Schooling to Become a Control Systems Engineer

Jim Cahill posted an interesting question today on Twitter from a Jeremy Salmon, a BYU student.   He wanted to know:

I reached out to some folks in the Automation Federation (AF) who have been working on standardizing Automation-type curriculum to universities, colleges, and high schools.  They created the Automation Competency Model to help shape how courses are developed to ensure that engineers get well rounded training in all areas for process automation and handling control systems.

Instead of trying to squeeze my response down in a few tweets, I pulled together some of the answers here, and hopefully if anyone has anything to add, please feel free to do so.

Michael Marlowe, Managing Director of AF, shared that Fairfield University now offers a Manufacturing Automation Engineering program.

Gerry Cockrell, Professor Emeritus, Indiana State University and former ISA President noted:

The number of programs that offer some level of control systems content are quite numerous. The problem is in finding the correct terms that each institution may use to describe that program. You will find four year programs in controls at Oklahoma State University, Indiana State University, Fairfield University, and others. Keywords to search for include: automation, control engineering, mechatronics, instrumentation and control, and systems engineering.

Also, Jim Cahill provided a thread on the Emerson 365 Exchange which identified some resources in the Delta V community, along with some self study options.  ISA has a plethora of publications in this area as well.

Any other thoughts/direction for Jeremy or anyone looking for this type of information?



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  • This may be my own perspective, but I think a broader engineering degree such as electrical or chemical engineering lends itself to more career opportunities than a program specifically geared toward only control systems. If someone is truly interested in control systems, I’d encourage them to seek a co-op or internship position (which is how I ‘found’ the automation profession) to supplement their education.

    • Julianng

      I couldn’t agree more regarding a co-op/internship to really gain that hands-on experience. Part of that Twitter exchange that was not shown here was Jim’s comment that traditional engineering curriculum is highly theoretical vs. hands on. But that could be said for many “majors”, not just engineering…which is why some of the work being done to standardize some of the curriculum for automation engineering is important. The skill shortage is now, the sooner we can make headway the better.

  • Thanks for giving visibility to this Twitter discussion, Juliann! I asked Greg McMillan for his thoughts on university programs for control engineering and here was his note back to me:

    “The best schools are often tied to the academic leaders in process control. I see the best as the University of Texas with Tom Edgar and the Oklahoma State with Russ Rhinehart.”

    As a University of Texas Longhorn, all I can add is Hook ’em! 😉