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How to Get a Job in Automation in 2024

Are you seeking an opportunity to enter the Industrial Automation industry? 

Do you want to acquire valuable skill sets that ensure a lifetime of financial stability? 

The global industrial automation market is growing at 9% annually and expected to be worth 412 billion by 20301

In this article, we will explore the key pathways to starting a career as an automation engineer, whether you are a fresh graduate or an experienced professional.

What is an Automation Engineer?

The International Society of Automation (ISA) defines Automation Professional as “any individual involved in the creation and application of technology to monitor and control the production and delivery of products and services.”2

Why Choose a Career in Industrial Automation?

  • High Demand and Job Growth: As industry continues to modernise, automation is in high demand. 
  • Low Cost of Entry: Cost of training and postgraduate degrees are relatively low. 
  • Career Stability: Automation systems are used across a diverse range of industries and sectors give you the possibility to switch in times of downturn. 
  • Competitive Salaries: Good remuneration prospects with respect to other engineering fields. 
  • Global opportunities: Good opportunities to work internationally providing a chance to collaborate with international teams and gain diverse experiences.

What are the key skills of an Automation Engineer?

For aspiring automation engineers, possessing expertise in one or more of the following areas is crucial:

  1. Process Control Methods and Control System Design: Mastering the art of designing control systems and implementing effective process control methods.
  1. Instrumentation: Acquiring proficiency in instrumentation techniques to monitor and control industrial processes accurately.
  1. Distributed Control System (DCS): Familiarising yourself with DCS platforms used for monitoring and control of large complex industrial processes.
  1. Programmable Logic Controller (PLC): Gaining proficiency in PLC programming, essential for automating various industrial tasks and processes.
  1. Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA): Understanding SCADA systems, which facilitate real-time monitoring and control of industrial processes.
  1. Advanced Process Control: Developing skills in advanced process control techniques to optimise and enhance the performance of industrial systems.
  1. Process Engineering: Familiarising yourself with process engineering principles to analyse, design, and improve industrial processes.
  1. Network Engineering and IT: Having a solid foundation in network engineering and information technology to effectively integrate automation systems with existing infrastructure.
  1. Data Management Skills: Acquiring the ability to handle and analyse large volumes of data generated by automation systems, ensuring efficient decision-making.

Basic Automation Skills 

Do you have the skills and experience required? A good working knowledge of modern Industrial Control System Technology is vital.

Knowledge of basic control theory, instrumentation, industrial software programming are generally considered to be the minimal requirements for entry across all sectors.

You should have enough training and knowledge to design, commissioning and troubleshoot at least one or more types of PLCs, DCS or SCADA systems. In addition you should have basic knowledge on fundamentals of instrument design and selection. 

Industry Specific Skills

Some skill sets in automation are very industry specific and will vary depending on the type of environment and process which you are working, such as;

  • Functional Safety: Is typically found in Oil and Gas, Nuclear industries where safety instrumented systems (SIS) are a significant part of the automation system design. 
  • Batch Processing: Found widely in pharmaceutical, chemical and biotech, in contrast to other industries which have continuous processes. 
  • Robotics: Manufacturing plants that rely on automated assembly lines utilising robotic arms will require a different basket of skills and familiarity with different codes and regulations. 

Networks and IT Skills 

In modern automation there is a growing convergence of industrial control systems and company IT. In addition the need for cyber security awareness and compliance places a greater need for automation engineers to be equipped with strong network engineering skill sets. 

Academics Requirements – Engineers

Automation professionals should have an undergraduate degree with a firm basis in physics, mechatronics, control theory and electronics. There are also more specific degrees available with modules in instrumentation, programming and process engineering.

Typical entry level candidates will have degrees such as;

  • Applied physics and Instrumentation
  • Applied physics and Control
  • Mechatronics 
  • Computer Science and Electronics

When choosing a degree course it is desirable to chose one which is accredited professional engineering institutions such as;

If you are looking for undergraduate courses in the UK then we recommend checking at UCAS to search through available courses. 

If you are looking for a degree course in the USA or internationally then try a global course search engine such as Bachelorsportal.

Non-Academic Pathways – Technicians

In 2023 you will find it challenging to get past any initial screening without an undergraduate degree qualification. However, this barrier mostly exists within the space of detailed engineering and design and there are still lucrative opportunities for technicians particularly in maintenance and commissioning roles. 

There is a strong demand for skilled instrumentation technicians for tasks such as;

  • Commissioning: Process and manufacturing plants
  • Operations: Planned and reactive maintenance, troubleshooting of control systems
  • Field Service: Supporting vendor supplied packages, equipment and instrumentation at customer sites. 

