Job Market for Control Engineers?

  • #1
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.
 

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  • #2
berkeman
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What kind of applications of Control.Systems are you familiar with? Maybe stuff like vehicle guidance, robotics, stuff like that? :smile:
 
  • #3
Basically yes... I've searched a little bit about some applications in aerospace stuff, as this is my primary interest field.
 
  • #4
berkeman
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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
I've been giving a look at Boeing mainly, but sadly looks like all their jobs require security clearence...
 
  • #6
berkeman
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Probably don't need a security clearance to work on Google's self-driving cars... :smile:
 
  • #7
donpacino
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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
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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.
 
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  • #9
FactChecker
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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
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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
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
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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
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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
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
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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!
 
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  • #16
donpacino
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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
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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
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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
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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
For the control enginers: how often do you use mathematics and physics in your jobs?
 
  • #21
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For the control enginers: how often do you use mathematics and physics in your jobs?
All the time.
 
  • #22
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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.
 
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  • #23
All the time.
That's good to know. This certainly makes this area more interesting to me!

Thank you for the responses, guys!
 
  • #24
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, eletronics, mechanical?
 
  • #25
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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.
 
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