The Life of an Automation Technician: Skills, Education, and Career Paths

Last Updated On:

The Life of an Automation Technician: Skills, Education, and Career Paths

So you’re interested in becoming an automation technician, huh? Well, you’ve come to the right place. As an automation technician, you get to work with some of the coolest new technologies out there, like robotics, AI, and automation systems. It’s an exciting career path with lots of opportunities for growth. But before you dive in, it’s important to understand exactly what the job entails, the skills and education you’ll need, and how you can advance in your career.

This article will give you an inside look at the life of an automation technician so you can decide if it’s the right field for you. We’ll explore the daily responsibilities, the technical and soft skills required, degree and certification options, salary potential, and career progression. By the end, you’ll know if you have what it takes to become an automation technician and how to get started. So plug in, boot up, and let’s get automated!

What Is an Automation Technician?

What Is an Automation Technician?

An automation technician, also known as an industrial automation technician, sets up and maintains automated manufacturing equipment. Their role is to program, troubleshoot, and repair systems like robotic arms, conveyor systems, and production lines.

As an automation technician, you’ll typically hold an associate’s degree or certificate in a field like industrial electronics, robotics, or manufacturing technology. While in school, you’ll learn skills such as:

  • Programming languages like C++, Python, and SQL
  • Robotics and how robotic arms function
  • Electrical systems and circuits
  • Hydraulics and pneumatics
  • Networking, PLCs (programmable logic controllers) and HMIs (human-machine interfaces)
  • Troubleshooting and repairing automated equipment

Once on the job, your daily tasks may include:

  • Installing new automated equipment and technology
  • Programming, calibrating and troubleshooting automated systems
  • Performing routine maintenance like lubricating parts, tightening connections and cleaning sensors
  • Monitoring automated systems to ensure maximum uptime and productivity
  • Providing technical support to operators and other staff
  • Staying up-to-date with advances in automation, robotics and manufacturing technology

The career path for an automation technician typically begins as an apprentice or entry-level technician. With several years of experience, you can advance to lead technician or supervisor roles. Some technicians start their own contracting business. Experienced technicians with a bachelor’s degree in engineering technology or a related field may become automation engineers, responsible for designing and integrating automated systems.

The job outlook for automation technicians is positive. As more companies adopt automated systems and robotics in manufacturing and other industries, the demand for skilled technicians to install, maintain and repair this equipment is growing. If you enjoy working with your hands, solving technical problems, and staying on the cutting edge of technology, a career as an automation technician could be very rewarding.

Key Skills and Education Needed to Become an Automation Technician

To become an automation technician, you’ll need certain skills, education, and experience. While the role does not always require a bachelor’s degree, many technicians get started with a two-year associate’s degree or certificate in a field like automation engineering technology, robotics, or electromechanical engineering.

Key Skills

As an automation technician, strong technical and problem-solving skills are essential. You should be comfortable working with automated equipment like robotic arms, conveyor systems, and programmable logic controllers (PLCs). Key skills include:

  • Programming PLCs and robotic systems
  • Troubleshooting electrical and mechanical issues
  • Reading schematics and technical drawings
  • Knowledge of automation technologies like pneumatics, hydraulics, motors, and drives
  • Ability to install new automated equipment and systems
  • Staying up-to-date with advances in automation, robotics, and control systems

Education and Certification

While some automation technicians gain experience through on-the-job training, most complete a training program at a technical school, community college, or university. Coursework typically includes subjects like:

  • PLC programming and robotics
  • Motors, controls, and sensor systems
  • Fluid power systems like pneumatics and hydraulics
  • CAD and technical drawing
  • Safety standards and practices

Industry certifications, like the Certified Automation Professional (CAP) credential from the International Society of Automation (ISA), can also be useful for career advancement. Certification demonstrates your knowledge and competence to employers.

Career Path

With the right skills and experience, automation technicians can advance into roles like senior automation technician, controls engineer, or robotics engineer. Those with a bachelor’s degree in engineering or computer science may become managers or directors of automation and control systems groups.

The job outlook for automation technicians is quite promising. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of industrial engineering technicians, including automation technicians, is projected to grow 10 percent from 2016 to 2026.

Typical Day in the Life of an Automation Technician

Typical Day in the Life of an Automation Technician

A typical day for an automation technician involves a lot of problem-solving and troubleshooting. As an automation technician, you are responsible for installing, maintaining, and repairing automated systems that are used in manufacturing and industrial environments.

Morning Routine

You start your day by checking email and your task schedule to see if there are any urgent issues that need to be addressed. If there are automated systems that went down overnight, you work to get them back up and running as quickly as possible to avoid production delays. You may need to troubleshoot hardware issues, reprogram control systems, or perform system restarts to resolve the problems.

Maintenance and Improvements

A large part of your day is spent performing routine maintenance on automated systems to ensure optimal performance and efficiency. This includes inspecting hardware components like motors, pumps, valves, and sensors and replacing or repairing them as needed. You also reprogram control systems and reconfigure automation equipment to improve processes and fix any inefficiencies.

