A master’s degree in robotics engineering teaches students the in-depth theoretical knowledge and practical experience required to be an expert in robotics engineering. Robotics engineering is a field of engineering focused on building machines that perform tasks and, in some instances, replicate human behaviors. This complex field of study requires mathematics, physics, and mechanical engineering knowledge.
Robotics and autonomous systems are interdisciplinary technologies that solve problems and perform tasks in nearly every industry, including manufacturing, transportation, aerospace, and defense. Robots are physical systems capable of carrying out complex tasks in their environment. Autonomous systems are similar to robots in that they perform sets of complex tasks in their environment on their own, without human input. Autonomous systems are becoming more common within the robotics industry.
Automation can be classified across six levels, ranging from level zero, which is no automation, to level five, full automation. Technology can be both a robot and an autonomous system. Many degree programs now focus on robotics and autonomous systems as part of their curriculum due to the increased need for autonomy in robots. There are also separate graduate degree programs in autonomous systems.
The primary place to receive training in robotics engineering is in a college or university program. Undergraduate robotics engineering programs cover the basics of mathematics, physics, and mechanical engineering. The knowledge and expertise gained through a four-year bachelor’s degree are enough to teach new robotics engineers to design and manufacture simple robots that perform basic tasks.
A master’s degree in robotics engineering builds upon a bachelor’s degree and provides a deeper understanding of the field. Master’s programs in robotics engineering provide an in-depth theoretical learning experience and expand upon a robotics engineer’s practical expertise to enable the design and manufacture of much more complex robotics systems. After completing a robotics engineering master’s program, graduate students will be able to design and improve the complex robots that work in places like automobile factories and medical testing labs.
Why a Master’s Degree in Robotics Engineering?
Across all engineering disciplines, master’s degrees qualify engineers to serve in senior positions and on advanced teams. These positions provide higher salaries and more responsibilities. Robotics engineers significantly increase their earning potential when they get a master’s degree. According to PayScale.com’s research, the average starting salary for a robotics engineer is $91,989. This figure is just a starting salary, and recruiter.com states that some mid-level robotics engineers earn as much as $166,050 annually. Earning a master’s degree is one of the best ways to increase your salary into the higher ranges.
Higher salaries are not the only reason to pursue a master’s degree. Many robotics engineers decide to start a graduate degree to gain experience in specialized programs and technologies. Graduate programs allow you to work at the cutting edge of robotics. Often the most exciting and innovative research in robotics is done by graduate students. The opportunity to experience new and innovative things can be fascinating for people passionate about robotics.
Robotics engineering master’s degrees prepare the next generation of roboticists. These programs dive deeper into the general knowledge base of robotics engineering while also allowing students to self-direct their studies toward one particular robotics element.
This opportunity to choose your specialization during a master’s program is a precious aspect of robotics engineering master’s programs. After multiple years of work experience as a junior robotics engineer, master’s students typically know the area of robotics they want to specialize in for the future of their career.
Outside of academia, advancement into the specialized areas of robotics engineering can be competitive. A master’s degree in robotics engineering from a quality school is one of the best ways to distinguish yourself for these positions. Nationally, only 16 percent of robotics engineers hold a master’s degree. For jobs requiring a master’s degree, the pool of applicable candidates nationally is significantly smaller than the pool for jobs that only require a bachelor’s degree.
To effectively answer why you should get a master’s degree in robotics engineering, you ultimately need to evaluate where you are in your career and where you want to be. Whatever the gap is between where you are now and your ideal future, there’s a great chance that a master’s degree will help fill the void.
Master’s in Robotics and Autonomous Systems Curriculum
At most colleges and universities, robotics engineering graduate programs provide a generalized course structure with the opportunity or requirement to concentrate on a specific area of robotics.
The generalized coursework required as part of a master’s degree in robotics includes mechatronics, robotic manipulation, and embedded systems in robotics.
Mechatronics is one of the most important fields of robotics engineering. It is the design of computer-controlled electromechanical systems that must operate together to perform complete tasks. Robot manipulation and embedded systems courses teach students the core subdisciplines of robotics engineering.
These core subdisciplines are sensing, reasoning, and acting. Courses in sensing study a robot’s ability to map or visualize its environment. The sensing subjects taught to graduate students include computer vision, mapping, and signal processing. Reasoning courses study a robot’s ability to understand the visualization of its environment. Knowledge areas in robot reasoning include planning, multi-agent coordination, machine learning, and artificial intelligence. Courses in acting study a robot’s ability to physically alter its environment. Courses in acting relate to mechatronics and include control, kinematics, dynamics, mechanical engineering, bio-mechanical systems, manipulation, and real-time feedback systems.
