Want to build robots for a living? Robotic science is a wide-ranging field with applications to space exploration, healthcare, security, and many scientific fields. Software and programming skills are an asset, and professional certification in programming or licensure may be required.
Robotic scientists build mechanical devices to perform various tasks. Some design machines to go where humans can't go safely, like into outer space or deep underwater. Others design robotic hands for microscopic precision. Most robotic scientists have at least a bachelor's degree related to computer science or engineering, and some have graduate degrees in these fields.
|Required Education||Bachelor's degree in relevant field; graduate degree often needed|
|Other Requirements||May require certifications in computer languages and software programs and state-specific licenses|
|Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)*||5% (for all mechanical engineers), 13% (for all systems software developers)|
|_Median Salary (2015)*||$83,590 annually (for all mechanical engineers), $105,570 (for systems software developers)|
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Job Description for Robotic Scientists
Robots and robotic mechanisms can used for multiple purposes, ranging from bomb disposal to gathering samples on distant planets. Related to engineering, the U.S. Department of Labor Statistics (BLS) stated in 2011 that robotic scientists design operating systems, test operating functions, and make estimates on how much it would cost to mass produce their device.
Scientists must know the needs of a particular field before designing a device. For instance, in the healthcare industry, surgical robots need to display real-time camera relays for supervising surgeons, so scientists would need to design machines that can accomplish this goal. Since not all medical personnel receive technological training, robotic scientists might consider creating more user-friendly models to meet the needs of healthcare professionals.
Other duties vary based on industry needs, but some common responsibilities include writing and manipulating computer programs, conferring with other specialists and developing prototype models. Many scientists have to document every step of their process to show proof of a project's status to superiors. Sometimes robotic scientists only design part of a robot and may have to submit their completed portion to other departments.
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Requirements to Become a Robotic Scientist
According to the BLS, robotic scientists fall under the category of engineers; therefore, most positions require at least a bachelor's degree and graduate degrees may prove useful if not necessary in many cases. Relevant majors include robotics, computer science, and engineering fields. Coursework should cover robotic fundamentals, electronics, industrial applications, and computer-systems design.
Being a team player is a necessary requirement for this career, states the BLS (www.bls.gov). Individuals should also excel at solving problems in creative but practical ways. Some employers might require job candidates to obtain certification in computer languages and software programs. Although robotic scientists needn't be licensed, robotic engineers who work as public consultants may need additional licenses dependent on state law. Those who design robots for government projects may require military or federal clearance.
Salary Info and Job Outlook
Although the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics does not provide information specific to robotic scientists, it does publish data pertinent to both mechanical engineers and software developers. The BLS predicts that the employment of mechanical engineers will likely grow by about 5% between 2014 and 2024, while job opportunities afforded to software developers will grow by about 13% during the same time frame. Mechanical engineers were reported to have earned median annual salaries of $83,590 in May 2015 by the BLS. The same source indicated that systems software developers earned a median of $105,570 a year.
At least a bachelor's and often a graduate degree in engineering, robotics, or computer science is required before seeking a job as a robotic scientist. You might end up working on robots that dispose of bombs, are sent into space, or that can do precision surgery, among many other options.