Automation Engineer Career Path

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Automation Engineer Career Path

If you’re looking for a career that’s both challenging and rewarding, consider becoming an automation engineer. In this field, you’ll be responsible for designing and maintaining the automated systems that control factory production lines and other industrial processes. It’s a highly technical position that requires a thorough understanding of modern computer control technology. But if you have the right skills and are willing to put in the hard work, and automation engineering career can be very rewarding. This article will show you what you need to know to become an automation engineer and how to get started.

1. What Is an Automation Engineer?

Automation engineers build software programs that control machines or systems. These professionals use a variety of tools to develop, debug and maintain these automated systems. In essence, automation engineers are computer programmers who focus their efforts on automating business operations rather than creating new software applications from scratch.

The role of a programmer is to efficiently create computer programs. These days, building an application from scratch is time-consuming and may require great effort from many team members, as it’s more likely that the application will have bugs. In the case of automated systems, some individuals who perform this task fall under more specific titles such as SCADA engineers, industrial control programmers, and systems integrators. However, many people that specialize in this area are called just that – automation engineers.

An automation engineer may work with a wide range of technologies and different types of equipment. The professional will generally select the best tools for program-specific machines or systems while working directly with other engineering teams throughout the course of the project.

2. What Does an Automation Engineer Actually Do?

In general, automation engineers design and maintain automated systems that control equipment or factory production lines. They use a number of different tools to accomplish these tasks.

For example, a typical day might include:

They are developing software programs for various types of machinery/equipment using languages such as C++ or Pascal, configuring them properly, and testing them to ensure expected results.

They were maintaining these programs in the production environment after they were implemented and resolving software bugs when they arose.

They are working with other engineers in the organization (sometimes across multiple departments) to guarantee that automated systems meet their requirements and achieve desired results.

They are keeping their knowledge and skills current by attending seminars, participating in online forums, and pursuing professional certification.

3. What Educational and Experience Background Does an Automation Engineer Have?

In most cases, a bachelor’s degree in computer science or a related field is required to work as an automation engineer. Some companies will also hire individuals with one or two years of experience in the field who have demonstrated their programming skills by completing a degree from an accredited college or university.

From there, four to five years is usually enough time to gain the necessary experience and learn all the skills necessary to perform the job well.

It’s also important for automation engineers to be familiar with a range of programming languages, tools, and technologies. In today’s environment, it isn’t likely that an individual will need experience in every single tool out there, but having a strong knowledge base is definitely an asset.

Becoming an automation engineer requires knowledge of the following tools and concepts:

  • Familiarity with different programming languages such as C++, Java, JavaScript, HTML5, CSS3.
  • Knowledge of popular software development tools like Eclipse, Visual Studio, or Microsoft’s Expression Blend.
  • Experience working with databases (SQL) is also critical.
  • It’s also helpful to have limited exposure to technologies such as PLC programming and HMI design.

4. What Are the Salary Expectations for Automation Engineers?

According to data released by, in 2012, an experienced automation engineer with several years of experience could expect to earn an average of $90,000 per year. This number can vary widely depending on geographical location, skill level, and experience. Some professionals may even be able to earn $100,000 or more.

Although this can be considered a high-end salary for most entry-level positions, the numbers make sense considering that automation engineers are some of the highest-paid professionals in their field right now. In addition, it’s expected that demand will only continue to rise as companies look for ways to increase productivity and reduce costs.

5. What Skills will I Need?

Some of the skills that are required to become an automation engineer include:

  • Problem-solving- Companies look for individuals who can think critically and solve unexpected technical problems quickly.
  • Strong analytical skills- Since automation engineers spend a lot of time analyzing reports, data, and other information to make informed decisions, they need to be able to recognize patterns, understand how systems work, and break down complex bits of data.
  • Technical understanding- Automation engineers deal with complex technologies, so they must know how to code, monitor networks, and work with various software tools.
  • Communication skills- Since automation engineers sometimes work with IT professionals, programmers, and other staff members, it’s important for them to be able to communicate effectively and explain technical concepts to others.

6. What Is the Job Outlook for Automation Engineers?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, engineering jobs, in general, are expected to grow by 21 percent through 2020. This is especially true for software engineering, which is expected to see an increase in demand of 36 percent.

