Instrumentation Career Guide

 

Opportunities in Industrial Sectors

The industry sector opportunities mainly comprise careers related to continuous operating plants for the following:

Chemicals, agrochemicals, petrochemicals, fertilizers, pesticides, insecticides, cement, paper, polymers, petroleum refining, power generation, oil and gas fields (onshore and offshore), industrial and scientific gas production, pharmaceuticals, breweries, distilleries, food production, processing and beverages, iron, steel and other metal refining companies, textiles and yarn.

Your job will be as a part of the company that designs these plants, constructs these plants, maintains these plants, sells or services instrumentation and controls for these plants.

Nature of Job

1. Plant Maintenance: Installation of Instrumentation, control and automation systems by referring diagrams; start-up and commissioning of these; maintenance, monitoring and troubleshooting of these

Some private companies are designated EPC (Engineering, Procurement and Construction) companies. Their construction group does installation and commissioning or in some cases also maintenance. Also there are many other companies only doing construction and installation.

Some companies do not employ engineers as a part of their company for maintenance purpose. Instead, they give maintenance contracts to smaller companies at a lump sum amount for an entire year. You, if a part of the smaller firm, will attend the plant maintenance and troubleshooting problems.

If you are directly a part of the company that owns a plant, you will be the plant engineer. You will do the maintenance work and/or co-ordinate with other companies for design and construction if your company goes for expansion plans. If things go out of your hand, you have to call the vendor of the system or instrument or software and they will send their service or technical support engineer.

2. Designing Instrumentation, control and automation systems for a plant : our work will include designing Instrumentation and control systems for various process equipments, preparing process and instrument diagrams (P&IDs) and selecting the best instrument, control and/or automation technique from amongst different vendors to suit the process. The engineering and procurement group of EPC companies normally does this part. Some companies are only engineering design consultants who only do the designing part.

Designing (related to automation) includes PLC, SCADA and DCS programming. For software programming other than ladder logic, you should know software languages. This part is handled by companies specializing in PLCs and software companies. Jobs in this sub-category are thoroughly office jobs except in some cases on-plant for start-up and commissioning assistance.

3. Sales and Marketing: This is a job where you have to inherently possess good skills of talking, listening and convincing. Involves interacting with design companies, plant maintenance engineers and managers, understanding their technical needs, preparing quotations and proposals, collecting the strong and weak points of your products as against your competitors, making a compromise of these points so as to win an order by defeating your competitors, negotiating for selling your instrument at the lowest possible price so as to satisfy yourself and the customer. This job requires extensive touring.

There are a huge lot of players in this field. You could be a sales engineer of anything: instrument, controller, DCS, SCADA, software packages etc. This field has extensive career growth opportunities. Remember, people from sales side only grow to the highest levels in a company.

4. Service: Its similar to maintenance part mentioned above in (1). Only difference is if the plant engineer cannot bring an instrument back to life, he will call a service engineer. You have to bring it back to life at any cost as quick as possible by doing some repairs or replacing parts.

In many cases, the company that performs designing (2 above) also places one of its engineer on-plant for start-up, commissioning, regular monitoring, doing minor/major modifications in software/logic/process model as per plant engineering or production requirements, for troubleshooting etc. Such a job is often called technical support. Again here, as you perform modifications and test the performance, some production delay or loss occurs. So, this job also has to be performed perfectly and quickly as possible.

For smaller instruments like transmitters, no one will wait for a service engineer to repair; once it’s gone, replace. For big ones like analytical instruments (spectrometers, chromatographs etc), a service engineer has the work. The technical support field has some more prospects compared to servicing. Here, degree engineers have the hold.

For any of these categories (1, 2, 3, 4), if you are working for a company that’s the subsidiary or representative of some foreign company, you have opportunities to go abroad for training as a part of your company, but only after putting 1-2 years of good hard work.

Remember, however small any job be, see to it that you do it, also keep your mind open for bigger opportunities. Never sit idle at home searching for your dream job.

Research and development

The major players in this field are Department of Atomic Energy (DAE), Defence Research and Development Organization (DRDO) and Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO). DAE has made a common entrance now for all categories. By giving the same exam and interview, you can go for research, go for plant jobs in nuclear or heavy water plants or get DAE scholarships and fellowships for further studies, sponsored in IISc or IITs. DAE ad comes in Nov-Dec.

Eligibility: 60% degree percentage, qualifying their entrance exam in March (fully technical, only GATE people can do it) and their cutoff GATE score, I feel, for Instrumentation is 93. With this, you may be short listed for their interview.

