Insider’s Guide to Become a Robotics Engineer

Have You Heard of The Coming Robotics Revolution?

I would be totally surprised if you haven’t heard of the coming robotics revolution? And if you haven’t you will, because according to Oxford University 47% of jobs in America risk automation replacement. 

Inside This Guide

I’m going to share my personal insider’s tips with you, you’ll also discover the answers to your biggest questions about robotics and what they will mean to you.

Then you’ll learn about the training tools and techniques then I’m going to share my personal strategies to helping you get an endless supply of job offers for robotics engineering jobs.

What Is The Job Outlook For Robotics Engineers & Technicians?

This is a great first question, after all there would be no sense in pursuing a career if it had a limited outlook. Well, the market is looking awesome. But my research for this article has turned up some curious stats. To start with, I disagree with Bureau of labor Statistics, they say that the outlook for Robotics is only 5% per year out to 2024.

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Watch The Market

In this article I will name a dozen or so of companies across the world that are committing millions even billions in growing their robotics programs. That leads me to believe that the outlook is way better than what the BLS states in the USA at least.

But I wanted to be honest with you about the research I found.

Let me summarize, it’s always tough to know what the facts are when the facts are all over the board. So, I always believe that there is one fact that will never change. FOLLOW THE MONEY, my Dad has always said ‘money talks’.

To start with Amazon is one of the most successful businesses in the world and it looks like it has no end in sight. With that being said they are at least a small measure of evidence in the market, for instance Amazon paid $775 Million in CASH for Kiva Systems – a robotics company to help them manage their warehousing. That means any company wanting to compete will need to do the same or better.

Follow that with International Data Corporation which said worldwide spending on robotics and related services will hit $135+ billion in 2019. Only $71 billion will likely be spent in 2017 and the market is set to grow at 17% annually. So, as you can see, the BLS numbers aren’t reflecting the market as I see it.

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Who Are The Top 10 Robotics Companies?

While there are more than 1000 robotic manufacturers, from a child’s robotic toy or home vacuuming unit serving the commercial and or service industry to the monolith industrial units. However, I will try to pare the list down to the top 10 manufactures.

  1. ABB– ABB is a Swedish company and the world’s leader in industrial robots and robot software and equipment. They can be found in 53 countries and have installed more than 300,000 robots worldwide.
  2. B & M– Is an Italian company and the world leader in painting robotics units. They specialize in painting and coating thickness.
  3. Fanuc– Is an American company, they offer individual robotic production line units, complete CNC controls systems and RoboMachine production lines.
  4. Yaskawa– Formerly known as Motoman, They have 360,000 Motoman industrial robots, 10 million servos and 18 million inverter drives installed globally.
  5. Kuka– established 1898 this German company is a European market leader. With its newest system Swisslog they gaining market growth in warehouse logistics and the healthcare industry.
  6. Nachi– A Japanese company founded in 1928, with the fastest spot welding robot (SRA Series) and unique 7 axis robots (MR Series)
  7. Wittman– An Austrian company, with 8 productions facilities in 5 countries and 33 branches in all major plastics in the world.
  8. Yamaha– A Japanese company, is one of the world’s largest manufacturers of industrial SCARA, Cartesian, Pick & Place and Single-Axis robots.
  9. Universal Robots– A Denmark company, they came up with the idea of creating a light robot that is easy to install and program while analyzing the special requirements for robots in the food industry.
  10. IGM– Another Austrian company, and a leader in the design, manufacture and supply of welding robotsystems especially developed for arc welding

What does a Robotics Engineer do?

I would guess that’s another good question, ‘what does a robotics engineer do?’ A typical job description would be;

Robotics Engineers will design, fabricate, program, maintain and provide expertise for assembly, quality, and automation robots. You will work with engineering, maintenance, and production on projects to increase efficiency and improve safety. You must have a working knowledge of machine control systems and factory automation solutions’.

Designing, robotic systems requires using software to create drawings and simulations of electro-mechanical reobotic units. Often those designs are used in the fabrication process to manufacture the units and or work cells. Once those units are fabricated they are generally just a dead weight mechanical unit, until a robotics programmer enters to program the unit for automated sequences.

