Whether you’re at work or home, almost every device or system you use has a full team behind it—and one of its most influential members is a control system engineer. These skilled engineers are among the most sought-out employees in the manufacturing industry, thanks to their ability to design and develop essential parts of a control system.
What Is a Control System Engineer?
A control system engineer (also known as a control systems engineer or a control engineer) designs, develops, and implements aspects and solutions on control systems. Control systems engineers bring stability to dynamic systems, requiring redeveloping and updating to meet society’s needs. Knowing the ins and outs of these changing systems is essential for engineers because they must produce a desired outcome for the consumers.
How Does A Control Systems Engineer Work?
A control systems engineer’s goal is to think outside of the box and help create a product that can meet the needs of society through control systems.
Most of the work a control engineer does is on the computer with mathematics modeling, which means they have to be computer savvy and have expert math knowledge. Understanding the machines and programs’ workings allows for more control in the testing, updating, and developmental stages.
Thanks to modern technology, the computer can determine how the control systems engineer’s variables will be translated during the production line. With this modeling software, the system engineer will design and develop an archetype applied to real-life products.
Each final product must be of quality and meet the expectations that were made during the drafting stage. The control systems engineer must ensure that all variables and components work correctly and efficiently.
What Are Relevant Fields for Control Systems Engineering?
The good news is that engineers are highly in-demand, so there’s always plenty to do in the field. According to the National Action Council for Minorities in Engineering (NACME), there are dozens of relevant jobs and areas that may have to use a control systems engineer:
- Aerospace Engineer
- Agricultural and Biological Engineer
- Audio Engineer
- Bioengineering and Biochemical Engineer
- Biomedical Engineer
- Ceramics and Materials Engineer
- Chemical Engineer
- Civil Engineer
- Computer Engineer
- Electrical Engineer
- Environmental Engineer
- Geological and Geophysical Engineer
- Industrial/Manufacturing Engineer
- Marine and Ocean Engineer
- Mechanical Engineer
- Mining Engineer
- Nuclear Engineer
- Petroleum Engineer
- Computer Science Engineer
But, no matter the exact industry, a control systems engineer is a creator who relies on science and mathematics to develop solutions to technical problems. They must use commercial and industrial applications to meet the consumers’ needs. This could mean solving a small technical recall issue in a car to developing entirely new products.
What Is a Control System?
Control systems are built to manage, command, direct, or regulate other devices’ behavior using control loops. One of the most critical parts of an engineer’s job is designing around the functionality of open and closed loops.
Here are some common examples of everyday control systems:
- Video Games
- Toaster Ovens
The main difference between the two is that closed loops have feedback. The feedback communicates with the input controller to send important information so that it can take the appropriate actions.
For example, say that you bought a temperature-controlled heater because your bedroom is cold at night. Before you go to sleep, you set the temperature of the heater at 75 degrees. The heater begins to work and blows out warm air until it senses that it’s reached 75 degrees. Then, the feedback will tell the controller that it’s reached its desired temperature. In turn, the controller will turn the heater off until it is below 75 degrees again. This closed loop system helps prevent overheating and overworking.
Control Systems in Manufacturing Industries
In manufacturing, control systems are for managing processes and machines. Similar to automation, they help enhance production and efficiency. So, there are plenty of professional fields that a control systems engineer might find themselves in, such as:
- Chemical, power, and nuclear plants
- Water and sewage treatment plants
- Pulp and paper mills
- Quality, boiler, and environmental controls
- Food and food processing
- Pharmaceutical manufacturing
However, automation is quickly taking over hundreds of industries like these, which might make a control system engineer wonder if there’s any growth for their career together with future technology.
Control Systems Engineers and Future Technology
There’s no doubt that the use of automation is increasing. Most popular in industrial settings, process automation, industrial software, and robotics, industrial automation is expected to produce $214 billion worldwide.
There’s a good reason for this: Automation is beneficial and changes the way everything gets produced. This system can speed up production time, increase productivity, and is even less expensive. It’s not uncommon for large manufacturers to consider the switch to meet today’s supply and demand rates better.
But this raises crucial questions: Where do the human employees go? Are control system engineers’ jobs in danger?
Automation is indeed replacing human employees, but it looks like systems engineers are here to stay. It ultimately comes down to whether it’s possible to replace the creativity and trainability that workers offer—which is why control systems engineers are still essential.
Control systems engineers will see a 3% growth over the next decade, which is about the same as the nationwide average. However, specific fields like manufacturing and utilities will have a slower—but still positive—growth.
It also appears that, as automation becomes more common, control systems engineers are taking on a more advanced role with the changing times. Some companies now offer new job titles, like “Automation and Control Systems Engineers.”
The combined role of automation and control systems means that the engineer must be familiar with automation and know how to work alongside it. This isn’t as easy as some might think because automation is still relatively new in many manufacturing fields.
This means that becoming an automation and control systems engineer expert requires excellent talent.
How Can You Become a Control Systems Engineer?
A control systems engineer is just one potential career path in the grand world of engineering. Most often, these roles are fit in manufacturing and automation environments, which will require specific knowledge. Typically, the education of a control systems engineer overlaps with electrical engineering and mechanical engineering.
Even so, the benefits are rewarding: The average salary of a control systems engineer is $79,879, and there’s a major need for people with this skill set. So, if you’re interested in becoming a control systems engineer, then there are a few steps you’ll have to take to get on the right path.
- Obtain Your Bachelor’s: Earn a bachelor’s degree in general engineering. Your courses will also cover electrical, mechanical, and civil engineering, as well as computer science courses.
- Obtain Your Master’s: Although many companies only require a bachelor’s degree, it’s a wise idea to get a master’s in a specified engineering field if you want to become a control systems engineer. The more education you put into yourself may yield higher pay and more career opportunities.
- Get Licensed: You must obtain your professional engineering (PE) license. This is required in every state, and you can’t start work without one. Here’s how to go about applying for a PE license.
- Gain Field Experience: Whether you decide to get your doctorate in engineering, you should begin looking for field experience while you’re in school. Many specialized positions like control engineer require years of experience and fieldwork with plenty of proof for it.
Additionally, a control systems engineer should have specific skills:
- Knowledge and experience in industrial automation
- Experience with systems like Distributed Control Systems (DCS), Programmable Logic Controllers (PLCs), SCADA systems, and Vision Systems
- Knowledge of software development skills, like C/C++/C#, VB, SQL, and Java
- Strong mathematical skills since you’ll be using math-based computer programs
- Problem-solving skills since no two projects, problems, or products are the same
- Good communication allows for a collaborative and efficient team
- Knowledge of network services like LAN, WAN, WLAN, and VPN
Whether you’ve already started your career path to becoming a control systems engineer or are just researching, this small guide can be helpful when deciding if engineering is the right path for you.
Control systems engineers are among the many types of people with essential “behind the scene” roles. Without the expertise, creativity, and knowledge that control systems engineers bring, many things we use every day would not be nearly as advanced.
The good news is that control engineers are a growing and highly-valued career path, even with industrial automation development. Working as a control systems engineer is an excellent way to become a computer expert and design extraordinaire while also polishing up on your mathematics skills. But, with that being said, it’s not an easy path to follow—so be sure that engineering is for you.
Contact Telstar Instruments Today
Telstar has an extraordinary team of control systems engineers that help develop our dynamic systems, like SCADA, automation, and PLCs. If you’re looking to upgrade your company’s system, see what Telstar can do for you.