Automation Engineering Degrees: Associate, Bachelor's & Online Class Info

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What kind of job can you get with an associate or bachelor's degree in automation engineering? Find out degree program requirements, online options and info on courses and automation engineering training programs.
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Studying Automation Engineering: Degrees at a Glance

Automation engineers perform tasks in a number of domains. Specialists in the industry troubleshoot, calibrate and maintain industrial instrumentation used in the manufacturing industry. Pursuing a degree in automation engineering might open a number of career opportunities in maintenance, repair and robotics. Employers look for job candidates with experience in electrical circuitry, electronic devices and technical problem solving. Associate degree programs deliver a basic education in robotics and electrical or electronics engineering. Bachelor's degree programs offer a focused education that explores the theoretical and practical concepts of industrial engineering.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) revealed slow growth for multiple occupations in the industry. The BLS indicated that electro-mechanical technicians could expect just a one percent growth in jobs from 2010-2020. Over that same time period, electrical and electronics engineers are expected to see a six percent growth in employment. The decline of the manufacturing sector is a reason for the low anticipated growth.

Associate Bachelor's
Who is this degree for? People seeking entry-level technician positions in the manufacturing industry Individuals who want to pursue an engineering career
Common Career Paths (with approximate median annual salary) - Electro-mechanical technician ($51,000)*
- Electrical and electronics engineering technician ($57,000)*
- Industrial engineering technicians ($49,000)*
- Industrial engineer ($77,000)*
- Electronics engineer ($92,000)*
- Engineering manager** ($122,000)*
Time to Completion 2 years full-time 4 years full-time
Common Graduation Requirements - Approximately 60 credits - Roughly 120 credits
-Senior design project
Prerequisites High school diploma or equivalent - High school diploma or equivalent
- SAT or ACT scores
Online Availability No ABET-accredited programs Yes

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (May 2011 figures), **Position typically requires experience in addition to a degree

Associate Degree Programs

Associate degree programs deliver a well-rounded education in the service, repair and maintenance of computer numerical controls, robotics and other automated equipment. Programs generally emphasize the development of skills in the analysis of electrical and mechanical components, diagnostic tools, the interpretation of technical information and critical thinking. You can expect to take multiple courses that develop a foundation in mathematics, engineering and the sciences. While an associate degree program won't prepare you for an engineering position, technical support opportunities might be available.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Curricula focus on the practical side of the industry, rather than the conceptual
  • May give you an edge over individuals with just a high school diploma or post-secondary non-degree award
  • Some programs are transferable toward a bachelor's degree

Cons

  • Programs do not prepare students for a career in engineering
  • May not be sufficient for management positions
  • Pursuing certification to validate your skills will extended your training and require additional financial resources

Courses and Requirements

You will learn the fundamentals of manufacturing, sales and inspection through a series of courses designed to deliver hands-on and theoretical experience. Many programs require satisfactory scores on elementary algebra and reading comprehension examinations before admission. You can expect to spend substantial time learning the principles of electronics and electricity. The following are some common courses offered:

  • Basic hydraulics
  • Machine wiring
  • Basic diodes
  • Electrical circuits
  • Technical mathematics
  • Programmable logic
  • Instrumentation and control

Online Degree Options

ABET, Inc. offers the universal standard for engineering program accreditation. Organizations that offer relevant certification in the industry generally require a degree from an ABET-accredited school. ABET does not currently accredit any online programs in automation engineering that are offered completely online. Some programs that aren't accredited by ABET are offered online but you should carefully review these programs.

Stand Out with This Degree

Employers might prefer hiring candidates with demonstrable skills or experience in a relevant industry. You may choose to pursue certification through the National Robotics Training Center. This center offers a Certified Robotics Production Technician program that validates technical skills in power systems, computer operating systems and sensors. While in school, you may choose to participate in internships, cooperative education programs or other field experiences to develop hands-on experience in a work environment. Additionally, you may seek courses that cover specific automation systems, such as building or industrial facility systems.

Bachelor's Degree Programs

Bachelor's degree programs offer the education required to branch out into several industries, including finance, defense, aerospace and building management. You will learn to design important systems using computing, engineering and mathematical concepts. These programs provide training in the design, modeling and operation of complex industrial systems. You will also learn to apply business concepts in a system design setting.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Prepare you for an engineering career
  • Industrial engineering programs teach a range of skills that might improve job prospects outside of the manufacturing industry
  • May provide concentration areas
  • Some relevant online hybrid programs are available

Cons

  • May need to attend ABET-accredited program
  • Require extensive coursework in advanced math and science
  • Employers may still prefer candidates with experience, especially for management positions

Courses and Requirements

Bachelor's degree programs offer advanced courses in the technologies and mechanical processes that comprise industrial and automation engineering. You will learn about control system theory, mechanical systems, software programs and the management of mechanical equipment. In addition, the use of computer-aided design software is prominent. Some of the courses you may take include:

  • Financial engineering
  • Information systems engineering
  • Probability and statistics for engineering
  • Work analysis and design
  • Quality control

Online Degree Options

While ABET-accredited programs aren't available online, some related programs in areas like industrial technology are offered. You learn through online assignments and watching streaming lectures. These programs may require the completion of an associate degree prior to applying.

Stand Out with This Degree

You may consider becoming professionally licensed. The National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying (NCEES) indicates that being professionally licensed has several advantages, including bidding for government contracts and becoming a principal at a firm. The requirements for licensure include graduating from an ABET-accredited program, passing two exams administered by the NCEES and earning four years of work experience. You may also want to maintain your skills in computer programs that may be used in an industrial or automation engineering position, such as AutoCAD and Excel.

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