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How to Become a Certified Control Systems Technician

Learn how to become a certified control systems technician. Research the career requirements, training information, and experience required for starting a career in control systems.

Should I Become a Certified Control Systems Technician?

Control systems technicians typically oversee industrial operations, playing an important role in product quality, environmental protection, and industrial safety. They oversee the operations of mechanical, pneumatic, and electronic instruments. Control systems technicians may create and maintain automated building control systems that regulate temperature, lighting, and humidity, as well as automated industrial control systems in factories and plants that regulate machine processes. Tasks often include calibrating machines, troubleshooting equipment, and repairing or replacing instruments.

Career Requirements

Degree Level No degree required, although many employers prefer candidates with some post-secondary education
Degree Field Electronics; control systems technology
Certification Voluntary CCST credential issued by the International Society of Automation (ISA)
Experience At least 5 years of combined experience and education is required for certification
Key Skills Strong written and verbal communication skills, ability to identify colors, problem-solving skills, troubleshooting skills; expertise in electronic equipment, programmable logic controllers, supervisory control and data acquisition systems
Salary (2015) $54,750 per year (Median salary for HVAC control systems technicians); $75,632 per year (Median salary for control systems engineers)

Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, School websites, International Society of Automation, Job postings (January 2013), Payscale.com (July 2015)

Step 1: Complete a Post-secondary Program

While some employers only require candidates to have a high school diploma or its GED equivalent, completing a post-secondary program may give aspiring control systems technicians an edge in the job market. In fact, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that many employers prefer hiring candidates with some advanced education.

Technical schools, community colleges and 4-year colleges offer certificate, associate's degree or bachelor's degree programs in a number of applicable fields. Options may include control systems technology, engineering technology or electronics. Courses typically include microprocessors, robotics, automated control devices and troubleshooting control systems.

Step 2: Gain Experience

Professional experience is required in order to become a certified control systems technician; candidates need at least 5 combined years of work experience and training. According to the BLS, engineering and electronics technicians often begin their careers performing routine tasks under the supervision of engineers or experienced technicians. General duties include testing equipment after repairs have been made, maintaining records, preparing cost estimates and diagnosing equipment malfunctions.

Step 3: Get Certified

The ISA offers 3 certification levels, and each level requires completion of an exam. Individuals need at least 5 years of experience and training in order to qualify for the Level I exam. The Level II credential is designed for technicians with at least 7 years of training and experience; Level III candidates need at least 13 years of experience and training in the field. Relevant training options include post-secondary programs and apprenticeships in measurement and control, electronics or similar fields; up to 4 years can be waived by completing a post-secondary program.

Success Tips:

  • Arrive early for the exam. Candidates who are more than 15 minutes late for the test won't be admitted. A rescheduling fee will apply, and candidates have 12 months to reschedule the test before becoming ineligible.
  • Prepare for the exam. Applicants can take advantage of the test-prep resources offered on the ISA website. Online study guides and preparation courses can help candidates become familiar with the types of questions on the certification test. Those who complete an ISA review course may be eligible to take the certification exam for free.

Step 4: Maintain Certification

Certification must be renewed every three years. To be eligible for renewal, CCSTs must complete 3 years of work experience during the renewal period, a combination of continuing education and work experience or the appropriate CCST exam.

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