Education Requirements for Automation Engineers

Common education requirements, degrees, and alternatives for aspiring Automation Engineers.

Start Your Automation Engineer Career with Teal

Join our community of 150,000+ members and get tailored career guidance from us at every step

Create a free account

Do You Need a Degree to Become a Automation Engineer?

The necessity of a degree for a career in automation engineering is a topic of considerable debate. Traditionally, a degree in engineering, computer science, or a related technical field has been the cornerstone for a career in automation engineering. This educational foundation equips aspiring automation engineers with essential theoretical knowledge and technical skills. However, the field of automation is dynamic, with a growing emphasis on practical experience and specialized expertise. In the current job market, it's not uncommon to find automation engineers with varied educational backgrounds, and some have forged successful careers without a traditional degree in the field. What distinguishes a standout candidate is often their hands-on experience with automation systems, proficiency in programming, and a deep understanding of the technologies driving industry 4.0. Employers are increasingly valuing these practical skills, which can be acquired through vocational training, boot camps, online courses, and industry certifications. This trend towards valuing skills and experience over formal education suggests a more flexible and competency-based approach to entering the field of automation engineering. It acknowledges the role of continuous learning and adaptability in a profession that is at the forefront of technological innovation.

Educational Backgrounds of Automation Engineers

The educational backgrounds of Automation Engineers reflect the interdisciplinary nature of the field, where engineering principles intersect with cutting-edge technology. As we delve into the various academic paths that have shaped today's Automation Engineers, we'll uncover the essential educational components that contribute to their success in this dynamic and evolving industry.

A Snapshot of Today's Automation Engineers' Educational Background

Automation Engineers often come from robust technical backgrounds, with many holding degrees in fields such as Electrical Engineering, Mechanical Engineering, Computer Science, or Robotics. These disciplines provide a strong technical foundation in the principles of automation, control systems, and programming. However, the field also sees professionals with degrees in Industrial Engineering, which emphasizes efficiency and optimization of processes, a core aspect of automation. In addition to these traditional paths, there is a growing number of engineers who have expanded their expertise with advanced degrees or certifications in specialized areas like Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning, reflecting the industry's rapid integration of these technologies.

Evolving Trends and the Shift in Educational Preferences

The landscape of education for Automation Engineers is shifting as the industry demands a deeper integration of software and hardware knowledge. Where once a solid foundation in mechanical or electrical engineering might have sufficed, today's Automation Engineers are increasingly expected to be proficient in software development, data analytics, and even cyber-physical systems. This evolution has led to a preference for candidates with interdisciplinary degrees or those who have pursued additional training in computer science and information technology, alongside their engineering coursework.

Education for Aspiring Automation Engineers: What Matters?

For those looking to become Automation Engineers, a strong technical education is essential, but not exclusively determinative of one's career prospects. Key educational themes include:
  • Control Systems and Robotics: A deep understanding of automation fundamentals, often acquired through degrees in engineering with a focus on control systems or robotics.
  • Software Development Skills: Increasingly important in the field, these can be gained through computer science studies or specialized programming courses.
  • Data Analysis and Machine Learning: As automation systems become more intelligent, skills in data science and machine learning are becoming highly sought after.
  • Building a Path Forward: Education and Beyond

    For aspiring Automation Engineers, education is just the starting point. Building a successful career also involves:
  • Hands-On Experience: Internships or project work that provide practical experience with automation systems and technologies.
  • Continuous Learning: Staying current with the latest advancements through online courses, workshops, and industry certifications.
  • Interdisciplinary Exposure: Gaining knowledge in adjacent fields such as IoT, AI, and systems integration to enhance systems-thinking capabilities.
  • The Bottom Line: Diverse Backgrounds, Unified Goals

    The educational backgrounds of Automation Engineers are diverse yet centered around a common goal: to innovate and improve the efficiency of systems and processes. While a strong foundation in engineering is typical, the field values continuous learning and adaptability. Aspiring Automation Engineers should focus on acquiring a mix of technical skills and practical experiences that align with the industry's forward-looking trajectory.

    Most Common Degrees for Automation Engineers

    While a degree may not be an absolute requirement for a career in automation engineering, understanding the educational background of professionals in the field can offer valuable insights into the knowledge and skills that are beneficial for success in this area. A degree can provide a structured learning experience and a foundational understanding of the principles and technologies that underpin automation. Below, we explore the common degrees that automation engineers often hold, highlighting the diverse academic paths that lead to this dynamic and evolving profession.

    Electrical Engineering

    Electrical Engineering degrees are highly relevant for Automation Engineers, as they cover a wide range of topics including circuit design, control systems, and signal processing. These are the building blocks of automation technology, and graduates with this background are well-equipped to design and implement automated systems. Their deep understanding of electrical components and systems is crucial for developing efficient and reliable automation solutions.

