Control Engineers: The Masterminds Behind the Machines

January 26, 2024

Control engineers are architects of automation. Enabling everything from smart home thermostats to complex flight controls for commercial aviation, they bring life to machines and keep the wheels of modern technologies turning smoothly. 

As one of the fastest growing careers today, here’s a look at what control engineers do, where they work, and the outlook for the field. 


What Is a Control Engineer? 

Control engineers design, develop, implement, and maintain control systems, the intricate networks of sensors, actuators, and algorithms that drive electrical, mechanical, chemical, and computer systems. Their work aims to ensure the efficient and safe operation of machines and processes

Control engineers leverage principles in mathematics, physics, and engineering to act as the bridge between physical processes and digital intelligence. Their expertise is required to regulate essential variables like temperature, pressure, flow, and speed to ensure optimal performance within strict quality and safety standards. Through constant analysis, optimization, and troubleshooting, they work toward the smooth and efficient operation of complex machinery and processes, ultimately driving increased productivity, enhanced precision, and improved safety within a wide range of applications. 


Education and Training for Control Engineers

Control engineers typically need a bachelor's degree in engineering, with a focus on control systems, electrical engineering, or mechanical engineering. This degree provides the foundational knowledge in mathematics, physics, and computer science that's essential for understanding and designing control systems. Graduate degrees can enhance career opportunities, especially in research and development roles or more specialized positions, whereas professional certifications, such as the Certified Automation Professional and Certified Control Systems Technician certificates offered by the International Society of Automation, can help control engineers refine their skill set and advance in their careers. 

Some of the most common skills required for control engineers include: 

  • Strong understanding of mathematics and physics that underpin the concepts of control systems, such as modeling, dynamics, and signal processing. 

  • Proficiency in programming languages to develop control algorithms and interact with software. 

  • Knowledge of control system technologies, such as PLC programming, SCADA systems, PID controllers, and other specific technologies depending on the industry and application. 

  • Analytical and problem-solving skills, which are critical to constantly analyze data, identify problems, and design solutions to optimize system performance. 

  • Critical thinking to make informed decisions under pressure, balancing performance, safety, and cost considerations. 

  • Communication and teamwork, as collaboration with other engineers, technicians, and stakeholders is essential for successful project execution. 


Industry and Work Settings for Control Engineers

A control engineer’s work spans a variety of industries and sees them contributing to diverse projects in office spaces, research labs, and factory floors. They’ll create navigation systems for self-driving cars, temperature controls for chemical reactors, and motion controls for robotic surgery support machines. 

  • In manufacturing, control engineers automate production lines, optimize processes, and ensure product quality. 

  • In energy, they contribute to power generation, renewable energy systems, and efficient grid control. 

  • In robotics, they design and implement control algorithms for industrial machinery and automated systems.  

  • In aerospace, they create flight control systems, guidance systems, and autopilot systems.  


engineer sitting in front of wall of screens



Career Outlook for Control Engineers

Driven by increasing automation and the integration of advanced control systems across all industries, the job outlook for control engineers is excellent. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a 6% job growth rate for control engineers through 2030, much faster than the average for all occupations — and salaries typically reach six-figures early in the career. Continuous advancements in technology, particularly in areas like artificial intelligence and machine learning, are expected to offer new opportunities for control engineers to contribute to cutting-edge projects.  


Taking Control at Capitol Tech 

Control engineers keep our machines running smoothly and efficiently. Often operating in the background, they are in high demand for their ability to optimize efficiency, safety, and precision in various fields, making it a diverse, lucrative, and rewarding career path. Check out Capitol Tech’s degree programs in Engineering to see how you can take on the challenges of a career in control engineering. For more information, contact our Admissions team at