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What Is a Control Systems Engineer?

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  • Written By: Erin J. Hill
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 20 March 2014
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The field of control systems engineering is relatively new and has become more relevant with the progression of technology. He or she designs, develops, calculates, and implements many complex systems that work together as whole to complete a task. This includes the electrical and mechanical elements of home appliances like washing machines, as well as the complicated systems contained in automobiles and airplanes.

To fully understand the job description of a control systems engineer, one must have a general understanding of what control systems are. The design and implementation of most control systems is highly complex, but a general definition is that a control system is a device or set of devices used to control other devices or systems in order to accomplish a particular task. For example, an automobile contains electrical and mechanical systems that affect one another to propel the vehicle. Most modern cars run on both gasoline and a battery powered electrical system. Both of these systems must work together for the car to function properly.

A control systems engineer may have to work with systems involving electrical components as well as mechanical, biological, chemical, and financial aspects. He or she may concentrate his specialty in any of these areas or take part in all of them at simultaneously. He or she will also need a strong understanding of control theory and be able to use modern computer aided design tools and software.

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Two major sections of study are important for any control systems engineer to become familiar with. These are modern and classical control systems engineering. The classical theory involves limited controls that only deal with single-input and single-output systems using differential equations. A differential equation is a mathematical equation used to determine a single function using several variables. This means that the engineer must figure out what causes and effects will occur in any given system under several potential circumstances.

Modern control theory, on the other hand, can deal with multi-input and multi-output controllers using complex s-domain. This is an important development for the control systems engineer, because it allows him to create complicated multi system units used in complex devices and machines.

Until recently, one could not study control systems engineering as a unique and separate field of study. Even now, many universities provide coursework in control systems in their electrical and mechanical engineering classes. A control systems engineer may study one of these targeted subjects with an emphasis on control systems and control theory.

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