Career Opportunities in Automation

Basically, there are three distinct career paths in this industry, namely

  1. Application Engineering
  2. Sales
  3. Marketing

We will try briefly to outline these tracks and where they lead.



  • Application Engineering – This is the more technical of the three tracks and typically attracts engineers who like to role up their sleeves and solve problems, are turned on by control theory and new technology. The advantages of this path include a more stable income stream and atechnically challenging career. The downside is an income stream which is usually limited within specific ranges and little “blue sky” or bonus potential. The typical career path is as follows:
  1. College (BSEE/BSME)
  2. Controls Engineer (at a Plant or a Systems Integrator)
  3. Application Engineer (at a Distributor or for a Controls Company)
  4. Senior Application Engineer
  5. Application Engineering Manager
  • Sales – This is for the hybrid, i.e. the engineer with a personality, someone who enjoys the technical but likes face-to-face contact with people in the field. The advantages of this path are travel, relatively more freedom, and higher compensation. The downsides of this path include travel and compensation based on personal performance (you sell – you prosper, you don’t sell – you flounder). The typical career path is as follows:
  1. College (BSEE/BSME/BS,BA Anything)
  2. Inside Sales
  3. Outside Sales (Distributor or Factory Automation Supplier)
  4. Account Manager
  5. Strategic Account Manager
  6. Regional Sales Manager
  7. National Sales Manager
  • Marketing – If you like sales and have technical skills, but are tired of always looking around the corner for the next order, marketing may be a good choice for you. This is the “big picture” look at the industry where you get to utilize your people and technical skills in a different way. The advantages of this path include a chance to make a difference in a product line or industry, relatively less travel, steady income stream and the chance to do some independent thinking. The downside is a restricted income stream. The typical career path is as follows:
  1. College (BSEE/BSME/BA Marketing)
  2. Outside Sales
  3. College (MBA)
  4. Product or Industry Marketing (For a Factory Automation Supplier)
  5. Marketing Manager
  6. VP Marketing

Which one is right for you? It really depends on what your strengths & weaknesses are and where you want to end up. Can you switch from one career path to the other? Sure, it happens all the time. Before you decide which track you’re on, think carefully about what is important to you. If money is everything, then sales is for you; if you want job satisfaction and are turned on by the technical, then application engineering is a good choice; if you are looking for both and like to take the high road, go for marketing. Each career path has its own appeal.