New to automation, have lots of questions?
That’s to be expected, it’s difficult when starting anything new. You have so many questions making it hard to know which way to turn and what to do that it can cause some serious worry and stress.
Take heart, were going to take some time today and do our best to answer 53 of the most common questions new automation techs ask.
Let’s Get Started;
1. Do I need a degree to get an automation job?
No, you do not need a degree to get hired in the automation field.
- Where can I learn to do PLC programming?
There are many places learn including colleges and online. Start here…
- What do I need to know to become an automation tech?
Electricity, digital logic, mathematics, soft skills like Microsoft Office software, and PLC programming at a minimum.
- Can I learn PLC programming at home and get a job?
Yes, you can learn at home and then apply for entry level jobs. Just build a project portfolio that demonstrates your knowledge.
- Do I have to know how to program to get a job in automation?
Many people in the automation field do little or no programming, they work in tech support, sales, project management etc.
- What programming languages do I need to learn?
Ladder logic is the most prevalent language, however there are 5 other common languages in the IEC61131-3 standard; Ladder Logic, Instruction List, Function Block, Structured Text and Sequential Function Chart. Watch this…
- Are lots of companies hiring automation techs?
Yes, any company looking to decrease labor, increase productivity, and automate equipment needs techs. Take a look at these jobs…
- Can I become an engineer without a degree?
Yes, there are many automation engineers without a degree.
- What do automation techs actually do at work?
Automation techs perform many duties, it depends on their job, some program, and some work with CAD, and some do electro/mechanical work on machines and some do office work.
- Do automation techs work in an office?
Some techs work in an office but most work on the production floor where equipment is running or new equipment is being built.
- Will I work with a team or on my own?
Again that depends on the company. You will likely work with a team to some degree, they may be managers, supervisors, engineers and machine builders. Expect to work on your own as well, be prepared to be fluid.
- Do I have to know everything before I get a job?
No one knows everything about PLC programming. Not even senior engineers, there is continuously evolving technology and it is expected that techs are always learning.
- Are there on-the-job training opportunities?
Many companies recognize the need for continuous training, to help bring up the current skillset and to keep up with growing technology.
- Can I wear nice clothes to work?
Sometimes you may have that opportunity, but often jeans and a Polo shirt or nice T-shirt is the norm.
- Do I only do PLC programming every day?
Many automation techs do some level of programming, most of the times a tech will be required to do more than program.
- How much does an automation tech get paid?
Entry level techs generally earn $17 an hour to $25 an hour, but with experience you could earn 6 figures plus. Take a look at this…
- Can I get a job to do PLC programming from home?
With experience you will find many companies who hire programmers to work from home.
- Will I get to travel?
You can find companies who hire techs to travel, some companies hire for road-warrior opportunities; those who travel everywhere, all the time and some companies never send their techs anywhere.
- Will a company hire me with online training experience only?
Yes, all that matters for many companies is that you can do the job.
- What are the best types of automation jobs to get?
Instrumentation, controls, design, it all depends on the type of work you want to do. Some work on a PC all day long and some work on machines and a laptop.
- Do companies hire beginners?
Yes, there is plenty of need for entry level techs. Take a look at these …
- How do I find a company that will hire beginners?
Many companies who are looking specifically for entry level techs will advertise for that role. The ad will state ‘Entry Level’
- What are the typical types of tasks automation techs do?
Writing manuals or machine operation and process procedures. Drafting electrical prints, meeting with clients, programming, installing electro/mechanical devices, traveling to customer’s site to troubleshoot machines and more.
- Are there job levels in the automation career?
Many companies have created a tier classification that identifies their techs and engineers skill levels. But there is not an industry standard.
- Do females do well in this career?
Females can prosper in this field, as there are no barriers to working in this field based on gender, just competence.
- Is this a physically hard job?
There may be times where you will work long hours and perform manual labor to complete a project. For example during the install of a machine.
- Are there promotional opportunities?
Yes, up the tier level if your company has one or into sales, or design, or even as a manager.
- Do managers help you or just tell you what to do?
