Career Definition for an Automation Engineer
The field of automation involves the creation and application of technology to monitor or control the production and delivery of products and services by the International Society of Automation and the Automation Federation. Automation engineers design, program, simulate and test automated machinery and processes in order to complete exact tasks. They typically are employed in industries such as car manufacturing or food processing plants, where robots or machines are used to perform specific functions. Automation engineers are responsible for design specifications and other detailed documentation of their creations.
|Education||Bachelor's degree in related field, such as mechanical or electrical engineering|
|License and Certification||Optional credentials for highly-skilled engineers|
|Job Skills||Creative thinking, detail orientation, manual dexterity|
|Median Salary (2019)||$74,094 for automation engineers|
|Job Growth (2016-2026)||9% for mechanical engineers|
Source: PayScale.com, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
There are few degree programs in the U.S. available in automation engineering. Therefore, most automation engineers earn their bachelor's degrees in mechanical or electrical engineering and then learn the intricacies of automation engineering on the job. Mechanical or electrical engineering courses may include robotics, statistics, fluid dynamics and databases. Some automation engineers pursue master's degrees in related fields.
Certification or licensing can greatly assist an engineer's search for an automation position. An individual holding a control system engineer license can demonstrate his or her understanding of instrumentation and the automatic control of dynamic processes. A person may also become a certified control systems technician, a title recognized by more than 40 companies that use automation systems. Finally, one may become a certified automation professional; these individuals are often found in higher-level positions, since this difficult certification is held by only about 400 automation engineers in the world.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that automation engineers must have the following qualities:
- Solid understanding of computer programming and software development
- Ability to troubleshoot equipment problems and perform complex system tests
- Creative thinking skills
- Detail-oriented personality
- Excellent manual dexterity
- Ability to communicate well to other members of the development team
Employment and Salary Outlook
According to the BLS, manufacturing is increasingly moving toward automated processes to reduce the amount of labor needed. Thus, automation engineers are expected to have good job prospects in the coming years. The BLS noted that job growth for mechanical engineers, a closely related field, was predicted at 9% for 2016-2026. The median annual salary for automation engineers was $74,094, according to PayScale.com in 2019.