I see job posts for these and frankly dont understand what SCADA actually is since I never really heard of it during undergrad. What do these guys do on a daily basis and is there/will be a demand for these in the future? So far the job requirements just list an engineering degree or CS for consideration along with a basic understanding of programming.
A SCADA Engineer is a bit of a specialisation of a Control Systems Engineer.
Control Systems typically involve a whole range of individual fields, such as:
Networks / Telemetry
Hydraulics / pneumatics / electricals
A general Control Systems Engineer will have knowledge across a range of these fields, and will typically have knowledge of certain process fields (i.e. oil/gas, water/wastewater, chemical, medical, various manufacturing fields), and common systems around these process fields.
SCADA (Supervisory Control And Data Acquisition) is really just a 'super-set' of HMIs (Human Machine Interfaces). So whilst an HMI will typically be a single display client, connecting to a single PLC/RTU, once you have multiple display clients, and multiple devices, then it just gets called a SCADA.
There will certainly be demand for Control Systems and SCADA Engineers in the future. It is a field that will become more critical to all forms of production.
A SCADA Engineer will tend to know less about the other items (PLCs, RTUs, HMIs, Hydraulics, Pneumatics, Electricals), and will primarily deal with SCADA and Networking.
Lead Control Systems Engineer for Alliance Automation (VIC). All opinions are my own and do not represent the opinions or policies of my employer, or of my cat..
I like what Bevan said. I will add to it a little with some personal experience.
I work in Oil and Gas as a SCADA Developer (Engineer), and came out of the field doing Upstream (well site) automation and controls systems, and now work in Midstream (Gathering and processing). Having a complete understanding of the Control Systems and Automation happening in the field isn't always a requirement, but is almost always very helpful. Having knowledge of the control systems in the field certainly helps me when communicating with the I&E team and Engineering team.
Aside from spending the majority of my time developing SCADA screens, my typical day might include any of the following:
Maintaining the SCADA system, tasks like evaluating recent releases of the software for use on my system, adding drivers to talk to specific RTUs and developing driver specific screens, minor network troubleshooting, OS updates, etc.
Reading PFDs (Piping Flow Diagrams)
Reading and reviewing Electrical Schematics for Control Systems to be installed and interfaced with SCADA.
Troubleshooting TCP/IP, Modbus, OPC, and network communications issues (can vary greatly depending on SCADA system and protocols in use)
Reviewing field control systems (RTU programming) when issues arise, and supporting I&E team as necessary
Make suggestions for control systems replacement (end of life, newer and better fitting products released, etc) and occasionally do the initial program load for a new RTU.
Data analysis of an event or process to help identify and make (automation) suggestions to resolve and prevent future issues.
Interface with multiple groups like I&E, Measurement, Plant DCS, OSI PI team, and Scheduling team
I feel like SCADA and any kind of data gathering/analysis jobs are only going to be in more demand as companies realize and embrace the usefulness of going digital for monitoring and tracking production, identifying inefficiencies, maximizing work force and production, etc.