career development / Job market

Starting a career in robotics engineering

Robotics is one of the most exciting engineering disciplines to be working in at the moment. As AI and automated systems grow more advanced and smart machinery is integrated into more and more businesses, there is an increasing demand for engineers who can design, develop and build robots for all kinds of tasks and purposes.

If you’re considering starting a career in robotics engineering, you might be stuck trying to figure out what you need to do to get into the industry. This post has the answers.

What is Robotics Engineering?

Robotics engineering is a sector of the industry that focuses on designing and creating robotic machines to perform automated tasks and functions in a variety of settings. It involves aspects of electrical, mechanical and computer engineering along with mechatronics, automation and control systems theory, and may also be influenced by aspects of cognitive psychology.

A robotics engineer finds ways to integrate different engineering theories and practical knowledge to design a range of different machines and systems, often working as part of a team of other engineers and programmers. As well as creating systems or equipment for security, manufacturing, defence and other industries, robotics engineering projects may also focus on more commercial solutions where systems and devices are marketed to the public.

What Does a Robotics Engineer Do?

Depending on whether you specialize in a certain field of robotics engineering in your career, or take on a specific role like programmer or technician, your day-to-day tasks and responsibilities may vary. However, most roles will involve some of the followings tasks at some point:

  • Coming up with new ideas for robotic systems or machinery
  • Analysing client and customer briefs to design robotic solutions to problems
  • Working with computer-aided design programs to draw up robotics plans and create digital models and simulations
  • Developing robot system software
  • Designing and running tests for robot prototypes and simulations
  • Developing robot projects and refining designs and systems
  • Installing the robotics equipment or machinery that they have designed
  • Finding ways to integrate new robotic tech into exciting systems and processes
  • Creating technical guidelines, manuals and instruction documents for the robots they have created
  • Solving robot errors and system malfunctions

How to Become a Robotics Engineer

As with most engineering disciplines, a Bachelor’s degree is the first qualification you’ll need to work in the field.

Some universities now offer courses in robotics engineering, which is the best route if you know right away where you want to specialise. Other degrees that will still give you the right knowledge and experience are mechatronics, mechanical engineering, electronics engineering, computer science or mathematics.

Many engineering courses have an integrated Masters, which is not essential to a career in robotics engineering but can boost your chances when applying for jobs. Some engineering students also decide to do a year in the industry as part of their degree, which again is not necessary but can make you more employable and sometimes guarantee a job offer after you graduate.

It is also possible to gain equivalent qualifications in robotics engineering by completing an apprenticeship pathway. A lot of different robotics businesses offer apprenticeship courses where you’ll study and work as a robotics technician or operator, gaining hands-on experience and training that will give you many of the skills needed to progress in a career as a robotics engineer.

Once you have relevant qualifications and/or experience, the next step is to start applying for robotics engineer roles, which you can find by checking out specialist robotics engineering recruiters like Samuel Frank Associates. Depending on your level of experience and education, these may be positions as a junior engineer or robotics programmer, or as a robotic machinery technician or operator.

Skills needed in Robotics Engineering

To start a career in robotics engineering, there are several skills that you will benefit from developing and honing.

  • Software development: The majority of robotics engineers will be required to program robotics equipment or systems at some point in their career, so knowing how to code and write software programs is an important part of the role
  • Mathematics skills: An excellent grasp of mathematical and scientific concepts is at the heart of being a successful engineer. Developing robots will involve code, technical specifications and a lot of test data, so you’ll need a good head for numbers
  • Problem-solving: With most robotics projects, you will be presented with a problem or scenario and be tasked with figuring out how a robot can solve or enhance the situation. Having good problem-solving skills is a key part of succeeding in a robotics engineering career, as you’ll need to think laterally and innovatively to find effective solutions
  • Troubleshooting: As well as designing and building robots, a key part of your role as an engineer will also be to identify system faults or malfunctions and figure out how to fix them. You may also have to analyse existing systems and decide what changes could be made to make them more efficient

What is the Starting Salary for a Robotics Engineer?

The robotics engineer salary range is pretty wide, with starting salaries tending to be quite competitive. How much you earn when you begin your career will depend on several factors, such as the size of the company you work for, where the job is, how much experience you have and what other benefits are included with the role.

According to data from the National Careers Service, the average annual salary for a robotics engineer at the start of their career is £27,500.

Summary

Whether you’re right at the start of higher education considering going into robotics, or are already an engineer who wants to specialise in this sector, there are numerous different ways to begin your career in robotics engineering. It’s a discipline that is influenced by many different aspects of other types of engineering and is an area of the industry that is seeing a lot of innovation at the moment, so it’s an excellent choice for anyone who wants to combine their theoretical and practical abilities to make real change.

Article written by Andrew Longfellow (from expert process and automation recruiter Samuel Frank Associates), who has a variety of experience in the field of robotics and manufacturing automation engineering. 

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