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How to Become a Robotics Engineer

Industry Advice Science & Mathematics

If you are looking to begin a career in the burgeoning robotics industry, there are many potential paths you may choose to take. You might, for example, seek a position as a roboticist or as a mechatronics engineer—two very common job titles held by those who work in the field of robotics.

Another common job title held by those who choose to go into the field is that of a robotics engineer. Below we explore the responsibilities, salary potential, and job outlook of robotics engineers and offer a step-by-step guide to breaking into the field.

What does a robotics engineer do?

Robotics is a multidisciplinary field which brings together a number of distinct branches of engineering—including mechanical, electronic, computer, and systems engineering—to support a vast number of industries. While the manufacturing industry is an important one, robotics can also be leveraged in industries as diverse as aerospace, transportation, automotive, medicine, and everything in between.

As a result, robotics engineers can be responsible for performing a wide range of duties related to those discrete branches of engineering, all depending on the organization they work for and the industry that it operates within.

“Robotics engineers have a broad range of responsibilities,” says Krassimir Marchev, PhD, Professor of Practice for Northeastern’s Bachelor of Science in Mechatronics program. “That’s why, at Northeastern, we teach our engineers to be able to step in and respond to any of the many needs of a company that might hire them, whether it be designing, installing, programming, teaching, or maintaining robots and automation systems.” 

Robotics Engineer Salary & Job Outlook

According to PayScale, the average annual salary of a robotics engineer as of August 2020 is $82,969 per year. It is worth noting, however, that salaries can range from a low of $59,000 to a high of $123,000 depending on a number of key factors, such as the industry an individual works in, their geographic location, and the size of the employer. 

To help you directly compare some of these factors, we have compiled data about each below.

Robotics Engineer Annual Salary by Location

  • All Locations: $82,969
  • Los Angeles: $101,736
  • San Francisco: $100,352
  • Boston: $84,723
  • Seattle: $84,000
  • Houston: $80,000
  • New York City: $75,000
  • Washington, D.C.: $74,000
  • Detroit: $70,000
  • Chicago: $67,000

Robotics Engineer Annual Salary by Experience

  • All Sizes: $82,969
  • Entry Level: $73,789
  • Early Career: $81,330
  • Mid-Career: $92,836
  • Experienced: $99,000
  • Late Career: $120,079

 


Take an Interdisciplinary Approach to an Ever-Evolving Field

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Additionally, depending on the specific company that an individual works for, someone may do all of the work of a robotics engineer but have a different job title. Below are the average annual salaries of other, related robotics titles:

How to Become a Robotics Engineer

1. Earn a related degree.

According to Marchev, a bachelor’s degree is the minimum required level of education that someone who wants to work as an entry-level robotics engineer will need to achieve.

While the degree needs to be in a field related to robotics, many fields of study can fulfill this requirement. Though some colleges may offer a bachelor’s degree specifically in robotics engineering, most employers will also consider applicants who have earned a degree in mechanical, electrical, software, or computer science engineering. 

As working as a robotics engineer requires that an individual has a firm understanding of multiple fields of engineering, Marchev recommends earning a degree that will expose you to these fields. One possible degree to do just that is a bachelor of science in mechatronics, which is designed to specifically prepare students for a career working in robotics or automation.

Consider This: For robotics engineers who aim to advance past entry-level roles, a graduate degree is all but required by employers today. This advanced robotics training can be incredibly beneficial for aspiring robotics engineers, as it provides the exposure to industry-standard equipment, integration with other core robotics disciplines, and hands-on learning opportunities required of mid- to senior-level employees.

2. Develop the required skills.

There are certain skill sets required of robotics engineers that can only be acquired through the pursuit of advanced education.

“If I can say anything about the skills needed by a robotics engineer, one word comes to mind: interdisciplinary,” Marchev says, calling upon his extensive industrial experience in the fields of robotics and advanced manufacturing.

Robotics engineers need to have a firm understanding of the following domains:

  • Fundamental engineering
  • Automation principles
  • Manufacturing operations
  • Programming
  • Mathematics
  • Statistics
  • Process control
  • Material science and engineering science

Marchev stresses that the final point on that list—material science and how it relates to engineering science—is especially important for robotics engineers.

“Over time, materials wear and performance deteriorates,” he says. “This affects the way that a robot will perform. Especially when designing robots for a particular application, a robotics engineer has to be aware of what materials have to be used and how they will behave in the environment in which these machines are used.”

It’s important, then, that you choose a degree that will prepare you to work in the field by helping you to develop these skills. 

At a minimum, students should carefully review the curriculum outlined for a particular degree to ensure that they will learn everything outlined above. They should also aim to find a program that offers experiential learning opportunities in the form of internships or co-ops, which will allow students to gain real, hands-on experience in the field and cement their skills.

3. Consider an advanced degree.

Though a bachelor’s degree is thought to be the bare minimum required level of education for robotics engineers, many employers will now only consider job applicants who have earned at least a master’s degree, such as a Master of Science in Robotics

Alongside an edge in a competitive job market, an advanced degree will help you to deepen your skills and expertise, empowering you to be more effective and authoritative in your role. A master’s in robotics can also open the possibility of advancement into senior-level and leadership positions. 

Keep in Mind: While anyone working as a robotics engineer can benefit from earning an MS in robotics, it can be particularly helpful for individuals who did not study robotics at the undergraduate level. This might include those who earned a bachelor’s degree in a related branch of engineering, such as mechanical or electrical engineering.

Wherever you are in your journey to becoming a robotics engineer, if you are considering earning a graduate degree in the field, it’s crucial that you find a program that you know will prepare you for your desired career path. The right degree will be one that focuses on building not just knowledge, but skills, and will ideally offer experiential learning opportunities that allow you to put your education into action.

Learn More: Is a Master’s in Robotics Worth It?

The Master of Science in Robotics at Northeastern fulfills all of these requirements and more.

On top of a curriculum meant to provide a well-rounded overview of the field, students in Northeastern’s program can declare a concentration in one of three fields, including mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, or computer science. Doing so can open the door to a variety of niche job opportunities after graduation.

Students also have the opportunity to complete co-op placements with some of the world’s biggest robotics companies, including Toyota Research Institute, Google, Apple, iRobot, Boston Dynamics, Bluefin Robotics, and more.

Taking the First Step Toward Your Future

If you are considering becoming a robotics engineer, you can rest assured in knowing that the career will be a lucrative, sustainable, and rewarding one. Though no two robotics engineers will ever have exactly the same career path, following the steps outlined above can be an excellent way to break into and advance within the field.

Explore Northeastern’s master’s in robotics program for more information about how earning your degree can launch your robotics career.


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