Robotics engineers will likely be involved in every aspect of the creation of a robotic unit. They may be a part of a larger team and or they may be the entire team, it really depends. These engineers or techs may also be required to maintain a production lines robotic system that may include dozens of units throughout a production line or manufacturing facility.

It really can be a challenging job, but a rewarding one as well. You will likely also be asked to attend meetings and work with other departments; like quality, sales and or customer service to communicate your ability to meet their expectations with the systems.

The word robotics was introduced to the public by Czech writer Karel Čapek in his play R.U.R. (Rossum’s Universal Robots), which was published in 1920.

Where Do Robotics Engineers Work?

Do they work in Silicon Valley, or San Francisco or Detroit?

Why does it matter where the work is? Because maybe you don’t want to move across the country, or work in downtown Detroit. But before we get into what the stats show where the work is, let’s consider a few important points regarding where the opportunity is.

Start by asking yourself, ‘would you be willing to move?’ also ask yourself ‘would your family be happy to move for your new job?’ If you’re ok with relocating that’s the first point to consider. Next would be to ask yourself ‘what’s your long-term goals?’ This is an important question also, because if you’re going to train for a new career and move across the country then you should make sure you’ve considered a few important long-term goals for your career and life as a whole.

Secondly you should study the market near the city you’re going to consider moving to. Study the schools and job markets for your spouse and teenagers. As well as the housing market, now with all these considerations in mind let’s get to where the work is.

According to Gizmodo the best cities for Robotics are;

Boston – home of Amazon Robotics, Boston Dynamics and iRobot.

Pittsburg – Uber Technologies, Disney Research, Bosch, Carnegie University.

San Jose/San Francisco (Silicon Valley) – this is obvious; Neato Robotics, Augmedix, Airwave and many, many more.

Japan – FANUC Robotics, have you also heard of Sony, Yamaha, Mitsubishi, Panasonic, or Toshiba.

Seoul South Korea – Samsung, that names sound’s familiar. DasaRobot, Windoro and more. Keep in mind that, South Korea has the largest population of robots in the world.

Munich Germany – BMW, the perfect driving machine, Faurecia, and Kuka.

Some other regions to keep an eye on is Minneapolis Minnesota, Detroit Michigan, and some areas in Utah, Paris France and Sweden as well believe it or not.

As you can see there are growing opportunities everywhere around the world. Which is exciting for anyone who seeks the opportunity to relocate to an exotic foreign country.

However, with all that being said robotic opportunities can be found much closer as well. As companies like McDonalds will be furiously adding thousands of Kiosks for ordering at 55,000 restaurants by 2018 and Robotic Arms for cooking over the next few years.

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How Many Years Does It Take to Become a Robotics Engineer?

Now, that’s a common question, what you’re basically asking is “how fast can I get started?”

I get it, robotics does sound like an exciting career, and it is. And you may want to get started as fast as possible. Well, with the right skills, you can easily find a job opportunity that will have you traveling the world, and working on multi-million-dollar systems. So, the short answer is below;

To start with you may need a 4-5-year bachelor’s degree in; electrical, mechanical or industrial/manufacturing engineering. However many people (myself included) work in the industry without degrees and are employed full time. There are also a few colleges and universities offering specialized robotics engineering degrees starting to pop up around the US, UK and Australia. But most often if you’re trying to receive training locally your options will be limited as Robotics training isn’t often found in most towns or even small cities. Especially for those seeking training in the commercial industry.

It would also be in your best interest to receive some specialized training to compliment your robotics programming such as; electricity, electronics, mechanics etc. as well as mathematics and science to become a holistically skilled professional and you must be able to work with automation and controls systems to varying degrees. Adding this training to your skill set could add another 3-9 months to your timeline.

On a special note, I would be remiss not to mention that you should really take your soft skill classes seriously. You’re going to often find yourself using them in the business world. Giving presentations, writing quotes and reports. Sending thousands of emails (proper grammar is a must) managing large budgets, attending meetings and more. Soft skill training could add 3 – 6 months to your training time.

So, ‘DO NOT’ dismiss the soft skills that 3 – 6 months will be crucial to your career growth. The last thing you want to do is embarrass yourself, with poor grammar, a lack of business finesse, i.e.; finance lexicon or horrendous speaking skills. They can literally (and I mean FOR REAL) make or break your career. You wouldn’t want a bad report or unprofessional series of emails to negatively impact your job at a company where everything else is going great.

