Robotics Career Options, Job Duties and Employment Outlook
Robotics is a dynamic field involving the design, functional use and maintenance of robots. These machines are used in several capacities, including manufacturing, transportation, surgery, weaponry, safety, research and the mass production of consumer goods. Multiple career levels are available in robotics.
Career Options in Robotics
Two common professions in this discipline are robotics technicians and robotics engineers. The differences between the two begin primarily with education level. Robotics technicians typically hold 2-year associate degrees in robot technology or a similar field, while engineers need at least a bachelor's degree; aspiring engineers often move on to graduate studies and professional engineering certification. Technicians generally participate in apprenticeship programs that provide on-the-job training along with classroom instruction.
Both engineers and technicians have several specialties to choose from within the field of robotics. Some of these include machine automation, medical robotics, cybernetics, quantum mechanical systems, air traffic management and a variety of other areas that utilize robots to make work processes easier for humans. Types of businesses that hire professionals for robotics positions comprise electronics, automotive, agricultural and manufacturing companies, among many others. Most robotics professionals work primarily in a collaborative team setting, with technicians assisting and supporting engineers.
Because robots are used in so many ways, a professional's duties in this field can vary greatly depending upon the function and application of robotics in his or her work. For example, some robotics engineers design artificial limbs, while others develop automated manufacturing systems for food-packing plants. However, all robotics engineers are responsible for designing, creating, testing and troubleshooting problems with their robots. This involves extensive research in various mechanical and robotic technologies and the use of assorted design software as well as electrical and mechanical equipment.
Some other duties of both engineers and technicians include the following:
- Installing safety systems
- Programming and reprogramming robots
- Reading and interpreting schematics
- Robot maintenance and repair
- Using hydraulic test equipment
- Failure analysis testing
- Robot installation and removal
Robotics engineers and technicians can often be found working in the electrical and electronics engineering fields. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment opportunities in these engineering disciplines vary by location and specialty (www.bls.gov). Roughly one-third of all engineering technicians worked in electronic and electrical engineering in 2008 and another third were in manufacturing.
The BLS reports that employers generally seek those with at least an associate degree who are skilled in new technologies and who require little or no additional training. Experience in the field can also lead to positions as robotics sales representatives, team managers and independent consultants.
Payscale.com found that most robotics technicians made between $27,410 and $71,540 (includes overtime and bonuses) as of November 2011.
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