That's a tricky question. There's not really an easy way to learn automation.
It's a combination of so many things, where each of them is often its own speciality.
There are certainly some providers out there that will offer you a 'course' in automation, and that might indeed teach you a portion of it, but I think there will always be 'more'. And this is part of what makes good automation engineers good.. they are always interested in learning that extra bit of the puzzle.
It's important to recognise that automation engineering is like a nexus of mechanical, electrical, process, and human factors engineering. And sometimes for good measure civil engineering will get involved.
PLC programming is in my opinion a really bad place to start learning how to be a good automation engineer. On the software side, more 'theoretical' software engineering is a better start. If you only care about learning the different between an XIO or an XIC (or the equivalent nomenclature in the PLC directly in front of you) then you will always be limited to low level tasks. You need to be able to break apart high level functional requirements into modular portions, each of which are cohesive to the other portions, but are not intimately coupled to them (hence you can replace a module, without having to re-write every other module).
Learning about electrical / electronics (the difference between a DOL, SS, VSD motor control..) is definitely worthwhile, along with valving (both pneumatic, hydraulic and process).
Depending on your industry, you may have benefits learning about the chemistry of the process you're dealing with. Since ultimately that will be what the automation system is intended to control.
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