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Automation – it sounds like a word that was invented for an ’80s pop song, but it’s actually been around for well over a century and has probably been used to make most things present in your house.

What is automation?

It is the use of technology in specific processes, such as manufacturing, replacing the role that a human once did by hand. But, of course, despite being around for a long time, it has evolved and will continue to do so.

Examples include apps that switch on your heating for you, self-parking cars and facial recognition cat feeders. When you start thinking about automation, you will realise just how many things involve it, such as the chocolate or cereal bars – up to 400 of which can be packaged using technology, such as that available from RNA automation.

What is an automation engineer?

An automation engineer is responsible for the use of technology in order to ensure automation processes are as efficient as possible, for example, within manufacturing. The role varies depending on the employer and industry within which the engineering is required, but generally, it involves improving and implementing automation within existing systems.

How do I go about a career as an automation engineer?

There are numerous possibilities, but the role of automation engineer is one of the most sought after. 

At GCSE and A-Level, focusing on gaining good grades in maths and science (particularly physics) is imperative. Automation engineers generally study for a mechanical or electrical engineering degree at university. The entry requirements tend to be AAB at A-Level, though some institutions will accept vocational course equivalents. Of course, if you are hoping to change your career a little later in life, many universities will accept relevant work experience and transferable skills over academic qualifications.

If you do not have the necessary qualifications or would prefer a more hands-on route into the career, there are relevant apprenticeships, such as a Level 4 automation and controls engineering technician.

Necessary skills and qualities for a career as an automation engineer

Being an automation engineer certainly is not a career that everyone is suited to, so it is best to consider your skills and qualities against the desired ones to decide if you are a good fit.

IT literate

More than just IT literate, most automation engineers use programming languages, such as Python, Java and SQL. If you have experience and expertise in these, that is a definite advantage.


More often than not, automation engineers try a number of creative ways of trying to solve a problem or streamline an existing process. Problem-solving skills are essential for this career.

Attention to detail

One tiny thing out of place could be catastrophic within engineering, so ensuring that everything is as it should be. Having a keen eye is a definite must for this role.


Automation engineering relies on effective working within a team. It is essential that you are able to work well and communicate efficiently with others in this role.

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