Job Market for Control Engineers?

  • #1
vinicius0197
54
7
I've been giving a look at some of the electives in my college - I'm a student of MechE - and became interested in Control Systems, specially after I borrowed some books in the subject in the library and read a little bit more about it.
I wonder how big is the field of application of this knowledge in industry, and in which branches a MechE specialized in Control Systems could work.
 

Answers and Replies

  • #2
berkeman
Mentor
64,178
15,392
What kind of applications of Control.Systems are you familiar with? Maybe stuff like vehicle guidance, robotics, stuff like that? :smile:
 
  • #3
vinicius0197
54
7
Basically yes... I've searched a little bit about some applications in aerospace stuff, as this is my primary interest field.
 
  • #4
berkeman
Mentor
64,178
15,392
Have you spent some time at the large Aero company websites? Their "job opportunities" and other pages should start to give you a good feel for the opportunities... :smile:
 
  • #5
vinicius0197
54
7
I've been giving a look at Boeing mainly, but sadly looks like all their jobs require security clearence...
 
  • #6
berkeman
Mentor
64,178
15,392
Probably don't need a security clearance to work on Google's self-driving cars... :smile:
 
  • #7
donpacino
Gold Member
1,439
283
I've been giving a look at Boeing mainly, but sadly looks like all their jobs require security clearence...
are you not eligible for a clearance?

that being said I would into the major airframers (boeing. airbus, lockhead, northrup, etc).
automotive industry (ev, regular, and hybrid). ev and hybrid will prob have more opportunities
industry stuff (tractors, machinery, etc)
anything with robotics... at all
get creative. basically anything that needs to move with precision will have controls engineers. If there are electronics involved, it'll prob be more complicated.
also many fields use control theory. digital filtering (kalman filters) is one example.

be aware of a few things.
Just because someone tests or implements controls doesn't mean they do the control theory.
be aware the some posting for 'control engineer' really means a digital designer or working with PLCs.

also controls is a very research/advanced development oriented field. masters degree or phd would help you get the 'more glamorous' jobs
 
  • #8
S.G. Janssens
Science Advisor
Education Advisor
1,223
818
You are from Brasil, aren't you? I was always under the impression that there is a pretty well developed aerospace industry there. Probably not on the level of the USA, but what isn't there yet may still come.

As for control theory: I believe it is a beautiful field from a mathematical / theoretical standpoint, but sadly I cannot give you any quality advice on job perspectives.
 
  • Like
Likes vinicius0197
  • #9
FactChecker
Science Advisor
Homework Helper
Gold Member
7,592
3,314
Don't just look at the major airframe manufacturers. A lot of major aircraft companies do not actually design the flight control. They subcontract it and integrate it into the plane. Also, there is a lot of activity now in the control of drones. Many small companies are active in it.
 
  • #10
donpacino
Gold Member
1,439
283
Don't just look at the major airframe manufacturers. A lot of major aircraft companies do not actually design the flight control. They subcontract it and integrate it into the plane.

Boeing and lockhead for the most part do NOT subcontract their controls design. They subcontract the implementation of that design. There is a big difference. All the subcontractors do is design the digital/analog filters and systems that implement the control laws.

If you go to a subcontractor with the intent of pursuing control law development you're making a mistake.

obviously there are exceptions, but they are scarse
 
  • #11
vinicius0197
54
7
Thank you for the responses guys. Answering Krylov, I do live in Brazil. We've got Embraer here, which is pretty big, but if the opportunity arises, I would do my master's at the US and, who knows, try to get sponsored for a work visa while I'm there.
If the perspectives are good, I may make up my mind to living in the US - becoming a citizen. That would be a long and difficult journey, I know, but I'm sure I would get good opportunities if I ever achieve that.

I'm really interested in Control, and it's a multiusage knowledge from what I've seen. I think it would be a great specialization, since it would not restrict myself too much in some very specific field.
 
  • #12
FactChecker
Science Advisor
Homework Helper
Gold Member
7,592
3,314
Boeing and lockhead for the most part do NOT subcontract their controls design. They subcontract the implementation of that design. There is a big difference. All the subcontractors do is design the digital/analog filters and systems that implement the control laws.
Yes. That is true.
 
  • #13
donpacino
Gold Member
1,439
283
Thank you for the responses guys. Answering Krylov, I do live in Brazil. We've got Embraer here, which is pretty big, but if the opportunity arises, I would do my master's at the US and, who knows, try to get sponsored for a work visa while I'm there.
If the perspectives are good, I may make up my mind to living in the US - becoming a citizen. That would be a long and difficult journey, I know, but I'm sure I would get good opportunities if I ever achieve that.

