School of Distance Education

Automation Technician Certificate

Learn to design, install, and maintain electronic equipment used in modern industrial processes with our Automation Technician Certificate. Develop the skills needed to work with a wide range of control systems, from the simplest fuses and motors to sophisticated electronic computer interface boards, motor drives, programmable logic controllers (PLCs), solid-state devices and robotics. Gain an understanding of a wide range of applications through practical examples of automated manufacturing, including both the theory and function of digital and industrial electronics, hydraulics/pneumatics, robotic systems, programming languages and alarm management. Become familiar with distributed control systems (DCS) and supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) systems.

See the Certificate Fact Sheet for more details about program costs and refund policies.


Fees range from $60 to $90 per module plus $490 for the USB drive (which includes all software and required materials). International applicants are charged the same fees but in US dollars (US$60 to $90 plus US$490); the posted exchange rate in effect at the time of your registration will be used to determine the final fee in Canadian dollars. Refunds will not be provided for the USB course materials. Telephone contact (tutorial assistance) is available (toll-free) at 1-866-279-1457 from Monday to Friday, 9 a.m. to 10 p.m., and Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Career Opportunities

Automation technicians troubleshoot, service and fix computerized systems and devices designed to reduce human interaction, such as robotic assembly devices, PLCs and computer-controlled building air conditioning systems. They typically find employment opportunities in process control, PLC programming, packaging, power generation, mining, machine design, building automated systems, maintenance, transportation, systems integration, component testing, technical sales and quality control. Other career opportunities can include areas such as machine and component assembly, troubleshooting and testing, systems integration, application support, automation and robot programming, and technical sales and services.


You must have a secondary school diploma (with credits at or above the general level) or an approved equivalent or have mature student status.

Technical Requirement(s)

You must have access to a personal computer with the following minimum configuration:

  • USB port & sound card
  • Intel Pentium processor or equivalent
  • 512 MB RAM (1 GB recommended)
  • 250 MB available disk space
  • Windows 7/Windows 8/Windows 8.1/Windows 10
  • 32 and 64 bit compatible
  • Internet access
  • Email account

Advanced Standing

You can transfer credits earned through this certificate program to our Electromechanical Technician Certificate program, our Electronics Technician Certificate program, our Programmable Logic Controllers (PLC) Technician Certificate program, our Programmable Logic Controllers (PLC) Technician II Certificate program and our Robotics Technician Certificate program. Contact a Continuing Education program consultant at 1-888-553-5333 for details.

Completion Details

You complete all the required modules (including lab projects, review exercises and tests) from the comfort of your own home using an interactive learning package. The package consists of a USB drive containing 18 modules, which are delivered using text, video, two-dimensional and three-dimensional animations, colour photos, audio and hundreds of laboratory projects. Tests are taken online using computer-based testing, and laboratory projects are delivered using powerful software simulators. You may enrol in this certificate program at any time (continuous intake) and complete each module in your own time. The average completion time is 32 weeks of study, but there are no time limits.

Looking for More Information?

Visit the Automation Technician Distance Education program website, or contact the Technical Training department at 416-415-4726, at or by visiting their office Casa Loma Campus, 160 Kendal Ave., Building C (CLC), Room C420).

Completion Details

We recommend that you complete the compulsory modules in the order shown below. 


This module provides a general overview of automation systems and the role of automation in industry. It also covers the basic principles of flexible automation and flexible manufacturing systems. The advantages of automation are outlined, and the main components associated with automation systems are explored. An introduction to automation simulation is presented with an emphasis on practical application.

Learning Outcomes:
  • Define the term automation.
  • List three advantages of using automation systems.
  • Name six factors affecting the original design of PLCs.
  • Describe the role of automation in industry.
  • Define flexible automation.
  • Differentiate between economy of scale and economy of scope.
  • List three examples of continuous flow processes.
  • Describe the purpose of a flexible manufacturing system.
  • Explain the difference between DCS, RCS and CCS.
  • Define automation simulation and explain its advantages.

