Robotics Degrees: Associate, Bachelor's & Online Class Info

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What will you learn in a robotics degree program? Read about degree requirements, the pros and cons of associate's and bachelor's degrees and potential careers.
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Studying Robotics: Degrees at a Glance

Robotics combines aspects of mechanical engineering, electronics and computer science. Earning a robotics degree can lead to careers in manufacturing, design, technology, automation or agriculture. Be aware, though, an associate's degree can only prepare you for technician-level jobs in engineering, a field that is not expected to see much growth. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicted job growth of only one percent for electro-mechanical technicians (including robotics techs) from 2010-2020.

With a bachelor's degree in robotics, you can work as a robotics, mechanical or computer engineer. These jobs pay well - $98,600 median salary for computer hardware engineers, according to the BLS in May 2011 - but you might experience competition as you begin your job search. The BLS reported that mechanical engineers and computer hardware engineers could expect slow growth of nine percent from 2010-2020, and O*Net Online projected slower-than-average growth for robotics engineers over the same decade.

Associate's Degree Bachelor's Degree
Who is this Degree For? - Aspiring robotics technicians
- Those interested in automation or engineering technology
- People who want to work as robotics engineers
- Individuals looking for related engineering jobs
Common Career Paths (with approximate mean salary) - Robotics technician ($53,000)*
- Mechanical engineering technician ($53,000)*
- Industrial engineering technician ($52,000)*
- Robotics engineer ($92,000)*
- Electrical engineer ($89,000)*
- Mechanical engineer (83,000)*
Time to Completion2-3 years of full-time study 4 years of full-time study
Common Graduation Requirements - Capstone course or final project
- Practical work experience
- Senior project or capstone design course
- Co-op work experience
Prerequisites High school diploma High school diploma
Online Availability Few schools offer hybrid programs Yes, in a blended format, but not common

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (May 2011 stats).

Associate's in Robotics

Associate's degree programs in robotics allow you to undertake an interdisciplinary program of study with elements of mechanical electronics and computer technology. These programs are heavy on math and science, and you'll be expected to learn how to troubleshoot equipment and understand basic engineering design processes. Be prepared for extensive lab time, where you'll work with faculty and other students and get hands-on experience designing and building robotic applications. You'll also have access to state-of-the-art equipment. Even though these programs are focused on practical experience, you'll still spend time in the classroom learning about automation and control theory, artificial intelligence and circuit theory.

Many associate's degree programs require participation in projects. To meet project requirements, you could build an actual robot, program a robot or design specific robot parts. You might also be able to get on-the-job training through cooperative work experiences with automation, manufacturing or industrial companies.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Hands-on degree program with modern labs and access to robots used in manufacturing and other industries
  • Practical experience prepares students for immediate employment in technician positions
  • Coursework is transferable to a 4-year degree program
  • Many programs offer a curriculum designed by robotics engineers or courses taught by technology professionals

Cons

  • Advanced education is required for higher-paying jobs
  • Programs are not offered extensively
  • Generally, this degree doesn't lead to research careers
  • Career options may be limited to troubleshooting, data gathering and maintenance work

Courses and Requirements

Course requirements for the associate's degree combine theory and practical application of math, electronics and technology. General education courses are required, and students can expect to complete courses in technical math, communication and physics. Your coursework could focus on automated processes used in manufacturing, or you might learn about robotics used in aerospace and defense. Examples of courses you could take in an associate's program are:

  • Robot construction
  • Motor control
  • Microprocessors
  • Alternating currents
  • Robot controls

Online Degree Options

The technical nature of this field usually requires hands-on training in labs and time spent on projects, so most programs are only available on campus. However, some schools do offer hybrid programs, in which you can take a few of your courses online. These types of programs aren't common in this field.

Get Ahead with This Degree

Employers in the field of robotics technology look for applicants experienced in computer-aided design. While some programs require at least one course in computer-aided design, you can also consider enhancing your skills in this area through elective classes. Many employers seek candidates with knowledge of programmable logic controllers. Since these courses aren't always required in robotics degree programs, students might want to pursue additional courses in this area to aid them in the hiring process.

To stand out in the field, you might also want to get certified after earning an associate's degree. The Manufacturing Skill Standards Council (MSSC) offers a Certified Production Technician credential, while the National Robotics Training Center (NRTC) issues a Certified Robotics Production Technician (CRPT) credential. The CRPT credential can be earned after you become an MSSC-certified production technician and pass NRTC assessment exams.

Degree Alternatives

While employment for technicians in robotics and related fields wasn't expected to grow substantially over the next decade, you might still consider similar degrees that can provide you with a wider set of skills useful in many career areas. For instance, an associate's degree in electronics technology can prepare you to work as a technician for navigation and measuring industries, architectural services and electronics manufacturing companies.

