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Instrumentation and Controls Technician Programs

Discover if a career as an instrumentation and controls technician is right for you. Learn about instrumentation and controls technician programs, the requirements to join one, the kinds of courses required, and the certifications available.

What Kind of Programs Are There to Become an Instrumentation and Controls Technician?

Instrumentation and controls technicians adjust and maintain the automated systems used in industrial settings, such as at water treatment plants, manufacturing facilities, and paper mills. They are responsible for ensuring that instrument readings are accurate, that substances are mixing as they should and being used in the proper ratio, and that other variables, such as pressure and temperature, remain within acceptable limits as well. Training for instrumentation and controls technician positions is usually done through an associate's degree program, although certificate programs may also be an option for those already working in the industry. Programs are sometimes offered online, but hands-on experience may be a requirement even for online programs.

Instrumentation and Controls Technician Duties Keep automated systems at industrial facilities running
Requirements High school diploma or equivalent, meet scoring minimums; must have normal vision and be able to pass drug test and physicals
Required Courses Direct current analysis, motor systems, programmable logic controllers
Certification Certified Control Systems Technician (CCST) level 1, 2, or 3 through ISA

What Requirements Are There to Join an Instrumentation and Controls Technician Program?

Most instrumentation and controls technician programs, especially associate's degree programs, require a high school diploma or equivalent before enrolling. There are also minimum testing requirements for math, reading, and writing that must be met, which vary from school to school; the most common test required is the Accuplacer, although other scores, such as the ACT, may also be an option. Colorblindness may disqualify you from working in this field, so students who are colorblind are encouraged to think carefully before signing up. Working environments commonly involve control panels located in high areas as well, so a fear of heights may also keep you from succeeding in this area. Many employers require drug tests and physical exams before hiring, so while you may not be tested upon entering, it will be a condition of employment.

What Courses Will I Study During an Instrumentation and Control Technician Program?

Students will need an understanding of algebra and pre-calculus before even beginning some instrumentation and controls technician programs. Once in the program, students typically spend about a year studying electronics and telecommunications, with courses covering digital electronics, direct current analysis, alternating current, and semiconductors. Later courses will focus on common types of instrumentation and control mechanisms, such as motor systems, mechanical practices, automation, and programmable logic controllers (PLCs). Other topics studied include reading instrumentation and plant diagrams; maintaining pressure, temperature, and flow control; and possibly even computer-assisted design (CAD) training.

What Kind of Certification Is Available for Instrumentation and Control Technicians?

Instrumentation and controls technicians are not legally required to be certified; however, some employers may require certification to work in their plants. The International Society of Automation (ISA) offers a certification called the Certified Control Systems Technician (CCST), which comes in 3 levels which require increasing amounts of experience and knowledge. Level 1 requires the equivalent of 5 years' education and experience, while level 3 requires 13 years. Time spent studying for a degree can count towards this requirement, as can time working as an apprentice or on the job, although years spent working or in education cannot overlap.