Becoming a Controls Engineer: Career Path & Requirements
If you're interested in becoming an engineer, controls engineering is a career path you may want to consider. Keep reading to learn about the job requirements and the steps to take to become a controls engineer.
Career Information at a Glance
Controls engineering is subfield of electrical engineering. Controls engineers use control theory, a field of applied mathematics relating to the control of physical environments, to plan and implement new designs, systems and equipment that give users power over their surroundings. The table below provides an overview of information on the career.
|Degree Required||Bachelor's degree|
|Education Field of Study||Engineering, electrical engineering, mechanical engineering|
|Key Skills||Communication and teamwork, knowledge of related programming and systems, multitasking, broad knowledge of multiple engineering disciplines, attention to detail, creative thinking and problem solving, adaptability|
|Licensure/Certification||Can obtain the Professional Engineer license from the National Society of Professional Engineers or the National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying|
|Job Growth (2020-2030)||7%* (for electrical and electronics engineers)|
|Average Salary (2021)||$78,594**|
Source: *U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics,**Payscale.com
What Do Controls Engineers Do?
Controls engineers help design complex systems to work in controlled environments. Depending on what industry you work in, this can cover a wide range of systems which can include aircraft vehicles, automobiles, banking systems, computers and more. A controls engineer collects and records data and works with people across other teams and fields to reach the desired outcomes on projects. Controls engineers are generally expected to understand multiple different engineering disciplines and how to make the findings of each work together efficiently.
What Are the Education Requirements?
To begin work in any engineering field, you'll need to first obtain your bachelor's degree in engineering. A degree in electrical or mechanical engineering will typically include the courses related to control engineering. Once you have your degree, you can go straight to working in an entry-level engineering position, and from there, you can decide if you would like to pursue your master's degree or higher, depending on your future career goals.
What Are the Licensing Requirements?
While licensing varies by state and typically isn't needed for entry-level positions, it can be useful later in the career. You can obtain a Professional Engineer (PE) license from either the National Society of Professional Engineers (NSPE) or from the National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying (NCEES). The process for both is similar. After graduating you will want to take the Fundamentals of Engineering test and upon passing you will be given the title of Engineer in Training (EIT). After this, you'll want to get several years of work experience and then you'll be able to take the Principles and Practice of Engineering exam. In passing this final exam, you will earn the PE license.
Is There Any Additional Training?
There is no specific training you'll need before you can start working as a controls engineer in an entry-level position after graduating. Likely, you'll receive some on-the-job training by your employer and you may also work with or be supervised by a more senior engineer until you've become more experienced. However, you will want to make sure that you are up to date on the variety of programming languages and systems you may be using on the job.
What Skills Will Be Helpful to Have?
Communication and teamwork skills will be useful to have in this career since you will often be working with different people on different teams to accomplish project goals. You'll also want to be a creative problem solver and adaptable so that you are able to deal with newer and more intricate problems as they arise. Finally, attention to detail and strong math skills will be beneficial and are valued in this career.