    Mechanical Engineering

    Mechanical Engineering is another common degree among Automation Engineers. This discipline provides a strong foundation in mechanics, dynamics, and material science, which are essential for understanding the physical aspects of automated systems. Mechanical Engineers often bring expertise in designing mechanical components of automation systems, such as robotic arms or conveyor belts, and ensuring their proper integration and function within larger systems.

    Computer Science or Computer Engineering

    With the increasing reliance on software in automation systems, degrees in Computer Science or Computer Engineering are becoming more prevalent in the field. These degrees offer knowledge in programming, algorithms, and data structures, which are critical for developing the software that controls automated processes. Professionals with this background are adept at creating the complex code that drives automation and enables intelligent decision-making by machines.

    Systems Engineering

    Systems Engineering is a multidisciplinary field that focuses on designing and managing complex systems over their life cycles. Automation Engineers with a Systems Engineering degree are skilled in integrating various components—mechanical, electrical, and software—into a cohesive, functioning whole. This holistic approach is vital for ensuring that automated systems are efficient, scalable, and meet the needs of the organizations they serve.

    Industrial Engineering

    Industrial Engineering degrees emphasize optimizing complex processes and systems, making it a fitting background for Automation Engineers. These professionals are trained to improve efficiency, productivity, and quality in manufacturing and other industries through automation. They possess skills in process analysis, workflow design, and the use of statistical methods to analyze and enhance system performance. Understanding these common educational paths can help aspiring Automation Engineers choose a degree that aligns with their interests and career goals. Each degree offers a unique set of skills and perspectives, contributing to the multifaceted expertise required in the field of automation engineering.

    Popular Majors for Automation Engineers

    Automation engineering is a multidisciplinary field that integrates knowledge from various technical domains to design, develop, and maintain automated systems. As such, certain academic majors stand out for their ability to equip students with the necessary skills and knowledge to excel as Automation Engineers. Here are some of the most popular and relevant majors for individuals interested in pursuing a career in automation engineering.

    Electrical Engineering

    Electrical Engineering is a cornerstone major for Automation Engineers. It provides a deep understanding of electrical circuits, control systems, and microprocessors, all of which are fundamental components of automation technology. Students learn to design and troubleshoot electrical systems, which is critical for developing and maintaining automated processes.

    Mechanical Engineering

    Mechanical Engineering is another vital major for those interested in automation. This discipline covers the principles of mechanics, dynamics, and thermodynamics, which are essential for designing mechanical components of automated systems. Knowledge in material science and fluid mechanics also plays a significant role in creating robust and efficient automation solutions.

    Computer Science

    A major in Computer Science is highly beneficial for Automation Engineers, as it provides expertise in software development, algorithms, and data structures. These skills are crucial for programming the logic of automated systems and integrating various software applications that control automation processes.


    Robotics is an interdisciplinary field that combines electrical engineering, mechanical engineering, and computer science. A major in Robotics is directly aligned with a career in automation engineering, offering specialized knowledge in robot design, artificial intelligence, and machine learning, which are increasingly important in developing sophisticated automated systems.

    Industrial Engineering

    Industrial Engineering focuses on optimizing complex processes and systems. For Automation Engineers, this major offers insights into production systems, quality control, and operations research. Skills in process improvement and systems management are particularly valuable for implementing automation in manufacturing and other industries.

    Control Systems Engineering

    Control Systems Engineering is a specialized major that delves into the theory and application of control theory. It is highly relevant for Automation Engineers who design and manage the control systems that are integral to automated operations. This major teaches how to model, analyze, and design controllers that ensure the stability and performance of automated systems.

    Information Technology

    A major in Information Technology is pertinent for Automation Engineers focusing on the integration of IT systems within automated environments. This major provides knowledge in network architecture, cybersecurity, and database management, which are important for the secure and efficient operation of automation systems. Each of these majors provides a unique set of skills and knowledge that contribute to the multifaceted role of an Automation Engineer. As automation continues to advance and permeate various sectors, the educational background of Automation Engineers will play a pivotal role in their ability to innovate and drive efficiency in an increasingly automated world.

    Popular Minors for Automation Engineers

    Choosing a minor that complements an Automation Engineering major is a strategic step for students aiming to enhance their expertise and marketability in the workforce. A well-selected minor can provide additional technical skills or offer a broader understanding of the contexts in which automation is applied. Here are some popular minors that can significantly benefit aspiring Automation Engineers.

    Computer Science

    A minor in Computer Science is highly beneficial for Automation Engineers as it deepens their understanding of software development, algorithms, and data structures. These skills are essential for designing and implementing automated systems and for troubleshooting complex software issues that may arise within automated processes.

