INSTRUMENTATION JOBS

A control and instrumentation engineer (C&I engineer) is responsible for designing, developing, installing, managing and/or maintaining equipment which is used to monitor and control engineering systems, machinery and processes.

C&I engineers make sure that these systems and processes operate effectively, efficiently and safely.

They work for the companies who manufacture and supply the equipment or for the companies who use it, such as nuclear and renewable energy companies and environmental agencies.

C&I engineers need a thorough understanding of the operational processes of an organisation. They have a multidisciplinary role, working closely with colleagues across a number of functions, including operations, purchasing and design.

Responsibilities

C&I engineers develop skills in specific control disciplines such as:

  • advanced process control (APC);
  • distributed control systems (DCS);
  • programmable logic controllers (PLC);
  • supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA).

The use of these disciplines will depend on the exact nature of individual job roles. In general however, tasks and responsibilities can include:

  • designing and developing new control systems;
  • testing, maintaining and modifying existing systems;
  • analysing data and presenting findings in written reports;
  • managing operations;
  • working collaboratively with design engineers, operation engineers, purchasers and other internal staff;
  • liaising with clients, suppliers, contractors and relevant authorities (e.g. the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority);
  • project management within cost and time constrained environments;
  • understanding and ensuring compliance with relevant health and safety regulations and quality standards;
  • providing advice and consultancy support;
  • purchasing equipment;
  • writing computer software and test procedures;
  • developing new business proposals.

What to expect

Work may be based in an office, laboratory or factory, depending on the nature of the organisation.

Visiting clients and working on-site is a common aspect of the work.

Some positions may carry high levels of responsibility and may be stressful, particularly at a very senior level, where accountability lies directly with the C&I engineer. Similarly, C&I engineers often have to work under pressure, to tight deadlines and within budget.

There are far fewer women than men working in C&I engineering, as in the engineering sector in general. However, aiming to redress the imbalance are organisations such as WISE.

There is continued growth in sectors such as power generation and renewable energy research, which means there are good opportunities for C&I engineers.

Positions are available across the UK and opportunities to work overseas are widely available, particularly within the oil and gas industry or with global pharmaceutical and manufacturing companies.

Some locations may be remote or hostile, particularly within the oil and gas sector, but greatly increased salaries and a range of benefits are often used to attract employees and contractors to these areas.

Qualifications

Specific degrees in control and instrumentation engineering are available and are typically four years in length and lead to an MEng qualification.

Other popular degree courses for control and instrumentation engineers (C&I engineers) are electrical and electronic engineering degrees, which may include specific C&I elements or modules.

There are many other engineering, technical and scientific degrees that are considered appropriate training, including:

  • applied physics or physics;
  • chemical engineering;
  • computer engineering;
  • mechanical engineering;
  • systems engineering.

It is useful if your degree is accredited by one of the professional engineering institutions, such as the:

  • Institute of Measurement and Control (InstMC)
  • Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET)
  • This can help you to achieve the status of a chartered engineer at a later date.

If your undergraduate degree did not included control engineering content, some employers may ask for a relevant postgraduate qualification such as an MSc in Control Systems or Advanced Control and Systems Engineering. You may be able to enquire about funding through EPSRC - Funding.

C&I engineering is open to you if you have an HND but you may need to consider entry at technician level only. A degree is often required for progression to professional engineer status and senior levels. It may be possible to complete further qualifications part time while working, with the support of your employer. The following HND subjects are particularly relevant:

  • computer-aided engineering/computer engineering;
  • electrical engineering;
  • electronics.

You will need to show:

  • creative problem-solving and troubleshooting skills;
  • excellent critical thinking skills and a high level of numeracy;
  • good communication and interpersonal skills;
  • strong teamworking skills, with an ability to motivate others and to lead or manage teams and projects;
  • flexibility and an ability to compromise;
  • a willingness to accept responsibility and make decisions;
  • a high level of attention to detail;
  • excellent customer care skills and good commercial awareness;
  • an understanding of, and ability to work with, high-level computer technology;