Graduate students have the opportunity to concentrate on one particular area of study that is related to robotics engineering. A student’s concentration typically will relate to an industry where they want to work after graduation. Common concentration areas in robotics engineering programs include artificial intelligence, biomedical engineering, electrical engineering, systems engineering, and mechanical and aerospace engineering.
Robotics engineering programs spend a lot of time in the robotics lab, where they get to field-test their theoretical knowledge on small- and large-scale robotics design, build, and test projects. The lab is where theory becomes practice for robotics engineers, and they get hands-on experience with robotics platforms.
Industry training is another typical part of graduate programs. Robotics engineering students can attend internships and sign up for training programs where they collaborate with industry experts on robotics projects. Host companies use these internships and training programs as recruiting pipelines, and they can lead to job opportunities after graduation.
How Much Does Tuition Cost?
Graduate-level education can be expensive, but there are student loan and grant programs that can provide access to anyone. In 2021, a robotics engineering degree’s average tuition costs were $26,571 for out-of-state education and $13,478 for in-state education. These are just national averages, and programs can vary significantly. Private college and university tuition are also, on average higher than public universities. If cost is an essential factor in determining where you want to earn your degree, it is vital to research the cost at each school individually.
As with all higher education, more prestigious schools typically come with higher costs, so balancing the quality of education and degree that you are looking for with the program’s costs is important. When getting the best bargain for your education, there are numerous things to consider.
Generally, scholarship and tuition relief is harder to attain for graduate-level education. Most often, graduate students end up bearing the majority of tuition expenses. This does not mean that a master’s degree should be considered unattainable. There are multiple resources on the internet for finding grants, scholarships, and federal lending. Many employers also offer scholarship and grant programs for current employees who pursue secondary education in a field related to their employment. These employer-sponsored plans typically require an employee to remain working at the employer for some time after the degree. Prospective students should avoid private lenders for education expenses, as their interest rates are often significantly higher than the federal student aid program.
To review the type of federal loan and grant financing that you will have available to you for your graduate program, fill out a FAFSA form first. This form will inform you of the federal grants and loan programs for your master’s degree.
Career Options After a Master’s in Robotics
Robotics is a career field with strong growth projected for the next ten years. In 2021, the global market for industrial robots was about $43.8 billion, and the market is expected to grow 10 percent year over year through the end of the decade.
Robotics engineers work for a variety of employers tops across numerous industries. The most popular sectors for robotics engineers are manufacturing, mechanical engineering, and healthcare. Robotics overall is a varied field that requires a broad range of skills. Potential career paths include robotics technician, robotics software engineer, robotics designer, and robot sales technician.
Robot technician positions are typically the entry-level way into the robotics industry. This position requires engineers to apply their building and testing knowledge to the company’s robots to conduct its business. Job responsibilities could include monitoring and responding to issues with the robot arms on an assembly line.
The career track for a robotics software engineer is for people who become skilled and enthusiastic about the computer programming aspects of robotics engineering. In these roles, robotics software engineers solve problems in the code and implement new software upgrades to improve the performance of the robots. Software engineers still need to understand the mechanical aspects of the robots when they write software for them. These positions can be challenging and mentally stimulating tests of your engineering knowledge and capability.
Robot designing is the career track for students who enjoy visualizing and inventing innovative robotic solutions to human problems. A robot designer watches a human perform a task and can see the inefficiency and imperfection that a robot can improve.
The robot sales engineer career is business-focused. In this career path, the focus is more on the customer than on the design and building of robots. Robot sales engineers market, advise, and sell the robotics solutions their company has to offer. These engineers need to enjoy the company’s business side and working with people. Typical requirements of this position include interfacing directly with the customer during correspondence and at key program presentation milestones.
Master’s in Robotics Salary
When searching for industry positions after completing your master’s degree, knowing the position level and pay grade typically awarded is good. Earning a master’s degree in robotics engineering does not automatically guarantee the top spot on the organizational chart. However, there are some general expectations that you should have for pay grades, given that you have an advanced degree.
Typically, robotics engineers coming out of graduate school secure senior specialist roles within most robotics companies. These roles are experienced professional roles and usually require between seven and ten years of industry experience to access without a degree. The national average for these senior specialists’ roles is $122,631. A master’s degree can provide access to these roles with only five years of experience, potentially saving two years that otherwise would be spent in the industry. These roles are typically one or two levels from a management position, and they will provide workers with autonomy and responsibility.
Earning a master’s degree should also place you on a track for advancement at your company. Career advancement is one of the most substantial benefits of earning an advanced degree. An advanced degree can re-energize your career. If you manage your progress correctly, there can be a significant return on investment from a master’s degree. Many professionals treat their advanced education like an investment. It is conceivable to justify the $26,000 out-of-state or $13,000 in-state tuition in return for the years of increased salary and career advancement that follow. Robotics engineering and automation systems managers annually earn $187,797 per year on average, making the robotics industry a highly lucrative place to grow a career.