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Beauty of brains: Instrumentation engineers work for industries with automated processes, such as chemical or manufacturing plants, with the goal of improving system productivity and safety

The lowdown

Instrumentation engineering can be referred to as a ‘mixture’ of different subjects that can be the launch pad for many careers. Indeed, instrumentation engineering is an inter-disciplinary branch that includes study of electrical, chemical, electronics as well as computer engineering. Instrumentation and control engineers design manufacture and fix snags in devices or systems that are used to measure or control physical quantities such as temperature, pressure and flow. They step in wherever ‘sensing’ of physical quantities is required and work in power plants, chemical plants, manufacturing facilities, oil refineries, the steel industry as well as with drug makers and software and hardware companies, to name a few avenues. Instrumentation engineers typically work for industries with automated processes, such as chemical or manufacturing plants, with the goal of improving system productivity, reliability, safety, optimisation and stability. The control of processes is one of the main branches of applied instrumentation

The average day of an instrumentation engineer at an oil refinery:
8am: Check systems complaints against the instruments. Start trouble-shooting. Ask technicians to replace faulty instruments or repair them
12.30pm: Lunch
1pm: Meeting with the boss to discuss a project of installing new system/instruments
2pm: Come back to plant. Follow up on the morning’s job and look at new complaints. Work out plans for implementation of the new automation system
4pm: Pack up for the day
Woken up at midnight to check a snag in the system at the plant

The payoff
Initially, the median pay of instrumentation engineers is Rs. 1 lakh to Rs. 2.2 lakh a year. The average pay of a graduate engineer — regardless of the branch — is Rs. 6.5 lakh per annum

* Must be good at maths and physics
* Skilled at handling instruments and software
* Have leadership qualities
* Adept at trouble-shooting

Getting there
Take science with physics, chemistry and maths at the plus two level. Instrumentation engineering is available as BTech or BE programmes, entry to which is normally through a written test.

Institutes like BITS Pilani offer it with electronics, as BE (Hons) electronics and instrumentation. Job options in this field are good. Instrumentation engineers work in software firms like HCL and TCS, as well as hardware companies. Other employers include Larsen & Toubro, ABB (Asea Brown Boveri), Siemens, Texas Instruments, National Instruments, Bechtel, Fluor Daniel, Foster Wheeler and even American Express. In the public sector, there are companies like EIL, BHEL, NTPC, SAIL, GAIL and ONGC

Institutes and URLs
* IIT Kharagpur
* Netaji Subhas Institute of Technology, New Delhi
* NIT Tiruchirapalli, Jalandhar,
* Madras Institute of Technology, Anna University, Chennai

Some institutes offer degrees in electronics and instrumentation, such as: 
* Birla Institute of Technology & Science

Pros and cons
* Your wider knowledge base gives you an edge over mechanical or electrical engineers in a plant
*   Money is good
* Highly responsible role — if the instrumentation system fails, the whole plant will grind to a halt 
* Your health could be affected because of high noise and temperature levels at manufacturing plants
* If things go wrong at work, you are required to be on call 24X7

There is hardly any area of engineering, science and technology where instrumentation is not needed. Hence, there is vast scope in this field -- AP Mittal, professor and head, department of instrumentation & control engineering, Netaji Subhas Institute of Technology, New Delhi


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