SCADA technicians play an indispensable role in sectors like energy, oil and gas, water treatment, manufacturing and pharmaceutical development. In a nutshell, they ensure that automated, remote control systems are functioning properly and securely.
What does a SCADA technician do?
The work performed by SCADA technicians is highly technical. Their tasks include setting up the SCADA system, in addition to installing, calibrating, and maintaining equipment. A major responsibility is watching the system for any signs of failure. If the technician detects a failure, they need to rapidly diagnose the problem and fix it as quickly as possible. After all, an entire factory or energy grid may depend on it!
Keeping the system secure and free of intruders is another key responsibility for SCADA technicians. You’ll need to monitor the system constantly for malware and other attacks on the infrastructure. This requires around-the-clock monitoring, so a SCADA technician must be prepared to work a flexible schedule and react to issues on very short notice.
The average salary for an ICS/SCADA technician is $50,000 per year, which is equivalent to a mean hourly rate of $24.00. In reality, your annual salary may fall anywhere from $40,000 to $60,000.
The exact dollar amount depends on a constellation of variables, including your experience level, the cost of living in your area, and the company you plan to work for. You’re also likely to start out at the lower end of the spectrum early in your career and work your way up as you receive raises and gain valuable professional skills and experiences.
SCADA technicians are responsible for ensuring a vast web of networks, control devices and data circuits are functioning properly and securely. This type of work demands a disciplined, detail-oriented work style. A strong understanding of company policy is key, since SCADA technicians are responsible for administering access and permissions. Timeliness is also essential, since tasks like performing diagnostics, patching and monitoring must be done according to a schedule.
Let’s take a look at some of the specific skills that make up a successful SCADA technician.
Work quickly and think on your feet
SCADA technicians monitor systems for alarms, errors and security events. Once an issue is detected, it needs to be acted upon immediately. You’ll need to jump in, sometimes in the middle of the night or on weekends, to diagnose the problem and fix it ASAP.
SCADA technicians work with heavy equipment and industrial machinery. They calibrate the sensors and program PLCs (programmable logic controller) that form the connective tissue between the SCADA system and machinery. Being able to interpret equipment engineering drawings and technical diagrams is a big plus, even if it isn’t strictly a mechanical skill.
You’ll need to be comfortable with doing basic-level mental math and have an intermediate grip on statistics. Math skills come in handy for reviewing and analyzing system data in addition to reporting on system vulnerabilities.
SCADA technicians are on the front line when something goes amiss in the control system. This means a big part of the job is troubleshooting and repairing the SCADA system and equipment.
You’ll need to communicate technical information to non-technical staff effectively. Sometimes you’ll have to do this during high-pressure situations where both time and accuracy are of the essence. In less pressing situations, you’ll provide technical support to engineers and construction personnel when building or modifying the control systems and communications equipment.
While there’s no hard-and-fast rule for how much prior work experience SCADA technicians need, most technicians have between three and five years of experience. They often start out in lower-level jobs related to vulnerability assessment, networking and instrument control. Roughly two-thirds of SCADA technicians have less than 10 years of work experience.
Some SCADA technicians are entry-level workers. These individuals typically have a bachelor’s degree and certifications in the required areas to make up for what they lack in work experience.
Most employers want to see a minimum of an associate degree from their future SCADA technicians. A bachelor’s degree may be required for roles that support large, critical systems. The degrees that best prepare you for this type of role are in engineering, mathematics, information technology and computer programming.
Individuals who most excel in the role of SCADA technician usually have taken coursework related to C++ programming and systems networking. Courses covering the principles of electrical engineering are also a plus, since the work environment includes heavy equipment and industrial machinery.
Gaining a few relevant certifications is an excellent idea. Professional certifications are a popular and well-respected way to gain new skills and stay abreast of critical technological advancements in the field of cybersecurity. Not to mention, they’re a great addition to your resume and will garner the right kind of attention from hiring managers!
These certifications are the most popular for SCADA technicians:
Many SCADA technician positions require some level of security clearance. This is due to the fact that you’re responsible for monitoring highly sensitive systems in critical industries like nuclear power, oil and gas, and water treatment. Obtaining security clearance means you will need to undergo a background check, fingerprinting and citizenship verification.
Final thoughts and next steps
Is a career as a SCADA technician the right choice for you? In this article, we took a look at many of the key aspects of what it’s like to have this job. From day-to-day responsibilities to the skills and qualities you need to secure the job, you now have the information you need to make an informed decision.