowledge about technology, economics, organisations and people. An analysis carried out in 2020 looked at the career paths and routes taken by graduates.

Industrial Engineering and Management looks at the economic and productive activities of technology-driven organisations as a whole. Research in the production economy is characterised by broad and multidisciplinary collaboration on current challenges facing society. Current research topics include the circular economy and its requirements in business networks, global change in production.

The IEM unit of the University of Tampere wanted to find out more about the jobs that graduates of the degree programmes in IEM are working in and how they have ended up in these jobs. This information can be used, for example, to inform those interested in studying IEM about the nature of the future work and to develop their studies. On behalf of the Department of IEM, the working group of the study included the Head of the Department, Professor Jussi Heikkilä, Professor Teemu Laine and University Lecturer Tommi Mahlamäki, as well as a group of eight students who collected the data for analysis. The staff and students worked together to plan how the career paths survey could be implemented. They used social profiles on LinkedIn to help. LinkedIn was used to find 72% of graduates from 1989 to 2020, almost 1300 people in total. The data collected was analysed by Emma Lindfors and Anton Pikkupeura, summer students at the Department of IEM.

The data included the titles of each graduate for each year one year before graduation and each year after graduation as far as they were recorded in their LinkedIn profiles. In addition, each title's responsibility was rated as either trainee, operations, middle management, senior management, board, or entrepreneurial role. The results suggest that IEM studies in Tampere provide good preparation for a wide range of careers in manufacturing, technology companies, consulting, entrepreneurship, research and teaching.

Diverse career paths

The analysis found that IEM graduates from Tampere have typically held expert positions and middle and senior management positions in companies during their careers. The most common positions include financial management positions, product and operations development positions, and customer interface, production and project management positions.  

The general picture is that after graduation you start in an operational role and after about five years more than half have moved into middle management. The share of senior management rises steadily from the start. Full-time board positions are held by some of those who have already had a long career. In addition, around 10% of graduates in manufacturing have started their own business at different stages of their career. Well-known examples include Framery, HappyOrNot, Leanware, and Vincit.

Almost all graduates seemed to be in jobs for which they had been prepared by their IEM studies. Only a few had completely changed their field. As a curiosity, one had found a career as a diving instructor. Everyone makes choices in life as they see fit, and career choices should not be judged, the important thing is that everyone can find a job and an environment that suits them. One interesting observation was the change in the pace of working life over the period: new university graduates change jobs more frequently in the early stages of their careers. Graduates in the 2010s changed roles about twice as often as graduates in the 1990s at the beginning of their careers.

Four typical working environments

The analysis looked in more detail at four different career paths in industry, technology, consulting and research. A significant proportion of graduates were placed in one of these career paths. The largest group was those recruited in machinery (33%), followed by technology (13%), then consulting (10%) and research (9%). Telecoms had been the career field for 9%, but this group was much larger in the 1990s during Nokia's period of strong growth.

Some of the IEM students already had experience of the academic world when they started their studies. Almost a fifth had already completed a lower university degree. Similarly, some graduates have supplemented their education during their career with, for example, an MBA or EMBA, and some have also pursued postgraduate studies in science.

A degree in Industrial Engineering and Management creates the conditions for a wide range of jobs in different working environments and opportunities to advance in your career to interesting, responsible and influential positions - responding to the challenges of a constantly changing environment.

Text by Jussi Heikkilä, Teemu Laine, Tommi Mahlamäki