How To Become a Robotics Engineer (With Steps and Salary)
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Robotics engineering is an interdisciplinary profession that combines principles of electrical engineering, mechanical engineering and computer science. With the increased reliance on automation and smart technology across industries, this field continues to grow and attract new practitioners. If you're interested in pursuing a career in robotics engineering, it's important to understand what the job entails and how you can begin your path into this career.
In this article, we explain what a robotics engineer is and what they do, discuss education requirements, describe the steps for how to become a robotic engineer, look at potential career paths and examine the average salary and job outlook for this field.
What is robotics engineering?
Robotics engineering is a branch of engineering focused on the design, development and application of robots, or computer-programmed machines that are capable of carrying out precise actions with minimal to no direction by human operators. Robots comprise three parts, each of which corresponds to a technology or engineering discipline in which an engineer may specialise in:
Hardware: hardware refers to the mechanical parts of the robot, such as the gears and motor, which are the physical components that allow it to move. The discipline that corresponds to hardware is mechanical engineering.
Software: software is the computer programming that governs what the robot does and how it carries out its functions. The corresponding disciplines are software engineering and computer science.
Sensors or connectivity: this is the electrical component of the robot, the part that allows the hardware and software to exchange information. Electrical engineering is the corresponding discipline.
Typically, robots help people perform tasks faster or more easily, or they execute functions that ordinary humans cannot, such as lifting and transporting heavy objects. Thus, robotics engineering has applications in any industry interested in improving safety and efficiency, including automotive manufacturing, research, textiles, metal fabrication, healthcare and education.
How to become a robotic engineer
You can follow these steps to guide you on how to become a robotic engineer:
1. Complete your undergraduate education
A bachelor's degree is the minimum education requirement to become a robotics engineer. A degree in robotics or a directly related discipline is preferable, but adjacent engineering fields are also appropriate. To be better prepared for your undergraduate education, you might consider a polytechnic education during your postsecondary years, although this is not necessary.
2. Gain experience
Professional experience can show potential employers that you have first-hand knowledge of the responsibilities and demands of the job. One way to gain this experience is through internships with robotics, engineering or technology companies, who often offer internships to promising students working towards a career in the field. Internships not only provide you with experience you can include on your CV but also educate you in the practices of the industry. If you performed work-study in an undergraduate robotics programme, this would qualify as experience as well.
After you've completed an internship, you can leverage it to gain full-time employment with the company, or you can seek an entry-level position with another employer. Maintaining this employment for two to three years can help improve your CV and candidacy for future robotics engineering positions.
Related: How To Get an Internship in 15 Steps
3. Improve your robotics engineering skills
Robotics engineering requires aptitude in a variety of competencies, including:
Fundamentals of engineering
One way to improve these skills is through specialised robotics training. For example, the Robotics Automation Centre of Excellence in Singapore offers multiple apprentice- and professional-level training sessions, covering topics such as robotics technologies and automation processes. Consider searching for similar institutes and programmes to help you develop as a robotics engineer.
Related: How To Develop Skill Sets in 9 Steps
4. Pursue a master's degree
Working towards a master's degree can also help you build skills by offering higher-level courses, opportunities for hands-on learning and integration of the robotics disciplines. Additionally, a master's programme can provide a structured environment in which you can work on projects that personally interest you. Through this process, you can practise the skills and apply the knowledge you've learned.
What do robotics engineers do?
The specific duties of a robotics engineer may vary according to their specialisation and employer. Some of these duties may include:
Conceptualisation is the process of determining a robot's purpose and function. Often, engineers ask what problem a robot can solve or how it can improve on existing robotic or non-robotic methods. Conceptualisation also involves trying to foresee the limitations of a project and the potential obstacles the engineers may face in development.
Design refers to the activities involved in determining the physical layout and functional operation of the hardware, software and electrical components of the robot. Robotics engineers often work on designs using computer-aided design, or CAD, the technique of using computer tools to create digital models of a product. This allows them to simulate production of the robot and visualise it before it's manufactured.
Programming is the process of providing the robot with instructions for carrying out its functions. There are various methods by which engineers accomplish this task. For example, they might input computer commands or physically guide the movements of the robot, storing these motions in its control system. Often, the method depends on the requirements of the project.
Testing helps to ensure that the robot works properly and carries out its functions without error. The engineers may also perform stress testing, which involves placing the robot in a number of situations that assess its physical durability. Based on the information gained during testing, the engineers can make improvements to the design, programming or other components of the robot.
Maintenance involves addressing malfunctions or other problems that arise over the life span of the robot. Technicians may handle basic physical repairs, but robotics engineers may be necessary to resolve issues affecting programming, wiring or other complex errors. Maintenance is an ongoing process, continuing as long as a robot is in service and thus allowing clients to receive the most value from it.
Education requirements for robotics engineers
Entry into the field of robotics engineering requires a minimum of a bachelor's degree in a discipline related to the field. Mechancial engineering, electrical engineering, software engineering and computer science are common degree subjects for aspiring robotics engineers. Your courseload during your university education is likely to include classes in computer programming, mathematics, robotics development and artificial intelligence. Some universities, including the Singapore Institute of Technology, offer specialised programmes in robotics, which may include an integrated work-study component that provides the opportunity for hand-on robotics engineering experience. These are similar to internships but typically offer a more focused, in-depth experience.
Because of the growing demand for robotics and the need for specialised engineering professionals, it's often advisable to pursue a more advanced degree as well. Many employers prefer that job seekers hold at least a Master's of Science in robotics, particularly for those applying for senior-level positions. A master's degree in this field can be especially helpful for those who earned an undergraduate degree in an adjacent but not directly related field.
Career paths for robotics engineers
There are several career paths for those with a degree related to robotics engineering or experience as a robotics engineer. These include specialisations such as:
Other potential career paths include:
Salary for robotics engineers
Robotics engineers earn an average salary of $62,239 per year. Specific earnings are likely to vary according to various factors. They include education level, experience, employer and industry.
Job outlook for robotics engineers
Because of several factors, there's a significant demand for robotic engineering here. Singapore is the most automated country in the world, with 918 robot workers per 10,000 human employees, according to a 2021 International Federation of Robotics report. Many of these robot workers function in the electronics industry, helping to manufacture products such as semiconductors, but also function in a variety of other fields, including traditional medicine and tourism. As automation of this sort spreads and grows, there's likely to be a corresponding growth in the need for robotics engineers.
Expecting further growth, the government has invested in robotics with its National Robotics Programme. This programme hopes to facilitate growth of the robotics industry through activities such as funding R&D and increasing the impact that robotics has on society and the economy.
Please note that none of the companies mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed. Salary figures reflect data listed on Indeed Salaries at time of writing.
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