If you like using computer-aided design technology, you could also pursue a drafting degree and become a mechanical drafter. According to the BLS, mechanical drafters could expect average growth of 11% from 2010-2020.

Bachelor's in Robotics

Bachelor's degree programs in robotics generally focus on robotics engineering. Be aware that robotics programs at the bachelor's level are not that common. In fact, many schools have only recently introduced these types of programs. Depending on the school you choose, you might have to major in a broader field of study, such as mechanical engineering or automation and control technology.

However, if you're able to enroll in a robotics program, you'll get plenty of opportunities for hands-on experiences designing robots, creating applications and learning to control your robot. You'll be able to learn about the mechanical aspects of robot design and create algorithms that direct a robot's activities.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • This degree can be applied to careers in many industries, including medical, automotive, mining and defense
  • Classroom requirements include designing and building robots
  • Participation in robotics competitions might be part of your degree program

Cons

  • Many engineering jobs require professionals to be licensed
  • Slow job growth in this field
  • Focused study in robotics or a research career might require a graduate degree

Courses and Requirements

Coursework covers electrical engineering and computer science fundamentals. Students learn about mechanical and systems engineering in addition to specific courses in robotics. You'll acquire practical skills through required capstone projects and you can expect to spend a great deal of your time engaged in lab work. Many colleges offer labs dedicated exclusively to robotics or provide lab opportunities in specific robotics areas, such as medical robotics.

Some schools also have co-op experience requirements, which enable you to get on-the-job training at robotics or manufacturing companies. Co-op programs are often paid, and you may be able to alternate semesters of full-time work with semesters devoted to coursework. Common courses in a robotics bachelor's degree program include:

  • Simulation
  • Control systems
  • Robotic applications
  • Robot mechanics

Online Options

Very few online options are available in this field. You might find blended programs that allow you to take some courses online. You can also find entirely online programs, but these are more focused on information technology aspects of robotics, such as software design.

Stand Out with This Degree

Because robotics careers involve a large amount of collaboration, you'll want to acquire teamwork and communication skills while in college. One method is to partake in robotics competitions and team events. You can also join clubs or participate in research opportunities with faculty and other students.

Employers of robotics engineers often seek applicants who have experience working with engineering software like SolidWorks. While in school, you could pursue optional training in relevant engineering software programs to help you prepare for employment. The ability to program robots from ABB, a widely recognized supplier of industrial robotics, may also give you a competitive edge. Some schools offer ABB-certified technical training.

If you want to pursue a career designing robots in a specific industry, such as nuclear, medical or aerospace, you might want to consider acquiring knowledge in these areas while in school. You can take elective courses or consider a minor in a related field.

Degree Alternatives

Would designing software for robots and other devices be more interesting to you? Software developers work in both manufacturing and computer systems design companies, a breadth that provides more career options. In fact, this field is expected to see 30% growth from 2010-2020, according to the BLS. In addition to strong computer-programming skills, you'll need a bachelor's degree in computer science or software engineering to work in this field.

If you want to design robots for the medical field, you could also pursue a biomedical engineering degree. The BLS predicted biomedical engineers to see a 62% increase in job opportunities from 2010-2020, which is much faster than the average for all jobs.

Popular Schools

  • Online Programs Available
    1. ECPI University

    Program Options

    Bachelor's
      • Bachelor's - Mechatronics
      • Bachelor's - Electronics Engineering Technology
  • Online Programs Available
    2. Excelsior College

    Program Options

    Bachelor's
      • BS in Electrical Engineering Technology (Electronics)
      • BS in Electrical Engineering Technology (Nanotechnology)
      • BS in Electrical Engineering Technology (Power Systems)
      • BS in Technology (Electromechanical Technologies)
      • BS in Technology (Electronic / Instrumentation Technologies)
      • Bachelor of Professional Studies in Technology Management (Electrical Technology)
  • Randolph Center, VT

    Vermont Technical College

  • Toledo, OH

    University of Toledo

  • Alfred, NY

    SUNY College of Technology at Alfred

  • Okmulgee, OK

    Oklahoma State University Institute of Technology

  • Murray, KY

    Murray State University

  • Terre Haute, IN

    Indiana State University

  • Brookville, NY

    LIU Post

Featured Schools

ECPI University

  • Bachelor's - Mechatronics
  • Bachelor's - Electronics Engineering Technology

What is your highest level of education?

Excelsior College

  • BS in Electrical Engineering Technology (Electronics)
  • BS in Electrical Engineering Technology (Nanotechnology)
  • BS in Electrical Engineering Technology (Power Systems)

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Vermont Technical College

University of Toledo

SUNY College of Technology at Alfred

Oklahoma State University Institute of Technology

Murray State University