ISRO ad comes in Jan-Feb and DRDO ad in Jun-Jul. Eligibility same, but no GATE score required. They are purely research jobs. But the interviews here would be some real hard. They’ll take you deep into each and every aspect. After all, eminent scientists will interview you.

GATE score and first class will also make you eligible for research fellowships (not much ads seen in this area) in some research institutes or labs.

The development areas include designing instrumentation and controls with microprocessors and microcontrollers, data acquisition and signal conditioning, digital signal processing and their related programming, either using microprocessor language or computer languages. But some people ask electronic engineers for these areas, as is the case with small private companies. The development area is also a part of research careers (DAE, ISRO, DRDO or research fellowships).

Defence

Indian Army, Indian Navy and Indian Air Force

Defence is the best field you can get into. Apart from good pay and Govt. job, you will live a disciplined and respectable life, even when you are in or out of a defence job. Defence personnel are a “someone different from the crowd” kind of people. You have both non-technical and technical sides to apply.

Defence ads appear twice a year in Employment News. There are two ways to get into defence:

1. Give Combined Defence Service Exam (CDSE). Ads come in Sep-Oct and Mar-Apr. Exams in Jan and June. CDSE is only for boys. Their requirement is only a degree in Engineer or BSc. If you have to enter the technical sides of A, N and AF by this method, you have to apply as soon as you pass out or when you are in Final year. This is because, for this side, age limit is 21 years, which, I think, most of you will complete as soon as you passout, and, after that, you will become ineligible by way of age. For non-technical side (only for Army), age limit is 25 years.

Exam consists of Maths, English and General Knowledge. If you pass in the exam, you will be called at the Services Selection Board (SSB) for a period of one or two weeks. If you pass all three sections of the exam, you are eligible for all the technical sides of A, N and AF and also for the non-technical side. If you only get through English and GK, you will only be eligible for non-technical side. Your roll nos. appear in Employment News and call letter for SSB comes to your home.

Non-technical entry is only for a period of five years (Short Service Commission) after which its upto your will and performance and the availability of vacancies to further continue permanently in the Army. The technical entry for A, N and AF, I feel, is permanent. Please check up this part with advertisements.

2. Direct ads appear in Jun-Jul and Nov-Dec. Apply directly to respective defence headquarters. They ask for various Engg disciplines.

For Navy, (ship, submarine and executive branches) you require to have 60% by the average rule (1+2+...+7+8 / 8). They directly shortlist your application and call you to the SSB. Navy’s direct entry is for a period of 14 years after which its upto your will and performance and the availability of vacancies to further continue permanently in the Navy.

A job similar to the Navy is of the Indian Coast Guard. They don’t have percentage barriers and their maximum age limit to apply is 30 yrs. But I am not completely sure if they really recruit Instrumentation engineers because their ad asks for Control engineers.

For Air Force, recent eligibility criteria are 60%, high merit and a GATE score of minimum 70% too, for both technical and executive side. Air Force direct entry ads have both permanent and short service options to apply to.

In Army, there is no requirement of Instrumentation engineers in the technical side for this method of entry.

In direct ads, only one ad titled Women Special Entry Scheme would be for girls, that too only in the Army. About Air Force, the Jun-Jul ad asks for both boys and girls.

Age limits for direct recruitment ads like these is 27 yrs.

For more and updated details visit their respective websites.

Aeronautics

Hindustan Aeronautics Limited is the major player in this field. I think only their Hyderabad or Bangalore division asks for Instrumentation engineers. Don’t know when their ad actually comes.

Air India, Indian Airlines, Airports Authority of India, Jet Airways somewhat regularly advertise for fresh engineers once a year.

Eligibility: 60% in Degree

If in HAL, your job will involve design and/or testing and maintenance of aviation electronics and control systems. In private airline jobs, monitoring, operation and maintenance (mostly referred to as overhauling).

Marine

Overseas companies ask for Electrical/Electronic/ Instrumentation engineers together under one roof, say once in a year. But your maximum age limit is 24 years. When such companies recruit, they have an initial training partly in IIT and remaining in ship for which fees would run into lakhs. But don’t worry on such things, for the money spent on training will be directly your monthly salary!

Again your job will involve operations and maintenance of ship measurement, monitoring and control systems. Shipping companies abroad give very fat pays. But you have to be on ship for about max. 9 months continuously in a year.

