Guide to a Robotics Engineering Career

Written by Coursera • Updated on

Learn about the robotics engineering field and what it takes to become a robotics engineer, including the required skills, education, experience, and potential salaries.

[Featured image] Two robotics engineers, are working on the development of an automated production line with robotic parts and applied software.

Robotics engineers help create robotic systems used to perform human and nonhuman duties. As a robotics engineer, you’ll be doing the following responsibilities:

  • Design and build robots

  • Maintain and repair robots

  • Develop new applications for existing robots

  • Conduct research to expand the potential of robotics. 

Some robotics engineers specialize in creating specific parts of a robot.

As a robotics engineer, you could contribute to any aspect of the robot, from initial design to writing control software. You’ll evaluate robotic systems, make any necessary improvements, and perform tests to ensure the robots function correctly and meet industry standards before people use them.

Robotics engineers create robots for various purposes, from exploring other planets to working in factories. As a robotics engineer, you can make a significant difference in the world.

What is robotics engineering? 

The robotics engineering field falls under the categories of electrical, mechanical, and computer engineering. It involves designing, building, and engineering robots. It’s also a practical design role in the research field. 

What does a robotics engineer do? 

As a robotics engineer, you may develop robotic applications across many industries, including automotive, aerospace, manufacturing, defense, and medicine. 

You may spend much of your time working at a computer designing new products or at a workstation assembling prototypes for testing purposes. Some robotics engineers work on-site at manufacturing plants overseeing robots as they operate on assembly lines.

To keep up with developments in the field, you'll attend professional conferences. These conferences provide an opportunity to share new ideas with other experts and learn about the latest technology.

Working as a robotics engineer, you can specialize in areas such as:

 

  • Mobility locomotion

  • Sensing and perception

  • Operator interface

  • Manipulators and effectors

  • Programming

Types of robotic engineers 

Many different types of robotics engineering are available for you to choose from, with specialties that fit your interests and skills. 

For instance, some robotics engineers design robotic arms for the auto industry, others help create robots for space exploration, and others develop specialized robots to help perform surgery or assist the military.

Robotics engineering combines electrical engineering, mechanical engineering, and computer systems engineering. Many specialties have emerged as the field has grown and expanded, including but not limited to: 

  • Air traffic management systems

  • Artificial intelligence robotics

  • Automation

  • Bio-cybernetics

  • Computer software development

  • Computer-aided manufacturing

  • Control systems

  • General robotics

  • Intelligent systems

  • Medical robotics

  • Micro-robotics

Robots are used in various fields, creating many opportunities for robotics engineers. You may work in:

  • A manufacturing plant building, maintaining, and fixing robots

  • A technology company designing personal and domestic robots 

  • A university performing research on human-machine interaction and robotic advances

  • Industrial research developing and building new robotic design concepts

What skills are required for robotics engineers?

As robotics engineering is a cutting-edge, multidisciplinary field, you may need to be curious and committed to continuous learning. More specifically, you may want to have these skills:

  • Interest in how things work: As a robotics engineer, you'll be responsible for designing, assembling, testing, and maintaining robots. You need to understand mechanics, electronics, sensory feedback systems, and how these complex machines operate. 

  • Imagination: You must be able to visualize how a robot will move and interact with its environment.

  • Decision-making skills: Many problems don't have clear solutions. In these situations, it's up to you to evaluate different options and make the best decision.

  • Math skills: As a robotics engineer, you’ll use advanced math on a daily basis as you design and analyze the performance of robots. Algebra, geometry, measurement, and statistics are commonly used, and calculus or trigonometry may also be used.

  • Computer skills: Robotics engineers use computer software to create detailed designs of robots and robotic systems before they're built. They also use specialized software programs to test how robots perform in different environments.

  • A practical focus: You need to use practical and logical thinking to debug machines and get them working properly. You’ll often have to make decisions that compromise performance in one area and be able to ascertain the best path forward.

