Skip to content

Can Non-Electrical Engineers Pursue Electrical Automation Courses?

    In today’s rapidly evolving industrial landscape, electrical automation is pivotal in enhancing efficiency, productivity, and safety across various sectors. However, a common misconception persists that only individuals with an electrical engineering background can pursue courses in electrical automation, particularly in areas like Programmable Logic Controllers (PLC), Human-Machine Interface (HMI), and Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA). In this blog, we’ll debunk this myth and explore how individuals from diverse educational backgrounds can successfully undertake electrical automation courses and carve out rewarding careers in this dynamic field.

    The Myth of Electrical Engineering Prerequisite for Electrical Automation

    Electrical Automation

    While lacking an electrical background may present challenges, it’s undoubtedly manageable to undertake automation courses like PLC/HMI/SCADA. Basic electrical knowledge undeniably facilitates understanding and application within automation. 

    Typically, individuals pursuing these courses predominantly come from electrical/electronics/mechatronics/process engineering backgrounds or possess varied degrees of electrical experience. 

    However, there’s a notable presence of process automation engineers undertaking such courses, although concrete data validating their productive utilisation of this knowledge still needs to be discovered.

    Contrary to popular belief, a background in electrical engineering is not a strict requirement for pursuing courses in plant automation. While electrical engineers certainly have a solid foundation in relevant concepts such as circuits, sensors, and actuators, individuals from non-electrical engineering disciplines can also excel in automation with the right mindset and approach.

    What Non-Electrical Engineers Pursuing Electrical Automation should possess

    If you’re considering venturing into automation without an electrical engineering background, here are some prerequisites to consider:

    Basic Technical Understanding: 

    While you may have yet to study electrical engineering specifically, having a basic understanding of technical concepts and principles can be beneficial. Familiarity with computer science provides a solid foundation for learning automation technologies. Math and physics are a must.

    Curiosity and Willingness to Learn:

    A curious mind and a willingness to learn are essential for success in electrical automation. Embrace the opportunity to explore new technologies, tools, and methodologies and proactively seek resources and opportunities for skill development.

    Problem-Solving Skills: 

    Automation often involves troubleshooting complex systems and solving intricate problems. Cultivate your problem-solving skills through practice and perseverance, as these abilities have high value in the automation field.

    Adaptability and Flexibility: 

    The field of automation is dynamic, with advancements and innovations occurring rapidly. Be prepared to adapt to changing technologies and methodologies and remain flexible in your approach to learning and problem-solving.

    Lastly, let’s see how PLC (Programmable Logic Controller), HMI (Human-Machine Interface), and SCADA (Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition) systems play integral roles in electrical automation and control engineering. Let’s delve into each category and explore their respective prerequisites:

    Programmable Logic Controllers (PLC):

    PLCs are specialised industrial computers used to control machinery and processes. They are programmed using ladder logic, structured text, or other programming languages. Prerequisites for mastering PLCs include:

    Electrical Fundamentals: 

    Understanding basic electrical concepts such as circuits, voltage, current, and wiring is essential for working with PLCs.

    Programming Skills: 

    Proficiency in programming languages, particularly ladder logic, is crucial for designing and troubleshooting PLC programs.

    Industrial Automation Knowledge: 

    Familiarity with industrial automation concepts and processes provides context for PLC programming and application.

    Hands-on Experience:

    Practical experience with PLC hardware and software through labs or projects enhances understanding and proficiency.

    Human-Machine Interfaces (HMI):

    HMIs are interfaces that allow operators to interact with and monitor industrial systems. They typically consist of graphical displays and touchscreens. Prerequisites for mastering HMIs include:

    User Interface Design: 

    Understanding user interface design principles and human-centred design enhances the effectiveness of HMIs.

    Graphics Design Skills: 

    Proficiency in graphic design software is beneficial for creating visually appealing and intuitive HMI displays.

    Programming Knowledge: 

    Basic programming skills may be required to customise HMI functionality and integrate it with PLCs or other systems.

    Understanding of Industrial Processes: 

    Knowledge of the HMI’s monitored and controlled processes is essential for designing effective interfaces.

    Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA):

    SCADA systems remotely monitor and control industrial processes. They collect data from sensors and devices, display it in real time, and allow operators to make control decisions. Prerequisites for mastering SCADA include:

    Networking Fundamentals: 

    Understanding networking concepts such as TCP/IP, Ethernet, and protocols like Modbus or OPC is essential for configuring SCADA systems.

    Database Knowledge: 

    Familiarity with database management systems and SQL may be necessary for storing and retrieving data in SCADA applications.

    System Integration Skills: 

    Integrating SCADA systems with PLCs, HMIs, and other electrical automation devices is crucial for seamless operation.

