Monday, September 15, 2008

Why choose a career in machine vision?

I offer two answers to this question: the money can be good, and the work is very, very interesting.

Today we’ll discuss the money.

The manufacturing engineer (ME) with solid machine vision skills (by which I mean he can work with products from different vendors, has a track record of successful implementations, and knows his limits,) is considerably more employable than his compatriot who lacks such expertise. In money terms, I’d put the difference at around $10,000 per year (in the US. I think the figures are similar in western Europe.) Actual salaries depend on industry and location, but if you said a good ME will make $60,000 a year, a ME with the aforementioned vision talent will make maybe $70,000.

For someone who goes on to become a full time vision specialist in a manufacturing plant, the salary is probably going to rise higher, (because machine vision is fast becoming an essential tool in every factory.) $75,000 to $80,000 wouldn’t be unreasonable, and, depending on the employer, there might also be the opportunity of significant overtime.

Crossing over to the sellers side of the business, if you find yourself working as a ‘Apps’ Engineer for a smaller reseller the money will not be that great: expect a basic of maybe $50,000 a year, but there could be sales-related bonuses to bump it up. On the other hand, if you’re a good integration specialist, and don’t mind the travel, you might be looking at a basic of $80,000 plus overtime, bonuses, and all the hotel ‘points’ you could ever wish for.

In the area of product development salary is very much related to qualifications. The lead software developer or architect with a related PhD could be drawing down $100,000 to $120,000 a year, and more if he’s something of a ‘rainmaker’. Conversely, the junior guy fresh from undergraduate school will probably have to settle for $55,000 or so. Still, that’s not bad money, and really that’s the message I want to get across: machine vision can be a financially rewarding field in which to work.

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