  • Communication skills: The ability to clearly communicate your designs to other professionals is essential when you’re working as an engineer.

You’ll also need domain-specific skills. For example, if you’re working on designing robotic brain interfaces, you may need knowledge in flexible conducting metals used as neural probes. If you’re working on autonomous robots, you’ll need to understand programming languages and artificial intelligence. You can often learn domain-specific technical skills on the job, although some employers want prior experience in the area you’ll be working.

Where does a robotics engineer work? 

A lot of positions conduct advanced robotics research in universities. Here are some industries where you’ll find robotics engineering jobs.

  • Automotive manufacturers are one of the largest employers of robotics engineers. These companies use robots in manufacturing vehicles and their parts.

  • Robotics engineers also work for defense contractors who build military weapons that require remote or automated operations. Military drones and missile systems commonly use robotic technology.

  • Aerospace firms employ robotics engineers to design and manufacture spacecraft, satellites, and missiles. Robots also help assemble aircraft and perform maintenance on them.

  • Medical equipment manufacturers rely on robotics engineers to create artificial limbs and prosthetics. Surgical operations have increasingly used robotic surgical systems. 

  • Robotics engineers can also find employment at research firms that study robotic technology and its possible applications in different industries.

Salary and career outlook for robotic engineers 

Robotics engineering is growing rapidly. Robotics is forecast to grow at an annual growth rate of 28 percent between 2021 and 2030, a rate higher than average [1]. 

The average annual robotics engineering salary in the US is $83,072 [2]. Some jobs in robotics engineering and their average US salaries include:

  • Robotics electrical engineer: $88,408 [3]

  • Robotics software engineer: $97,115[4]

  • Automation engineer: $84,291 [5]

  • Computer vision engineer: $104,382[6]

How to become a robotics engineer

To become a robotics engineer, you’ll need a bachelor's degree. If you intend to work in a robotics software role, you’ll need a background in computer science. If you want to design robotic components, you’ll focus your studies on mechanical engineering or electrical engineering.

Earn a bachelor’s degree.

Several universities offer bachelor's degrees in robotics engineering. Many aspiring robotics engineers tend to pursue a mechanical or electrical engineering degree with a focus on robotics. You can choose from various majors and still have access to a robotics career, including:

  • Electrical/electronics engineering

  • Mechanical engineering

  • Computer science

  • Mathematics

  • Design and technology

  • Computing and programming 

Many colleges offer bachelor's degrees in electrical or mechanical engineering with a concentration in robotics. You’ll likely take mathematics and physics courses and more specialized classes related to robotics, such as mechanical design and programming languages. 

If you choose a degree in electrical or computer engineering with robotics, your coursework will focus on components within robots, such as actuators, sensors, and circuit boards.

Employers typically don't mind whether you have a specific bachelor's degree. They tend to want you to have the necessary skills and know-how to perform the job. Most robotics engineers hold at least a bachelor's degree in an engineering discipline.

What is a robotics engineering degree?

A robotics engineering degree program teaches you how to design and build robots. In your courses, you’ll learn about mechanical and electrical engineering, chemistry, computer science, and physics. The type of robotics engineer you become depends on your educational background, your industry experience, and the area of specialization you choose. A robotics major can keep different robotics specializations open to you.

Gain experience. 

While some employers may hire new graduates, many look for candidates with experience. To get experience, you can volunteer to work on projects through your university or local robotics clubs. You can also seek out paid or voluntary internships with companies that make and sell robots. Internships provide hands-on experience working with robots and may help you build professional relationships with mentors who can guide you as you start your career. Some companies even hire their interns as full-time employees after they graduate. 

Read more: How to Get a Job with No Experience: A Job Seeker’s Guide

Consider a graduate degree. 