    Cybersecurity Awareness: 

    Awareness of cybersecurity best practices is essential for securing SCADA systems against cyber threats and attacks.

    By mastering these prerequisites, individuals can become proficient in PLC, HMI, and SCADA systems and contribute effectively to automation and control engineering.

    Breaking Stereotypes: Non-Engineers with Automation Prerequisites

    While the traditional path to automation may seem reserved for engineers, many individuals from diverse backgrounds possess the prerequisites to excel in this field. 

    Let’s explore some examples of non-engineers who often have the required skills and traits:

    Computer Science Graduates: 

    Computer science graduates are well-versed in programming languages, algorithms, and software development methodologies. Their technical understanding and problem-solving skills make them adept at learning and applying automation concepts to real-world scenarios.

    Physics and Mathematics Enthusiasts: 

    Individuals with a background in physics or mathematics often possess strong analytical skills and a deep understanding of mathematical principles. These skills are highly transferable to automation, where concepts such as modelling, simulation, and optimisation play a crucial role.

    IT Professionals: 

    Information technology (IT) professionals have experience working with hardware, software, and networking technologies. Their familiarity with computer systems and networks provides a solid foundation for understanding automation components like PLCs, HMIs, and SCADA systems.

    Mechanical Engineers: 

    While not traditionally associated with automation, mechanical engineers bring valuable skills, including mechanics, dynamics, and materials science knowledge. In industries like manufacturing and robotics, mechanical engineers often work alongside automation specialists to design and optimise automated systems.

    Technicians and Technologists: 

    Technicians and technologists in electronics, instrumentation, or industrial maintenance often have hands-on experience with automation equipment and systems. Their practical skills and familiarity with industrial processes make them well-suited for roles involving installation, maintenance, and troubleshooting automation systems.

    Example: Sarah, a Computer Science Graduate

    Sarah graduated with a computer science degree and is passionate about solving complex problems through software development. She gained proficiency in programming languages like Python, Java, and C++ during her studies and completed algorithm design and data analysis projects.

    Despite not having a background in electrical engineering, Sarah recognises her aptitude for technical concepts and strong problem-solving skills as valuable assets in automation. She decides to pursue a PLC, HMI, and SCADA systems course to expand her skill set and explore new career opportunities in industrial automation.

    Through her coursework and hands-on projects, Sarah leverages her programming expertise to master ladder logic programming and interface design for automation systems. She collaborates with classmates from diverse backgrounds, learning from their unique perspectives and experiences in the field.

    Upon completing her electrical automation course, Sarah applies for a position as a control systems engineer at a manufacturing company. Her combination of technical skills, analytical mindset, and enthusiasm for automation sets her apart from other candidates, and she quickly becomes an integral member of the automation team.

    Pathways for Non-Electrical Engineers

    Now that we’ve established that individuals without an electrical engineering background can pursue electrical automation courses, let’s explore some pathways to success:

    Technical Education Institutes:

    Many technical education institutes offer electrical automation courses tailored to individuals from diverse backgrounds. These programs often provide comprehensive training in PLC, HMI, and SCADA systems, allowing students to acquire the necessary skills for a career in automation. AUSINET, a specialised electrical RTO, has helped scores of automation enthusiasts become confident and capable of growing in the industry.

    On-the-Job Training:

    Some employers offer on-the-job training programs for individuals pursuing automation careers. These programs may start with foundational knowledge and gradually introduce automation concepts, providing hands-on experience and mentorship.

    Self-Study and Online Resources:

    With the abundance of online resources available today, individuals can take a proactive approach to learning automation concepts independently. Platforms such as online courses, tutorials, and forums offer opportunities to acquire knowledge and skills at your own pace.

    Industry Certifications:

    Obtaining industry-recognised certifications in automation technologies can boost your credentials and credibility in the job market. Many certification programs do not have strict educational prerequisites, making them accessible to individuals from diverse backgrounds.

    Conclusion: Empowering Non-Electrical Engineers in Electrical Automation

    In conclusion, the notion that only electrical engineers can pursue courses in electrical automation is a misconception that limits the potential of individuals from diverse educational backgrounds. By leveraging their existing skills, embracing a lifelong learning mindset, and exploring various pathways to automation training, non-electrical engineers can successfully transition into rewarding careers in this dynamic and innovative field. Whether through formal education, on-the-job training, or self-study, the opportunities for non-electrical engineers in automation are boundless. They can thrive and excel in this exciting industry with determination and dedication.

    At AUSINET, PLC, HMI and SCADA courses are delivered by industry-experienced trainers. We use proven methods and unmatched practical skids to ensure even non-engineers become better automation specialists. Check out the courses here: PLC HMI SCADA Automation Training.

    Last reviewed date: 15/04/2024

    Leave a Reply

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

    Recent posts

    Leave a Reply

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *