Wondering How to Become an Automation Engineer? Find the Path Today

Wondering How to Become an Automation Engineer? Find the Path Today

Emily Newton 09/08/2023
Wondering How to Become an Automation Engineer? Find the Path Today

Do you want to know how to become an automation engineer?

The job is in high demand and boasts an even higher salary. Plus, breaking into the field is relatively effortless.

What Will Your Responsibilities Be?

Although jobs like end-to-end, test and quality assurance automation engineering have different specific responsibilities, most have similarities.

Standard automation engineer job duties include:

  • Designing and executing automation tests: You must create and integrate tests for software, hardware, applications, systems and networks. Then, you typically use scripts to check functionality.

  • Detecting and isolating defects and bugs: Troubleshooting is standard in this role. You must know how to find and fix minor imperfections and software-breaking bugs.

  • Communicating with clients: You will have to routinely work with customers to meet contractual demands and adjust development to optimise performance like they want.

  • Providing technical support: You’ll constantly rely on your technical know-how to complete projects. Automation resources often require tweaking to perform.

  • Monitoring and maintaining projects: Whether quality testing or overseeing development, you must monitor everything to ensure it runs smoothly.

The responsibilities will vary depending on the job and the business you apply to.

Education Requirements

Unless you have experience, you must pursue a relevant degree. Luckily, there are many options to choose from. For example, robotics and STEM degrees translate into an automation engineer role because they closely align. The best are mechanical, industrial, electrical or regular engineering, but you can also go for process control or computer science. 

Although automation engineering is a new domain, schools offer top-level courses and degree paths nationwide. The California Institute of Technology is one of the best colleges in the United States for mechanical and automation engineering. Some schools offer online classes, but most require being there in person because of hands-on coursework.

Experience Requirements

Most companies seek candidates with around five years of experience for mid-senior roles, but there are plenty of entry-level options for those just breaking into the industry.

However, many companies prefer you to have some hands-on knowledge of relevant software or manufacturing operations. You'll likely get noticed if you display some of those on your resume. You’ll also have an advantage if you are experienced in similar roles.

Automation engineering is still relatively new, and many companies accept people with similar degrees and experience. For instance, mechanical engineers can go into the field even without a concentration in the domain — it’s all about translatable skills.

People with an engineering degree don’t need to return to school to get a new specialisation since most companies waive education requirements for hands-on knowledge. Try your luck if you want to be an automation engineer but only have a computer science degree.

What Skills Will You Need?

Although soft skills are essential to an automation engineer career, you will mainly need hands-on technical and operational knowledge.

Here are some of the top skills you need:

  • Communication: The top soft skill you should have is communication. You must discuss issues and speak to clients often, so you should know how to have precise and efficient conversations.

  • Project management: You likely won’t be running things at first unless you have relevant experience, but many companies look for candidates who have worked on projects. It shows them you are knowledgeable, authoritative and confident.

  • Collaboration: Collaboration is a classic on most job descriptions since employers usually prefer to hire a team player. You must know how to get along with co-workers and support them when they encounter obstacles.

  • 3D design: Most companies use software like AutoCAD, so you’ll need some knowledge of how it works. 

  • Coding: You must know how to code to become an automation engineer, even for traditionally noncoding roles. The languages you should know vary widely depending on the business, but understanding G-code, C++, SQL or Python is standard.

  • Troubleshooting: Although everything ideally would work on the first try, that’s not always the case. You must know how to troubleshoot software errors and debug code to keep things running smoothly.

  • Quality assurance: Automation testing skills are essential to this role — employers generally want their finished product to work as intended. You must know how to conduct basic quality assurance control tests.

This list isn’t exhaustive but includes the essentials. Many employers seek someone competent, persistent and patient.

What Pay Should You Expect?

Although your pay will vary depending on where you live, expect to be comfortable. The salary for a quality assurance automation engineer starts at nearly $85,000 for up to one year of experience. You can get $22,500 more after only six years.

That figure is only for an average salary, so you may make less if you have little experience or the minimum education requirements. However, you make over $150,000 on the high end of the scale.

Steps to Become an Automation Engineer

You can become an automation engineer in as few as four steps.

1. Earn Your Degree

Although some companies might waive the education requirements for hands-on experience in a relevant industry, most still want you to have a bachelor’s degree. Almost 80% of people in this role have one. It can be in something other than automation engineering, but you still need one. 

You also have the option to get a master’s. While you could make around a 20% higher salary with one, there’s no guarantee it will boost your earnings so significantly. Still, it’s an excellent choice if you want to hone your skills further and dominate the field.

2. Get Experience

Experience is essential to this domain. Whether you aim to become an end-to-end or a test automation engineer, you’ll need practical skills. You can build your knowledge base through hands-on learning in college, but internships and job-shadowing opportunities are the most valuable.

You’d ideally improve while working. However, you need experience to get a job, but you can’t get a job without it. Work on strengthening your technical and soft skills, then transition to in-person industry learning.

3. Gain Certifications

Automation certificates can significantly boost your job search if you don’t have much experience. Usually, they require you to demonstrate skill or knowledge specifics. The kind you want to get varies depending on the specific role you’re going into.

You can choose from plenty of unbiased third parties, such as the International Society of Automation. Companies value the achievement since it’s an impartial entity with credibility in the industry. 

Certifications make you stand out in a rapidly rising domain. Also, some companies may require particular certificates. Since most stay valid for about three years after earning them, you only need to get them once to show an employer your dedication and proficiency.

4. Apply for Roles

Even though automation engineering is a fairly recent domain, you can still find thousands of jobs online. Add your location to the search if you want something specific to your area. Many colleges offer internships, so you can look there for an entry-level industry opening.

Start Your Journey

Why should you become an automation engineer? The income is incredibly high, demand is skyrocketing and your knowledge in other fields translates well. Once you get a degree and pick up the right skills, it’s as easy as taking the necessary steps to get where you want to go.

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Emily Newton

Science & Tech Expert

Emily Newton is the Editor-in-Chief of Revolutionized. She is a science and technology journalist with over three years covering industry trends and research. 

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