    Electrical Engineering

    Electrical Engineering as a minor complements the Automation Engineering major by providing a solid foundation in electronics and circuit design. This knowledge is crucial for understanding the hardware aspects of automation systems, including sensors, actuators, and control systems, which are integral components of modern automated machinery.


    Robotics is an excellent minor for those interested in the physical side of automation. It covers the design, construction, operation, and use of robots, providing practical skills and knowledge that are directly applicable to industries employing advanced automation and robotic systems.

    Systems Engineering

    A minor in Systems Engineering equips Automation Engineers with a holistic view of complex systems integration. This interdisciplinary field focuses on how to design and manage complex systems over their life cycles, which is invaluable for overseeing large-scale automation projects.

    Industrial Design

    Industrial Design as a minor can be particularly useful for Automation Engineers focused on the manufacturing sector. It offers insights into product design and user experience, ensuring that automated systems are not only efficient but also user-friendly and designed with the end-user in mind.

    Business Administration

    A minor in Business Administration is advantageous for Automation Engineers who aspire to take on managerial roles or understand the business implications of automation technologies. It provides a foundation in management principles, operations, and strategy, which is beneficial for making decisions that align with business objectives.


    Mathematics is a fundamental minor for those in the automation field, as it strengthens analytical and problem-solving skills. Advanced math skills are essential for developing algorithms and models used in automation and for performing the complex calculations required in system design and optimization.

    Why Pursue a Degree for a Automation Engineer Career?

    The decision to pursue a degree in Automation Engineering is a strategic move for those looking to excel in a field that is rapidly transforming industries across the globe. While hands-on experience and certifications are valuable, a specialized degree in Automation Engineering offers a comprehensive educational experience that aligns with the complexities and technical demands of the role. A degree in Automation Engineering provides a structured academic framework that delves into the core principles of automation, including systems design, control theory, robotics, and artificial intelligence. This formal education equips students with a deep understanding of the technical aspects of automation, ensuring they are well-versed in the latest technologies and methodologies. Moreover, degree programs in this field typically incorporate practical components such as lab work, internships, and capstone projects. These experiences are crucial for bridging the gap between theoretical knowledge and practical application, allowing students to tackle real-world challenges and develop solutions that can be showcased to potential employers. Networking is another pivotal aspect of a degree in Automation Engineering. The connections made with fellow students, professors, and industry experts can become invaluable resources throughout one's career. Degree programs often facilitate these connections through events, seminars, and collaborative projects, providing a platform for students to engage with the professional community. For those transitioning from other fields, a degree in Automation Engineering offers a clear and comprehensive path to acquiring the specialized skills necessary for success in this domain. It also provides a credential that is recognized by employers and can significantly enhance career progression.

    What Can You Do with a Degree in Automation Engineering?

    A degree in Automation Engineering opens the door to a multitude of career opportunities in sectors such as manufacturing, automotive, aerospace, and healthcare, to name a few. Graduates can pursue roles such as Automation Engineer, Control Systems Engineer, Robotics Engineer, or Process Improvement Specialist, where they can design, implement, and maintain automation systems. This degree also serves as a foundation for advanced positions in research and development, where engineers can contribute to cutting-edge innovations in automation and robotics. The skills acquired through a degree in Automation Engineering are also applicable in consultancy roles, helping businesses to optimize operations and increase efficiency. Entrepreneurial paths are also accessible with this degree, as the comprehensive knowledge of automation systems can inspire graduates to develop their own technologies or start companies that provide automation solutions. As Automation Engineers gain experience, they can move into leadership roles such as Automation Manager, Director of Engineering, or Chief Technology Officer, where they can oversee large-scale automation projects and drive technological strategy within organizations.

    Degree Alternatives for a Automation Engineer

    Exploring alternative pathways to becoming an Automation Engineer can be a strategic choice for those who prefer a more hands-on and flexible approach to their career development. These alternatives can be particularly appealing in a field that is constantly evolving, where practical experience and the ability to quickly adapt to new technologies are highly valued. For individuals aiming to break into the field of automation engineering, there are several effective options that emphasize real-world skills and experience.

    Professional Certifications

    Professional certifications offer specialized training that is directly applicable to the role of an Automation Engineer. Certifications from organizations like the International Society of Automation (ISA), Certified Automation Professional (CAP), or vendor-specific certifications for platforms like Siemens, Rockwell, or Schneider Electric can provide a focused understanding of automation principles and technologies. These credentials are especially useful for those with a background in related fields, such as electrical or mechanical engineering, looking to specialize in automation.

