Breakout Career: Robotics Will Create Over 500,000 New Jobs by 2020

Posted By Terri Williams on October 23, 2015 at 3:49 pm
Breakout Career: Robotics Will Create Over 500,000 New Jobs by 2020

According to a recent survey, robotics has the potential to produce hundreds of thousands of jobs for millennials within the next few years. In a National Robotics Education Foundation poll of 200 senior executives, 81% of respondents cited robotics as one of the top five industrial sectors that will hire new workers through the end of the decade.

The survey also notes that there are currently over 150,000 open robotics positions in the U.S. By 2020, there will be more than half a million new robotics-related jobs. In addition, the U.S. Department of Labor has classified both robotics engineers and robotics technicians as “bright outlook” careers.

What’s fueling the demand?

Donald Mazzella, an NREF board member, says that robotics is entering everyday life in many different areas. “For example, Amazon is exploring delivering by drones, which, in essence, are robots. Most distribution centers for America’s retail and wholesale markets utilize robots to pick-and-pack shipments,” Mazzella says.

Mazzella also adds, “Google just announced that it will report progress on its attempt to create a self-driving car. Toys are available to fly, drive, and maneuver vehicles on land, sea, and air.” In the medical sector, robotics are used for prosthetic devices and in computer-assisted surgery.

According to Worcester Polytechnic Institute in Massachusetts, which was the first school to offer a bachelor’s degree in robotics, some of its graduates work for a variety of clients, including General Dynamics, Hologic, IPG Photonics, and KIVA Systems. Other graduates have found employment working for Oz Development, Philips, Raytheon, RoviSys, and the U.S. Navy.

What does the job entail?

In addition to designing automated robotic systems, robotic engineers incorporate controllers and other peripherals, install and operate the robots, and troubleshoot mechanical failures. Their job also includes processing data and debugging robotics programs.

The majority of robotics engineers have a bachelor’s degree, either in robotics, mechanical engineering, or a related field. However, some engineers also earn a master’s degree. Robotics engineers should be critical thinkers with strong math skills, the ability to solve complex problems and the ability to perform quality control analyses.

The Department of Labor reports wages for robotics engineers as $94,240 annually, or $45.31 hourly.

Robotics technicians perform troubleshooting and preventive maintenance functions, which include disassembling and reassembling robots, and replacing sensors, control boards or other components. They usually have an associate degree in an electro-mechanical specialty, and also need strong math and problem solving skills. Robotics technicians typically earn $53,070 annually, or $25.52 hourly.

The challenge

However, respondents in the NREF survey also expressed a concern: “How do we awaken interest and train students to meet these evolving worker needs and opportunities?”

Sidharth Oberoi is the 22-year-old President and Chief Academic Officer of Zaniac, which uses a game-based approach to interest K-8 students in STEM through after school programs and summer camps. One of the company’s programs, Zaniac Robotics, allows students to gain hands-on experience working with robotics experts. Using LEGOS, the students learn valuable math and technology principles like physics, mechanics, and design.

Oberoi explains, “The more extensive knowledge a student has, the greater the opportunity [he or she has] for higher salaries as well as the potential to have a large impact on the betterment of society.”

Adrienne R. Minerick, Ph.D., Associate Dean for Research & Innovation at the College of Engineering at Michigan Technological University, believes that robotics and many of the STEM majors suffer from a weak and misunderstood public perception. “Those students who pursue careers in STEM-related fields often find how much fun it is to be influencing solutions on a large scale. What motivates us is the impact on society, our environment, our world.”

Minerick concludes, “We have to get more messaging out there to show how rewarding and impactful these types of careers are. Imagine designing and building a medical device that can impact millions of lives.”

Terri Williams
Terri Williams graduated with a B.A. in English from the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Her education, career, and business articles have been featured on Yahoo! Education, U.S. News & World Report, The Houston Chronicle, and in the print edition of USA Today Special Edition. Terri is also a contributing author to "A Practical Guide to Digital Journalism Ethics," a book published by the Center for Digital Ethics and Policy at Loyola University Chicago.

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