Industrial Control Devices provides an overview of devices such as switches, actuators, and relays and their industrial applications. The student will learn troubleshooting techniques and the principles of relay and ladder logic. This module also covers solenoids and control valves with an emphasis on practical applications.

Learning Outcomes:
  • Define inductive arcing and explain how it can be prevented.
  • Name three types of mechanical switches.
  • Describe the basic operating principle of a control relay.
  • Explain the purpose of overload relays.
  • Define the term holding contract and its application in control circuits.
  • Explain the difference between a control relay and a solenoid.
  • List three applications of rotary actuators.
  • Name three types of time-delay relays.

This module will focus on the principles of DC motors and the various types used in industry. The student will learn the fundamentals of speed control including dynamic and regenerative braking. It also introduces the student to electronic speed control of DC motors. In addition, the fundamentals of alternating current motors and AC variable speed control systems are presented. The principles of variable frequency drives and their control circuits are discussed in detail.

Learning Outcomes:
  • Explain the purpose of a commutator in DC motors.
  • Differentiate between a stator and an armature.
  • Define torque and counter emf.
  • Name three typical dynamo configurations.
  • Explain the basic operating principle of servomotors.
  • Explain how Pulse Width Modulation is used in speed control.
  • Define the terms dynamic and regenerative braking.
  • Describe the operating principles of an AC induction motor.
  • List three advantages of universal motors over induction motors.
  • Differentiate between a cycloconverter and an inverter.
  • Explain the basic operation of a variable frequency drive.

This module covers a wide variety of topics relating to digital electronics including number systems, logic gates, flip flops and counters. Boolean algebra and DeMorgan's theorem is also introduced as well as troubleshooting and problem solving techniques for digital logic circuits. The logic gates presented in the course include AND, OR, NOR, NAND and inverters.

Learning Outcomes:
  • Explain the binary number system.
  • Convert binary numbers to decimal and decimal numbers to binary.
  • Explain the hexadecimal number system.
  • Convert hexadecimal numbers to binary and binary numbers to hexadecimal.
  • Differentiate between natural binary and Binary Coded Decimal (BCD).
  • Understand the ASCII code.
  • Apply truth tables to troubleshooting digital circuits.
  • List five logic gates.
  • Describe the basic operation of an inverter.
  • Explain the purpose of Boolean algebra.
  • Understand logic gate combinations.
  • Name eight Boolean theorems.
  • Apply basic troubleshooting techniques to digital circuits.

This module will build on previous topics by presenting an introduction to transducers used in both analog and digital applications. It also covers temperature, pressure, and flow transducers as well as other detection devices such as optical encoders and Hall-effect sensors. Capacitive, ultrasonic, and thickness sensors are also presented using practical and theoretical examples of industrial applications of these devices.

Learning Outcomes:
  • Differentiate between a thermocouple and a thermopile.
  • Explain the advantages of using pyrometers for temperature measurement.
  • Define the terms RTD and thermistor.
  • Name two types of pressure transducers.
  • Describe how load cells are used for flow measurement.
  • Name three types of photoelectric devices.
  • Briefly describe the components used in fibre optic systems.
  • Define lasers and explain why they are used in industrial electronic controls.
  • Explain the basic operating principle of an optical shaft encoder.

It is in this module that the student learns the principles of industrial control systems including open- and closed-loop control. Proportional, Integral, and Derivative control are covered with an emphasis on practical application and design. An introduction to algorithms, flow charts and fuzzy logic is also presented in this course.

Learning Outcomes:
  • Define the terms process, process variable and controlled variable.
  • Name four applications for control systems.
  • Explain the advantage of using block diagrams.
  • Describe the relationship between the set point, error signal and measured value.
  • Differentiate between open-loop control and closed-loop control.
  • List the five basic components in a closed-loop control system.
  • Name the four variables that are generally used to evaluate the performance of a closed-loop control system.
  • Define dead time.
  • Explain the basic operating principles of on off, proportional, integral, derivative and PID control.
  • Describe the purpose of feedforward control in process systems.

