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Controls engineering, is it still a good career?

  1. May 9, 2013 #1
    I've been trying to decide on which side of engineering is for me, electrical or controls. I love the variety that comes with being an electrical engineer, but at the same time my boss wants me to learn not only the electrical side of things, but how to program and troubleshoot plcs as well.

    Naturally, i'll be practicing on a laptop and not on actual machines, but it got me thinking. Is controls engineering a solid field? I'm in college about to start my second year of electrical engineering, but it's still early enough that I can switch to controls engineering without losing any time. I'm turning 28, so I am not old but I am not young either haha.

    To be honest I do not know all that much about controls engineering, but I am reading online about it. From what I gather it's difficult, requires a mastery of plc troubleshooting, and requires a lot of experience to become efficient.

    I'm not too worried about the difficulty of it, but I really just want to know if controls engineering is here to stay and a solid choice over electrical engineering. If I went into electrical engineering, I would want to focus on power engineering.
  2. jcsd
  3. May 9, 2013 #2


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    Your school actually separates the two out in undergraduate? Most schools I am familiar with involve a reasonable dose of control systems in their EE curriculum, and most engineers I know in control systems work have a EE degree (although a couple, myself included, have an Aerospace or Mechanical degree)
  4. May 10, 2013 #3
    Ah, alright. Let me clarify a few things and what have you, when I made that post it was around 8:00 in the morning and I had not slept yet.

    I am 27 and currently going to college for electrical systems technology. It's a 2 year degree to help me out at my current job. I work with a green energy company and we use biogas to power generators, boilers, and what have you. We are also looking into starting up other forms of green power, but nothing is confirmed yet.

    Anyway, back on topic, my degree is going to teach me how to wire, how to program plcs, how to troubleshoot and repair motors (some minor repairs, like switch out bearings,) and so on. I also plan to get my electrical contractors license, just so I can have a solid trade to fall back on if I never make it through 5 years of engineering.

    Now, when I finish this degree, while working on my electrical contractors license, I will be programming plcs as well. This has gotten me thinking, should I go to a college specifically for EE, or should I go to a college with a power engineering / control engineering focus? From what was stated above, I could just go to the college near here (UNCA) for electrical engineering then look for a job doing either power or something plc related.

    I need guidance I guess haha. I'm also interested in hearing experiences from those already doing power or controls engineering. Whats the job environment like?
  5. May 11, 2013 #4


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    If you plan on getting a BSEE a 2 yr degree in electrical systems technology isn't going prepare you for it. Generally, the courses are totally different in the two programs.
  6. May 11, 2013 #5
    Oh, I know. The 2 year degree is for falling back on. At my age I want to have something going on to help me pay for my engineering degree. I refuse to borrow money to pay for tuition if at all possible. Plus, if things keep going well, I will graduate with close to a 4.0 gpa.
  7. May 23, 2013 #6
    It's a hit or miss

    I've been doing controls engineering for 15 years. Pay is good, but much better with 4 year. I wear my EE, SAE and all things entitled with it. I'm independent now because you hit a ceiling and get bored after a while. I've seen so many come and go into the field. I genuinely have a passion for the work and enjoy the turnkey challenge from hardware design to putting my signature on quality logic. If you enjoy the troubleshooting and challenges, you can't go wrong. As an EE I find myself in high demand. When the 2 year trade school troubleshooter fails to task, I come in with an oscilloscope to diagnose a servo or clean up the spaghetti code of others. There's no shortage of work for any skilled individual, regardless of pedigree. It's really up to you how passionate you are about writing logic, troubleshooting, catalogue engineering, etc. Also I have a few controls guys who've lost their marbles over the years. The pressures and treatment is pretty bad compared to respect that other engineers get. Controls guys get dumped on a lot and are constantly fixing mechanical screw-ups, etc. Often we're thrown into the fire and it can take its toll. For me, I am happy and work best in the worst chaos. Others will break and run home to mommy wondering why Mr. plant manager called him a douchebag.

    No shortage of work with Controls Engineering and getting out of the office to the field is great, etc..
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