Industrial Instrumentation Careers Offer Good Pay in the Coastal Bend

Article by: Jason Houlihan

Two years after starting the first associate in applied science degree program with specialization in industrial instrumentation in South Texas, Del Mar College (DMC) is sending several students into the workforce. 

According to Emsi, a company that serves as an economic data advisor to higher education, the median pay for instrumentation related fields in the Coastal Bend is $27.84 per hour.   

Instructor Greg Gallagher, who helped start the program with fellow instructor George Lister in spring 2015, said that, “Companies are always looking for better ways to manage flow, pressure and temperature. That’s what drives demand for instrumentation students in the workforce.” 

“I’m thankful to be going into this field early,” says Daniel Valenzuela, 19, one of three industrial instrumentation students working as an intern at OxyChem’s Ingleside chemical plant. “There’s a lot of demand here locally for instrumentation, and Del Mar is preparing us to meet that demand.”   

Corpus Christi’s process industry continues to expand with refinery, oil and gas, petrochemical and steel companies along the Port of Corpus Christi and surrounding communities.  

Valenzuela started his instrumentation education while attending Ingleside High School. He enrolled in the Dual Credit Instrumentation Program made possible by DMC, OxyChem, Chemours, Cheniere Energy and Flint Hills Resources.

Todd Skoruppa, another DMC student intern at the OxyChem facility, said, “All the hands-on experience I’m getting at Del Mar is essential. Because of the pilot plant at Del Mar, I went into my internship knowing the functionality of the instruments.” 

“This is an exciting program between OxyChem, Del Mar and APTIM that is giving students the opportunity to apply the knowledge they’ve learned in the classroom to real-world situations. These interns will be set apart from their peers as they gain first-hand knowledge of the technology employed in the chemical industry as well as allow them to develop the safety mindset that can’t be duplicated in the classroom,” says Rick Ritter, OxyChem Plant Manager.

In addition to the internship program at OxyChem’s Ingleside facility, DMC has students who are either employed or paid interns at Corpus Christi Electric, Techstar, Magnolia and Cobia Controls. 

“This is a brand new program,” Gallagher said. “It’s exciting that companies are already employing our students. 

The discipline of instrumentation branched out from electrical and electronic engineering sometime in the early part of the 1970s.” 

“It’s a multi-disciplinary subject from various branches such as pheumatic, mechanical, electrical, electronics and computers,” explained Gallagher. “We’ve always had a need for people who understand the way things work, and I don’t see that changing.” 

The day-to-day work of an industrial instrumentation technician runs the gamut from designing, developing, installing and managing equipment that is used to monitor and control machinery and processes. 

Jobs are just as varied, ranging from oil refineries to municipal water treatment facilities or even instrumentation maintenance positions in large buildings or campus-type facilities. 

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, instrumentation technicians can expect to make a median salary of $55,610 and more with certifications. This fact, coupled with the expanding employment opportunities in the Coastal Bend, makes DMC’s program attractive to potential students.

Industrial Instrumentation involves a broad range of technologies––including robotics and expert systems, telemetry and communications, electro-optics, Cybersecurity, process measurement and control, sensors, wireless applications, systems integration, test measurement and many more.  Qualified technicians are in high demand and the need will only increase as local industry continues to grow.

Learn more about the program by visiting www.delmar.edu/instrumentation/or calling the Technology Education Department at 361-698-1725. 

Registration for the spring 2018 semester is currently underway with the first deadline to register and pay tuition and fees set for Monday, Dec. 4. To learn more, visit www.delmar.edu/registration/ or contact the Student Enrollment Center at 361-698-1290 or enroll@delmar.edu.

IN THE PHOTO: Instrumentation students Todd Skoruppa (left) and Daniel Valenzuela adjust a valve at the DMC Process Technology Pilot Plant located on the West Campus. 

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