As an expert in programmable logic control (PLC), you have excellent career opportunities in Germany and worldwide – even as international career starter or middle aged career changer. We explain how to become a PLC expert in Germany.
What is programmable logic control (PLC)?
A programmable logic controller is a device (comparable to a computer) that is used to control a machine or system.
PLCs have found their way into a wide range of industries and applications, thanks to their adaptability and reliability. In manufacturing plants, PLCs are employed to control assembly lines, material handling systems, and quality control processes. They ensure precision and efficiency in the production process, contributing to increased productivity and reduced waste.
The automotive industry also benefits from the use of PLCs, where they manage various assembly line operations such as painting, welding, and component installation. They help maintain consistent quality and speed, enabling the production of large quantities of vehicles with minimal errors.
In the energy sector, PLCs are essential for managing power generation, transmission, and distribution equipment. They contribute to the stable operation of power grids and renewable energy systems, facilitating the optimal balance between supply and demand.
PLCs also play a vital role in the monitoring and control of water and wastewater treatment plants, where they regulate pumping, filtration, and chemical dosing processes. This ensures the provision of clean water to communities and the safe disposal of wastewater.
PLC equipment can also be used to steer electrical devices as:
- Traffic lights
- Parking garages
- Gate systems
- Air conditioning systems
- Ventilation systems
- Robot plants
- Machines in production
The PLC stores the electronic commands for the work of these installations. Since such kinds of electrical installations are often different, these electronic commands often have to be defined and set up for each plant individually via the PLC device.
Setting up a PLC system is a career field in its own right. Usually, a PLC expert takes over the programming of these control units after they have been initially installed. This programming consists of linking input data (for example: a button is pressed), processing it in the software and issuing commands (for example: open a barrier). Such programming is done on the basis of existing modules and is different from programming software.
Programmable logic controllers (PLCs) have become indispensable components in industrial automation and control systems. These versatile devices monitor and control various processes, ensuring the smooth operation of manufacturing lines, machinery, and other equipment. In this article, we delve into the most notable PLC brands and their systems, along with a wide range of applications that demonstrate the versatility of PLCs.
Popular PLC Brands and System Descriptions
Siemens, Rockwell Automation, and Schneider Electric are some of the most well-known brands in the PLC industry. Siemens offers the SIMATIC series, which ranges from basic to advanced PLCs, suitable for both small-scale applications and complex, large-scale systems. Rockwell Automation’s Allen-Bradley ControlLogix and CompactLogix PLCs are popular in North America, providing robust and scalable solutions for various industries. Schneider Electric’s Modicon series has a strong presence in the European market and offers a diverse selection of PLCs to cater to different automation needs.
One of the key factors that distinguish these brands and their systems is the programming software they provide. Siemens’ TIA Portal, Rockwell’s Studio 5000, and Schneider Electric’s EcoStruxure Machine Expert are examples of integrated engineering environments that enable PLC programming, visualization, and diagnostics.
PLC Programming Languages and Capabilities
Various programming languages have been developed for PLCs, catering to different levels of complexity and user preferences. Ladder logic, a widely used language, closely resembles electrical relay control schematics and is favored by engineers and technicians for its simplicity. Structured Text (ST) is a high-level, text-based language that allows complex algorithms and mathematical operations to be implemented with ease.
Function Block Diagram (FBD) is a graphical language that visually represents functions and their interconnections, making it suitable for designing intricate control systems. Lastly, Instruction List (IL) is an efficient, low-level language that resembles assembly programming, ideal for small, resource-limited PLCs.
What does one do as a programmable logic controller expert?
As a programmable logic controller expert, you usually travel around a geographical or professional area and visit customers. There you set up, test or revise the controllers. As a rule, you are busy with such a control set-up for 1-2 days and then move on to the next customer.
This occupational field is characterized by the following features:
- very good salary
- high demand for workers
- therefore very much in demand
- also suitable for career changers
- you get around a lot.
Regardless of whether you are German or international, the profession of programmable logic controller expert has a great future in our view for several reasons:
- the energy turnaround and mobility turnaround in Germany is leading to the emergence of new technologies and systems that often rely on PLCs
- the shortage of housing across Germany is leading to new buildings that require PLCs in many places
- IT developments such as AI, robotics, autonomous driving, etc. rely centrally on PLCs in many areas.
So, it is likely that you will continue to have excellent job opportunities as a PLC expert in the future.
Where is programmable logic control (PLC) used?
The devices are mainly used in the economic sector, so often in areas such as:
- Production and logistics
- Science and technology
- Agriculture (for example bioreactors)
- Real estate
- Power generation (wind farms, solar farms).
These will also likely be your main customers, whom you will regularly visit on site to set up or maintain equipment at their facilities.
What skills do I need to learn programmable logic control (PLC)?
These characteristics make the profession currently very interesting. The profession is equally suitable for women and men: There are no special requirements for physical strength or the like. However, you must bring the following with you:
- technical interest and understanding
- Logical thinking
- IT knowledge
- Accurate and self-critical way of working
- Willingness for continuous training
You can join as a PLC expert even if you are a complete novice in this field. But even if you already have experience in related fields, you can use this course to build new career prospects and/or provide additional services to your customers.
Which PLC systems are in use?
Germany and worldwide best known is STEP 7 – a software Siemens AG. This software is the successor of STEP 5 for the SIMATIC S5 controllers. In the meantime, STEP 7 has become a quasi-standard due to its widespread use.
What does everyday work look like if you are a programmable logic controller (PLC) expert?
A typical working day for PLC experts might look like the following:
- Arriving at a customer’s site, such as an auto parts manufacturing facility
- Checking an existing system for errors
- Discussing desired changes with those responsible on site
- Planning the changes
- Programming the changes
- Testing the changes
- Documentation, writing the invoice
- departure from the customer.