What Specific Training is Required to Become a Robotics Engineer?

The core curriculum for learning robotics would be;

General Studies – here you’ll improve your general education knowledge. Really buckle down and learn what you didn’t learn in high school. It’s important to be strong in your math, science and written communication when working with million or billion-dollar businesses.

Programming – there are literally hundreds of programming languages. However, there are many similarities and shortcuts that make learning them much easier. For example, most data structures and algorithms are the same throughout most languages.

Mechanical – here you will study the mechanics of machinery, and equipment. Its actually a pretty interesting series of classes if you’d like to study the theory and mathematics behind working on your car for example. You’ll learn about bearings, gears, torque, forces and much more.

Electrical-Electronics – here it gets more interesting with mathematics and electromechanical integration between electrical or electronics devices and hardware. Cool stuff

Physics – this on the surface seems odd, but physics is the science of nature and the properties of matter and energy. This is critical knowledge when working with any kind of equipment, that interacts with the real world through chemistry, the mechanics of heat and light, radiation, sound, magnetism and more.

This is the exciting part of this guide for me. I love training, giving and receiving. As you might expect, training is provided by many manufacturers known as the OEM ‘Original Equipment Manufacturer’ They often provide training either at their facility or an offsite educational/training facility or they may even make it possible to receive in-house training at your employers.

Now I am not a believer of waiting on an employer to send me for training. I believe in being proactive; building my skillset is absolutely the most important action I can take to grow my career and income. And thanks to today’s technology seeping into our everyday lives we have options to train for a high-tech career people only a few years ago wouldn’t have believed possible. Let me explain.

As with everything today, having the internet and computer technology at our fingertips gives robotics training the ability to reach into almost every corner of the world including your front living room. To start with all of the world’s top robotic manufacturers, use programming to execute commands to the robot. The programming requires a software program, which is used by professionals to program the unit.

The great part is that the OEM’s almost all offer a 30-60-or 90-day free trial of their software or many of them at least offer a low-cost student license. And you need to do is to go to their website and follow the process to acquire your own copy of the exact same software used in the field. Think about that, you literally have access to the exact same software the pros use to program their robot units at work.

Moreover, they almost all offer step by step video tutorials, and once again these tutorials are generally the same ones the pros use to get training themselves. In the past, programming in your home would have been impossible and for a week’s class at the OEM’s will cost thousands of dollars and wasn’t available to the masses at all it was reserved only for engineers and managers.

But, today someone who is a box stacker at the end of a production line can go home and do some self-study training in the evenings and literally go from general laborer to robotics engineer in a matter of months. Remember, you WILL get good with this type of training, because you’ll train using the exact same software and watching the exact same videos the pros use to learn from. That will make you job ready on day one, which makes you extremely valuable to any employer.

What are the Average Salaries Nationwide for Robotics Engineers?

As you know, having the right training and experience counts to employers. They are willing to pay anyone who can help them with their automated systems. So, let’s start talking about what a newbie could earn in their first year, because everyone else with more experience and skills will obviously be able to earn more.

Now I happen to have an insider’s perspective on this as I am working with a company that is building a robotics team right now. So, while I don’t have the exact dollars their paying each person, I do have ranges.

Newbies with little experience 1 – 2 years can easily earn $25 – $28 an hour. Now I know that you may be thinking that, that is not big money. However, let me explain, before you get agitated. Engineers/ Techs travel and do overtime. Sometimes a lot. If you took $26 an hour and just added some overtime, you could and will easily earn from $15k to $25k more per year. In your first year a newbie could earn  $75k to $85k+.

Moreover, you’ll be being paid to learn on the job, as you’ll have so much to learn that only hands on experience will be able to teach. These numbers I personally can attest to. In another post I will take you through the help wanted job listings and show you how to find great paying opportunities for newbies looking to break into the field and seasoned pros looking to level up.

Now the seasoned pro, what can they expect to find. To start with I did a basic google search, plus I happen to know the salary range for this industry in the Midwest, so I just wanted to compare my experience and Googles opinion.

