What does a Process Control Engineer do?

A process control engineer may design, optimize and oversee workers in a manufacturing facility.
A process control engineer must be able to work hands-on with equipment as well as face-to-face with customers.
Clear and concise communication skills are essential for a process control engineer to be successful.
A process control engineer may study the current operations of his company in order to make improvements.
A process control engineer offers technical guidance on design and engineering issues.
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  • Written By: Cassie L. Damewood
  • Edited By: C. Wilborn
  • Last Modified Date: 30 October 2015
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The responsibilities of a process control engineer vary from industry to industry, but one constant is that the engineer will interact extensively with customers, clients, management, and support personnel in ensuring the smooth operation of automation and controls. Depending upon the specific industry in which this professional works, he must be skilled in assessing documentation requirements and generating designs. In-depth knowledge of testing, start-up procedures, and system integration options is also necessary.

Since there are so many departments involved in process controls, clear and concise communications are imperative for the process control engineer to be successful. He must be an inspirational team leader and be able to independently make decisions. Project management is a large part of the job, and upon completion of each project, detailed documentation of the project from inception through completion is required.

The engineer must have demonstrated proficiency in the development and management of process control solutions, from collecting data through the design, configuration, and integration processes. He must be competent in programming and the development and implementation of engineering guidelines and standards. Knowledge is required in batch process manufacturing software programming as well as in Visual Basic and PC networking.


Besides technical knowledge and expertise, the position requires exemplary interpersonal relationship skills. The success of each project and the subsequent satisfaction of clients depends on this person's ability to not only lead by example but also inspire support personnel to be creative, supportive of each other's ideas and efforts, and goal-oriented. He should demonstrate understanding of the project team's goals and provide appropriate technical guidance on design and engineering issues. The process control engineer needs to keep abreast of emerging technologies and applications to guarantee a competitive edge in the industry in which he works.

This engineer is often required to perform many tasks in a typical workday. As project goals and guidelines are altered by clients and/or technical roadblocks, he must be able to accurately assess the situation. He should then be able to present alternate solutions based on his knowledge and experience as well as that of his colleagues.

The educational requirements for a process control engineer can vary greatly depending on the specific position and industry. An undergraduate degree in electrical, chemical, or computer engineering is usually preferred, however. The number of years experience required also varies with the industry, position and job responsibilities.


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Post 5

@NathanG - I think it’s beneficial in any profession to have a detailed knowledge of processes. My dad worked as an accountant once for a big oil company. He decided to do a study of the entire refinery, using not only notes that he had gathered but more importantly by interviewing people in different parts of the process.

He was able to gather enough information that he put together a master flowchart of how the whole system operated, much to the surprise of his colleagues. They were all able to confirm that he had indeed demonstrated a correct understanding of the process, and the company used his schematic in some of their publications.

Post 4

@allenJo - I’d think you’d need some knowledge of the details of the process as well as understanding the whole picture. This would involve some familiarity with instrumentation, like understanding how a thermostat works to regulate temperature inside of a closed system, whether it’s an oil refinery or something else.

Post 3

In one of my engineering courses in college they discussed process control systems. I think in an attempt to be humorous, my professor showed us a slide of a Rube Goldberg cartoon.

You’ve probably seen these yourselves without knowing what they are called. They are basically complex mechanical contraptions made with tracks, balls, pinions and levers, and their basic purpose is to do a simple task in a complex (visually humorous) manner. You’ve seen them in old cartoons in the labs of the mad scientist.

I think the point that he was making is that a process control system has many moving parts and inputs into the system, like temperature or crude oil for example, but that it has one output. The process control engineer has to monitor all the inputs and the entire system so that he gets the same product every time.

Post 2

I agree that knowing Visual Basic is almost a requirement in working in any number of automation jobs. The reason is that Visual Basic is an easy scripting language which can be used in a variety of desktop applications that you would use as an analyst.

You can easily create sophisticated macros in Excel that will automate your calculations for number crunching tasks that are a part of your process control engineering responsibilities.

I think most automation jobs typically involve a lot of testing, quality control and repetitive procedures. They lend themselves well to scripting languages that can automate these tasks without requiring mastery of complex programming languages. I used Excel Visual Basic macros in one of the jobs that I had and I was able to reduce a process that took an engineer all day down to a few minutes.

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