Control Systems Technician Careers: Salary Info & Job Description

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Learn about a control systems technician's job duties, salary and education requirements. Get straight talk about the pros and cons of a control systems technician career.
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Pros and Con of Becoming a Control Systems Technician

A control systems technician is responsible for the maintenance, repair, operations and functionality of electronic, mechanical, robotic and pneumatic equipment in a particular facility. Here are a few pros and cons to consider:

Pros of Becoming a Control Systems Technician
May begin their career with the completion of a 2-year degree or technical certificate program*
Higher median hourly wage than the average of all occupations in 2014*
There are multiple ways to start one's career in the field, including various degree programs and apprentice positions**
More job opportunities are available in the utilities, manufacturing and research and development industries*

Cons of Becoming a Control Systems Technician
Little-to-no growth in this occupation expected between the years of 2012 and 2022*
Keen competition may occur for the limited positions*
Must be highly skilled in several fields, including mechanical, electrical and technologic machinery*
Although rare, some control systems technicians come into contact with hazardous or harmful materials and equipment*

Source: *The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **O*Net Online

Essential Career Information

Job Duties and Responsibilities

As a control systems technician, your responsibilities may include designing pneumatic piping plans and wiring diagrams for heating, ventilation, air-conditioning, refrigeration and lighting controls used in buildings. You may also be responsible for installing electrical conduit, panel boards and wiring for new machinery and other electrical equipment and troubleshooting and repairing electrical, pneumatic and computerized electronic controls for these systems. You often would have to keep detailed records on machine functionality and testing in order to report problems or advise for the replacement of equipment. You may use hydraulic, electronic, pneumatic or computer equipment on a daily basis.

Salary Info and Career Outlook

In 2014, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), control system technicians, sometimes referred to as electro-mechanical technicians, made a median hourly wage of around $25 per hour (www.bls.gov). The BLS also projected this field to grow approximately 4% between 2012 and 2022, which is slower-than the national average of all occupations (11% growth). Many workers are in the declining manufacturing industry.

Requirements

Educational Requirements

Most control systems technicians are required to possess an associate's degree in electro-mechanical engineering, industrial maintenance or computer-integrated manufacturing. Bachelor's degree holders typically work as mechanical engineering or control systems technologists rather than control systems technicians. Some employers may only require you to have a high school degree, but in these positions you'd need to have a strong technical knowledge in the programming, installation, configuration, troubleshooting and maintenance of highly advanced equipment. Employers may also accept years of experience in the field in lieu of formal education. Employers commonly look for the following skill set in prospective control systems technicians:

  • Is detail-oriented
  • Effective with time management
  • Able to operate and train others how to use new equipment
  • Excellent written and oral communication skills
  • Proficient with computers

What do Employers Look for in Candidates?

While knowledge of electrical and mechanical systems are key, more and more employers are seeking individuals with some formal education in the form of an associate's degree or a technical program. In addition to the need for control systems technicians who are computer-literate, most employers look for candidates who have the ability to troubleshoot, maintain and utilize a variety of machinery. The following job postings found in April 2012 illustrate the abilities of technicians that employers are looking for:

  • A university in Iowa is looking for a technician who is experienced with advanced laundry facility equipment.
  • A non-profit organization in Washington needs a candidate who can prioritize and evaluate the efficiency of equipment.
  • In addition to HVAC experience (heating, ventilation and air conditioning), a contractor service located in California is looking for a controls system technician who is able to use software such as AutoCAD or VISIO for drafting.

How to Stand Out in the Field

Because control systems technician positions may be limited between the years of 2010 and 2020, it may help your career prospects to earn an associate's or bachelor's degree in the field of mechatronics, per BLS reports. This multidisciplinary field includes mechanical, electronic, computer and control systems. Competition may be steeper for candidates who do not have a formal education. Additionally, the ISA (International Society of Automation) offers various tiers of control systems technician certifications that you may consider. In addition to passing the CCST (certified control systems technician) exam, level 1 certification requirements include 5-years of experience and/or education in the field (www.isa.org). Obtaining certification shows competency and relevant skills to your potential employers.

Develop Related Skills

Employers commonly look for candidates who are able to service a variety of machinery. Additionally, they are looking for applicants who can provide quality feedback and recommendations on replacement of machinery.

Alternative Career Choices

If you choose to pursue a career in the field of engineering but do not wish to be a control systems technician, you might consider becoming a mechanical engineer. Mechanical engineers typically need a bachelor's degree in order to begin their careers. They design and create all types of mechanical devices and equipment. As of 2011, mechanical engineers made a median hourly wage of approximately $38, according to the BLS.

Another similar career to a control systems technician is a drafter. These workers use computer software to create designs made by architects, engineers and other professionals into pre-production plans. Typically, an associate's degree is required to become a drafter. As of 2011, drafters made a median hourly wage of about $22, per BLS reports.

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