Get engineering salary survey advice about Control Engineering careers

Respondents to the 2024 Control Engineering Career and Salary Survey provide advice about skills needed to get ahead and what technologies they’ll use.

By Mark T. Hoske June 12, 2024
Courtesy: Control Engineering research, WTWH Media

 

Learning Objectives

  • Learn from automation skills advice provided by peers taking the 2024 Control Engineering Career and Salary Survey.
  • Discern applicable advice from peers about technologies needed to advance in engineering.

Devote more time to improving skills and knowledge and use artificial intelligence (AI) and data analytics to help optimize vast amounts of information from automated operation. These were among advice 2024 Control Engineering Career and Salary Survey and Report. Two write-in questions asked survey respondents for advice. Among survey respondents, 54 offered advice on skills; 38 provided technology-related advice.

Skills needed to get ahead in 2024: Continued learning, project management

Please provide advice about skills needed to get ahead in your areas of responsibility today, including how and why. Responses, edited slightly for style follow.

Learning and skills development

You need to spend more time improving skills and knowledge and not be distracted by games, TV, sports and other things. Buy books and read!

Always look for learning opportunities. Try to present on the information and skills that you have learned. Teach others when possible.

More financial expertise is needed. Education via mini-MBAs is helpful. As we advance, we do less of what we were trained to do in a university and more of the strategic and company financial areas.

I have found that a good place to start is having an interest in what you do for a living, without it being all consuming, and finding life balance. Also reading and comprehending work related materials is essential.

With the over-abundance of information out there, it is difficult to navigate. There are so many paths to choose, it becomes challenging to know if you are even on the right path.

Engineering project management

Engineering and project management, conceptualizing an entire project lifecycle and key participants. Collaborate across work groups in different departments.

To ensure timely project completion you need to be able to work with customers and contractors to ensure project goals are completed in a manner to meet customer expectation and stay within budget.

Learn to manage your responsibilities: This is not necessarily about time management; it’s about only committing to and taking on tasks that you should take on. If someone else can do it or should do it, allocate it to them.

FIGURE 1: Survey asked: What skills do you or others in your areas of responsibility need to get ahead in their profession today? (Select up to five options.) Top skills to get ahead are engineering skills, communication/presentation skills, project management skills tied for first, considering the margin for error for the study. In 2023, the engineering skills answer lead at 72% with communications and project management tied for second at 62% and 61% respectively. Largest gains in 2024 were communications, project management and computer skills, all up by seven percentage points.

Figure 1: Survey asked: What skills do you or others in your areas of responsibility need to get ahead in their profession today? (Select up to five options.) Top skills to get ahead are engineering skills, communication/presentation skills, project management skills tied for first, considering the margin for error for the study. In 2023, the engineering skills answer lead at 72% with communications and project management tied for second at 62% and 61% respectively. Largest gains in 2024 were communications, project management and computer skills, all up by seven percentage points. Courtesy: Control Engineering research, WTWH Media

Engineering communication

Develop very good communications skills. Being able to communicate with others and to communicate your project needs and how to implement those needs are crucial to project successes. Proper grammar and spelling also are critical. Don’t always rely on autocorrect as sometimes even it gets the wrong spelling or incorrect use of a comma.

Process design, analytics

Ensure you have a solid, rigorous process design and data analytics background. These skills are the basis for manufacturing productivity.

We need new data-driven decision-making skills across the board to increase strategic decision-making while aligning operational processes to work with the new decision processes.

Controls and IT troubleshooting

Troubleshooting communications in networks and controls helps with knowledge and accessing knowledge within the company.

Continuing education relating to IT/OT remains a large skills gap for more traditional/senior controls technicians.

Figure 2: Best ways to advance skills are hands-on experiences and continuing education, followed by being mentored and industry publications. All options scored 20% or more.

Figure 2: Best ways to advance skills are hands-on experiences and continuing education, followed by being mentored and industry publications. All options scored 20% or more. Courtesy: Control Engineering research, WTWH Media

What technologies will help with automation, how and why?

Another advice question asked the respondent for advice about technologies most likely to help in the coming year, including how and why.

AI, analytics, productivity

AI and data analytics are quickly becoming essential to optimize the vast amounts of information we encounter. Useful tools like these will help us make better quality decisions. However, you must apply sound judgment because sometimes, AI generates garbage, and you must be able to discern pearls from swine.

AI will become a big tool in the coming year I believe. I just don’t know-how or when yet. Although I am not a big proponent of AI, I do understand that it is here and it is here to stay. I see virtual reality (VR) becoming more of a useful tool for performing layouts of equipment and the power and controls to that equipment. Getting the bean counters to see the benefits of spending now is the hard part.

Integrate more AI simply because of the time savings we “expect” to experience from its application.

Upgrade computer hardware, software and production equipment; Hire more employees.

Automation optimization

Increased IoT provides exponential growth of feedback-loop optimization and opportunity to streamline new systems of controls while deprecating less beneficial methods by removal or derating.

More automation and integrating operator and user interfaces for process improvement will help.

More automation to make and design products for friendly field commissioning.

Apply wireless sensors that communicate directly to the PLC/DCS controllers.

Knowledge of technology trends

Know about new and upcoming technologies. Find ones that are a good fit and that don’t cost more time and money to implement.

Be on the lookout for lesser-known conduits of information relating to emerging technologies. Trade publications are a good resource.

Cybersecurity

Anything that is related to cybersecurity, firewalls, malware and other internet safety-related technologies are what I am most interested in for the foreseeable future.

Mark T. Hoske is content manager, Control Engineering, WTWH Media, mhoske@cfemedia.com. Amanda Pelliccione, marketing research manager, WTWH Media, conducted the research and assembled the related report available online.

KEYWORDS: 2024 salary survey, career advice

CONSIDER THIS

What automation, controls and instrumentation skills and technologies are adding or mentoring?


Author Bio: Mark Hoske has been Control Engineering editor/content manager since 1994 and in a leadership role since 1999, covering all major areas: control systems, networking and information systems, control equipment and energy, and system integration, everything that comprises or facilitates the control loop. He has been writing about technology since 1987, writing professionally since 1982, and has a Bachelor of Science in Journalism degree from UW-Madison.