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Hydraulic and Pneumatic Automation Technology

Common Questions

What is hydraulic and pneumatic automation technology?

Fluid power speeds up and automates repetitious tasks in virtually all industrial production, food processing and packaging. Two types of fluids are used to automate machinery: compressed air, called pneumatics, and pressurized oil, or hydraulics.

Hydraulic-powered machines make the plastic containers for liquids like milk, shampoo and motor oil, and a wide range of packaging for foods such as fresh fruits and pizza crust. Because fluid power is less expensive and faster than manual power, it contributes to cost-effective mass production of concrete blocks, plywood, plastic toys and electronic circuit boards. And, it keeps the price tags low for consumers.

What is this field like?

Hydraulic and pneumatic automation technology is a growing field with excellent pay and plenty of job opportunities all over the world.

Most of our graduates choose to stay in the Northwest, but others have taken their skills to positions in France, Russia, England, China, Norway, Sweden and Japan.

Graduates of SCC's Hydraulic and Pneumatic Automation Technology program have worked on the supercollider project in Texas, on the tunnel-boring project under the English Channel, in the diamond mines of South Africa, and for the fishing and seafood processing industries on Kodiak Island, Alaska.

What does SCC offer in hydraulic and pneumatic automation technology training?

We offer two program options: Hydraulic and Pneumatic Automation Technician and Hydraulic and Pneumatic Automation Technology Specialist. Each program takes six quarters to complete, and graduates earn an Associate in Applied Science degree (A.A.S.).

Hydraulic and Pneumatic Automation Technician students concentrate their studies in one of two areas:

  1. Mechanical installation and repair of hydraulic/pneumatic components prepares students for jobs in industrial plant maintenance and field service. This area is ideal if you enjoy working with your hands to repair equipment or to fabricate and assemble new machines.

  2. Technical sales and design prepares students for inside technical sales, outside technical sales and hydraulic/pneumatic circuit design. This area is for you if you like working with customers to decrease machine downtime or to increase a machine's speed and efficiency. The work involves creating new circuits to match customer needs and calculating or sizing circuit components to meet speed and force requirements.

Hydraulic and Pneumatic Automation Technology Specialist students develop a background in the electronic control of hydraulic and pneumatic valves so they can assist in the design and assembly of electronically-controlled fluid power systems. They become qualified to troubleshoot and maintain these automated systems.

Graduates from both program options can earn national certification from the Fluid Power Society by passing a three-hour test. Both the test and pretest seminar are offered at SCC. Certification offers employers evidence of a graduate's overall skill level and usually results in a higher starting wage for the graduate.  

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What classes will I take?

All students take courses in job communication skills, leadership, basic computer skills, and industrial first aid.

In their first year, hydraulic technician and hydraulic specialist students study hydraulics and pneumatic theory, then work in labs where they explore fluid power circuits through hands-on experience.

Courses include basic sketching and drawing techniques, blueprint reading, acetylene welding, and electrical control of hydraulic and pneumatic valves.

Second-year students select either technology or specialist options. Students who wish to take both fluid power options may do so by completing three additional quarters, thereby earning two A.A.S. degrees.

Hydraulic and Pneumatic Automation Technician students learn advanced fluid power circuits and circuit design, machine shop skills (including machine shop theory and machine speeds/feeds calculations), component repair, programmable controllers, arc welding, hydraulic component testing, and fluid line fabrication.

Students in the Hydraulic and Pneumatic Automation Technology Specialist option study basic DC and AC electronics, digital electronics, solid state electronics, and micro-processors. They also learn about electronically-controlled valves used in fluid power and the electronic circuit boards used for control.

Where can I get a job?

Hydraulic and pneumatic automation technology positions exist with companies all over the world, and there are more jobs than graduates to fill them. Women and nontraditional students have excellent placement in the fluid power industry.

Although the job market in Spokane is highly competitive, most of our graduates remain in the Northwest and work in manufacturing, mining, fishing, wood products and food processing industries.

Graduates may specialize in distributor sales, system design, plant maintenance and troubleshooting, and the manufacture and installation of automated machinery.

Please visit the SCC Workforce Education and Career Services site for more information on finding employment.

How much will I earn?

Entry-level and trainee salaries for hydraulic and pneumatic automation technology graduates vary greatly with location. In the Puget Sound area, wages start at $3,000 a month.

Salaries rise with years of experience. After three years in the field, hydraulic and pneumatic automation technicians and specialists earn between $3,000 and $4,000 a month, depending on location.

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How can I hire an SCC Hydraulic and Pneumatic Automation Technology graduate?

We graduate approximately 25 students every year. To arrange interviews with our graduates, please contact Workforce Education and Career Services.

For more information....For more information:
Contact: SCC Counseling Center, MS 2151
1810 N. Greene St.
Spokane, WA 99217-5399
(509) 533-7026
John Norman
Phone: (509) 533-7137 or 1-800-248-5644 ext. 7137
Fax:(509) 533-8805
For additional contacts, please
refer to the online directory for this department

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Spokane Community College
1810 N. Greene St.
Spokane, WA 99217-5399
For general information call:
509-533-7000 or
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