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Hi Forum, I'm an instrument and control tech in the uk working at a power station in Lincolnshire and the company have offered to sponsor me for a degree , preferably in measurement and control but i'm really,really struggling to find a suitable course that offers part-time study. The closest course to my trade that i can find is electronics but i want to study more in the control systems area.
I've looked into open learning but these seem to be generic to all forms of engineering and don't specialise in a certain area.
So, basically i'm stuck at the time being!
Has anybody had the same kind of problem or anyone got any ideas?
Any help will be much appreciated



RE: Degrees

Measurement and control is kind of a cross-over area.

Consider courses in:

General laboratory technique/ design of experiments (because good lab techs need to know how to properly measure things)

Manufacturing/Production engineering (because they need to know how to apply things to the production line)

Programming (because many control systems are computer based)

Electronics/electrical engineering (because improper wiring of a control system can really screw it up)

Logic (because it is helpful to learn to draw proper flow charts and state diagrams)

RE: Degrees

ln Canada most first year programs are common to all engineering students. They include calculus, physics, chemistry etc.

Depending on your background you may have to take some or all of these introductory level courses anyway. Most engineering schools here are also open to considering courses form other universities or equal courses from other departments.

If you are taking these courses on a part time or distance basis this will give you a couple of years to take a look around at what courses are available and to see where your interests lie.

Good luck

Rick Kitson MBA P.Eng

Construction Project Management
From conception to completion

RE: Degrees


You should be careful not to undertake a degree that is too specialized.

I have just finished a BSc(Hons) with the Open University and I am about to start a MEng degree with them.  I can highly recommend the Open University for the quality of their teaching material and the support they offer to students.

The enclosed link will take you to some useful information.


If you intend to use the degree as a route to membership of an institution, you MUST check the degree is suitable and meets their requirements BEFORE you begin studying.

Choosing the right degree is a personal choice, if I were starting again, I would probably go for a BEng degree.

RE: Degrees

Unless you already have equivalent credits for the first couple of years worth of math, physics, etc., you're pretty much stuck with that.  

The good news is that you'll need that preparation for measurement and controls courses that you would take in the 2nd through 4th years of a normal college education.

The BIG question is whether you really like the subject material and can see yourself doing that type of work in the future.  You need to like math and physics as a starter.

I would recommend that you thoroughly assess what you'd like or want to do and go from there.


RE: Degrees

What kind of degree do you want, a associates (2yrs) or bachelors (4yrs), masters, PhD? Y
ou need to answer this question first. Instrumentation and controls within the power industry (at least in my experience) are usually no more than someone with an associates degree. If you want to move into engineering then plan on 4yrs full time at the least. The two curriculums can be drastically different so keep this in mind.
If you want a Bachelors then major in electrical engineering with emphasis on controls. This will be the most inline with what you want to do. If you only want an associates degree (or maybe no degree), then take electronics courses to start then find some specialized instrumentation courses at a local University (often these will be found under the electrical engineering curriculum).

RE: Degrees

Without knowing your particular circumstances I'd say you should be looking at an electrical engineering degree, specialising in instrumentation and control in the latter half.

Make sure it is IEE accredited, and be prepared to get a sore brain. Good luck.

Incidentally you have a huge advantage over most undergrads - you've seen the stuff in practice and you know how engineering decisions are made. This is invaluable.


Greg Locock

RE: Degrees

Look up www.ISA.org, or google Instrument Society of America.  This is the professional society of guys that are heavily involved in measurement and control, and I think you will find some useful information there.  They are who you want to be.


RE: Degrees

Jusrt for general knowledge, ISA has changed the meaning of its abbreviation. It is now the "Instrumentation, Systems, and Automation Society." They do have a lot of good books and training courses, but the courses seem to be aimed mostly at the technician level.

I&C is very interdisciplinary in nature. You need electrical, mechanical, and computer programming/networking/data handling knowledge.

I've seen two problems with I&C knowledge and academia:

The tech schools that have programs in this area don't teach enough theory. Most don't teach digital control and discuss effects of sampling period, determination of system stability/sensitivity, or optimization of controllers (and I don't mean PID tuning). They also usually don't discuss uncertainty propagation through systems, statistical analysis of data, statistical process control, and design of experiments for system testing. Some barely touch on analysis of systems in the frequency domain.

The universities and colleges that have programs in this area don't teach enough practical knowledge. Controls is frequently approached in a classroom as a mathematics exercise, with labs/projects performed in Matlab or some other software simulation environment. No wiring or installation methods/practices/codes, no machine/unit/equipment operation, and no integration of systems is usually discussed. PLC/DCS programming is ignored. Tradesworkers usually don't have a lot of respect fo new engineers because of their lack of practical knowledge. Newbies usually don't know how to design a system that is easy to install and maintain, and frequently overlook practical, simple fixes to problems. They also usually can't troubleshoot very well since they haven't done any other than in student labs.

My opinion is that an I&C engineer should start out as an instrumentation/electronics technician and learn about installation and maintenance of I&C systems along with equipment operation. This will probably require an AS in electronics or equivalent military training/experience. About four years in this role should give the person a good place to start. This experience may be concurrent with the next step.

Get a degree in engineering (preferably electrical, though some mechanical and chemical engineering curricula may be worthwhile) with the associated theoretical courses. One problem is that many universities give little to no credit for tech school classes, so a student basically has to start over. Don't forget what it was like to be a technician. Tradespeople will like the fact that the engineer speaks their language (and was one of them once).

When you become an engineer, constantly continue your education. Read books, attend professional development courses, be active in professional groups like ISA or an industry-specific organization, teach. Build a library of reference materials. Always be learning and sharing your knowledge.

I am speaking from personal experience. This is the route that I followed, and it was very effective in making me a good I&C engineer. I've spent 10 years in I&C and loved every minute of it. I'm currently taking grad school classes with the ultimate goal of becoming a professor so I can try to fix some of the problems that I discussed above. I'd even like to start my own school someday that teaches both the theoretical and practical sides of the world of I&C.

Best of luck.


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RE: Degrees

Thanks to all of you, some really valuable post.
Think i'm going to go for the OU option as i'm still young and still have lots to learn! and i've got the time to put max effort in.
Xnuke, i totally agree and have seen those points myself and engineers do get more respect from their team if they've worked up through the ranks.
Once again ,


RE: Degrees

xnuke, I'd like to complement you on what is the finest post I've yet seen in this forum!  I gave you a star, and would have liked to have given you more but that would be "stuffing the ballot box."

RE: Degrees

I agree with xnuke.  Most of the I&C engineers that I worked with, or became acquainted with through my past association with ISA, which hadn't changed names, yet, were mechanical, or electrical engineers, who, then devoted themselves strictly to I&C work, and then took that specialty when they did their professional licensure.


RE: Degrees

Go for a multi-degree like mech/elect engr. You can apply this anywhere, and it is a nice combination. Electrical engineers seem to skirt the mechanical specialties (a weakness) and mechanical engineers are generally weak in electric specialties. I had a boss with these degrees, and he was a pleasure to work with.

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