As technology continues to advance and become more affordable to the masses, engineers who have a background in mechanical, electrical, or software have a unique opportunity to contribute to the growing field of robotics. While robotics is used in the manufacturing sector—making it easy for a robotics engineer to find hands-on technical jobs—there are also opportunities to take on more inventive roles and experiment in new areas. Institutions, like Worcester Polytechnic Institute, equip new students and experienced engineers alike with the knowledge and skills necessary to join the growing field of robotics.
Robotics Engineering Overview
Robotics engineering combines computer science, electronics, programming, signal processing, and systems engineering to automate repetitive tasks such as those done on a manufacturing production line. Microprocessors (small computers) direct the processes of most robots, receiving and analyzing data from the robot’s remote control or sensory manipulators to direct them on how to complete a task. Besides higher levels of precision, safety, and consistency, robots have no downtime and are more efficient than their human counterparts.
The application of robotics is infinite, as is clear from its many uses in the automotive, aerospace, metals, nuclear, mining, textile, and computer industries, to name a few. An effective robotics engineer will first determine the specific needs of each application and then customize a robot accordingly. Within the robotics field, there are multiple different specializations that an engineer can pursue.
CADD and CAM Robotics Engineering
Computer-aided design and drafting (CADD) and computer-aided manufacturing (CAM) robotics engineers use software to design the computer components of robots, such as electronic circuit boards. CADD and CAM robotics engineers also work to ensure the robots they design are economical to purchase and maintain.
Robotics Research Engineering
Robotics research engineers design robotic systems and research different manufacturing options to produce the robot economically.
Robotics Test Engineering
Robotics engineers who work for robot manufacturers and who apply specific systems at a particular point on a manufacturing assembly line are often called robotics test engineers or automation systems engineers. Robotics test engineers act as the liaison between people and machinery.
Robotics Engineering Career Overview
A career in robotics engineering involves a significant amount of job training, with employers usually requiring several years of work-related experience, on-the-job training, and/or vocational training. At a minimum, robotics engineers have a four-year bachelor’s degree from an ABET-accredited university and some work-related experience (such as an internship). Most robotics engineers are employed by private organizations that manufacture or use robots. However, robot engineers can also pursue careers in the military, space programs, colleges, universities, and vocational/trade schools.
The demand for robotics engineers will continue to increase as technological advances allow robotics to be used in more industries and in new applications. For example, robotics engineers in the manufacturing industry are crucial to helping to increase production over time by designing and maintaining existing technologies and developing new uses for them.
Today, almost all modern factories use robotics to perform repetitive tasks that can be done faster by a robot than a human and without fatigue or a reduction in efficiency. As technology evolves and applies to other industries, the demand for expert robotics engineering professionals will continue to grow.
Educational and Training Requirements
Before entering the workforce, aspiring robotics engineers will need to earn a minimum of a bachelor’s degree in robotics (if available), mechanical, electrical, or software engineering. For those aiming to excel in their careers, a master’s degree will make a robotics engineer stand out to potential employers in an increasingly crowded marketplace.
When evaluating different schools, students should look for degree programs that are accredited by ABET so they can begin the process of becoming a certified Professional Engineer (PE) while in school. In addition to an undergraduate degree from an accredited ABET institution, passing grades on the Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) and Principles and Practice of Engineering (PPE) exams are required.
Students can take the Fundamentals of Engineering exam immediately upon graduation and the Fundamentals of Engineering exam after they accrue a certain amount of work experience (varies by state). Robotics engineers who plan to pursue the most creative concept and design jobs in the field should spend an additional few years earning their Ph.D.
Robotics Engineering at Worcester Polytechnic Institute
Founded in 1865, Worcester Polytechnic Institute is a science and engineering university in Worcester Massachusetts that offers undergraduate, graduate, doctoral degrees. As one of the most prestigious science and engineering schools in the United States, Worcester Polytechnic Institute balances theory with practice in its over 50-degree programs. Students enjoy a flexible (but rigorous) curriculum that is project-based and globally focused—designed to positively impact the communities the university partners with.
As a leader in robotics education and research, the robotics engineering program at Worcester Polytechnic Institute includes a first-of-its-kind bachelor’s degree and one of the first graduate programs in the nation. Students are taught by a dedicated and enthusiastic faculty and staff who ensure graduates leave Worcester Polytechnic Institute equipped to tackle the technical, social, cultural, and ethical challenges of a dynamic and ever-evolving robotics workforce.
