How Do I Become a Controls Designer?

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  • Written By: Jillian Peterson
  • Edited By: John Allen
  • Last Modified Date: 19 November 2019
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In order to become a controls designer, you will need a background in engineering and industrial design. Also known as mechanical drafters or controls engineers, controls designers create user interfaces on industrial machines using 3D computer drafting programs. A controls designer needs to have knowledge of electronics, hydraulics, industrial equipment, drafting, and computers. In order to get this knowledge, you can take classes at community colleges or vocational colleges in machine design, computer-aided drafting, industrial manufacturing, and mechanical engineering. Individuals who want to become a controls designer can also get a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering and a certification in computer-aided drafting and design.

Many employers have controls designer requirements that include some sort of degree or certification in computer-aided drafting and design. Community colleges and vocational colleges offer associate's degree programs in mechanical drafting and design that can help students become a controls designer. These programs include classes on design concepts, electrical systems, industrial machine applications, as well as how to use computer drafting software to map out control systems.


To become a machine controls designer, individuals can also get a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering from a four-year university, then seek a post-graduate degree in control systems design. A bachelor's degree program will provide a strong background in engineering concepts and the theories behind industrial machine design, and a vocational program will give hands-on training in using computer-aided drafting programs. Some areas might also require licensing or certification in computer-aided design to become a controls designer, and vocational schools or community colleges often include preparation for licensing exams in their programs.

Many employers also require on-the-job controls designer training for many positions in mechanical design. This training usually involves mentoring by another machine designer or more informal training performed by a senior worker with the company. Participating in internships and securing entry-level positions while in school can be excellent ways to get this on-the-job training while working towards an associate's or bachelor's degree. Often, vocational schools will have placement programs to help students and graduates find jobs to gain experience in their field.

Controls designer duties include preparing working diagrams of mechanical devices that include dimensions, specifications, and other engineering details. These diagrams are completed using computer aided design (CAD) software, and often designers will include instructions for use and other comments on designs. Designers may also prepare orthographic drawings to depict how the controls will function. Controls designers also work with other designers and the workers who use the equipment to understand their needs.


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