As a robotics engineer, you will be responsible for designing plans needed to build robots. Also, you will design the processes needed for the robot to do its tasks properly. Some robotics engineers also actually design the machines that assemble robots. This type of engineer is in charge of creating many types of robots that are used to complete many different tasks – from building electronics to cars to industrial machinery.
Robotics professionals with a robotics degree typically spend their time in both the lab and the office. Time that is spent in the lab may be focused on working on the smaller mechanical parts that are components of the robot they are creating. Time in the office is often spent on writing plans and designs. Many robots that these engineers build are used in the automotive industry on vehicle assembly lines.
What Is Robotics?
The tasks and knowledge needed to work in robotics is varied. Day to day duties include:
- Build, configure and design robots
- Design software systems to control robotic systems, including those that are used for various manufacturing tasks
- Design automated robotic systems that are intended to increase production and precision levels in an industry
- Analyze and evaluate prototypes and robotic systems that have been created
- Review and approve design calculations and cost estimates
- Serve as technical support for robotic systems that have been created
- Perform research into the operation, design and performance of robotic mechanisms and various components
As technology gets more advanced and production systems for various products and machines gets more automated, there is more demand for robotics and mechanical engineers. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment for mechanical engineers is expected to rise by 9% by 2026, which is faster than average. Robotics and mechanical engineers can work in many different industries and on a variety of projects, so this job growth rate could vary somewhat by industry.
Job growth for mechanical engineers and robotics engineers will have faster than average growth in engineering services as more companies continue to contract this work out. Mechanical engineers will also stay involved in automotive manufacturing heavily. These robotics engineers will play vital roles in improving the range and performance of electric and hybrid cars.
Mechanical and robotics engineers often work heavily in the automation field. It is also expected the newer fields of alternative energies and nanotechnology will offer new chances for growth in the industry. Mechanical engineers are responsible for designing projects to harness new developments in nanotechnology, which involves dealing with matter at the smallest levels.
According to BLS, mechanical engineers and robotics engineers held approximately 288,800 jobs in 2016. The biggest employers of mechanical engineers were in these areas:
- Architectural engineering and related services: 22%
- Machinery manufacturing: 13%
- Transportation equipment manufacturing: 12%
- Scientific research and development services: 7%
- Computer and electronic product manufacturing: 7%
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median wage for mechanical engineers was $85,800 in May 2017. The lowest 10% earned less than $55,000 and the top 10% earned $133,900. You can expect those with the highest salaries will have the most experience and a master’s degree or doctoral degree.
Salaries for mechanical engineers varied in these industries:
- Scientific research and development services: $98,500
- Computer and electronic product manufacturing: $91,000
- Architectural, engineering and related services: $89,100
- Transportation equipment manufacturing: $86,600
- Machinery manufacturing: $77,400
Also, Payscale.com reports the median salary for robotics engineers is $80,700, with a range between $52,000 and $120,000. That source also states salaries for robotics engineers can vary by location. It notes the overall national average salary is $78,500, but you can earn higher rates of pay in these cities:
- Sunnyvale CA: +76%
- Los Angeles: +17%
- Pittsburgh: +17%
- San Francisco: +16%
- Dallas: +12%
How much you will earn as a robotics engineer will depend upon the company you work for. Below are some average salaries for various companies across the US, according to Indeed.com:
- iRobot Corporation: $99,200
- AIUT: $91,800
- Carnegie Mellon University: $81,800
- Motion Recruitment Partners: $166,700
- Piper Companies: $107,900
- Compass Tech: $65,400
- Amtec: $62,700
- Epitec: $60,000
To get started in a robotics career, there are some online bachelor’s degrees you can obtain. At Southern New Hampshire University, you can earn a Bachelor of Science in Information Technologies with a concentration in robotics and artificial intelligence. It will teach you the hands on skills that you need to get started in a robotics and artificial intelligence career, while also giving you a foundation in database management and design, computer platform technologies and other vital IT subjects.
To earn higher paying, high level engineering positions in robotics, consider earning a master of science degree in robotics at such universities as Northwestern University. This program is a year long and teaches you robotics essentials in computer science, mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, biomedical engineering and mathematics. Most students entering this program already have a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, biomedical engineering or computer science.
To be considered for admission, you will need to have a variety of requirements, such as these to enter a master’s program:
- Bachelor’s in computer science or engineering or related field
- GRE scores
- High GPA of 3.0 possibly
- Updated resume
- 2 or 3 recommendations
- College transcripts
Each university and program has its own robotics program requirements. At Northwestern University, these courses are required for its master’s degree in robotics:
- Introduction to Mechatronics
- Robotic Manipulation
- Embedded Systems in Robotics
- Control of Human Limbs and Their Artificial Replacements
- Biomechanics of Movement
- Biomedical Robotics
- Human Computer Interaction
The cost of college continues to rise, so you will be glad to know there are grants and scholarships you can obtain to reduce the cost of getting your robotics degree. Below are some options, but make sure you check with your university as well:
- Robotics Education and Competition Foundation: Various scholarships available each year
- FIRST Scholarship – SpaceX: Various amounts
- Chevron Scholarship for Robotics: $5000
- FUTURE Foundation: $1000
- Panther Fund Scholarships: $13,500
- Liberty University Robotics Scholarship: $4000
- Ronald McDonald House Charities: $1000 and up
- Texas Instruments Robotics Scholarship: $5000
When you earn your degree and develop some experience, consider earning your RIA Certified Robot Integrator certification. This certification is highly respected and offered by the Robotic Industries Association. The certification will distinguish you from others for your high level of skill and experience, and also shows you have met RIA’s rigorous certification process.
To expand your networking and educational opportunities, consider joining these important associations in the industry:
- Robotics Industries Association
- International Federation of Robotics
- IEEE Robotics and Automation Society
- Wearable Robotics Association
- Association for Robots in Architecture
The robotics field is growing quickly as technology improves, and companies want to remain competitive and profitable. Earn a bachelor’s or master’s in robotics, and you will be on your way to earning a good salary as a robotics or mechanical engineer.
- Robotics Careers. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.sokanu.com/careers/robotics-engineer/
- Mechanical Engineers. (2017). Retrieved from https://www.bls.gov/ooh/architecture-and-engineering/mechanical-engineers.htm#tab-6
- Become a Certified Integrator. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.robotics.org/Become-A-Certified-Integrator