Instrumentation Engineer Job Description
Any organization requiring help in perfecting the accuracy and performance of devices or systems can benefit from the services of an instrumentation engineer. At a biomedical company, for instance, the job might involve coming up with more precise medical equipment. The government could hire instrumentation engineers to work on aerospace projects or defense systems. Manufacturing firms need them to build and maintain automated machines that accurately and efficiently produce their products.
Workplaces vary by industry and can include offices, labs, and factories. Experienced instrumentation engineers sometimes opt to become self-employed consultants who take on a variety of clients. Most instrumentation engineers work standard full-time hours, though pressing deadlines often necessitate overtime. As their career progresses, instrumentation engineers often go on to become control systems engineers, automation engineers, or senior electrical engineers.
Instrumentation Engineer Duties and Responsibilities
The exact nature of an instrumentation engineer’s job will vary by the employer’s industry. However, several core responsibilities are crucial to nearly all positions. If you become an instrumentation engineer, expect to do the following:
Instrumentation engineers talk with their employer, client, and colleagues about what needs to be accomplished. For instance, a power generation facility may want to lower its emission levels to comply with government regulations. Time and budget constraints also play a role in the planning process.
With a thorough understanding of the goal, instrumentation engineers then develop suitable equipment or make changes to existing machines or systems. Plans can involve instruments that measure variables, such as pressure or radiation, and may involve complex computer operations.
Did the plan work? You don’t know until you try it out. Instrumentation engineers run many, many tests and analyze the results. They often must monitor over an extended period of time to ensure consistent performance and reliable safety standards.
Whether there are big problems or simply minor adjustments that would yield better results, instrumentation engineers figure out how to solve any problems – which then involves more testing!
After a series of tests or when an adjustment is made, instrumentation engineers may need to write up their findings for others to evaluate. They also may monitor systems on a regular basis and report these results.
When new equipment or techniques are implemented, instrumentation engineers are called upon to get employees up to speed on use. This may also involve writing training manuals that workers can use for reference.
Instrumentation Engineer Skills and Qualifications
At the core of the job is technical knowledge that can be used to solve real-world problems. Other abilities hiring managers desire from candidates include:
- Problem-solving – the ability to confront a situation and troubleshoot why things are going wrong is essential
- Creativity – thinking outside the box often leads to novel solutions that increase performance, efficiency, and revenue
- Communication skills – instrumentation engineers need to be able to express their thoughts and the results of their work in both written and oral form
- Collaboration – projects are often a team effort, so it’s important to interact well with others and build off of other people’s ideas
- Attention to detail – overlooking things can result in production and safety problems, so a commitment to accuracy is vital
- Lifelong learning – technology advances quickly, and instrumentation engineers need to keep up with those changes to remain relevant
Instrumentation Engineer Education and Training
Instrumentation engineers typically hold a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering or a similar STEM discipline. Some employers look for candidates possessing master’s degrees. A graduate degree in business or project management can be a big plus for instrumentation engineers looking to move into leadership positions.
Instrumentation Engineer Salary and Outlook
Payscale.com reports the median salary of an instrumentation engineer as $80,288 per year. The lowest paid earn around $55,000, while the highest earners make more than $116,000 annually. Instrumentation engineers working for companies (as opposed to self-employed) usually receive standard benefits such as health insurance, paid vacation, and a retirement plan.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of electrical and electronics engineers is projected to grow 7 percent by 2026. Prospects may be most promising for those interested in research and development as companies test the usefulness of new technologies.
Instrumentation Engineer Helpful Resources
If this type of engineering sounds interesting to you, check out these places for further information:
- National Society of Professional Engineers – this well-established organization is a go-to place for questions regarding engineering
- Instrumentation Professionals’ Group – this LinkedIn group provides a forum for its 23,000 members to discuss things related to instrumentation and control
- Instrumentation and Process Control – the sixth edition of this textbook offers a comprehensive look at common industrial applications
- IEEE – touted on its website as “the world’s largest technical professional organization for the advancement of technology,” this group offers its members plenty of opportunities to connect and learn through communities, publications, and educational advancement
- Is There an Engineer Inside of You? A Comprehensive Guide to Career Decisions in Engineering – whether you’re interested solely in instrumentation engineering or would like to explore engineering careers in general, the fifth edition of this book will help you get a handle on the discipline
- The Institute of Measurement and Control – this international organization promotes career development and training for instrumentation engineers and similar professionals
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