Every manager is different, many will just assign the work and expect you to complete it. But some will work with you closely to mentor, every manager is different. You should ask during your interview.
- Will I work on multiple projects or only one at a time?
Again every company is different, you should ask during your interview.
- Do companies give you a test before hiring you?
Many companies will want to test your knowledge before making an employment offer. Expect every company to test you, so be prepared.
- Do I need a certificate to prove I know how to program?
Certificates help, but still expect to be tested.
- What tools do I need?
Usually only hand tools are used, consisting of a good set of screw drivers, terminal screw drivers, wrenches and electric drills are a minimum.
- Will I travel outside the country?
Some companies send their techs around the world, but most don’t. Ask during your interview.
- Do I need a passport?
It is a good idea to obtain a passport before you need it. That way when they need to send someone you’re ready to go and don’t have to waste time getting one. Get one here…
- Do I need to know how to program a robot?
Many automation techs work with robots but many more don’t. The job advertisement should state if you need to know how to program a robot or not.
- What do I do if I get stuck troubleshooting a program?
Don’t fake it, be honest when you get stuck. Find the solution by reaching out to resources online and the manufacturer of a device if that’s what you’re stuck on or even fellow engineers.
- Are there cheat sheets, shortcuts or templates to writing a program?
Every programmer has their own shortcuts, cheat sheets, or templates.
- Which robots do I need to learn to program?
If you find that you need to know how to program a specific robot study that system. But if you are just wanting to be ahead of the curve then at least learn ABB and Fanuc robotics programming. Start here..
- What colleges teach automation?
There is a growing list of colleges and universities offering automation studies and engineering. Start here…
- Where is the best place to learn automation online?
There are dozens of online learning opportunities. Start here…
- Where can I find the best places for technical help online?
The best suggestion is to join a few of the many Facebook groups and online web forums. Start here…
- Are there books that I can learn from?
There are some really good reading resources available on the industry of automation and the different PLC programming platforms. Start here…
- What do I need to learn if I am learning to program at home?
There is a lot to learn, start by reading about the automation industry, then move to learning PLC programming. Start here…
- What does it cost to learn to program?
There are many ways to learn to program for free, but the best advice would be to take some paid courses so you can receive some personal feedback form the instructor.
- How hard is it to learn at home?
Learning anything new is difficult, but with commitment and time it is not difficult to become competent in automation. Take the time to learn and you will succeed.
- Is there someone who can help me learn PLC programming if I am learning at home?
Yes, there are many online resources to include the Facebook groups and online forums mentioned above. Plus, YouTube has a growing inventory of programming videos and don’t forget about signing up for a training program and asking your instructor if you have questions.
- How long does it take to learn PLC programming?
This is a difficult question as everyone learns at a different rate. It will be more defined if you take a college course but if you learn at home it will most certainly vary. But either way make it a daily routine to study and practice.
- Is someone who went to college better at programming than someone who learns at home?
Absolutely not, it depends on the person and how much time they put into learning. Study hard and constantly be building programs for your portfolio.
- Do I need to be real good at math to program?
Strong math helps, but math in automation requires you merging your math with a software platform. Which ultimately requires experience, but strong math is helpful.
- How many hours a week practice does it take to learn to program?
A person studying automation is making a career change that will impact their life. The best practice when learning anything new is to make a commitment to study at least an hour a day, to include weekends.
- Is there a step-by-step process to learning PLC programming?
Unfortunate everyone will teach PLC programing differently. They will all teach the essentials but likely in a different order. With that said, there are things you must learn but there isn’t an industry curriculum that everyone follows.
- Can I work anywhere in the world?
Truthfully you can program anywhere in the world to include the beach. If you get a job that lets you work remotely they will have you email the completed file to them.
- What is the single best thing I can do to get a job when I’m ready?
Build a strong portfolio that showcases your skillset. Put in your electrical drawings, examples of your programming code, videos of any of your work and tons of references.
The Take Away
We’re hoping the many questions you had have been answered. But, we know that we likley didnt answer all of them so we invite you to contact us and feel free to ask any we may have missed.
Just go to our contact page and well get back to you asap!