Distributed control system (DCS) engineers are technical system design and process management experts. DCS engineers ensure the effective and efficient operation of distributed control systems, for example of a water treatment plant or chemical plant. They provide technical expertise regarding the system’s design, implementation, maintenance, and improvement. This work includes selecting and integrating computer hardware, software, and network components, as well as programming and configuring the system.

DCS engineers are furthermore responsible for consistently monitoring the distributed control system's performance and making necessary adjustments to ensure optimal operation. Part of a typical DCS engineer’s job description is the responsibility to create and maintain documentation about the DCS system, including user manuals, operating procedures, and training materials. DCS engineers often provide technical support to customers, including assisting with system operation, troubleshooting, and answering questions about the system.

As technology evolves, DCS engineers will continue to be responsible for upgrading systems and modifying them to meet changing plant and process needs. Distributed control system engineers are all-around experts who are vital to supporting the running of a variety of industrial processes and systems. Popular sectors for distributed control system engineers to find work in include oil and gas, nuclear energy, chemical, paper and pulp, waste and water treatment plants, food processing, agriculture, and manufacturing.

Common DCS engineer roles and responsibilities 

A DCS engineer is responsible for performing a range of important technical and engineering tasks. Responsibilities may include:

Designing and implementing distributed control systems for industrial processes;

  • Developing software to manage systems and processes;
  • Ensuring systems are properly installed and configured, and that all components are working correctly, such as through troubleshooting;
  • Conducting system maintenance, upgrades and modifications, including supervising contractors who work on controls systems;
  • Managing projects related to the implementation and maintenance of distributed control systems, including budgeting, scheduling, and resource allocation;
  • Preparing technical documentation as needed and giving trainings on DCS operations to colleagues as needed;
  • Coordinating operations with internal and external teams, with ability to also lead teams in order to design and implement complex engineering solutions across all aspects of a large project;
  • Providing customer support on distributed control systems;
  • Safeguarding DCS security at all times;
  • Ensuring safety and compliance in line with industry regulations and standards;

Qualifications for distributed control system engineer 

A successful DCS engineer should have at least a Bachelor's degree in Engineering, Electronics, Computer Science, or related technical field. Supplementary training in mathematics or programming is also beneficial to those working in this field, and a Master’s degree is an advantage.

Additional supporting skills and experience include:

  • 2-4+ years of related DCS engineering experience;
  • Excellent applied math and technical skills;
  • Proficiency in using latest DCS computer hardware and software, with a proficient knowledge of PLCs/SCADA/HMI programming languages such as Ladder Logic, Structured Text, Function Block Diagrams, and related;
  • Experience in team and project management;
  • Knowledge of latest cybersecurity standards;
  • Strong verbal and written communication skills to be able to work easily with other engineers, technicians, and customers;
  • Some work experience gained through an apprenticeship or in a relevant role is an advantage;