What Is a Controls Engineer (+ How to Become One)

Written by Coursera Staff • Updated on

Explore the role of a controls engineer and what steps you can take to become one.

[Featured Image] A controls engineer examines his computer in front of a wall of mechanical diagrams.

A controls engineer goes by several names. You may hear someone refer to them as a control systems or controls engineer. No matter which title you prefer, the role remains the same. A controls engineer ensures that an organisation can create high-quality products in the most efficient manner possible. The article below examines a controls engineer's career path, pay, and responsibilities. 

What is control engineering?

Control engineering (or control system engineering) involves designing, analysing, and optimising a control system. A control system is a set of devices that regulates the behaviour of other devices or systems. It can comprise mechanical devices like machinery or computers or a combination of the two. There are many different control systems, but each serves the same purpose: to control outputs. 

An air conditioner is one example of a control system you might encounter regularly. It controls the output of hot or cold air, depending on the temperature setting you input. This process often involves the control of several different devices. For example, most air conditioning systems involve an air handler, a condenser, and a thermostat. 

Control engineering jobs

The list below provides three examples of industries (and companies within those industries) that employ controls engineers. 

1. Aerospace: Companies in the aerospace industry design, develop, and manufacture advanced aircraft and other aerospace products. Boeing is one of the top companies hiring controls engineers. 

2. Automobile: Businesses in the automotive industry specialise in manufacturing, wholesaling, and maintaining motor vehicle components. Fiat Chrysler is a top employer of controls engineers in this industry. 

3. Manufacturing: Manufacturing is a broad term for the large-scale production of goods. It has many branches, such as industrial machinery manufacturing and transportation equipment manufacturing. GE is a top employer of controls engineers in the manufacturing industry.

4. Oil & Gas: The Oil and gas Exploration and production industry refers to a sector of the petroleum industry that focuses on the exploration, development, refinement, transportation, and distribution of oil and gas. Chevron is one of the top companies employing controls engineers in this industry. 

Controls engineer salary

India's average yearly pay for controls engineers is ₹9,21,620 [2]. Your experience can impact your earnings. 

For example, an entry-level controls engineer with less than one year experience can expect to earn an average wage of ₹3,11,200, including additional bonus pay.

Job outlook for controls engineers

According to Indeed, controls engineers are in high demand in both the private and public sectors. They belong to the occupational field of architecture and engineering.

Controls engineer job description

As a controls engineer, you will supervise and analyse the systems involved with equipment production. Your primary goal is to optimise the design, layout, and device placements. The ability to adhere to quality and safety standards is crucial. A controls engineer can expect to manage the following responsibilities:

  • Leading engineering and automation teams through concept planning, configuration, and development

  • Testing and troubleshooting various mechanical and electrical systems

  • Providing technical support and instruction to organisation members

  • Developing technical documentation of projects and maintenance

  • Monitoring system performance and functionality

Controls engineer responsibilities

Controls engineers are integral to company operations. Most commonly, they work full-time, on-site positions. Although some of their work is independent, controls system engineers work to improve cross-departmental processes. This responsibility requires them to collaborate with stakeholders and various organisation members regularly. 

Essential skills checklist for controls engineers

Control system engineers are technically proficient in several disciplines, including project management, mechanics, and engineering. A few critical technical skills for controls engineers include:

  • Knowledge of algorithm design and programming logic

  • Familiarity with Root Cause Analysis (RCA) and Corrective Action (CA) methodologies

  • Experience working with automation, control, and monitoring systems and software

  • Ability to install, configure, troubleshoot, and maintain mechanical systems and electrical equipment

  • Understanding of standard operating procedures, engineering documentation, and electrical diagrams

Workplace skills to build for this position include:

  • Interpersonal skills 

  • Proficient problem-solving capabilities 

  • Leadership

  • High-level written and verbal communication skills

  • Strong organisational skills

  • Professional Project Management (PMP)

It can be intimidating to step into an engineering role requiring people management. Those who don’t yet have experience managing engineering projects may consider taking an online course in Leadership Development for Engineers

How to become a controls engineer

To enter the field of controls engineering, you must have a bachelor’s degree, at minimum. Employers typically look for degrees in relevant areas such as engineering, electrical engineering, mechanical engineering, or a related subject. You may also pursue a master’s degree immediately after earning a bachelor’s or after several years of experience. 

Earn a degree and choose your specialty.

As mentioned above, many organisations cite engineering-based degrees as a qualification for employment. However, your desired industry could play a role in the type of specialisation you pursue. For instance, consider a Bachelor of Science in Computer Science if you want to work in the information technology (IT) industry. In contrast, someone who wants to work in electrical and electronic manufacturing might pursue a Master of Science in Electrical Engineering.

Enhance your resume or CV.

Earning a professional certificate is an excellent way to demonstrate your abilities to potential employers. You can also use certificates to fill gaps in your experience or expertise. If you are still trying to figure out where to start, consider browsing job listings for positions that interest you. Learning about in-demand skills from employers that are currently hiring can help you find an area of focus. For example, controls engineers who want to enhance their project management skills may consider earning Rice University’s Engineering Project Management Professional Certificate.

Start today with Coursera.

Ready to take the next step to becoming a controls engineer? Start today and enroll in your first Master of Engineering in Engineering Management course through the University of Colorado Boulder. 

Article sources


Glassdoor. “Top Companies Hiring for Controls Engineer Jobs, ​​https://www.glassdoor.com/Explore/browse-companies.htm?overall_rating_low=3&page=2&occ=Controls%20Engineer.” Accessed April 5, 2024.

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