Turns out, we agree. I went to Google did a search for Robotics Engineers Salaries and took a snap shot. This is accurate based on my experience, so it’s a good range to work with. As I’ve said above, starting is around $50,000 first year, and with overtime that’s an easy $75 to $80,000 in your first year. The mid-range salary is for sure knocking on the $90,000 to over $100,000, that’s with little overtime. So, between $35 to $45 an hour.

And for the senior engineer or tech, is an easy, $125,000 to $150,000 a year, now for that your going to have to lead teams and or projects and carry a much larger set of responsibilities and work overtime. But the income is pretty nice.

Tik-Tok is the name of a fictional robot widely considered to be one of the first robots to appear in modern literature – wikipedia.

What’s the Difference Between Service and Industrial Robots?

There are two common types of robotic systems, those that serve the domestic/commercial industry, like those found on Target department store shelves and those found in factories serving the industrial industry.

And if you’re like me, I often notice the new and interesting robots or Drone devices on the shelves for sell at my local Target. And I always have to stop and read the box, think about it and wonder about all the common questions. “what can it do”, “how does it work” etc.

But as an engineer I uniquely understand the difference between service and industrial robots. For one, I’ve attended the Motoman Industrial Robots (now called Yaskawa) programming course. And I’ve seen and played with the iRobot that a friend has, (I don’t own one).

To start with, service robotics is an up and coming industry, and with better design software, lower electronic costs and creative professionals looking to literally break into the service industry using technology the industry is booming.

The future is wide open if you can develop a better marketable robotic device, such as an automated vacuuming device like iRobot or a new robot that delivers drinks to your guests during a Christmas party in your home. 

Service robotics will often be employed to do everything from child educational assistance to improving the quality of life by helping elderly patients enter and exit the shower or a bathtub for example. With being a new commodity, the service industry is dealing with a fluctuating market and curious but not a fully committed consumer.

However, industrial robots are more specialized and are often integrated into a multi-system production process, that produce durable goods. They have a much longer history and are for serious companies with deep pockets looking to optimize a process by making an investment.

They are not into serving the curious but the serious when it comes to robotics.

So, the next question you might have, after reading everything I’ve written would likely be;

  • How Can I Get into Robotics Engineering?

    Great question!

    It’s easier to do than you might think. To start with, if I was a newbie I would begin by researching the field. I would get as much info about the industry and trends as I could. Next, I would sign up for some of the top industry newsletters, join some of the top Facebook groups, online web forums and find the top blogs and websites.

    Next, I would build a Facebook page to use as a projects portfolio. A place where you can showcase the projects your working on, to share with potential employers and recruiters. You could instead buy a domain name and build a website, but Facebook is faster and completed in just minutes, it’s free and can accomplish the same thing.

    Maybe start with a Facebook page and when your ready merge into a website with your own personalized domain name.

    Next, I would signup and download a specific robot programming software program. Refer to the list I wrote about earlier in this guide. That would be a good starting point, although I believe this should go without saying, do not download multiple programs and plan on working with them.

    Instead, download only one program at a time, as some of them may need to run in the background and they may have to use the same resources on your laptop and could cause a computer crash even if you’re only running one program at a time. In addition, you should focus on one software program at a time. Once you complete several projects and feel competent then by all means, try another program to grow your skillset.

    Once you’re completing a project, go to Screencast-O-Matic and get a copy of the software and download it. You will use this software to record your computer screen as you program, work with and document your project. Then download a copy of your videos, that you recorded off your desktop showing the work you’ve completed.

    Post them to your Facebook page and comment on it.

    Next, I would do some research online at the job board sites to determine the market opportunities. Once I found a half dozen I like and believe I could perform for an employer I would reach out to the employers and or recruiters with a resume that lists my Facebook portfolio. I would ensure the resume had a very prominent invite to review my online projects portfolio.

    I would also invite them to contact me if they believe I would be a good fit for their open position.

    Now that you have the insider’s guide to become a robotics engineer, get started and launch your very own high-tech career.

Here are some resources I mentioned above;

Screecast O Matic – to record your computer screen

Bureau Of Labor – review the stats yourself

Robotic Engineers Salary – review the pay scale yourself

Travel the World, Work With Cutting Edge Tech, Lead MIllion Dollar Projects and Earn 6 Figures

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