Need Advice: Career Path


Thread Starter


I just shifted career from an IT software support, I was hired as a control engineer in a company serve as a contractor. We handle startup projects and support existing clients. Our jobs as contractor is to modify programs on PLC and the SCADA, integrate software systems, re-design existing network to some clients, troubleshoot varieties of PLC brands.

And as I browse through, I am seeing a lot of career path on this field: SCADA engineer, Controls Engineer, Application Engineer, I&C engineer, etc. My target is to enter the oil and gas industry, and I am clueless which way to start and specialize.

I would appreciate for your advice. Its hard to just read and study things without a guide. Thanks.

Bob Peterson

Just curious.

How does one go from IT support to controls engineer?

The skills are superficially similar but radically different.

If I were you, i would go back to school and get a degree that is somehow associated with the controls field. EE, ChE, maybe even ME.

Hi there Bob,

I appreciate your input.

Just to answer your question, I am a computer engineer, had some short courses on PLC, SCADA and even instrumentation. The shift wasn't that hard you think it was, as long as you have the drive.

Now do you have an easier route, or suggestions?

Thanks again Mr Bob.


Bob Peterson

computer engineering is closer to control engineering than run of the mill IT stuff. I can believe that transition a lot better then the typical computer programmer or network geek making the transition.

You should be able to parlay your computer engineering degree into some kind of degree you can get a PE out of. I strongly suspect that the drive to credential, license, and certify just about everything is not going to stop at the control engineers door. go get the paper before you are too old or too set in your ways to do it.

Hi Bob,

As an ex COBOL programmer - I guess its hard to explain. For my part, I kinda fell into it - and found that I had a knack for it.

If you already have a software degree or equivalent, then you are every bit as (and possibly more) qualified that many DCS and PLC programmers out there. If you're going to be a DCS programmer, then a 3 year electrical engineering degree for example is complete overkill.

What you need now is industry experience. And for my 2c the best way to get it is by working for one of the major automation suppliers.

Rushi Shroff

The shift should be smooth.I myself was a web programmer in IT boom period and later lost the job due to e-commerce bubble bust.Then I was welcome by instrumentation suppliers mainly analytical and biomedical industry.

Anyways smart instrumentation systems are mechatronic systems where you should have sound understanding and experience of IT.I totally agree that you should join automation suppliers like Emerson, ABB, Honeywell, Siemens etc. Todays high tech automation and process control systems are also mechatronic in nature where you need sound IT experience.

Even I have seen many automation jobs(PLC,SCADA INSTRUMENTATION)where they ask for programming experience.

So make a move !
Thanks Rushi and Rob.

So I presume both of you guys pursued further studies/earning degrees related to controls, or just mainly self study while working?

Hey Joe, how are you liking this transition from IT to control engineer. I also have the opportunity to transition from software engineer to controls engineer. I was wondering how the outlook is for controls engineer positions?

I have a bachelor's in Mechanical Engineering and a Master's in Computer Science.

Sorry I was too busy at work.

I would say, it was fun for me now especially if I got what I want. On my first days, it was hard for me, but it works very well when I had my own project, I was able to learn on my own.

I've been in to several projects already (HVAC, pharma, manufacturing). I focused myself more on PLC and SCADA, where I dealt more on programming and integration. I also learned to know specs on every instruments involve on the project basically sometimes technicians will ask you a lot of things on the control side.

As for you, it might be easy because you have this masters degree in CS and Mechanical degree holder. As other says, you must prepare yourself into some unusual working areas, where you need to wear earplugs while working with your laptop, where you need a flashlight on a daytime, where you got no table for your laptop but your lap, etc. Completely different to where I was before. I can now see further on this career :)