Instrumentation engineers design complex controls systems for various consumer products, robotic instruments, vehicles, and industrial machinery. They have expert knowledge of mechanical and electrical engineering principles as well as modern computer drafting programs and physical construction techniques. A person who wants to become an instrumentation engineer in most settings needs to obtain at least a bachelor's degree from an accredited university. In addition, on-the-job training and success on professional engineer exams is necessary to establish a career in the field.
A four-year bachelor's degree program in mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, physics, or math can be very beneficial for a person who wants to find work as an instrumentation engineer. Most future professionals opt for mechanical engineering programs, but relevant techniques and information can be learned in the other majors as well. Students typically enroll in a number of advanced science and math courses to study the principles of electricity, chemistry, and magnetism. An undergraduate can also take classes in drafting, blueprint design, and computer science to develop practical skills.
A college student who wants to become an instrumentation engineer can look into internship opportunities at local manufacturing plants and research and development firms. Entry-level work as an assistant or junior engineer provides important hands-on experience in the field and can significantly improve a person's chances of finding a position after earning his or her degree. Near graduation, a student can take the first of two written professional engineer exams and begin applying for full-time work.
When applying to become an instrumentation engineer, a person should emphasize his or her practical skills and computer knowledge. Employers generally like to hire new engineers who are capable of quickly mastering various unique software applications and working well with other engineering team members. Once a person is offered a job, he or she can expect to spend between six months and four years working under supervision. Ongoing experience allows a new engineer to take on more responsibilities and independence in his or her work.
The second professional engineer exam can typically be taken after gaining four to five years of experience. Success on the test means that a worker can officially become an instrumentation engineer and earn the right to start leading original projects. Professionals who work for several years in the field and build strong reputations are generally rewarded with very good pay and opportunities for advancement. Some engineers eventually open their own consulting firms or become competing private manufacturers of instrumentation equipment.