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Instrumentation Engineer: Job Description & Career Info

Learn what instrumentation engineers do. See what kind of education and training are required for employment. Find out about the career outlook and earning potential to decide if this job is for you.

Career Definition

Instrumentation engineers may design strain gauges or sensors that capture data about the safety, efficiency, and reliability of industrial machines used in the manufacturing process. They may also design devices like dynamometers for measuring torque, blood glucose monitors, aircraft sensors, and smoke detectors. They may develop electrocardiograph equipment and computed tomography scanners or may work on security systems. These are just some of the myriad career possibilities for instrumentation engineers, according to science and engineering resource Physics Today, www.physicstoday.org. In addition, instrumentation engineers have been essential to the success of every aeronautical research project ever flown, according to NASA, www.nasa.gov. Instrumentation engineers may be employed by manufacturing firms, defense contractors, biomedical companies, government, or work for private engineering firms.

Become an Instrumentation Engineer

Required Education

Instrumentation engineers must hold at least a bachelor's degree in engineering, engineering technology, or a math-related field. Though the exact discipline varies upon the industry in which you plan to work, most instrumentation engineers hold a degree in electrical, mechanical, or computer engineering. Graduate-level degrees are preferred by many employers and may even be required for some advanced positions.

Required Skills

All engineers must have a strong aptitude for math and physics. Instrumentation engineers must also possess strong communication skills, including the ability to translate project needs into the design and development of hardware suitable for the task. Excellent problem solving skills and an ability to think outside the box are essential, as many instrumentation engineers find themselves called upon to solve uniquely challenging problems.

Career and Economic Outlook

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS, www.bls.gov) reports that employment of all engineers is projected to grow more slowly than average from 2012-2022, at a rate of 9%; instrumentation engineers, however, play a vital role in the development of automation techniques in manufacturing and processing plants and may see more growth opportunities than in other engineering fields. While pay is highly dependent upon industry and education, PayScale.com states that the median salary for instrumentation engineers was $73,410 as of March 2014.

Alternate Career Options

Mechanical Engineer

A mechanical engineer develops thermal and mechanical solutions to problems using the principles of engineering. Mechanical engineers use computer-aided design programs to come up with prototypes and test them. Mechanical engineers can work in a variety of fields and on a wide array of machines, from engines and turbines to conveyor belt systems to refrigeration systems. This career requires a bachelor's degree, and an advanced degree may be required for research jobs; mechanical engineers who work with the public are required to hold a professional engineering license, which requires a minimum of education, work experience, and testing. Mechanical engineers can also earn professional certification. The BLS predicts that employment of mechanical engineers will increase 5% from 2012-2022. The BLS also reports that mechanical engineers earned median pay of $80,580 in 2012; the states that employed the greatest number of mechanical engineers were Michigan, California, Texas, Illinois, and Ohio.

Electronics Engineer

Electronics engineers design, develop, test, and modify electrical components used across industries and for a variety of applications in fields like navigation, broadcasting, and satellite technology. A bachelor's degree in electronics engineering is required for employment. Earning a professional engineering license, which requires a combination of education, experience, and testing, can improve job prospects; licensing requirements are uncommon but vary. Electronics engineers can expect job growth of 3% from 2012-2022, per the BLS. The median pay for this job was $91,820 in 2012; the states where the greatest numbers of electronic engineers worked were California, Texas, Florida, Massachusetts, and Maryland.

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