High Education and Vocational Training Courses

Automation Technicians will normally undertake higher education course such as;

  • United Kingdom – High National Diploma (HND)
  • United Kingdom – High National Certificate (HNC)
  • USA – Associates Degree (AAA)

These types of vocational courses are designed to be role specific, equipping students with key skill sets needed to enter the workplace as a technician. For example, The HND – Instrumentation and Control Engineering offered by Teeside University includes modules on PLC programming and Analogue Electronics. 

The entry requirements for vocational training is normally a highschool diploma making this an ideal choice if you don’t want to take the time and expense of an honours degree course. HNDs in Instrumentation and control are offered by the following institutions in the UK


Many automation companies will also offer four year apprenticeship programs which can be augmented with part time learning. Apprenticeships are an excellent way to get real industry experience and develop hard skills working alongside seasoned automation professionals in a regulated working environment. 

You can find posts for apprenticeship in the UK by using the GOV.UK apprenticeship search service.  

You can find posts for apprenticeships in the USA by using the Labour Department apprenticeship job finder. 

In addition, job postings are frequently listed on the common job board sites such as Indeed and Ziprecruiter

Moving to Automation from Another Field: Reinvent Yourself

“Life isn’t about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself.“ – George Bernard Shaw

If you already have engineering experience and a postgraduate degree then it is still possible to transition to automation by undertaking acquiring skill sets. This simple three step approach below can be followed. 

  1. Identify your skills gap: Identify the hard and soft skill sets which you are missing such as. PLC programming, industrial networks ect. Make a list!
  1. Choose a learning resource: Find a course provider who offers training, find books and content to help you self learn. 
  1. Inhouse training: Apply for entry level / intermediate level positions at automation companies who are willing to train you. 

The Internal Society of Automation has developed an excellent tool for self assessing your proficiency level at certain skills, check out the ISA Skills Development Resource Navigator

Part time learning is the best approach if you are already working. Part time masters can be completed in 2-3 years with most institutions and should equip you with the skills and knowledge necessary to open new doors in fields of automation, instrumentation and control. 

In the UK there is one notable MSc offered through distance learning;

GCU – MSc Applied Instrumentation and Control

In the UK the following master course can be completed part time;

Writing a Strong Industrial Automation Resume 

When it comes to pursuing a career in industrial automation, having a strong resume is essential. Here are 7 key points to include in your resume. 

1. Familiarity with PLC or DCS Platforms

Highlight your proficiency in working with specific Programmable Logic Controller (PLC) or Distributed Control System (DCS) platforms. Emphasise your knowledge of their functionalities and capabilities and ability to troubleshoot and develop software. 

2. Industry Experience

Specify the industries you have worked in, such as manufacturing, upstream oil and gas, chemical, or pharmaceutical. Employers want to know the kind of environment you have worked in previously and that you have familiarity with the regulations and conditions of such operating environments.  

3. Is your experience in Engineering or Commissioning? 

Clearly specify if your experience is in commissioning, operations, construction, or engineering. Provide specific examples of projects and facilities you have worked on. 

Employers want to know if your strength lies in detailed engineering and design or if you are stronger in testing and inspection.

Lacking engineering experience should not discourage you if you want to work in automation design roles. Engineers with commissioning or even maintenance experience can still bring valuable contributions to design teams due to their first-hand experience in troubleshooting problems and resolving issues caused by design mistakes.

4. Knowledge of Codes, Standards, and Regulations

Highlight your familiarity with relevant codes, standards, regional regulations, and normative references within the automation field. Demonstrate your understanding by specially mentioning which standards you have knowledge of. 

5. Integration of Vendor Equipment

If you have experience working on specialist vendor equipment such as compressors, HVAC systems, or gas turbines, mention it in your resume. Employers want to know that you have experience working with particular suppliers and equipment.

6. Instrumentation Expertise

Specify your knowledge and experience in transmitters, valves and other field devices, including the make and models of instruments you have particular expertise. Highlight any certifications or specialised training you have in this area.

7. Leadership and Team Management

Specify clearly if you have led a team, managed vendors or contractors and highlight your leadership skills and ability to oversee projects. 

By incorporating these noteworthy aspects into your industrial automation resume, you can effectively demonstrate your valuable skills and extensive experience to potential employers in the field.

This will greatly enhance your chances of securing desired job opportunities in industrial automaton.


A career in industrial automation offers exciting opportunities to shape the future of automation and contribute to various industries. 

Key skills for automation engineers include instrumentation, programming, control systems expertise, and industry-specific knowledge.

Engineering degrees provide a solid academic foundation, while non-academic pathways like technician roles offer hands-on experience. 

Transitioning to automation from another field allows for self-reinvention with transferable skills.

A strong automation resume should highlight technical proficiencies, industry knowledge, project experience, and leadership abilities.

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