    Technical Bootcamps

    Technical bootcamps provide an immersive learning environment that can quickly bring aspiring automation engineers up to speed with the latest industry practices. These intensive programs often cover topics such as PLC programming, robotics, SCADA systems, and industrial networking. Bootcamps are a great way to gain practical experience, as well as to network with industry professionals and peers.

    Online Courses and MOOCs

    Online courses and Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) offer the convenience of learning at your own pace and can be a cost-effective way to gain knowledge in automation engineering. Platforms like Coursera, Udemy, and edX host courses on subjects ranging from control systems and robotics to industrial automation and IoT. These courses often include hands-on projects and simulations, which allow learners to apply theory to practice.

    Apprenticeships and On-the-Job Training

    Apprenticeships and on-the-job training programs provide valuable hands-on experience under the guidance of experienced professionals. These opportunities allow individuals to learn the intricacies of automation systems while contributing to real projects. This pathway is particularly beneficial for gaining practical skills and understanding the day-to-day responsibilities of an Automation Engineer.

    DIY Projects and Community Involvement

    Engaging in DIY projects and participating in maker communities or hackathons can be an excellent way to develop practical automation skills. Building your own automated systems or contributing to community projects can demonstrate your technical abilities and problem-solving skills. This hands-on experience can be an impressive addition to a portfolio and can show potential employers your passion and initiative in the field of automation engineering.

    Navigating a Automation Engineer Career without a Degree

    Navigating a career as an Automation Engineer without a traditional degree requires strategic approaches and leveraging unique strengths. In this field, adaptability and a self-driven mindset are essential for success. The ability to learn on the go and apply technical knowledge practically can set you apart. Here are some practical tips to help you build a successful career in Automation Engineering without a formal degree.

    Gain Hands-on Technical Experience

    Practical experience is invaluable in the field of automation engineering. Seek out opportunities to work with automation tools and technologies through internships, apprenticeships, or by contributing to open-source projects. Hands-on experience with programming, systems integration, and troubleshooting can significantly boost your employability.

    Build a Technical Portfolio

    Develop a portfolio that demonstrates your automation projects, including any scripts you've written, systems you've designed, or processes you've improved. Documenting your problem-solving process and the outcomes of your projects can showcase your skills and experience to potential employers.

    Master Relevant Technologies

    Focus on learning key technologies used in automation engineering, such as PLC programming, robotics, SCADA systems, and IoT. Online courses, tutorials, and community colleges offer practical training that can help you build the technical skills required in the industry.

    Network with Industry Professionals

    Connect with professionals in the field through LinkedIn, industry forums, and local meetups. Networking can lead to mentorship opportunities, insider knowledge about job openings, and valuable advice on how to navigate the industry without a degree.

    Stay Abreast of Industry Developments

    Automation technology evolves rapidly. Keep up with the latest trends, tools, and best practices by following industry news, attending webinars, and participating in relevant online communities. This will ensure you remain competitive and knowledgeable about the latest advancements.

    Embrace Continuous Learning

    Commit to lifelong learning to stay relevant in the field. Whether through online courses, workshops, or self-study, continuously update your knowledge and skills in automation engineering. This shows potential employers that you are committed to keeping pace with the industry.

    Pursue Certifications and Short Courses

    While not a direct replacement for a degree, professional certifications and short courses can validate your skills and knowledge in specific areas of automation engineering. Certifications from recognized organizations can enhance your resume and demonstrate your dedication to the field.

    Education FAQs for Automation Engineer

    Do you need to go to college to become a Automation Engineer?

    While a college degree in engineering or computer science can be advantageous for an Automation Engineer, it's not mandatory. The field prioritizes practical skills in programming, systems design, and problem-solving, which can be acquired through vocational training, certifications, and hands-on experience. Many successful Automation Engineers have built their careers on a foundation of self-directed learning, apprenticeships, and industry-specific courses, demonstrating that a traditional college education is one of several pathways into this dynamic profession.

    Is it worth it to get a degree for a Automation Engineer role?

    A degree in Automation Engineering can be a significant asset, providing a solid foundation in systems design, programming, and control theory. Its value depends on your career objectives and preferred learning approach. For those seeking a structured educational path and industry recognition, a degree can open doors to advanced positions and specialized roles. However, hands-on experience and targeted certifications can also be effective for building the practical skills needed in this rapidly evolving field.

    How important is continuous learning for a Automation Engineer?

    Continuous learning is vital for Automation Engineers as the field is characterized by rapid technological advancements. Staying updated with the latest programming languages, tools, and industry best practices is essential to design and implement efficient automation systems. Engaging in ongoing education, whether through courses, certifications, or conferences, ensures that Automation Engineers can tackle complex challenges, innovate, and maintain a competitive edge in a field that is at the forefront of modern efficiency and productivity.
    Up Next

    Automation Engineer Certifications

    Learn what it takes to become a JOB in 2024