ROBOTICS ENGINEER. One career that is rapidly gaining attention is robotics. A field of engineering that deals with design and application of robots, the use of computer for their manipulation and processing, robotics engineering is becoming a career choice for many students. Aside from the fact that it sounds cool, several industries are currently using the principles and technology of robots in manufacturing processes, finance and even business models. Robotics is also used in the field of nuclear science, sea-exploration, servicing of transmission electric signals, designing of bio-medical equipment, automotive, aerospace, metals, nuclear, mining, textile, and computer industries, among others.
Such an engineer must determine the particular needs of each application and customize their designs accordingly. Robotics requires the application of computer integrated manufacturing, mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, biological mechanics, software engineering and the like, which is why a great deal of skill and interest is necessary to become good at it.
Also called mechanical engineers or robot engineers, these engineers use the principles of mechanical, manufacturing and electrical engineering to design and test robots and its automated systems. They also develop new programs and applications, and design, test, and build robots that are productive and safe to operate, and practical to purchase and maintain. They also prepare specifications for the robot's capabilities as they relate to the work environment.
These specialists are also responsible for developing cost proposals, efficiency studies, and quality control reports. As such, they must possess a strong knowledge in math, engineering, computers and science. Roboticists work with their hands, and use computer-aided design and drafting and computer-aided manufacturing systems. To become a such an engineer, one generally needs at least a Bachelor of Science in Engineering, because robotics technology draws on the expertise of many different engineering disciplines. Engineers who specialize in robotics often have degrees in mechanical, manufacturing, electrical, electronic, or industrial engineering.
Some colleges and universities now offer robotics engineering degrees. Robotics courses typically include training in hydraulics and pneumatics, CADD/CAM systems, numerically controlled systems, microprocessors, integrated systems, and logic. Some other courses that these majors take include electrical theory, electronics, robotics theory, robotics laboratory, design and development, engineering and machine automation. Students in a this engineering program can specialize in mechanical, electrical, manufacturing or industrial engineering.
Students earn a Bachelor of Science in Engineering with their chosen specialty, which usually takes four to five years of study. Some colleges also offer work-study programs in which students receive on-the-job training while still in school. Most universities that offer robotics courses have well-equipped labs with lasers and CADD/CAM equipment. These students can also advance their careers by going to graduate school and earning a Master of Science in Engineering with a robotics specialty. Some universities and colleges that offer robotics engineering courses are the following:
In terms of future opportunities, the employment outlook for robotics engineers is very good. Increasing use of robots is expected in many different manufacturing industries, with the military and research institutes as major sources. The Bureau of Labor Statistics has already forecast a need for more than eight hundred thousand people in this high-growth field to design, maintain, and operate robots. Graduates can find many job opportunities with manufacturing companies, military agencies and private organizations. Most of these engineers are employed by private robot manufacturers or robot users. Some engineers work in military and space programs. Others work for colleges, universities or vocational and trade schools.
This author has noted that although there is no easy path to a college degree, he has been told that degrees outside of the United States, especially in many European countries, are easier to come by and with a lot less work. Many European colleges and universities also offer a year of on the job training as part of a four or five year degree.
With continuing education, robotics engineers can move on to become robotics managers or directors of automation. Some robot engineers advance by moving into robot sales or by starting their own robotics consulting firms. They can, with a graduate degree can earn a higher salary and gain advancement within the company as senior operating engineers leading a research and design team. A typical salary ranges between $50,000 to $60,000 per year. Not bad for a seriously cool job.