Many employers prefer to hire applicants who have completed a master's or doctorate degree program in robotics engineering or a related field. Graduate programs allow you to gain valuable knowledge and skills through advanced coursework and research opportunities. Most master’s programs take two years to complete, and doctoral degrees take four to eight years.

Read more: Is a Master's Degree Worth It?

Consider licensure or certifications. 

Robotics engineers aren’t required to get licensure. However, earning professional credentials may improve your job prospects. Engineers can earn their professional engineer (PE) license after completing the necessary theoretical and practical training requirements.

Is robotics engineering right for me?

Careers in robotics engineering can be very rewarding. Here are some things to keep in mind as you consider this career path:

  • You’ll need to commit yourself to lifelong learning. The world of technology is always changing and evolving. To remain competitive and relevant, you’ll need to devote yourself to staying up to date with technological advancements.

  • Focus on solutions. You may encounter problems from time to time. When you do, you may need to be able to take a step back and focus on finding the solution rather than getting bogged down by the problem.

Robotics engineering could be the right career for you if:

  • You have a strong commitment to lifelong learning.

  • You thrive in an intellectually challenging environment.

  • You have a high level of initiative, integrity, professionalism, and accountability.

  • You can prioritize competing demands, handle multiple projects, and organize your time effectively.

  • You have well-developed analytical, organizational, and problem-solving skills.

Next steps

Start learning the fundamentals and technical skills of a robotics career by understanding the building blocks. You may want to consider the Modern Robotics: Mechanics, Planning, and Control Specialization offered by Northwestern or the Robotics Process Automation (RPA) Specialization offered by UI Path on Coursera.

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specialization

Modern Robotics: Mechanics, Planning, and Control

The most important concepts in modern robotics. A study of the kinematics, dynamics, motion planning, and control of mobile robots and robot arms.

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INTERMEDIATE level

Average time: 6 month(s)

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specialization

Robotic Process Automation (RPA)

Learn RPA Design & Development with UiPath. Master building automation projects independently.

4.8

(92 ratings)

2,827 already enrolled

BEGINNER level

Average time: 4 month(s)

Learn at your own pace

Skills you'll build:

Uipath, Studio, Automation, Workflow, rpa, Data Manipulation, List, Dictionary, Input Actions Automation, Selectors, Recording in Studio, User Interface Automation, Error Handling Approach & Activities, Control Flow Activities, Loops in Studio, Sequences, Flowcharts and Decision Making, Screen Scraping, email automation, Data Scraping, Workbook Automation, Excel Automation, Asset, UiPath Orchestrator, Orchestrator user interface, Queues

Related articles 

Article sources

  1. GlobalData. "Robotics - Thematic Research, https://www.globaldata.com/store/report/robotics-theme-analysis/." Accessed June 9, 2022. 

  2. Glassdoor, “Robotics Engineer Salarieshttps://www.glassdoor.com/Salaries/us-robotics-engineer-salary-SRCH_IL.0,2_IN1_KO3,20.htm.” Accessed April 12, 2022.

  3. Glassdoor, “Robotics Electrical Engineer Salaries, https://www.glassdoor.com/Salaries/us-robotics-electrical-engineer-salary-SRCH_IL.0,2_IN1_KO3,31.htm.” Accessed April 12, 2022.

  4. Glassdoor, “Robotics Software Engineer Salaries, https://www.glassdoor.com/Salaries/us-robotics-software-engineer-salary-SRCH_IL.0,2_IN1_KO3,29.htm.” Accessed April 12, 2022.

  5. Glassdoor, “Automation Engineer Salaries, https://www.glassdoor.com/Salaries/us-automation-engineer-salary-SRCH_IL.0,2_IN1_KO3,22.htm.” Accessed April 12, 2022.

  6. Glassdoor, “Computer Vision Engineer Salaries, https://www.glassdoor.com/Salaries/us-computer-vision-salary-SRCH_IL.0,2_IN1_KO3,18.htm.” Accessed April 12, 2022.

Written by Coursera • Updated on

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