Robotics Engineer Careers: Salary Info & Job Description

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What are the pros and cons of a robotics engineering career? Get real job descriptions, career prospects and salary info to see if becoming a robotics engineer is right for you.
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What Are the Pros and Cons of Becoming a Robotics Engineer?

Robotics engineering is a unique career path that can prepare you to design, calibrate and maintain robotic systems. Look at these pros and cons to decide if robotics engineering is for you.

Pros of Becoming a Robotics Engineer
Good pay (median annual salary of $94,240)**
Opportunity to work in many industries (from mining to nuclear power)***
Good job prospects for those who keep current on technology*
Opportunities to be creative**

Cons of Becoming a Robotics Engineer
Slow job growth (three to seven percent between 2012 and 2022)**
Pressure to meet deadlines and design standards**
Graduate education might be needed to advance in the field***
Sometimes requires long hours**

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), **O*Net OnLine, ***The Princeton Review.

Essential Career Info

Job Description and Duties

Robotics engineers develop autonomous or remotely controlled robots to carry out tasks more efficiently or more safely than a human. Robotics engineers could have a background in a number of different engineering fields, but many employers prefer job applicants with backgrounds in robotics, electrical or mechanical engineering.

Some of your daily job duties might include debugging computer programs used to run robotics systems, supervising engineering technicians, processing sensor data, calibrating robots or approving robot designs. You may also be responsible for investigating mechanical failures, performing maintenance, designing robotic systems or creating backup programs for robotic systems. Your specific duties might vary depending upon the industry in which you specialize. For example, if you specialize in the agricultural industry, you might design and test robotic crop harvesters, while if you specialize in the nuclear power industry, you might work on automated equipment to test safety in power plants.

Salary Info

Robotics engineers earned a median annual salary of $94,240 in 2014, according to O*Net Online. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) also lists the salaries of similar engineering occupations that can contain the category of robotics engineering. According to the BLS, mechanical engineers earned a median annual salary of about $83,060 as of May 2014, with the top-paid professionals in this field bringing home upwards of $126,430 annually (www.bls.gov). Electronics engineers earned a median annual salary of about $95,790 per year; top-paid engineers in this specialty made $147,570 a year or more.

Job Outlook

For the decade between 2012 and 2022, O*Net OnLine reports that robotics engineers will likely see an employment growth rate between 3%-5%, which is slower than average. The BLS estimated that from 2014-2024 an employment growth rate of 5% would occur for mechanical engineers, while there would be a -1% decline for electronics engineers (except computer). Because many companies contract temporary engineering services, job prospects are expected to be best at firms that outsource these services.

Requirements

Education

The minimum educational requirement for most robotics engineering jobs is a bachelor's degree. While employers typically seek candidates with degrees in mechanical, electronics or software engineering, some schools offer bachelor's degree programs specifically in robotics engineering that can train you in all of these fields while teaching you to apply your skills to real-world robotic applications. These degree programs usually take about four years to complete and offer classes like robotics systems, robotics theory and advanced programming.

Skills

Robotics engineers must be able to visualize how something will work after it is completed. They must also have a sensitivity to mechanical problems and be able to detect and then solve those issues. Most engineers must be precise in measurement, planning and mechanical construction, and they must be able to communicate technical instructions to others. Other valuable skills could include the ability to work autonomously, work in an unstructured environment and adhere to safety standards.

Job Postings

In addition to a bachelor's degree in engineering, many employers require some professional experience. Robotics engineers are needed in a variety industries, but especially in industrial organizations. Some positions focus on research, while others focus on building and maintaining robots. Check out the following job postings from April 2012 to see what real employers are looking for.

  • A robotics engineer is needed at a Maryland-based aerospace engineering firm to provide software support for robotic arms. Candidates need experience with Linux, C++ and aerospace systems. They should also have a bachelor's degree and five years of experience in robotics.
  • A machine manufacturing company in Wisconsin is looking to hire a robotics systems engineer to develop autonomous electro-mechanical robotics systems. This position requires a graduate degree and programming experience. A willingness to travel is also preferred.
  • A robotics project engineer is needed to create discrete event simulation models for automated robotic systems in a Massachusetts company. Candidates should have a bachelor's degree, although a master's degree is preferred. Candidates should also have experience with Object Oriented design and algorithm development.

How to Stand Out

Joining a professional engineering organization can help you network with other engineering professionals and learn new skills. You could join organizations like the American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE) or the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME).

You could also pursue advanced education. According to The Princeton Review, a graduate degree is often needed if you hope to advance in your career. At the graduate level, you could pursue a master's degree program or doctoral degree program in robotics engineering. While a master's degree program might focus on practical engineering training, doctoral programs often focus on research. Doctoral programs can also prepare you for positions in academia, design or specialized research.

Alternative Careers

Mechanical Engineering Technician

If you are interested in working with mechanical systems, but don't want to pursue a bachelor's degree, you might consider becoming an engineering technician. Mechanical engineering technicians assist mechanical engineers, helping them design machines, solve engineering problems, analyze data and maintain advanced mechanics. They typically need only an associate's degree to get started in the field. Mechanical engineering technicians earned a median annual salary of $50,000 in 2010 and can expect a four percent employment growth during the 2010-2020 decade, according to the BLS.

Natural Science Resource Manager

If you're more interested in science than in mechanical or robotics engineering, you might consider becoming a natural science resource manager. These professionals are needed to oversee the work of scientists in fields like physics, chemistry and biology. Primarily responsible for directing research projects, some natural resource managers specialize in production, quality control or testing. On advantage of this job is that it only requires a bachelor's degree, but still offers high pay. Natural resource managers earned a median annual salary of $116,000 in 2010 and can expect an eight percent 2010-2020 job growth, per the BLS.

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