How to Become an Instrumentation and Control Engineer


Here are the essential steps for becoming an instrumentation and control engineer:


1. Excel at calculus, physics, chemistry, drafting and electronics in high school

2. Determine if this field is suited to your interests and traits

3. Pursue a bachelor’s degree related to electrical engineering

4. Get an entry-level job after graduation

5. Gain experience and get licensed as a Professional Engineer

6. Advance your career as you gain experience


Continue reading below to get a good idea of what you'll need to begin a career as an instrumentation and control engineer in the United States or Canada. We've also included helpful information for this career, such as an overview of salary level expectations, a list of possible employers, actual job postings, and much more!



What Education Will I Need?

Getting a bachelor’s degree in control and instrumentation engineering (or a similar field such as electrical, systems or computer engineering) will prepare you for work in this field, help you look attractive to employers, and help you qualify for certification down the road. 


While studying for your engineering degree, the more coursework or modules you can take in controls and instrumentation, the better prepared for this work you will be.


High School Preparations: You can begin preparations for this career while you’re in high school by excelling in courses such as calculus, physics, chemistry, drafting and electronics.





What is an Instrumentation and Control Engineer?

Instrumentation and control engineers are responsible for the design, development and installation of equipment which is used in the monitoring and control of engineering machinery, processes and systems. They must ensure that these systems and processes operate properly, efficiently and safely.  



What Do They Do?

In general instrumentation and control engineers have the following duties:


• Designing and developing new control systems for a client or employer

• Preparing material cost and timing estimates, reports and design specifications

• Evaluating, maintaining and modifying existing systems

• Conferring with design engineers, operation engineers, purchasers and other internal staff

• Overseeing the requisition of new equipment

• Liaising with clients, suppliers, contractors and relevant authorities

• Performing routine electronic monitoring, controlling and signal devices

• Supervising the work of technicians and other team members

• Maintaining power supply units, power utility services for gas turbines, electrical equipment and field instrumentation



What Licensing/Certification Will I Need?

You will need to be licensed as a Professional Engineer (“PE” - United States; “P.Eng.” - Canada) in order to exercise direct control of public projects, and to supervise other engineers and technicians. You will also need to have a designation in order to sell your own engineering services publicly.


If you are not licensed however, you can still work on engineering projects under the supervision of a licensed engineer. 



How Do I Become Licensed?

Although the licensing requirements for the Professional Engineering designation can vary by region, it typically involves multiple components, including completing an undergraduate degree in engineering, working for a certain number of hours under the supervision of a Professional Engineer, and passing a licensing exam.



What Traits Do I Need? 

If you have the following traits, you should be a good fit for a career as an instrumentation and control engineer:


• You enjoy learning how electrical equipment works

• You have an interest in power generation

• You enjoy thinking up ways to make things work more effectively

• You’re a team player, but can work effectively on your own

• You have a natural aptitude, and interest in math, physics and electronics 

• You have the ability to visualize 3D objects from 2D drawings

• You’re very comfortable working with machines and technology

• You enjoy doing work that involves precision, and obtaining and analyzing test results





What is the Salary of an Instrumentation and Control Engineer?

As mentioned above, the salary level you could earn as an instrumentation and control engineer can vary, typically depending on the following factors:


• Your level of education and certification

• Your level of experience

• The level of responsibility involved in your job

• The size and type of your employer

• The region in which you work

• Many other factors


Instrumentation and Control Engineer Salary in the United States: According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median salary level of Americans working in the electrical engineers* occupational group is $99,070 per year.


 Salary in Canada: According to the Alberta Wage and Salary Survey, the average salary of Albertans working in the electrical engineers occupational group is $98,528 per year. In B.C., those in the instrumentation and control engineers occupational group earn an annual provincial median salary of $76,794, according to WorkBC. Unfortunately, similar statistics from reliable sources could not be found for the rest of Canada at the time of writing (October 18, 2019).


*Unfortunately, reliable salary information for the occupation “instrumentation and control engineer” could not be found from reliable sources. However, the salary level of “electrical engineers” gives us a good idea of what you could earn. 



Who Employs Instrumentation and Control Engineers?

Job opportunities typically exist with the following types of organizations:


• Engineering and consulting firms

• Oil, gas and petrochemical companies

• Power, gas and water utilities 

• Pulp and paper mills

• Food processors

• Chemical plants

• Mining companies

• Meter and controls design, manufacturing and sales companies

• Research and education institutions



Current Job Postings in This Field

Below, we've listed instrumentation and control engineer jobs in your area. Apply away if you're ready for work, if not, these postings are great research tools to see what companies are looking for in terms of education, experience, licensing, traits, and other attributes:




What Are the Working Hours in this Career?

Instrumentation and control engineers typically work a standard 40-hour work week, although overtime involving late nights, early mornings, holidays and weekends may be required on occasion, such as when project deadlines are approaching. Some may also work shift work, especially those working in the oil & gas industry.



What is the Typical Work Environment?

The work of instrumentation and control engineers can involve a combination of indoor and outdoor work. The work would be indoors in an office environment when analyzing data, reviewing project requirements, or inspecting systems, and it might be outdoors when conducting research, and visiting project sites.



What Career Advancement Opportunities Are Common?

Displaying competence and a good work ethic can afford you plenty of career advancement options, including increases in pay, becoming the leader of a team of engineers and technicians, moving into management positions, working as a program manager, becoming a consultant, as well as other opportunities. 



What are Careers Similar to This One?

Listed below are careers that may be in the same field, or they may involve many of the same skills, competencies and/or responsibilities as "instrumentation and control engineer":


• Avionics Technician

• Broadcast Engineer

• Circuit Designer

• Electrical Engineer

• Production Engineer

• Robotics Technologist



What Are Scholarships for Becoming an Instrumentation & Control Engineer? 

All of the scholarships on our Computer Engineering Scholarships and Electrical Engineering Scholarships pages are relevant for becoming an instrumentation and control engineer.


Success Tip: Be sure to apply for any scholarships that you even barely qualify for, as there are millions of dollars of scholarships that go unused every year due to a lack of applicants!




Please consult the following resources to learn more about what it takes to work in this field:


• Job Profile: “Control and Instrumentation Engineer”, AGCAS editors (December, 2018). Prospects website. Retrieved October 18, 2018.

• Occupational Profile: “Electrical Engineer”, (March 31, 2018). Alberta Government - Alberta Learning Information Service website. Retrieved October 18, 2019.

• Occupational Profile: “Instrumentation Engineering Technologist”, (n.d.). Alberta Government - Alberta Learning Information Service. Retrieved February 6, 2017.

• Occupational Outlook Handbook: “Electrical and Electronics Engineers”, (September 4, 2019). United States Bureau of Labor Statistics. Retrieved October 18, 2019.

• Job Profiles for Immigrants: “Electrical Instrumentation Engineer”, (n.d.). Government of British Columbia - Welcome B.C.. Retrieved February 6, 2017.

• Explore Careers: “Electrical and electronics engineers”, (December 11, 2018). Government of British Columbia - WorkBC website. Retrieved October 18, 2019.



Relevant University Majors

We have career guides for over 60 university majors in our database. Below we've outlined those that are most relevant for this profession. Click on the link(s) to see what else you can do with these majors!


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