I'm really interested in Control, and it's a multiusage knowledge from what I've seen. I think it would be a great specialization, since it would not restrict myself too much in some very specific field.
Most us based aerospace companies have to follow ITAR requirements for their military and non-military products. As a result many of them will only hire employees who can work in the US without requiring company sponsorship.

if you want to be a controls engineer... Know MATLAB 100% in and out
learn some AI
know dynamics and kinematics very well
know filters (continuous and discrete) and their implementation very well
be comfortable with classical, modern, and robust controls
 
  • #14
vinicius0197
54
7
Most us based aerospace companies have to follow ITAR requirements for their military and non-military products. As a result many of them will only hire employees who can work in the US without requiring company sponsorship.

Yeah, I'm quite acquainted with that. I think that I would search for sponsorship in a non-ITAR related company where I could work as a control engineer - if I really follow this path. After a few years in the field - and, luckily, being alrealdy at least a permanent resident - I could try aerospace, maybe in a non-sensitive area... I don't know!

Thanks for the hints! I will definitely study a little bit more about controls.
 
  • #15
JakeBrodskyPE
835
266
Most us based aerospace companies have to follow ITAR requirements for their military and non-military products. As a result many of them will only hire employees who can work in the US without requiring company sponsorship.

if you want to be a controls engineer... Know MATLAB 100% in and out
learn some AI
know dynamics and kinematics very well
know filters (continuous and discrete) and their implementation very well
be comfortable with classical, modern, and robust controls

My mentors told me that if I found myself using anything more than a plain scientific calculator and a piece of paper, STOP! You're probably doing something wrong. These equations and the like are helpful, but you do not have to reinvent the wheel every time. In fact, it is dangerous to do so because you might make a fundamental mistake. At least with estimation equations you'll be somewhere close to right. Also pay great attention to the methods used in Fluid Dynamics with the dimensionless number ratios. You can refine those estimations later. Look for design guidelines. Others have been there before you --use their experience to your advantage.

Yes, learn the math. But don't bury yourself in it. You should have an intuitive feel for this stuff. No matter how much you model things, the instruments will have errors, the controls will be sloppy, and you will need to account for wear and tear --and some of the assumptions behind the physics of the instruments may be inaccurate (many poor assumptions have been made about fluid boundary layer behavior). Learn chemistry, with particular attention paid to reaction rates and thermal behavior. Learn statics, dynamics, fluids, thermodynamics.

But above all LEARN TO COMMUNICATE! Your customers are usually not technocrats. Do not bury yourself in a cubicle and think that you can design beauty, efficiency, and all that just by doodling in matlab. This is no job for a cubicle gnome.

If you're not following your creations through their entire lifecycle and then learning from that experience, you really should not be an engineer. You should learn from your mistakes. I have known too many engineers who continue to perpetrate the same mistakes from project to project. I have a very low opinion of those people.

Rants aside, as a registered professional engineer of control systems, I recommend this field highly. Good Luck!
 
  • Like
Likes Shaun_W
  • #16
donpacino
Gold Member
1,439
283
Yes, learn the math. But don't bury yourself in it. You should have an intuitive feel for this stuff.

well said

But above all LEARN TO COMMUNICATE! Your customers are usually not technocrats. Do not bury yourself in a cubicle and think that you can design beauty, efficiency, and all that just by doodling in matlab. This is no job for a cubicle gnome.

I agree, but as a student there is not much you can do to get that experience short of an internship
 
  • #17
S.G. Janssens
Science Advisor
Education Advisor
1,223
818
Yes, learn the math. But don't bury yourself in it. You should have an intuitive feel for this stuff.
I don't agree to the suggestion that there is a dichotomy between "the math" and "an intuitive feel". The former often helps with the latter and vice versa. Well, maybe that's why I'm not an engineer. :wink:
 
  • #18
donpacino
Gold Member
1,439
283
I don't agree to the suggestion that there is a dichotomy between "the math" and "an intuitive feel". The former often helps with the latter and vice versa. Well, maybe that's why I'm not an engineer. :wink:

the point is you can spend 10 hours analyzing equations to design the "perfect" PID controller, or you can use rough analysis, pick a value that looks good, test it, tweak it, and move on. In some applications this is 100% acceptable.
 
  • #19
S.G. Janssens
Science Advisor
Education Advisor
1,223
818
or you can use rough analysis, pick a value that looks good, test it, tweak it, and move on. In some applications this is 100% acceptable.
Agreed. don't think this is just acceptable, it's quite admirable.

In general, I would like to see closer cooperation between (control) engineers and mathematicians. Problems from control were a large motivation for some mathematics that is quite dear to me. However, I don't want to deviate.

To the OP: As an outsider, I think this field is very rich and interesting and I wish you good luck learning about it and developing your future endeavours, wherever they may lead you.
 
