PLC Programming Certification - Complete Guide
There are many paths to becoming a competent PLC programmer. You may choose to pursue a traditional college degree, learn through online tutorials, or take a course that will issue a plc programming certification upon completion. However, what is the best option, and what are the best PLC programming certifications?
This article will briefly cover the three paths to becoming a competent PLC programmer mentioned above, discuss the different certifications available in the industry and their advantages over the other paths.
Engineering and Engineering Technology Degrees
A bachelor's degree in electrical engineering, a closely related field or engineering technology is a common path of getting into industrial automation. Multiple universities offer a program that will incorporate PLC programming, HMI development, Robotics, and control systems. Furthermore, at the end of the program, the recipient will be issued a degree that will carry more weight than many PLC programming certifications, especially from a known university.
Although it may be a suitable path for some, a university degree will typically take three to four years, will come with a heavy financial burden and will not always result in a desired position at the end. Yet another drawback of this path is that the program may not necessarily require you to take all classes in automation. You'll most likely be needed to learn calculus, linear algebra, basic chemistry, and more.
Official OEM PLC Programming Certifications and Classes
Every OEM, Allen Bradley, Siemens, Automation Direct, etc., provides classes and certifications based on proficiency. These classes will often take place at a physical location, be taught by education professionals, and span from one day to several weeks.
Although it is possible to get a PLC programming certification by going through these classes, they don't always carry the weight students expect. During these sessions, students will become familiar with how to program PLCs. Still, they typically won't come out with any projects, assignments, or tests that would require them to think beyond the material presented.
We've spoken to countless engineers who took such classes and were disappointed by the experience and the impact their PLC programming certification played when applying to a job. They all mentioned one or more of the following reasons:
- Lack of completed projects
- Information overload
- Employers do not value certifications
A typical class from Rockwell Automation on PLC programming can cost anywhere from USD 2,000 to 6,000. Although it is an investment a manufacturing company can make in their employees, this price tag is often outside of reach for most individuals on their terms.
Online PLC Programming Certifications
Online learning is not new. However, it is not a fully mature industry in PLC programming, industrial automation, and control systems. There is a wide range of quality when it comes to PLC programming certifications issued by various authorities.
Here is a list of checkpoints that we believe you should consider when selecting the authority to train and issue a PLC programming certification:
- Instructor Experience - Has the individual been in the field, or are they just a teacher. Although it is possible to learn control systems from a book, an engineer's industry experience is priceless. An instructor who has been in the field will know what to emphasize, provide you with industry-specific knowledge, prepare you for the real world, and the interview.
- Issuing Company - What will the employer be presented with if they decide to research the company that has issued the certification? Is this company a practitioner of their craft or an aggregator of certification programs?
- Project Work - What kind of projects will you complete during your certification? Will you be challenged as you learn new material? Will you apply your knowledge to solve a problem, design a system, or create something from scratch?
- Reputation - What are others saying about the certification program? Has it brought them value?
Significant Advantages of an Online PLC Programming Certification
An online certification will come at a much lower cost than the information supplied in an in-person class. We typically recommend our students take a portion of the money saved to purchase a small training kit they'll be able to use for the years to come, showcase during an interview and grow their skills beyond the class.
For years, we've underestimated the quality of learning materials that we can easily pause and resume with a click of a button. Unlike an in-person class, you can spend as much or as little time on specific topics during your PLC programming certification. Master the skills at your own pace and go back to lectures you need to review before your interview.
Projects, Assignments, and Quizzes
An online-based PLC programming certification allows the instructor to assign challenges that the students complete independently. These projects are critical for the mastery of specific concepts and reinforce what was learned during the lectures.
Although we recommend that you explore all of the options available when it comes to PLC programming certifications, we strongly believe that a thorough online program will provide you with the knowledge you need as well as the certification you need to land your dream job in manufacturing automation.
If you have any questions about our PLC programming certification don't hesitate to reach out.