Of course, it can also happen that you are working for a longer period of time on large construction sites or in the construction of new production facilities. Then, of course, the work is a bit different.
Where and how can I become a PLC expert in Germany?
To learn PLC, you should attend a course that introduces you to the basics of PLC. For such courses, you can also ask your contact at the employment agency whether you can get funding for Vocational training in Germany to become a PLC expert.
The requirements for participation in such a course are often very low:
- a completed vocational training (or studies)
- good basic knowledge of mathematics and science.
For example, you can take such a PLC course at SGD*. Here you will acquire a sound knowledge of control technology. You will learn the structure and function of a PLC device, the areas of application and operation. You will also learn practical programming and practice with the simulation software TrySim, based on STEP7, the market-leading PLC software from Siemens.
Advantages of such an online offer:
- you can learn PLC flexibly alongside your job in Germany, dual studies or vocational training program in Germany
- a daily start is possible at short notice
- there are support offers.
Learning SPS as an international
Even if you are a foreigner, you can learn SPS to work in this field in Germany. Important here are above all very good
Even if you are a foreigner, you can learn SPS to work in this field in Germany. The most important thing here is a very good knowledge of German. You will need this knowledge to:
- understand technical regulations and standards exactly in German (for example, traffic light circuits)
- to understand customer requirements exactly
- ensure accurate documentation.
You should therefore have at least a B1 level of German at the start of your job, which you will need to develop quickly. Understanding German and being understood in German is very important for this job.
Questions and answers
What qualifications are required to become a PLC expert in Germany?
In Germany, a degree in electrical engineering, mechatronics, or a related field is typically required. Additionally, completing a certified PLC programming course can further enhance your expertise.
What industries employ PLC experts in Germany?
PLC experts are in demand in various industries, including automotive, manufacturing, energy, pharmaceutical, and automation sectors.
Are there any specific certifications needed for PLC experts in Germany?
Although not mandatory, certifications like TIA Portal (Siemens), RSLogix 5000 (Rockwell), or CODESYS can be beneficial for career growth in the PLC field.
How much can a PLC expert earn in Germany?
The average salary for a PLC expert in Germany ranges from €40,000 to €70,000 per year, depending on experience, location, and industry.
What are the typical working hours for a PLC expert in Germany?
PLC experts in Germany usually work a standard 40-hour week, but hours may vary depending on project deadlines and company requirements.
Can I find English-speaking PLC expert positions in Germany?
Yes, multinational companies and industries with a global presence often offer English-speaking PLC expert positions in Germany.
What are the most popular PLC platforms used in Germany?
Siemens, Rockwell Automation, and Beckhoff Automation are some of the most popular PLC platforms used in Germany.
Is German language proficiency required for a PLC expert job in Germany?
While some positions may only require English proficiency, having a good command of the German language can significantly increase your job opportunities.
Are there any specific visa requirements for non-EU citizens to work as a PLC expert in Germany?
Non-EU citizens typically need a valid work visa and residence permit to work as a PLC expert in Germany.
Can I work as a freelance PLC expert in Germany?
Yes, many PLC experts work as freelancers, providing services to clients across various industries in Germany.
How can I stay updated with the latest PLC technologies and trends in Germany?
Participating in workshops, seminars, and industry events, as well as joining online forums and communities, can help you stay informed about the latest PLC technologies and trends.
Are there any PLC programming courses available in Germany?
Yes, many universities, technical schools, and private institutions in Germany offer PLC programming courses, both online and in-person.
What soft skills are essential for a successful PLC expert in Germany?
Good communication, problem-solving, and teamwork skills are essential for a successful PLC expert in any country, including Germany.
How can I find PLC expert job opportunities in Germany?
Job search platforms, company websites, and networking events can help you find PLC expert job opportunities in Germany.
PLC expert in Germany: Conclusion
No matter if you are a career starter, experienced or a career changer: SPS offers you very good career opportunities in an interesting and entertaining field of work. The job is intellectually demanding, as you have to consider many different aspects and make systems work.
Becoming a PLC expert in Germany is a rewarding career choice that can open doors to various industries, from automotive and manufacturing to energy and pharmaceutical sectors. The country’s strong industrial base and focus on automation and Industry 4.0 make it an attractive destination for professionals seeking to specialize in programmable logic controllers (PLCs). A strong foundation in electrical engineering, mechatronics, or a related field is essential for pursuing a career as a PLC expert in Germany.
In addition to a relevant degree, acquiring certifications in popular PLC platforms, such as TIA Portal (Siemens), RSLogix 5000 (Rockwell), or CODESYS, can significantly boost your credibility and career prospects. Many universities, technical schools, and private institutions in Germany offer PLC programming courses, both online and in-person, to help you gain these certifications. Building hands-on experience through internships, freelance work, or entry-level positions is also crucial for honing your skills and understanding the practical applications of PLCs in the industry.
While some multinational companies and industries with a global presence may offer English-speaking PLC expert positions, having a good command of the German language can significantly increase your job opportunities. Non-EU citizens should also be aware of the visa requirements and work permits needed to work as a PLC expert in Germany. Networking events, job search platforms, and company websites are excellent resources to find job opportunities and make valuable connections within the industry.
To be successful as a PLC expert in Germany, it is important to cultivate strong soft skills such as communication, problem-solving, and teamwork. Staying updated with the latest PLC technologies and trends is also crucial in this rapidly evolving field. Participating in workshops, seminars, and industry events, as well as joining online forums and communities, can help you stay informed and further develop your expertise. By investing time and effort into your professional development and staying abreast of industry changes, you can build a rewarding career as a PLC expert in Germany.