Do I need a PLC Programming Certification?


PLC programming is a broad term that usually incorporates PLC programming, network configuration, SCADA and HMI programming as well as peripheral programming and configuration of devices such as stepper motors, linear drives, pick and place automation, robotics, etc.

Programming certifications may be required for specialty fields such as programming amusement park rides, refrigeration systems, oil and gas processing, mining operations, food processing, and health care. The certifications and requirements vary from company to company and depend on local and national laws and regulations.

As a general rule of thumb proper certifications are always good to have and can give you an advantage over those who hold no certifications. For instance millions of people use MS Excel yet most hold no related certifications.

Purse certifications that are related to the platforms you will be working with. If you are interested in working for a company that works with Allen Bradley PLC’s you should pursue certifications that are AB certified and model specific.

To insure you are pursuing the proper certifications suited for your industry ask the following questions:

  1. What type of PLC’s will you be working with? Allen Bradley, Modicon, Siemens, GE?
  2. What model of PLC will you be working with? SLC-500, ControlLogix, S7, Quantum, M340,?
  3. What type of PLC programming language will you be programming? Ladder logic, function block, sequential function chart, structured text, or a combination of one or more?

Unfortunately certifications that cover all PLC’s, programming languages, and peripheral devices do not exist. A PLC certification will look something like the following:

  • Your name here” has completed RSLogix 500 Ladder Logic programming essentials.
  • Your name here” has completed Siemens S7 Ladder Logic Programming basics.
  • Your Name here” has completed Modicon Quantum Ladder Logic fundamentals training.

What other Programming Certifications will I Need?

In addition to programming PLC’s many companies and contracts require operator interfaces to be programmed and configured as well. There are a host of different types of Human Machine Interfaces (HMI’s) that may require programming certifications.

The interesting thing about the different PLC manufactures, programming languages, HMI’s and SCADA (Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition) systems is they all communicate with each other. With that said you may have certifications for RSLogix 5000 and FactorTalkView HMI, however the job may require a certification in WonderWare InTouch HMI programming software as well.

Where can I get PLC programming certifications?

There are several ways to obtain certificates. For instance Allen Bradley, Siemens, Modicon, GE as well as others offer a variety of certifications specific to their respective software and hardware. The down side to this route is usually cost.

To get some great free training and certificates check for automation conventions in your area. Many of these are free or relatively cheap and are constantly on the move. Who knows they may be in your area soon.

Another great resource is your local dealer or representative. Most salesmen will jump at the chance to do a lunch and learn program or offer free in house training. Find out who your local supplier is and ask about accredited training and certifications.

In Conclusion

Having a PLC Programming Certification may not be necessary in many cases, however it can give an aspiring engineer an edge when job hunting and negotiating salaries and contracts.

As Programmable Logic Controllers, HMI’s, and SCADA systems become more tightly integrated with Internet Technologies certifications that were once nonexistent in the controls world are becoming more and more relevant. To be more specific security vulnerabilities in industrial control software are being corrected with existing technologies leverages from the existing IT world.