Can I Learn PLC Programming at Home (And Get a Job)?
Learning PLC Programming At Home?
Are you learning PLC programming at home?
Virtually everyone who is working as a PLC programmer spent significant time practicing programming at home, before they got their first job in the industry.
But, what if you currently stack boxes at the end of a production line, could you learn industrial automation at home and really get a job?
Let’s start by looking at how those who currently work in the trade and how they got started. Maybe they took their first lesson during a seminar or during a training secession at work, but if they programmed at work and were smart, you can bet they studied programming at home.
So, if every engineer or technician who programs controllers spent time at home learning, so can you.
Now that we have that out of the way, the second concern is, can someone who learns PLC programming at home really find and get a good job as a programmer?
However, the real question isn’t can someone who learns at home get a job but again let’s ask, can someone who has nothing to do with PLC programming today train at home and secure a position as an automation engineer or technician.
Now that’s the question I will answer in this article.
How Can I Find Projects For My Portfolio?
Let’s start with understanding the depth of your question, by asking yourself which came first, the chicken or the egg. If you can’t get a job without experience how will you ever get experience?
The workaround to the question is by building a portfolio. With a strong sample of your ability you can demonstrate to hiring managers, recruiters and HR professionals you have the chops to get the job done.
It’s noteworthy to state that we are living in a time unlike any in the history of the world, we have technology; the internet and software, computers and the freedom of choice. Let’s begin by being conscience of our situation, maybe we work as a lift truck operator on second shift.
Somewhere along the line you meet a controls engineer, he discussed what he does for a living, maybe he showed you a little about how he does it and you felt a spark of interest. You go home after work go online and read about the automation career, you discover the average salary and think, Oh hell yes that’s for me!
Now, you read about the education requirements, and a shudder of worry rises from your back. But then you remember that the engineer you spoke to earlier today mentioned that he didn’t have a college degree and that you don’t need one to be a programmer.
Great you think, so now on to the next concern.
How do you learn to do the job?
Online of course, because you found while searching online that there are a dozen really good training programs you can take on the internet after work. Ok, so we know what we want to do, we know there are no educational obstacles, and we know that we can learn online.
We also know that if we put together a strong set of examples of our work, it sounds like we could show an employer that we can do the job.
Can I Get a Job If The Only Experience I Have is Learning PLC Programming at Home?
Ok, so how can I find projects that I can do to load into my portfolio?
And not just projects I worked on while in my training, but maybe some real-world stuff? Well, one of the best places to find real-world projects and get paid to work on them is to work on contract.
There are many sites online such as guru.com, freelancer.com and upwork.com to name a few places where people looking to hire programmers post jobs/projects (I will use jobs and projects interchangeably) when they need help.
Many of these jobs are easily within a beginner’s skillset. In addition, you could go to some well-known PLC programmer online hangouts like plctalk.com, eng-tips.com and MrPLC.com and ask for work. Just let them know your looking to build your portfolio and you can bet someone will throw you a couple of projects and they will even give you come feedback on your performance.
Keep in mind, don’t knowingly accept too challenging a project at first, be humble about your skills until you gain some significant experience. Otherwise you’re going to get burnt when taking on a project that’s above your skillset.
You’re probably going to ask; how would I know if a project is too complicated for me?
If you’re taking too long and or struggling with the basics or you have to constantly look up how an instruction works, its ok. But that means you still need to practice with training exercises and are not ready to work on a project for your portfolio.
In my experience the typical online projects and or jobs require adding a small section of code to a program or converting code from RSLogix 500 to PDF and or even testing some code.
I’ve also seen jobs posted for building HMI’s and drafting CAD drawings as well as converting code from one platform to another for example changing a ladder program to a function block program. These are perfect projects if the project isn’t too large for beginners to populate their portfolio.
Can I Become a PLC Programmer If I Don’t Have a Degree?
Now that you have undisputable proof of your experience and can easily demonstrate it with a powerful portfolio the next question is?
Would a company see the skills and value I could bring to the company; would they be excited to let you join the team and treat you as a professional?
In the end the final question you have is would a company really be interested in hiring me, if they find out that the only experience I have is from learning PLC programming at home and working on small online projects?
This is the real question you want answered, isn’t it?
My answer to you is YES, you can get a great job by learning PLC programming at home coupled with small online projects.
Why can I say yes to this question?
Because employers most often need people who can do the job versus someone who has a degree. Employers who hire unskilled people take a chance that the new employee can learn and has the interest in learning to program.
They also know that it will take significant time training this new employee all at the company’s expense. It’s a sad statement that a graduate isn’t qualified even after spending so much money and time on school, but a true one. And because of the current demand for skilled professionals, skill trumps pedigree.
Also keep in mind that you and a college graduate are equal in many ways except, with proper at home learning and portfolio building on your side. Keep in mind that you can do the job, and your smart enough to know that with a strong set of examples of your skill makes you a solid candidate.
Finally, you are smart enough to know that first impressions mean everything and that means being ready to showcase your ability on the spot during your interview.
It’s this bold mindset to take advantage of this unique time and opportunity that will define your future and launch your career as a PLC programmer who travels the world, works on cutting-edge technology, leads million-dollar projects and earns 6 figures.