CHOOSING A CAREER / JAN. 22, 2015
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How to Become a Stage Automation Engineer in the US

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When art meets engineering, stage automation engineering is born. Stage automation engineers are masters of theatre mechanics. They work to ensure theatre technicians don’t pull, push or move things around the stage, making theatrical production more efficient. If you wish to pursue an engineering profession in the theatre and film industry, this is the career for you.

What Do Stage Automation Engineers Do?

Their duties include:

  • Holding meetings with directors and set designers to discuss the automation needs of a theatrical production
  • Designing an automation systems or software that can successfully automate all the aspects of the production – This may involve working with software developers and hydraulic and mechanical engineers
  • Testing the systems to ensure they are working properly – This involves overseeing the installation of automation equipment on the stage
  • Training theatre technicians on how to operate the automation systems
  • Standing by during the production to resolve any engineering problems that may arise.

Work Environment

Unlike most engineers who have regular work schedules, stage automation engineers work long, irregular hours. This is mainly because many theatrical productions are held in the evening and often run late into the night. When designing automation systems, however, they spend time in their offices or automation labs.

If you find employment with a touring theatre, expect to spend lots of time away from your family.

Salary

What is the average annual salary for stage automation engineers? Find out below:

Occupation

Annual Wage

State automation engineer

$84,000

Source: Indeed

Entry Requirements

To become a stage automation engineer, you should earn a bachelor’s degree in any of the following fields:

  • Theatre and entertainment technology
  • Entertainment Engineering and design
  • Engineering technology
  • Electrical Engineering
  • Mechanical Engineering and robotics.

Although all the four programmes are equally competent, experts recommend the first two options. This is because they cover both aspects of stage automation engineering: theatrical design and technology.

Michigan Technology University and the University of Nevada are some of the institutions offering accredited programmes in entertainment technology.

Important Qualities

The skills and abilities you need to be a competent stage automation engineer include:

  • The visual awareness to envision a production’s automation needs
  • The ability to pay close attention to details
  • Strong creative and practical skills
  • Strong computer skills
  • Strong design and drawing skills
  • Blueprint reading skills
  • An interest in art and entertainment
  • Physical stamina
  • Good communication and interpersonal skills
  • Good teamwork skills.

Career Development

Many stage automation engineers start out as stage automation technicians – a role that enables them to gain the practical know how require to excel as engineers.

Although you can pursue a master’s degree in stage automation to increase your professional competence, your networking skills play an important career advancement role.

You must be able to network with theatre directors and producers. This way, you will stand a higher chances of securing lucrative automation contracts. To access networking opportunities, join associations such as:

Job Opportunities

The employers of stage automation engineers include:

  • Large theatres
  • Companies that provide stage automation services
  • Theatre design companies

In time, you can advance to establish your own stage automation company. With a master’s degree in state automation, you can land teaching jobs in theatre schools.

The U.S. theatre industry is huge. The demand for theatrical productions is increasing, given that the Broadway League reports 13 million people attended theatrical events in 2014, up from 11 million in 2013. This means more employment opportunities for theatre engineers.

So if you are wondering how theatres manage to fly an actor across a stage, you should probably become a stage automation engineer.

 

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