Associate's degree programs in instrumentation technology cannot be offered totally online due to hands-on lab work requirements. There are, however, certificate programs in instrumentation and control technology that are available fully online.
Several schools offer hybrid programs in instrumentation technology that allow students to take some courses online and others on campus. On-campus courses typically include significant lab work. These degree programs teach students to install and maintain various types of control systems and equipment. Several specializations are available, including in medical equipment technology or as a power plant technician.
In addition to general education requirements, courses in alternative energy or construction may be required in an instrumentation technology program. The courses taken depend on the specialty being pursued. Most associate's degree programs require two years of full-time study, but some students may be required to complete a union apprenticeship program as part of their degree work, and these programs may take as long as five years.
Associate's Degree in Instrumentation Technology
A degree program in instrumentation technology trains students to install, maintain and calibrate control systems and equipment in various settings including industrial and healthcare. Associate of Applied Science and Associate of Occupational Studies degrees are available online. Specializations include electrical instrumentation and controls or advanced industrial integrated technology with a focus on medical equipment and instrumentation.
Program Information and Requirements
Applicants should have a high school diploma or GED. Hybrid associate's degree programs can be completed in two years. Coursework is completely online; however, laboratory experiences are typically on campus.
The online coursework is delivered through a Web-based platform providing e-mail, message forums, course materials and assignments. Exams can be taken online; however, a proctor may be required. A reliable high-speed Internet connection is recommended. Students may have to download media programs and plug-ins to view some instructional material.
List of Common Online Instrumentation Technology Courses
General education courses include English, math, social science, communication and computer applications. Related engineering courses outside of the instrumentation field may include green energy systems and light frame construction. Many required courses concern electrical construction.
Control System Design
In this course, students draw the plans for electrical systems, including the schematics and diagrams for electrical wiring. They also plan sequences of operation to be controlled. Students work with both electric and solid state components of control systems.
Students become familiar with the National Electric Code (NEC), a U.S. standard for the installation of wiring and electrical equipment. During this class, students explore codes and discuss their interpretation to evaluate comprehension. This course improves compliance with the NEC in practice.
Programmable Logic Controllers
A programmable logic controller (PLC) is a kind of digital computer, which automatically controls machines and electromechanical processes. This course focuses on the industrial uses of PLCs. Advanced topics covered include control operations, data manipulation and sequencing.
An online associate's degree program in instrumentation focused in the medical field prepares students to be biomedical equipment technicians. Medical schools, hospitals, clinics, home care agencies and medical equipment companies may employ graduates. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), medical equipment repairers had a mean annual wage of $49,400 in May 2015 (www.bls.gov). Also in May 2015, electrical and electronic engineering technicians had a mean annual wage of $61,870 while electro-mechanical technicians had a mean annual wage of $56,320, according to the BLS. Industrial engineering technicians in the field of measuring, electromedical and control instruments manufacturing had a mean annual wage of $58,520 in May 2015, stated the BLS.
Continuing Education Information
Graduates may seek a 4-year bachelor's degree program in a related field of engineering, electrical systems technology, robotics and quality control. While some courses may be available online, few programs are available entirely through distance learning due to laboratory requirements.
Associate's degree programs in instrumentation technology are not typically available fully online; significant in-person practical coursework is involved. Courses cover electrical code, programming and system design.