How to Build a Robotics Career Without a Ph.D.
April 19, 2019      

If you’re worried about the future job security of your current career, it could be time to switch into a more in-demand career, such as one offered by the robotics or artificial intelligence fields.

Fortunately, you don’t need a doctorate to make that kind of a job transition. By showing creativity, dedication and a willingness to learn in-demand skills, you could set yourself up for success despite not having an advanced degree. Here are six strategies that can help you get to a new career in robotics or AI.

1) Examine your educational options

Transitioning into a technology career will almost inevitably require you to increase your formal education, even without going as far as getting a Ph.D. With that in mind, start by looking for robotics programs in your community. Alternatively, you can check for online courses — especially if your obligations make it difficult to commit to attending in-person classes.

Also, prioritize the programs that will put you in an excellent position to capitalize on the existing skills shortage. According to an EY report, 80% of respondents said an AI talent shortage prevented enterprise-level adoption of that technology. If you have AI knowledge that applies to robotics, you could find yourself in exceptional demand, provided your educational program makes you well equipped.

2) Understand your role in a changing workforce

It’s likely that fear of losing your job to robots is what compelled you to upskill and embrace the robotics trend by moving into the industry itself instead of shying away from it.

Study patterns within the workforce and how robots relate to them. Once you are aware of the impact of robotics on the future workforce, you can better determine how you fit within it, and how robots could be a career booster for you instead of a hindrance.

For example, if you previously worked as a civil engineer, many of the skills you already possess will lend themselves nicely to your goal of landing a robotics engineering role. In your profession as a civil engineer, you may have designed things like roads and bridges, which translates well into designing robots.

Plus, your former engineering work equipped you to realize the various phases of the design process, and you’re probably comfortable working with others to get jobs done. In short, think about the skills you already have and how they could help you excel as the workplace evolves.

3) Browse job listings find essential skills for robot-related roles

Once you have an idea of sources for robotics degrees, and how you can fit into the future workforce, start looking through job listings. While it may seem premature to do this, you can learn valuable information that can guide a career move. First, look for companies that most often have technology job openings that appeal to you.

Then, dig deeper and see what skills they require. Figure out how you could sharpen those skills and create an action plan for encouraging meaningful personal growth. Remember, making your skills applicable to the future is a substantial part of enjoying long-term job security.

Check out the newly launched website that seeks to address the robotics skills shortage by connecting qualified candidates with robotics companies. It’s called Robots.Jobs and has both featured jobs and companies, giving you an idea of the know-how that you need to progress in the field. (Editor’s note: Robotics Business Review is a partner with Robots.Jobs)

robotics career networking business people

Making connections at local robotics gatherings can help generate job opportunities.

4) Become a confident networker

Research indicates that up to 85% of people find their jobs through networking. If you don’t know anyone currently working in robotics, it’s time to change that. Search for local gatherings of individuals working in robotics and other tech fields. Be prepared to talk about your career goals and what you can offer to employers.

At this stage in your career switch, it may not feel like you can bring much to the table concerning relevant robotics expertise. But think about the other things you have to offer from your former role. For example, maybe you were a marketing professional and worked on projects that required you to assess and meet client needs. In that case, you’re probably great at seeing the big picture and knowing how to achieve successful outcomes.

5) Improve critical thinking skills by staying abreast of robotics news

Robotics is a fast-moving sector, and you cannot assume things in the industry will stay relatively constant up to and beyond the time when you’re ready to enter the employment market and start hunting for a robotics job. It’s smart to build a collection of robotics resources such as websites and blogs. Aim to read them daily, or at least several times a week.

As you digest the information, think about it critically by asking yourself how the things you read about could have short- or long-term effects on the robotics industry. Similarly, as you read about exceptionally innovative robotics achievements, ponder the pros and cons of such progress. Challenging yourself to analyze the news like this keeps your knowledge current, plus encourages you to think beyond the words on the page.

6) Look for a tech internship

It’s one thing to earn a degree from a robotics program, but you will also need hands-on experience that will be valuable if you enrolled in an online degree program that didn’t offer any or very many lab experiences for learners. An internship can help you discover what it’s really like to work in a robotics or other tech company.

When you’re getting your resume ready before applying for an internship, make sure to list any relevant projects completed, even the ones where you built robots with DIY kits. The companies looking for interns want well-rounded applicants, and that often means people who aren’t afraid to roll up their sleeves and get to work by carefully following instructions, and realizing that they may not get everything right the first time.

Speaking of DIY kits, they can be excellent for helping you apply skills learned in formal coursework. Even if your robotics degree program doesn’t recommend using them, you should because you’ll gain a richer understanding of how robots function.

Of course, the internships at the biggest, most well-known companies will be very competitive. But keep in mind that you could learn just as much — or more — by working for a small startup.

Stay determined during your quest

Besides staying aware of these six tips, don’t forget that you need a diligent mindset as you strive to build a robotics career without a Ph.D. Although many of the applicants may have more education than you, the other traits you offer could make you become the candidate of choice.