We all know that instrumentation is the art and science of measurement, and control of process variables within a production or manufacturing area. Instrumentation engineering has been extended as a separate area of focus from electrical and electronics branch of engineering.
Instrumentation is a multi-disciplinary stream and covers such areas as mechanical, computers, electronics, electrical and even chemical. So it can be said that, instrumentation engineering is a niche branch of electrical and electronics engineering that deals with automation, measurement and control of processes.
Typically, instrumentation engineers are employed in companies and organisations using heavy machinery to improve safety, stability and efficiency of automated processes. The main tasks of these engineers are to take care of maintenance or production, or design instrumentation systems used in manufacturing-related activities.
They work in an array of industrial sectors including thermal power plants, cement manufacturing, steel plants, R&D organisations and public and private sector firms. Apart from being hired by organisations that manufacture various instruments, these engineers are also hired by companies making use of specialised instruments for their daily operations.
Instrumentation engineers and technicians are high-demand professionals who are needed across almost all areas of engineering, science and technology based industries. Requirements for this inter-disciplinary branch of engineers range across IT, engineering, manufacturing and continuously operating plants for their maintenance, instrumentation designing, sales and marketing, R&D and defence industries, to name a few.
The majority of jobs in this profession are located in the three big cities of Delhi, Mumbai and Bengaluru. So while there are ample opportunities, aspirants should be willing to relocate, if they reside elsewhere.
Instrumentation engineers are also hired by multinational companies for working in software and marketing domains. The most common designations they land up with are sales and marketing engineer, or software engineer, or that of an instrumentation engineer whose job responsibilities are a mix of both.
There is no doubt about availability of core jobs but these are considerably less. There are many entry-level roles in the field of instrumentation engineering. Prominent among them are sales engineer, application engineer, service engineer and marketing engineer or technician.
Qualifications for instrumentation engineer
To work in the instrumentation sector, of course an engineering degree (instrumentation, electronics, mechanical, electrical, or computers) is required. Based on your specialisation, you are assigned work in the particular vertical of instrumentation. Experts believe that one must also have a strong aptitude for mathematics and physics. Strong communication skills are a must for any discipline today, especially if you want to grow in your career, and it holds good for instrumentation as well.
Engineers must have the potential to express project requirements for the design and development of hardware suitable for the task. As instrumentation engineers usually find themselves called upon to solve uniquely challenging problems, they must possess essentials such as excellent problem-solving skills and an ability to think outside the box.
Those who are sound in fundamentals and have specific knowledge of measurement systems will find multiple career options within this industry.
Talking about technical skills, instrumentation engineers typically advance their skills in specific disciplines such as distributed control systems, programmable logic controllers, supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA), and advanced process control. The use of these disciplines will depend on the exact nature of individual job roles.
Is the money worth it?
According to PayScale.com, an instrumentation engineer earns an average salary of Rs 362,664 per year. The amount of experience strongly influences income for this job. The average starting salary for instrumentation engineers in India is Rs 100,000 to Rs 240,000 per year. Senior engineers can earn in the range of Rs 350,000 to 600,000 per annum.
The skills that increase salaries for this job the most are engineering design, distributed control systems and instrument control. Most people move on to other jobs if they have more than ten years’ experience in this field.
According to TimesJobs.com’s statistics, 64% jobs are for fresh engineers who draw between Rs 200,000 and Rs 400,000 per annum. And 17% jobs are for junior associates who get anywhere between Rs 500,000 and Rs 700,000 per annum, whereas senior-level employees are paid up to or over Rs 1,000,000 per annum.
As per data provided by TimesJobs.com, Bengaluru tops the list offering 26% of the jobs in instrumentation in India. Other cities offer: Delhi NCR- 15%, Mumbai – 14%, Chennai – 12% and Pune – 11%. Remaining jobs are scattered all over other locations (refer pie chart).
The maximum number of professionals hired for working in instrumentation sector are in manufacturing and engineering industry with 35% share of jobs, which includes a majority of sales and marketing jobs. Next in line are IT industry with 22% of jobs, production and maintenance industry with 11% and IT hardware with 7%.
Instrumentation engineering is available as B.Tech or B.E. programmes, entry to which is normally through an all-India entrance test or tests organised by state governments. Institutes like BITS Pilani offer instrumentation with electronics as BE (Hons) electronics and instrumentation.
Industry experts believe instrumentation gives the pursuer an edge over mechanical or electrical engineers in terms of wider knowledge base. The pay is low initially but it gets better in later stages, once you develop the skills. It is also a highly responsible role as it includes a multitude and variety of tasks. On the other side, health could be affected due to high noise and temperature levels at manufacturing plants. You could also be required to work for longer hours. The jobs in sales, marketing and software are more as compared to core jobs.
There is hardly any area where instrumentation is not required. Hence, there is vast scope in this field.
The author is a senior technical correspondent at EFY