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Op-Ed

Why the Future of Young Learners is in Robotics

By eLearning Inside
February 07, 2022

Robotics is an increasingly important field across many industries, from education to aerospace engineering. However, is working at a good robotics company the right move for your career? The field is increasingly becoming a lucrative career for young learners, evolving basic skills in math, engineering, and the sciences.

What is going on in Robotics?

The Bureau of Labor Statistics currently refers to roles in robotics as electrical and electronics engineers, specifically focusing on creating electrical equipment. Many people focus on small circuit boards for this job, but the role also includes positions that focus on electrical robots with advanced systems and controls.

The BLS reports that engineers in this field have a median pay of over $100,000, with an average hourly rate of slightly under $50 an hour. Entry to this field is possible with a Bachelor’s degree, although many engineers own a Master’s degree.

Work experience is important to employers in this area. Engineers who can successfully create robots from the ground up are generally more valued, so people studying for this field often take internships or participate in engineering programs.

The overall job market for electronics engineers should grow about 7% over the next ten years, which is roughly average across all fields.

Electrical engineers are a focus for this industry, but similar roles such as software or hardware engineer, user experience designer, or data scientist can also work in robotics.

Robots vs. Machines

One important thing to keep in mind is the difference between robots and other machines.

Machines are devices that help humans perform tasks, usually including labor-heavy jobs.

Robots are a type of machine – or, more often, a collection of multiple independent machines – but they carry out predetermined tasks and can govern their own behavior. Robots are also more capable of changing and adjusting to different environments.

In other words, robots only need instructions to accomplish their task, and they can work from there. Standard machines usually need direct control and cannot adapt to different situations.

Working Environment

Most robotics and electronics engineers spend their time in office environments. On a typical day, robotics engineers may create technical drawings, meet with engineers, help direct manufacturing, or create documentation for the production and use of robotics systems.

Robotics roles are more hands-on than some other engineering positions. An engineer in this field may visit labs regularly to test the newest iterations of equipment, collect information, and figure out the best ways to improve robotic systems.

For example, when developing a humanoid robot, a team may decide to change some components. This can affect things like the necessary power for moving that part, which in turn requires adjusting the software and control systems.

Robotics is a heavily iterative field, albeit one that also emphasizes rapid prototyping. Depending on the needs of the job, a robotics engineer could be asked to modify software within a few minutes to help testing continue.

Most careers in robotics are also highly collaborative. Developing and manufacturing robots typically requires teams, especially in the testing phase where people will often have specialized roles.

Educational Requirements

While a Bachelor’s degree is sufficient for basic entry into robotics, going to at least a Master’s degree can open up many more career opportunities. This is a moderately competitive field, so more companies are looking for applicants with extra education.

The most straightforward educational path for starting a career in robotics is getting a Master of Science in Robotics degree from your university of choice. Depending on your classes, you may be able to change to a focus on Robotics after getting a Bachelor’s degree, especially if the BS focuses on mechanical engineering, computer science, and/or electrical engineering.

As discussed earlier, practical experience is also valuable in this field. Many companies want to develop and release robotics products as quickly as possible, so familiarity with the process can give you a boost over other applicants.

Continuing education in related fields is also valuable. Robotics engineers may study additional programming, process control, material sciences, statistics, automation, and engineering principles.

The important thing to remember here is that robotics is essentially a cross-discipline field. The most capable engineers can adapt to the needs of a project, rather than focusing exclusively on a subset like creating circuit boards to control specific sections of the robot.

Workplaces

It’s difficult to define what makes a robotics company and what doesn’t. Few businesses focus entirely on robotics, though you may be able to find a career like that if you join a research institute or university.

Otherwise, a robotics company is likely to be a different business seeking to expand into automation and improve its processes and controls. For example, vehicle manufacturing companies have a heavy interest in robotics because they can drastically reduce the time and cost of creating their products.

Careers in robotics are here to stay. While the number of jobs is only growing at an average rate, companies both want and need people with experience in this field.

Featured image: Hung Nguyen Phi, Unsplash. 

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