Installing New Equipment

As companies upgrade their automated systems, you are often responsible for installing new equipment. You work with system specifications to properly configure the equipment, connect it with existing infrastructure, test the new systems to ensure proper functioning, and train staff on how to operate the new machinery.

Documentation and Reporting

To finish out your day, you document the work you performed, including details about any problems you encountered and how you resolved them. You report key system metrics and suggest any improvements that could be made to optimize performance. You also note any future maintenance that will need to be performed.

The job of an automation technician is challenging but rewarding. If you enjoy working with complex systems, solving technical problems, and optimizing automated processes, it can be an exciting career path with many opportunities for growth and advancement in the field of industrial automation.

Career Paths and Advancement Opportunities

As an automation technician, you have several career paths and opportunities for advancement.

Move into Management

After gaining enough experience, many automation technicians pursue leadership roles like manager or director of automation and controls. In these positions, you’ll oversee teams of technicians and engineers, set strategic goals, and ensure projects are completed on time and within budget. Additional education, such as a bachelor’s degree in engineering or a related field, may be required for some management roles.

Become a Project Manager

Project managers coordinate all aspects of automation and control projects. They meet with clients, create timelines, hire and manage teams, procure equipment, and ensure the project is delivered successfully. This career path allows you to oversee entire automation systems from start to finish. Project management certifications, like the PMP certification, can help you land a project management position.

Specialize in a Specific Area

You may choose to specialize in a particular area of automation technology, such as robotics, PLCs, instrumentation, or networking. Becoming an expert in fields like robot programming, PLC configuration, or industrial networking can open up more advanced job opportunities with higher pay. You’ll need to pursue additional training and certifications in your area of specialization.

Consider Consulting

As an automation consultant, you can help companies design, install, integrate, and troubleshoot automation systems on a contract basis. Automation consulting offers more flexibility and independence. However, it may require more travel to client sites and irregular work hours. Strong experience, expertise, and professional networking are essential for building a successful consulting business.

Teach Automation and Controls

If you enjoy training and mentoring others, you might explore opportunities as an instructor in automation and controls technology. You can teach at local community colleges, vocational schools, and technical institutes. Most positions require at least a bachelor’s degree and professional experience. Teaching offers a chance to share your knowledge and passion for automation with students and future technicians.

Job Outlook and Salary Prospects for Automation Technicians

Job Outlook and Salary Prospects for Automation Technicians

The job outlook for automation technicians is quite promising. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of automation technicians is projected to grow 6 percent from 2018 to 2028, about as fast as the average for all occupations. As more companies adopt advanced manufacturing technologies, the demand for qualified technicians to install, maintain, and repair automated equipment will increase.

Salary Prospects

Automation technicians can expect to earn a good salary. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median pay for automation technicians in the U.S. is over $55,000 per year. Actual salaries may be higher or lower depending on factors like:

  • Location and cost of living. Salaries tend to be higher in areas with a higher cost of living.
  • Level of education and experience. Technicians with an associate’s degree or technical certificate and several years of experience usually earn higher pay.
  • Type of industry. Salaries are typically higher in industries like aerospace, biotechnology, and computer technology.
  • Job responsibilities. Senior technicians and those in lead or supervisory roles generally earn higher salaries.

In addition to salary, many automation technicians receive benefits like health insurance, retirement plans, paid time off, and tuition reimbursement or training opportunities to keep their skills up to date with advancements in technology.

The job outlook is bright for those interested in a career as an automation technician. With rising demand and competitive salaries, this field offers many opportunities for stable, long-term employment. By completing the necessary technical training and keeping your skills and knowledge up to date with changes in technology, you can have a successful and rewarding career as an automation technician.

Conclusion

So there you have it, the inside scoop on what it takes to become an automation technician. While the role requires some technical chops, don’t be intimidated—with the right training and experience, you’ve got this. The job outlook is bright, the work is engaging, and you get to build really cool automated systems that make a real impact. If you’ve always been curious about how technology works or wanted a hands-on job improving processes, this could be a great career path for you.

The world of automation is only going to expand, so jump in now and you’ll be at the forefront of an exciting field with lots of opportunities for growth. What are you waiting for? Start researching schools and job openings in your area and take that first step toward an automated future. You won’t regret it!

Tags

You might Also Enjoy.....

3D Printing in Manufacturing

The Rise of 3D Printing in Manufacturing Industries

Read More
Inside Tesla's Gigafactory

Inside Tesla’s Gigafactory: The Future of EV Manufacturing

Read More
Developing AR Apps and Content

Developing AR Apps and Content: The Future Is Now

Read More

Leave a Comment

Recommended Posts

3D Printing in Manufacturing

The Rise of 3D Printing in Manufacturing Industries

Inside Tesla's Gigafactory

Inside Tesla’s Gigafactory: The Future of EV Manufacturing

Developing AR Apps and Content

Developing AR Apps and Content: The Future Is Now

Challenges and Limitations of AR

Challenges and Limitations of AR: What’s Still Holding This Technology Back?

AR Glasses and Headsets

AR Glasses and Headsets: The Future Is Now

AR Education Apps

AR Education Apps: The Future of Learning Is Here

AR Gaming

AR Gaming: Bringing Virtual Worlds Into Reality