  • #20
vinicius0197
54
7
For the control enginers: how often do you use mathematics and physics in your jobs?
 
  • #21
FactChecker
Science Advisor
Homework Helper
Gold Member
7,592
3,314
For the control enginers: how often do you use mathematics and physics in your jobs?
All the time.
 
  • #22
FactChecker
Science Advisor
Homework Helper
Gold Member
7,592
3,314
I don't agree to the suggestion that there is a dichotomy between "the math" and "an intuitive feel". The former often helps with the latter and vice versa. Well, maybe that's why I'm not an engineer. :wink:
I agree.
1) There are occasional times when the math results are not intuitive or are even counter-intuitive. That is when you need to accept the math result as part of your revised intuition.
2) There are many times when intuition is not precise enough to tell you if the system will be stable or not, or whether the phase margin meets the specifications, etc., etc., etc.. Math can not be avoided when making the final design decisions.
3) Even in preliminary design, where there is much more freedom for intuition, math is essential. A stability and controls engineer who can not give a preliminary numerical estimate of important design parameters like time to double is not doing a good job.
 
Last edited:
  • Like
Likes S.G. Janssens and vinicius0197
  • #23
vinicius0197
54
7
All the time.
That's good to know. This certainly makes this area more interesting to me!

Thank you for the responses, guys!
 
  • #24
vinicius0197
54
7
Only one more question:
Was Control Engineering your undergraduate, or you specialized in it later? Like I said, I am a student of mechanical engineering. So, where do most control engineers come from? Electrical, electronics, mechanical?
 
  • #25
FactChecker
Science Advisor
Homework Helper
Gold Member
7,592
3,314
Probably Electrical and Aero are the most common. I was in Math and Operations Research but I am not doing control law design. I am just associated with those people who are.
 
Last edited:
  • #26
JakeBrodskyPE
835
266
For the control enginers: how often do you use mathematics and physics in your jobs?

Yes, and no. It's not what you see in the classroom. For example, I have to know what the reactivity of certain reagents will be so that I can figure out what coatings are appropriate for a metered pump. I have to work with valves to determine where and whether there is any likelihood of steam flashing, or large pumps to determine if there is a possibility of cavitation. I also use shortcut equations for lots of things such as the Bessel Nulls for setting FM transmitter deviation, or making estimates of the poles and zeros of a PID controller to evaluate stability. I have also used signal processing methods to estimate flow in and out of irregularly shaped storage tanks.

On the other hand, if you think you'll be solving integrals or partial differential equations with pencil and paper --NO. It's not like that. The concepts are important and they're critical for evaluating whether your shortcut estimates still apply, but coming up with actual solutions to new equations is rare.

Only one more question:
Was Control Engineering your undergraduate, or you specialized in it later? Like I said, I am a student of mechanical engineering. So, where do most control engineers come from? Electrical, electronics, mechanical?

I started off as an Electrical Engineering student. I worked during the day as an instrumentation and telecommunications technician. When I graduated, I worked a lot on early SCADA and DCS/PLC control systems. I learned a lot about all sorts of programming, from embedded programming, systems programming, applications programming, Relay Ladder Logic and so on. After that, I spread out toward process and instrumentation design.

I know other control engineers who came from Chemical Engineering, Civil Engineering, and even IT backgrounds. The formal teaching for this field is, well, very theoretical. That's not wrong, but it means that most engineers in this field have a very long flat learning curve.
 
  • #27
donpacino
Gold Member
1,439
283
Only one more question:
Was Control Engineering your undergraduate, or you specialized in it later? Like I said, I am a student of mechanical engineering. So, where do most control engineers come from? Electrical, electronics, mechanical?
I came from electrical engineering. I took quite a few controls courses in my undergrad and I am currently working full time while getting my grad degree. Part of my grad degree is doing adaptive controls research.
at school a lot of the work is mechanical analysis. I have had to learn a lot of material on my own, due to the fact that I'm an EE and not an ME.

Now at my work it is the other way around. EE's have the "advantage."

It all depends on where you end up. At the end of the day, your backround really does not matter. Engineers, especially controls engineers (who are systems engineers when i comes down to it) should be flexible and able to learn new fields.

you would be FINE going into controls with an ME backround.
 

Suggested for: Job Market for Control Engineers?

Replies
3
Views
604
  • Last Post
Replies
25
Views
2K
Replies
3
Views
583
  • Last Post
2
Replies
39
Views
892
  • Last Post
Replies
6
Views
2K
  • Last Post
Replies
19
Views
2K
Job Skills Quant job advice
  • Last Post
Replies
4
Views
1K
  • Last Post
Replies
6
Views
1K
  • Last Post
Replies
14
Views
3K
Top