What does an automation technician do?
Hello, everyone! Here I am again to talk about another career path in automation. Earlier, I wrote an article about what an automation engineer does. If you haven’t read it, then please read it first. In it, I explain the basics of automation with the help of a Guinness. Then we go on to what automation engineers do, where they work, and even how much money they make.
In this article, I’ll follow the same general outline, explaining what an automation technician does, how you can become one, and how much you could make. I’ll also tell you the difference between a technician and an engineer.
By this time, you probably understand the concept of automation, but here’s a quick recap anyway. Automation is the art of creating and applying technology to monitor and control processes that create and deliver products and services. This art uses the three basic principles of measurement, control, and action.
When it comes to studies and formation, technicians and engineers follow pretty much the same path. Both have to learn all the stages of an automated process. And all such processes need both technicians and engineers, regardless of the field.
So, if they work in the same fields with the same knowledge, how do these jobs differ?
Technician or engineer?
Both technician and engineers can create and modify automated processes. However, you could call the technician the “doer” in this picture. Technicians get more hands-on experience than engineers and focus on a job’s practical elements. They provide assistance in specialized areas and perform the daily tasks required to keep processes running smoothly. These tasks include installation, calibration, and maintenance of instruments. They also collect diagnostic data and perform small corrections in the process or the controller’s programming. A technician usually works in the field.
On the other hand, an engineer plays the “thinker” role in the theoretical parts of process management. The engineer usually solves more complex problems which require a deeper understanding of the principles and calculations behind the process. Engineers also design and supervise projects and manage teams.
Technicians and engineers support each other in an automation process. Engineers need technicians to set up, maintain, and diagnose problems in the process. Technicians need engineers when difficult problems crop up in the field that require more specific knowledge. It’s a two-way street.
In fact, some technicians transfer from an associate program to a bachelor’s program and become engineers by the end of their studies.
Where does an automation technician work?
As I said before, most automated processes require engineers and technicians. Therefore, every automated industry needs technicians. Some examples of these industries:
- chemical and petrochemical
- food and beverage
- oil and gas
- primaries and metals
- water and wastewater
- pharmaceutical and biochemical
- life sciences
Besides working in industry processes, technicians can also work in labs or calibration centers, fixing and calibrating instruments destined for the field. And like engineers, technicians with experience can also migrate to sales later in their careers.
How much does an automation technician make?
Let’s talk about money now! How much can you earn in this career? Of course, the earnings depend on a number of factors. Professionals with more experience tend to earn more, naturally. A diploma and certifications would also help you cash out extra at the end of the month.
To give you an average, I did some research on PayScale, the website that provides job salary overviews. In the United States, an automation technician earns an average of $59,651 per year, around $22.62 an hour. In Canada, the annual salary falls around C$54,495.
What do you need to become an automation technician?
If you want to follow this path, then you should know what skills and knowledge you need to make a good technician. Since you’ll have to deal with electronic components and mechanical processes, you’ll want a firm grasp of math and physics so you can understand the principles behind the processes.
As it’s a very hands-on profession, you’ll have to work with tools and measurement devices. Gotta get along with your new best friends! Automation also requires programming, so you should also know a bit about computers.
Lastly, the most important of all, troubleshooting. Remember that technicians work in the field to prevent and solve problems. You’ll face them often, so you’ll need to be able to identify them and come up with solutions.
Any sector with automation needs technicians to take care of the hands-on work. They install, operate, and support process instruments and variables so everything runs smoothly. They act as the engineer’s right hand to solve on-site problems.
If you intend to become an automation technician, then you’d better like action. These folks don’t sit in offices behind computers. If you like automation and want to get your hands dirty in the field, then this is the way to go.