What Is an Automation Engineer? Skills and Certifications

What does an automation engineer do?

Duties of an automation engineer

The specific duties of an automation engineer vary depending on whether they are working with machines or programming, but the general responsibilities remain the same. Automation engineers work with engineering teams to develop the systems of automation. They have meetings to determine how theyll automate a system and control the process after automation. After these meetings, they lead the implementation of changes or new technology and oversee the quality assurance process. Here are some more specific duties to give you a broader understanding of an automation engineers role:

What is an automation engineer?

An automation engineer is a professional who improves the efficiency of various manufacturing and computer systems by automating certain parts of the systems to do work on their own. They plan and change existing technology so that it needs less human interaction, and they monitor the performance of the changes they make. Sometimes, an automation engineer may design entirely new technology to automate a system. Automation engineers can be traditional engineers, who work with physical machines, or software engineers, who work with programming languages.

Automation engineer tools

The tools of an automation engineer typically fall into one of two categories: software engineering or traditional engineering. Here are some of the primary tools and systems used by software engineers, traditional engineers or both to create automation technology:

Automation engineer skills and qualities

Automation engineers possess many skills that help them create reliable automation systems for their clients. The basic skills required to be an automation engineer include:

Leadership

When starting a new project to automate a system, automation engineers may have to manage an engineering team. Leadership skills are necessary to ensure that the new or changed systems work efficiently for the client. The automation engineer on such a team probably knows the most about automation and can lead their team through client requirements, design plans and implementation. Being able to manage a team well leads to more efficient outcomes for clients, so this is a valuable skill.

Innovation

A good automation engineer looks for new opportunities to upgrade their automated processes and increase productivity. They can accomplish this by staying active in their engineering networks, paying attention to rapidly changing technologies and seeking extra information to improve plans.

Programming

Programming is an essential skill for automation engineers to create their systems. This can mean computer programming, like with coding software solutions, or programming physical machines, like robotic assembly lines. Either way, programming systems to take inputs and create outputs based on certain requirements is a necessary function of automation, since a human will not be there to control the systems manually.

Mechanical knowledge

Mechanical knowledge is typically more important for traditional automation engineers who work with physical machinery than for software engineers. Understanding a clients mechanical systems helps the automation engineer automate the system in the most efficient way. Engineers may also need to help build and maintain the machines, as well as troubleshoot any errors that appear.

Written communication

Writing is an important part of an automation engineers job, and a skill that helps their team, client and any engineers who later encounter their systems understand what the system is doing. When engineers design and implement technology, they write reports and documentation that tell their clients what the technology is and how it is being used. Detailed, clear reports and documentation ensure that the clients are fully aware of their systems and that any engineers who may come after the automation engineer can fix, maintain or change the system successfully.

Verbal communication

Aside from writing, automation engineers should also be skilled at communicating in other ways with their clients and teams. Clear communication between the engineer and client ensures the engineer understands all the requirements for a project. In addition, engineers should be able to communicate directions and instructions to their teammates and deliver information from the clients.

Flexibility

While automation engineers use science as a basis for their automated processes, being flexible with that basis is often more important than following all the established procedures. Engineers can be creative with how they implement their systems and what those systems accomplish. Also, if an original plan doesnt work out, engineers should be able to adapt it to meet the clients needs.

Certifications and education for automation engineers

Most automation engineer roles require a bachelors degree and, sometimes, certain certifications when considering a candidate. Here are some education expectations and possible certifications for the job:

Bachelors degree

Employers typically look for candidates with a strong background in science when hiring automation engineers. The basic requirements for the role include a bachelors degree in an area related to the following:

Engineer in training

To become an engineer in training, you need to pass the Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) exam. This exam, given by the National Council of Examiners for Engineering (NCEES), is the first step toward receiving state licensure for professional engineering. College seniors and recent graduates can take this test, which measures what the student learned from college and prepares the candidate for the next level of NCEES testing.

Professional Engineer

To become a fully licensed engineer (Professional Engineer) you need to pass the Principles and Practice of Engineering (PE) exam. Also given by the NCEES, this exam is used to determine a candidates minimum level of competency after at least four years of work experience in their field. This experience can be from apprenticeship or working as an entry-level engineer. Once a candidate has passed the exam, they can apply for a state professional engineer license.

Certified Automation Professional (CAP)

The International Society of Automation (ISA) provides this CAP certification after you pass an exam that tests automation engineering skills. It tests for your knowledge of automation necessities like design, systems integration and documentation, among others. This is a higher-level certification meant for experienced engineers.

Certified Control System Technician (CCST)

Another ISA certification, the CCST has three levels of testing that determine your level of experience with automation engineering. This certification provides employers with proof of your expertise and can help leverage promotions and raises. CCST Level I is the first level of the exam, and CCST Level III is the highest level attainable.

Please note that none of the organizations mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.

FAQ

What do automation engineers do?

Automation Engineer duties and responsibilities
  • Exploring and implementing new ways to automate systems.
  • Designing and testing automation equipment and processes.
  • Programming new automated components.
  • Identifying quality issues and writing reports.
  • Eliminating defects and errors with product and software development.

Is automation a software engineer?

What Should I Major in to Become an Automation Engineer ? Most Automation Engineers, 28% to be exact, major in Electrical Engineering. Some other common majors for an Automation Engineer include Computer Science and Mechanical Engineering majors.

What is the meaning of automation engineering?

Climb the automation engineer career ladder: 6 roles,…
  • Level 1: Junior automation engineer. …
  • Level 2: Midlevel automation engineer. …
  • Level 3: Senior automation engineer. …
  • Level 4: Automation architect. …
  • Level 5: Automation team lead. …
  • Level 6: Consulting automation engineer. …
  • Reach for the right rung.

Is automation a good career?

Duties of an automation engineer
  • Communicate with clients about requirements.
  • Research and design automation technology.
  • Create and establish a connection between information inputs, controllers and outputs.
  • Establish monitoring and quality assurance processes.
  • Handle defects or errors in technology.

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