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U.S. Robotics Job Opportunities Rise 29% in 2012
Industry growth and re-shoring mean competitive packages for robotics professionals
By Emmet Cole


U.S. corporate recruiters and staffing firms posted more than 6,000 online job ads requiring robotics skill sets in May.

The figure represents a 29% year-over-year growth compared to May 2011 and is twice the volume of online robotics-related job ads posted in May 2010, according to Wanted Analytics, a business intelligence firm specializing in the jobs marketplace.

However, variations in the depth of local talent mean that employers in some regions are having to wait longer to find people with sufficient robotics-related skills to take up the available positions. As a consequence, employers in these regions are offering more competitive employment packages than competitors in other parts of the country.

The job listings apply to both roboticists and end-users, Abby Lombardi, director of marketing at Wanted Analytics tells Robotics Business Review. 

“Basically it’s any job that included some sort of specification for knowing how to build, program, or work with robots,” says Lombardi. 

More than 2,000 jobs were advertised for healthcare practitioners—the most of any occupational field—at a 46% year-over-year increase. Engineering related jobs that required robotics skills increased by 13% from May 2011.

In Phoenix alone, there was a 3,057% increase in the number of jobs requiring robotics skills in general medical and surgical hospitals, and an increase of 4,000% in similar postings for physicians’ offices.

“Robotics is an emerging field. We’ve been watching this skills set and requirement and noticing that it’s increasing steadily,” says Lombardi. 

Some of the increase in robotics-related jobs postings can be attributed to the general economic upturn but the current rate of growth is probably not sustainable, says Henrik I. Christensen, KUKA Chair of Robotics at the College of Computing, Georgia Institute of Technology.

“2009 to 2010 were slow years, but now that the economy is picking up again there is a surge for people that can install and operate robots,” says Christensen, who expects the rate of growth to slow down over the coming years. 

“The robotics market grew 110% in 2011 according to the IFR World Robotics Report, but 2009 was particularly poor, so this is probably not a sustainable growth rate. I expect growth rates to be in the 20-30% range, but not in the 60-100% range. Sustainable growth of 25% is on a par with a long-term trend with many new areas of growth,” adds Christensen. 

Another factor driving the increase in robotics-related jobs, says Christensen, is the move away from outsourcing amongst U.S. companies, a trend driven by increased salaries in overseas markets.

“Clearly companies are re-considering their manufacturing strategy. But in addition we are starting to roll out new products in manufacturing, services, and unmanned systems. We are trying to grow across the board which is encouraging,” says Christensen.

“At the same time, we’re seeing new investments in basic technology from major companies such as Boeing and GM and across the basic research institutions, so the pipeline is filling up for continued growth.”

The most commonly advertised job titles requiring with robotics skills were: maintenance technician, controls engineer, manufacturing engineer, mechanical engineer, electrical engineer, software engineer, and physician/urologist.

Another factor driving the increase in robotics-related jobs, says Christensen, is the move away from outsourcing amongst U.S. companies, a trend driven by increased salaries in overseas markets.

The skills that employers most commonly required in potential candidates for robotics jobs are project management, product development and management, software development, Microsoft PowerPoint, and Microsoft Office.

Metropolitan areas with the highest volume of job listings for robotics knowledge during May 2012 were Phoenix, Detroit, New York, Sacramento, and Chicago.

Detroit and Chicago also experienced growth in demand versus May 2011, while recruiters in New York and Sacramento placed fewer job ads for robotics skills compared to last year.

Companies sourcing candidates for jobs that require knowledge to build or operate robotics are likely to find them moderately difficult-to-recruit, with conditions varying slightly by location.

The easiest places to currently recruit robotics skills are Decatur (Alabama), York (Pennsylvania), and Portland.

Conversely, companies in Sacramento, California, are experiencing one of the longest time-to-fill for candidates with robotics skills (7.5 weeks on average), because the local talent pool does not meet demand. As a result, employers in Sacramento are likely to compete heavily to attract talent, says Wanted Analytics’ Lombardi.


To read more about this topic, check out our article
, Robotics Jobs Go Wanting For Lack Of Skilled Workers

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About the author

Emmet Cole has been writing about robots since 2006. Formerly Wired UK's robotics expert, Emmet's bylines include Wired News, The Economist, BBC Future, and Robotics Trends. He is particularly interested in commercialization of research and in the ethical, legal, and regulatory implications of emerging robotic and cyborg technology. Twitter: @emmetcole

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