Finally, very rare companies have sales and service jobs related to marine Instrumentation and control. This field also involves knowledge on communication.

Teaching

A professor, unlike a lecturer, doesn’t come with his/her reference textbook or notes in hand. He comes empty-handed, but with his heart and mind full of knowledge. For every single theory he teaches, he gives examples based on real life. So you will never forget the theory your entire life, because to remember it, you have to only guess the example he told you, which would easily flash in your mind. Perhaps you may not even require opening your book and revising what he taught.

His duty isn’t only teaching theory of his subject, but giving you other things too that are not a part of his work. How he struggled in his life, how you can avoid such struggles. In short, he makes you the engineer you have to be.

Eligibility for a lectureship position in any engineering college is 60% in degree. Some do ask for prior teaching experience, or ME/MTech or Ph.D. degrees.

Your Academic Score

Minimum percentage of 60-65 (first class) in your degree. Not 60-65 as per any University rules. See to it that you have 60-65% made up by taking the average of percentages of all your semesters. For e.g.: if four years cover eight semesters, then average should be (1+2+3+4+5+6+7+8) / 8 = 60-65%. If your percentage this way comes to 60-65, maybe your percentage by University rules go much higher.

Remember, this score makes you ‘at least eligible’ to apply for 80-90% of the best jobs in the country in the Government, Government undertakings and enterprises, public sector undertakings (PSUs) and big private companies. Should you fall below this criterion, you will have a life of hell searching for jobs asking only an engineering degree, second class or those not asking percentage criteria.

For those belonging to castes (SC, ST, VJ, NT), there would be relaxations in percentages and class, but only for the Government, Government enterprises and undertakings and PSUs. In private companies, it’s only your performance that matters. Still, the base class and percentage that I have mentioned above is mandatory for almost all companies.

Suggestions for Job Search

Reading: Purchase Employment News every week and also other papers like Times of India, Indian Express, Mid-Day, Hindustan Times, Hindu etc. See to it that the supplementary portions of these papers advertising job vacancies are in your hands. The editions having job vacancies come only once a week and you may only purchase the paper on that day if you may not be a regular reader.

Competition Success Review is a good magazine that will equip you in almost all fields. But you should be a regular reader. If you are a management aspirant, there’s no doubt your aptitude, GK and maths skills will be good.

Use Internet: Everyone having an email ID is mandatory nowadays. Email is the most economic way of sending applications. Every application should have a covering note (the body of the email) addressed to the concerned person (Human Resource Manager, Director etc) mentioning details like date of advertisement, in which paper or website it appeared, for which post they had asked, for which post you are applying etc. and your résumé will be as attachment.

By post, the same thing will cost you minimum Rs. 5/- for sending a 3-page application. Front page will be your covering note and rest two your résumé. If your résumé exceeds 2 pages, your postage doubles. Except your signature, if anything would be handwritten, and that too shabbily, the application is as good as gone. Maintain your English usage simple but grammatically correct and with precise spellings.

So, as far as possible, use emails to send applications. In cases where the company will give only its postal address or will ask you to send applications to some post box, resort to postage. As far as possible, your application should be in the printed format, not handwritten.

Register yourself with the nearest Employment Exchange and also with the Board of Apprentice Training (BOAT). Also register your résumés with websites naukri.com and monsterindia.com.

Get Registered: Some jobs in Employment News require registration with Employment exchanges. For such jobs, you cannot directly apply to the organization, but your application will be routed through the Employment Exchange. So you have to give your application in the specified format to the Employment Exchange.

BOAT registration has the advantage that after graduation, you can work with some company plants as an apprentice for a year. After a year, if the company requires, it may absorb you. Even if the company doesn’t, a year’s experience in a plant is a ‘more than enough’ plus point for you to get other good jobs that ask experience. Some companies never give apprentice ads in papers for fresher; they recruit fresher only from BOAT. I don’t know if there is a BOAT in every region, there’s one in Mumbai.

But an apprentice engagement has to be had as soon as you pass out. No one is going to consider you an apprentice after a year. Rarely, a few will. Again, BOAT will ask for things like affidavit if you register with them after a year of getting graduated.

It is frequently heard that for Government jobs, you require to pay bribes. But don’t ever believe such a thing unless you actually reach till that stage (interview) and are asked for a bribe. Well, the country’s judiciary and anti-corruption laws can be believed for they are going strong now.

 

 

 

Summary

 

Opportunities

Academic Score

Job Search Ideas

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