Students interested in learning more about automation engineering, which is related to the design and/or repair and maintenance of automated equipment and machines, including computer numerical controlled (CNC) machines or robots, have several different types of education programs to choose from. Certificate programs are available in automation technology, which prepare students for careers in manufacturing. At the associate's level, programs are often found in automation engineering technology. These programs often include hands-on labs, and students are prepared for technician careers related to the repair of automation machines. Bachelor's degree programs in automation technology typically include some engineering coursework and prepare graduates for more advanced technical or supervisor roles.
All three programs will require that students be high school educated before enrolling, preferably with a strong math and science background. Students can expect to spend one to two semester studying a certificate, two years for an associate's degree, and four years for a bachelor's degree. These programs do not typically qualify graduates for engineering positions; however, students interested in becoming licensed engineers could consider undergraduate degrees in mechanical or electrical engineering, which may include some coursework in automation engineering.
Certificate in Automation Technology
Certificate programs are designed for individuals interested in entry-level employment in manufacturing facilities. Preparation for positions in the food-processing, oil, mining, and chemical industries requires learning machining, electrical circuits, and how to program a logic controller.
As preparation for industrial environments, prospective automation technicians learn how to use a variety of industrial cutting tools as well as how to debug and operate robotic equipment. Additional topics of study include:
- Computer-integrated manufacturing
- Motor controls
- Electrical circuits
- Industrial automation
- Computerized numerical control (CNC) programming
Associate of Applied Science in Automation Engineering Technology
These programs are hands-on, requiring students to use pliers, soldering irons, screwdrivers, and wire strippers to analyze and repair both analog and digitally-based networked systems. In order to prepare graduates for these manually intensive careers, laboratory-work makes up a significant amount of the curriculum. Graduates are prepared for industrial careers specific to process controls.
Students use circuit design and electronics principles to debug machines, program controls, and otherwise streamline the fabrication process. Programs train students in topics like:
- Algebra and trigonometry
- Controls and sensing
- Network maintenance
- Process controls
- Software tools
Bachelor of Science in Automation Technology
Students learn about computers, mechanical engineering, and manufacturing technology, as well as management within the technology field. Some programs are designed to suit the needs of the manufacturing sector or specific industrial applications, such as automated building control.
At this level, students can prepare for supervisory-level positions in automation. In addition to learning about materials and processes, course work may include:
- Computer-aided design
- Tool design
- Robotic controls
- CNC materials
- Programmable controllers
Popular Career Options
The highest employment levels for individuals with automation engineering technology backgrounds were found in engineering services and semiconductor or navigational controls manufacturing, according to the May 2018 U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) report. Entry-level workers are qualified to hold job titles such as:
- Calibration mechanic
- Generation technician
- Controls technician
- Instrumentation programmer
- Automation technician
Employment Outlook and Salary Info
Of the categories the BLS sorts the field of engineering technicians into, electro-mechanical and electronics are the most relevant to this field (www.bls.gov). BLS reports showed that electro-mechanical engineering technicians held 14,000 posts as of May 2018. At the same time, electrical and electronics engineering technicians had 130,500 jobs, according to the same source.
Electronics engineering technicians were expected to see a 0% change between 2018 and 2028 and electro-mechanical technicians were projected to see a 1% increase in employment, according to the BLS job outlook report. The relative lack of change in these types of jobs has been attributed to the industrial sector's desire to streamline processes, thus eliminating excess jobs. Electro-mechanical technicians took home a median annual wage of $57,790, according to the May 2018 BLS report. The same report shows that electronics engineering technicians earned a median annual salary of $64,330.
Continuing Education Information
Career professionals are able to enroll in 4-semester certificate programs in order to learn about new technologies. Alternately, those with a bachelor's degree in automation technology are eligible to apply for a Master of Science in Automation Engineering program. These programs help students enhance their skills in information management, 3-D modeling, system design, and materials engineering.
Prospective automation engineering technicians are able to enroll in certificate, Associate of Applied Science, and Bachelor of Science programs in automation or automation engineering technology. These programs teach students the basics of physically working with electronics, with four semester certificates for career professionals and master's degree options for bachelor's graduates.