Careers in Robotics: Job Descriptions & Salary Info

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Learn about careers in robotics. Get job descriptions, salary and education requirement information. Get straight talk about the pros and cons of a robotics career.
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Pros and Cons of a Career in Robotics

Robotics can span the physical aspects of robots, computer systems or the combination of both; common careers that relate to robotics are computer research scientist, mechanical engineer and mechanical engineering technician. The following pros and cons can help you decide if a career in robotics is right for you.

Computer Research Scientist Mechanical Engineer Mechanical Engineering Technician
Career Overview Computer research scientists design and create new technologies and technological applications. Mechanical engineers test, develop and design machines and equipment for many different industries. Mechanical engineering technicians typically act as assistants to mechanical engineers.
Education Requirements Usually a professional or doctoral degree At least a bachelor's degree At least an associate's degree
Program Length 2 years, full-time for master's degree; 3-5 more years for a doctoral degree 4 years, full-time 2 years, full-time
Certification and Licensing N/A Licensure is often required N/A
Experience Requirement Varies depending on the level of the position Varies depending on the level of the position Varies depending on the level of the position
Job Outlook for 2012-2022 Faster than average growth (15%) compared to all occupations - figure includes information research scientists* Slower-than-average growth (5%) compared to all occupations * Slower-than-average growth (5%) compared to all occupations *
Mean Salary (2014) About $113,190 - figure includes information research scientists* About $87,140* About $55,470*

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Computer Research Scientist

A computer research scientist is a type of computer scientist that works in industries like medicine, science, education, business and of course, computing. In simple terms, these research scientists create computer algorithms and work to improve them. Job duties may include the improvement of old technologies or the design and invention of new ones. Hardware, software and robotics are the three primary areas of work that you'll probably encounter. By studying how robots interact with the world, you'll often work to create new software to improve robotic capabilities.

Requirements

Although a bachelor's is accepted for certain positions, earning a master's or doctoral degree in computer science, information technology (IT) or robotics is often necessary in this field. The amount of previous work experience in software development that you'll need varies. Employers may look for scientists with skills in advanced mathematics, critical thought, analysis, organization, attention to detail, creativity, originality and communication.

In January 2013, employers listed the following information research science positions online:

  • A major software development company in California was seeking a computer scientist with five years of experience and a bachelor's degree in the field.
  • In Utah, a military division was hiring a computer scientist with at least a bachelor's degree and knowledge of military software standards and processes.
  • A technology development and research company located in New Jersey sought a computer scientist with a master's degree or Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) and an expertise in application development for smart phones.

Standing Out

If you're in a computer science or related Ph.D. or master's degree program, focus on and conduct your research on robotics exclusively. Try to have the findings from your dissertation and other writings published in a peer-reviewed academic or technological journal. This is not only a solid way to bolster your resume, but it will help you earn the respect of your peers and potential employers.

Mechanical Engineer

As a robotic mechanical engineer, you'll usually be in charge of designing, developing, building and maintaining robotic parts, components and equipment. You'll typically be required to find solutions to problems, develop prototypes, design machines, test components, analyze test results and manage the manufacture of various parts and complete devices. There are many different kinds of robotics you could potential end up working with, such as those used for roller coasters.

Requirements

The amount of years of experience with automation and robotics that you'll need in order to become a mechanical engineer in the field depends largely on the level of the position and requirements of the employer. A bachelor's degree in the discipline is usually the minimum requirement. A typical program will include courses on subjects such as life science, physical science and math. Choosing a program accredited by ABET is often advised.

In order to pursue licensure, which is required in all 50 states to work with the public, you first need to pass the Fundamentals of Engineering exam in order to become an engineer-in-training. You will then go on to become a professional engineer after gaining professional experience and passing the Professional Engineering exam. The National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying (NCEES) offers these exams.

The following mechanical engineering jobs were advertised online in January 2013:

  • In St. Louis, MO, a robotics company was hiring a robotics engineer with at least three years of experience and a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering or a related discipline.
  • A medical robotics company in Memphis, TN, was seeking a mechanical and/or electrical engineer with strong communication skills and a degree in the field.
  • In Detroit, MI, a manufacturing company was looking for a robotics engineer who would report to the engineering manager of robot programming. Requirements included an understanding of IO protocol and a minimum of two years of experience in robotics and automation.

Standing Out

Earning professional certification from the American Society of Mechanical Engineers can be a solid way to stand out and give your resume the boost it needs. There are also certain skill sets that potential employers tend to look for in the industry. For example, experience with robotic automation companies like Motoman, Kuka, Fanuc and ABB can be helpful. In addition to this, knowledge of 3D and 2D CAD software like SolidWorks and AutoCAD can help you get ahead. You may also benefit from having a mastery of Microsoft software such as Word, Outlook and Excel.

Mechanical Engineering Technician

Assisting mechanical engineers is typically the primary purpose of a mechanical engineering technician. Working as a mechanical engineering technician may be a solid stepping-stone towards becoming a robotic mechanical engineer when it comes to gaining experience. Often, you'll be responsible for preparing blueprints, drawings and layouts, switching out various mechanical parts, testing completed units and going over the results of electronic tests.

Requirements

In order to become a mechanical engineering technician in the field of robotics, you'll usually need to earn at least an associate's degree in a program officially accredited by Technology Accreditation Commission of ABET. With a bachelor's degree, you can move up to the position of mechanical engineering technologist. Entry-level positions can give you the opportunity to work under the direct supervision of a mechanical engineer and gain experience on increasingly difficult tasks.

In January of 2013, these mechanical engineering technician positions were listed on job boards online:

  • In Maryland, a division of the military was looking for a mechanical engineering technician with specialized experience in the field and the ability to travel.
  • In North Carolina, a manufacturing company's commercial distribution department was seeking a mechanical engineering technician with a year of experience and an associates' degree.
  • Certification or a trade school education and five years of experience were required for a mechanical technician position in Georgia.

Standing Out

There are a number of ways that you can stand out as a mechanical engineering technician. For example, the BLS noted in 2010 that technicians who are familiar with the latest developments in related technology should have the best job prospects. One way to accomplish this is to join a professional organization, like the American Society of Certified Engineering Technicians (ASCET) or IEEE Robotics and Automation (RAS), and attend seminars on current topics. Another way to stand out is by speaking Spanish. Some employers look for applicants who are bilingual in English and Spanish, so this could help you stand out.

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