The growing use of automation systems in various industries has also contributed to increased demand for professionals with experience in process engineering. From 2010 through 2020, the number of jobs for these engineers is expected to grow by 18 percent.

7. Where Does Automation Engineer Work?

In the past, many professionals in this field worked for large corporations on a project basis. Today though, automation engineers can also find work with small and mid-sized companies as well as on an individual consultant basis. In addition, more and more of these professionals are self-employed, meaning they work on a contract basis as well as take on new projects.

In addition to working with IT teams, automation engineers typically have the opportunity to collaborate with other professionals involved in the development process, such as marketing, human resources, and executive staff members. This can be extremely beneficial for professionals who want to expand their skill sets and work with a variety of different individuals.

Some other jobs that require similar skills and experience to an automation engineer include:

Control Systems Engineer- As you might expect, control systems engineers design processes and equipment used in industrial settings. They usually work with things like PLCs, motors, sensors, and various other devices to increase productivity.

Process Engineer- Along with automation engineers, process engineers design the processes used in industrial settings. They take into consideration things like demand for the product, cost of production, and revenue generated by company operations when designing systems or steps that can be taken to improve performance.

Industrial Engineer- Industrial engineers are concerned with improving efficiency and helping organizations move from one stage of production to another. They make sure that processes are running smoothly and do everything possible to ensure employees remain safe while they work.

9. Top Recruiting Companies for An Automation Engineer

Exact- Hiring automation engineers since 2009; Exact is an international software company that provides various solutions to professional and financial services firms around the world.

IBM- As one of the top IT companies in the world, IBM is always looking for experts with experience in various fields, including automation engineering.

Honeywell International- This Fortune 100 company provides a variety of technology and services to a wide range of industries, including aerospace, automotive, and building automation.

Siemens- Siemens has been in the engineering business for over 150 years and is one of the top sellers producing electrical products in the world.

General Electric- As one of the largest employers in the world, GE is always looking for skilled professionals with experience in various fields and technologies.

Cisco Systems- This international corporation prides itself on using cutting-edge technologies and employing some of the brightest professionals in the industry.

Lockheed Martin- This aerospace and defense company specializes in a variety of services and is constantly looking for qualified engineers to work on challenging projects.

Google- Although Google isn’t really an engineering firm, it employs some of the best automation designers around the world. In addition, the tech giant also has its own team of automation professionals who help develop cutting-edge technology for various purposes.

10. Best Colleges to Study Automotive Engineering

Auburn University- Auburn is one of the top engineering schools in the United States. The university specializes in a variety of fields, including electrical, computer, and industrial engineering.

Penn State- Penn state excels in both academics as well as research opportunities for students pursuing various degrees.

University of Arizona- This public research institution offers many different degree programs in engineering, science, and technology.

University of Michigan- As one of the top research universities in the United States, students at the University of Michigan have many different opportunities to excel in their academic pursuits, including research opportunities with faculty members.

Illinois Institute of Technology – Although not as well known as some other schools on this list, students at Illinois Institute of Technology can take their pick from a large number of engineering specializations.

11. Online Courses to Study Automotive Engineering

It’s no secret that the automotive engineering field is a lucrative one. But what if you’re not currently enrolled in an engineering program? Or, worse yet, what if you’re not currently enrolled in any type of post-secondary program at all? There are plenty of online courses available to study automotive engineering, and with the right dedication, you can be just as successful as students who attend brick-and-mortar schools.

Introduction to Automotive Design by Udemy- This course, offered by Udemy, is designed with the average person in mind. The instructor believes that anybody can learn to become an automotive designer, and this course is perfect for those who are curious about the subject but don’t know where to start.

Apply Now

Automotive Design – Level 2 by Udemy- This course is designed to be a follow-up to the one mentioned above. It’s perfect for those who want to learn more about design and implementation when it comes to working in the automotive industry.

Apply Now

Automotive Engineering Courses by Alison- This website contains a number of courses related to automotive design, fabrication, and other important components involved in the creation of a new vehicle.

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The automation engineer career path is an interesting and ever-evolving field. As technology changes, so do the role of the automation engineer. It is important to stay up to date on new technologies and be willing to learn new programming languages and software platforms in order to keep your skill set current. Because this role requires a high level of expertise, it can be lucrative and satisfying to work as an automation engineer. Do you have what it takes? If you’re interested in learning more about how you can become an automation engineer, reach out to us today for more information!

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