Robotics—a field that was once thought to be simply science fiction—has become ingrained in our daily lives over the last decade. From self-roaming vacuum cleaners to autonomous cars, this field has grown in both popularity and potential, bringing with it a higher than ever demand for professionals trained to manage and build these kinds of systems.
“Roboticists are concerned about mechanisms that can sense the environment, and that can do the dull, the dirty, and the dangerous work,” says Hanumant Singh, PhD, and professor of electrical and computer engineering within the College of Engineering at Northeastern University. “It’s really about figuring out how we can make our lives more efficient.”
As more and more organizations and industries apply robotics to their company functions and processes, the career outlook for trained roboticists has remained quite positive.
“Robotics is one of the fields that is really booming today,” Singh confirms. “Everything’s getting automated…so there’s a wide spectrum of jobs available for our graduates [of the Master of Science in Robotics program.]”
Despite this growing need for trained professionals, Singh also acknowledges that the demands of the field make the job market quite competitive, with most organizations requiring advanced skill sets and graduate-level training for any role beyond the entry level.
“In today’s world of engineering, if you don’t have a graduate degree—whether it’s a master’s or a PhD—you will hit a ceiling really quickly,” he explains. “You need that graduate degree to progress.”
Career stagnation is only one reason he considers a graduate degree a requirement for those pursuing a career in robotics, however. The interdisciplinary practice requires professionals to have not only a solid understanding of core competencies, but also the hands-on experience, exposure to industry-standard equipment, and soft skills needed to thrive in this demanding field, as well.
Luckily, programs like Northeastern’s Master of Science in Robotics have been designed to strategically expose students to these areas and more, equipping them to tackle the industry’s evolving challenges upon graduation.
Below we identify the five most significant reasons aspiring roboticists should pursue a master’s degree in robotics at a top university like Northeastern.
5 Reasons to Pursue a Master’s in Robotics
1. You’ll obtain a well-rounded education.
Robotics is an interdisciplinary field that combines competencies of mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, and computer science. Yet many who pursue a master’s in robotics enter the program with a background in only one of these specific areas. For this reason, master’s in robotics programs are designed to help fill in a student’s gaps in knowledge, effectively preparing them for the multi-faceted application of their skills within future roles.
“We want to make sure that we can round our students off,” Singh says, explaining that Northeastern has developed a balance of “courses that span all three disciplines.” These courses explore many of the most common topics at the core of robotics, ranging from control theory to sensor technology to machine learning and how they come together as a system.
Once students have mastered these base competencies, the program also allows them to tailor their education to best fit their desired career path.
“We make sure that they have a very strong grounding in each of the different aspects of robotics, then they can choose to focus their efforts however they want,” Singh continues. “They can pick a bunch of electives based on their interests, and really focus on what makes a difference to them and how they want to do their work.”
2. You’ll gain access to industry-standard technology.
In order to thrive in an industry as technical as robotics, professionals need to be incredibly comfortable operating the high-end equipment and sensors that are used in their work.
Unfortunately, this hardware can be extremely expensive and, as a result, students rarely have access to it at the graduate-level. This creates a “huge learning curve when people go into industry,” Singh explains.
“You don’t get the same level of quality as the ones that are actually used in the field when you use cheaper hardware in the classroom,” he continues. He explains that, despite this fact, many universities have no choice but to opt for lesser quality equipment simply due to the cost.
At Northeastern, however, obtaining this industry-standard equipment has become a priority within the master’s in robotics program.
“What we’re doing at Northeastern is saying, ‘that’s a problem, and let’s spend our dollars on making sure we have cutting-edge, state-of-the-art sensors that our students can use,’” Singh says. “We might share it among two or three students, but we are going to get the really high-quality hardware so that they really understand what’s going on.”
This investment in high-end equipment provides students with many opportunities to work and become comfortable with the technology they will use in their daily lives after graduation. It can also provide students with an advantage when it comes time to apply for roles in a competitive job market, as hiring managers often seek candidates with exposure to cutting-edge tools.
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3. You’ll develop your soft skills.
While many robotics programs center on the development of students’ practical skills, top programs like Northeastern’s also recognize the significance of interpersonal abilities in the robotics field. These programs make a point to integrate the improvement of top soft skills for roboticists—including communication, leadership, collaboration, and presentational abilities—into the curriculum alongside more tactical training.
Northeastern has strategically created countless opportunities for students to hone each of these skill sets throughout their time in the program, integrating everything from presentations to group projects into daily work. The industry-leading faculty within this program also make a point to get to know their students on a personal level. They customize their approach to soft-skill development in order to meet each student’s individual needs.
Singh explains that, for example, “a lot of times when people come in[to the program], they have their little group and they’re really good friends. We notice that and purposely randomize them [in group projects] so that they have to work with people they’ve never seen before.” As a result, those students each have a chance to work on their collaboration and teamwork skills while simultaneously learning the core competencies that they will apply in the field.
Similarly, Singh explains that “we get a lot of international students in the program, and while some of them are extremely bright, their presentation skills might not be as polished as some of the other students.” To help them improve, he explains, “we have them do presentation after presentation after presentation. The idea is, we have to get you comfortable talking to your peers because once you’re comfortable talking to them you’ll be comfortable doing it within a company.”
4. You’ll have unparalleled hands-on experiences.
Experiential learning is a core component of Northeastern’s approach to education across all of its programs, and robotics is no exception. Students in the master’s in robotics program are given the opportunity to participate in a six-month co-op, applying their skills hands-on in positions within the top organizations in the robotics industry.
“Co-ops have been a fantastic outlet for our students,” Singh says, explaining that students often leave these experiences with a better sense of career direction. “They leave co-op and say, ‘I want to work at XYZ company, and I realized that this is the problem they have and if I could only take some more classes in that area, I would be able to address it a little better.’”
By uncovering their desired career path while still in school, students can tailor their remaining courses and maximize their time left in the program, effectively allowing them to carve their path forward after graduation.
5. You’ll be able to learn across disciplines.
From the core competencies that make up robotics—including mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, and computer science—to the various fields in which robotics is applied—such as healthcare, analytics, etc.—Northeastern’s degree programs are paving the way in global advancement. As such, students who study the interdisciplinary topic of robotics at Northeastern have the added benefit of learning about each aspect of the practice directly from the top minds in each field.
Singh identifies that exposure to these programs can set robotics students up for success after graduation, especially when it comes to the latest fields that require the application of robotics.
“There are a couple of other fields that are really taking off right now, [including] cybersecurity and IoT, which is the Internet of Things,” Singh says. “We have very strong programs in these areas too, and that’s what’s really nice about Northeastern. The interactions between all of these programs make our robotics program that much stronger.”
With the chance to collaborate and learn from the top minds in each area, students in the MS in Robotics program graduate prepared to integrate various aspects of each discipline into their robotics work. This exposure also acts as a core differentiator for Northeastern graduates when it comes to applying for jobs in the field.
“We’re not just a robotics program; we’re a robotics program that deals with IoT and a robotics program that deals with cybersecurity,” Singh says. “Those synergies are what make our program—and our students—so amazing.”
Take the Next Step
A graduate degree is all but required for professionals hoping to set themselves up for success in robotics today. “Getting a master’s degree in robotics right now makes a lot of sense,” Singh says, noting that Northeastern’s program is about more than training the next generation of professionals.
“We’re trying to set you up for a career,” he says. “We set you up with the fundamentals so that you have a successful 30 to 40 years in the field—it’s a great interdisciplinary degree to have.”
Prepare to embark on an exciting career in robotics with a Master of Science in Robotics from Northeastern.