Robotics Engineering Degrees from Worcester Polytechnic Institute
Here are some degree offerings at Worcester Polytechnic.
Bachelor of Science (B.S.) in Robotics Engineering
The undergraduate robotics engineering program at Worcester Polytechnic Institute is designed for aspiring robotics professionals. By combining hands-on learning with expert knowledge and real-world applications, graduates enter the workforce with years of experience constructing and operating robots.
For undergraduate students interested in earning a combined BS/MS in robotics engineering, Worcester Polytechnic Institute has a dual degree program that lasts five years.
Bachelor of Science (M.S.) in Robotics Engineering
Robotics engineering graduate students at Worcester Polytechnic Institute turn theory into practice, creating the software to operate them, understanding how robots communicate, and the ethical considerations around using robots in a human world. Supplemented by courses in engineering project management, entrepreneurship, and innovation, graduate students in the robotics engineering program learn the foundations before designing their own capstone work or thesis. Graduate students have the option of earning their degree on-campus or online.
Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Robotics Engineering
Worcester Polytechnic Institute is one of the few institutions worldwide that offers a doctorate in robotics engineering. Students may enter the program with either a bachelor’s or a master’s degree and will build a plan of study and research leading up to their dissertation. Robotics engineering doctoral coursework at Worcester Polytechnic Institute spans multiple disciplines, including computer science, electrical and computer engineering, mathematics, and mechanical engineering to give candidates a wide scope of expertise.
Robotics Engineering Management Graduate Certificate
For students interested in combining the fundamental principles of robotics engineering with business management practices in the field, Worcester Polytechnic Institute offers a Robotics Engineering Management Graduate Certificate. Students that earn this certificate will tap into the expertise of Worcester Polytechnic Institute’s engineering department and Foisie Business School faculties.
Designed to provide awareness of the systems and management contexts within which robotic systems are engineered, this certificate provides students with the skills and knowledge to advance their career or earn a master’s degree in the field. The Robotics Engineering Management Graduate Certificate requires 18-course credits from a core set of courses and can be completed online.
Research and Robotics Labs
Robotics students work with faculty on innovative research and make important contributions to this ever-evolving field of engineering. Worcester Polytechnic Institute’s robotics engineering program receives the support of several state-of-the-art labs that facilitate innovation and collaboration. Current areas of robotics engineering research at Worcester Polytechnic Institute include human-robot interaction and interfaces, computer vision, embedded systems for robots, motion planning and control, medical and assistive robots, human augmentation, novel sensors/actuators, as well as robot design, soft robots, and multi-robot systems.
Besides research, students in the robotics engineering program use state-of-the-art labs that include the Music, Perception and Robotics Lab, the Automation and Interventional Medicine (AIM) Lab, the Computational Intelligence and Bionic Robotics Lab (CIBR), the Control and Intelligent Robotics Laboratory (CIRL), the Human-inspired Robotics (HiRO) Lab, the Novel Engineering of Swarm Technologies (NEST) Lab, the Popovic Labs the Robot Communications and Navigation Lab, and the Soft Robotics Labs.
Post-Graduation Career Outlook
Robotics engineering graduates of Worcester Polytechnic Institute enter the workforce building robots from day one. Thanks to the interdisciplinary nature of their education, graduate students have a knowledge of mechanical engineering, computer science, and electrical and computer engineering—a valuable asset that sets them apart from the competition. Companies such as Amazon Robotics, Bose Corporation, Google, Silicon Labs, and Tesla Motors have hired Worcester Polytechnic Institute robotics engineers.
The average starting salary of a Worcester Polytechnic Institute undergraduate is approximately $73,000 and $82,000 for a graduate. Undergraduate students pursuing graduate degrees at other schools routinely attend Carnegie Mellon University, Drexel University, ETH Zurich, and Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
The field of robotics engineering has enormous practical benefits for humanity. However, most people believe this technology is in a distant, Jetson-like future, not realizing just how integrated robotics already are into our everyday lives. With driverless cars being developed and shipping companies planning to make deliveries via drones, technology advancements will only continue the rapid expansion of robotics into our everyday lives, making the discipline of robotics engineering a smart education and long-term career choice.