This module is intended to familiarize the student with the most important aspects of Distributed Control Systems. Topics covered in the module include remote terminal units (RTUs), HMIs and an introduction to LANs. The student will also learn the differences between star, bus, and ring topology and their applications in automation systems. In addition to covering system architecture and algorithms, the course also provides detailed information on practical applications for DCS. Emphasis is placed on design, problem solving and analysis of industrial automation systems.

Learning Outcomes:
  • Differentiate between DCS and SCADA.
  • List the three main elements in a DCS.
  • Identify the difference between uptime and system latency.
  • Explain the purpose of a remote terminal unit (RTU).
  • Define task architecture and hardware architecture.
  • Describe the reason why algorithms are popular in DCS.
  • Name four common uses for HMI in DCS applications.
  • Explain the function of a local area network (LAN).
  • Identify three components of quality of use in HMI.
  • Define the terms topology and Ethernet.
  • Compare software-based alarms with hardware-based alarms.
  • List five applications for DCS.
  • Name the four elements in a typical OTS.

This module is intended to provide the student with an introduction to SCADA using automation systems and peripherals. The principles of alarm management are presented along with an overview of the alarm management lifecycle and an introduction to Six Sigma. SCADA security and authentication methodologies are also discussed in detail. Practical examples of SCADA applications are presented and include a discussion of SCADA simulation techniques.

Learning Outcomes:
  • Describe the basic function of a SCADA system.
  • List four examples of SCADA systems.
  • Define SCADA architecture.
  • Identify seven elements in a SCADA system.
  • Explain the purpose of alarm management.
  • Identify three types of changes noted by alarms and events.
  • List the 10 stages of an alarm management lifecycle.
  • Describe how Six Sigma is applied to alarm management.
  • Explain the purpose of a firewall in a SCADA system.
  • Define the term SCADA security.
  • Name the two most common authentication methodologies.
  • Describe the benefits of SCADA simulation.

This module provides a general overview of PLCs and their application in industry. The origins of the PLC and its evolution are covered in detail. The advantages of PLCs are also outlined, and the main components associated with PLC systems are explored. An introduction to ladder logic is presented and the most common types of PLC signals are covered with an emphasis on practical application.

Learning Outcomes:
  • Describe the purpose of a control panel.
  • Define a programmable controller.
  • List six factors affecting the original design of programmable controllers.
  • Name three advantages of PLCs compared to relay logic systems.
  • List the three main components in a PLC system.
  • Understand the term ladder logic.
  • Describe the application of PLC signals.
  • Explain the difference between a bit and a word.

This module provides an introduction to ladder logic programming techniques using laboratory simulation software. The lab component of the module provides the student with an opportunity to write ladder logic programs and test their operation through PLC simulation. Topics covered in the course include I/O instructions, safety circuitry, programming restrictions and I/O addressing.

Learning Outcomes:
  • Define ladder logic.
  • Convert relay logic schematics to ladder logic.
  • Write a ladder logic program using PLCLogix.
  • Define the terms examine on and examine off.
  • Explain the purpose of a latching relay instruction.
  • Differentiate between a branch and a nested branch.
  • Describe the controller scan operation.
  • Name two programming restrictions.
  • Describe the use of Force instructions in PLC applications.
  • Explain the purpose of bit status flags.

This module is intended to provide students with an overview of PLC timers and their application in industrial control circuits. Allen-Bradley timing functions such as TON, TOF and RTO are discussed in detail and the theory is reinforced through lab projects using lab simulation software. In addition, students will learn practical programming techniques for timers including cascading and reciprocating timing circuits.

Learning Outcomes:
  • Name two types of relay logic timers.
  • List the four basic types of PLC timers.
  • Describe the function of a time-driven circuit.
  • Differentiate between an ON-delay and an OFF-delay instruction.
  • Write a ladder logic program using timers.
  • Describe the operating principle of retentive timers.
  • Explain the purpose of cascading timers.
  • Define reciprocating timers.

This module provides students with a broad overview of PLC counters and their application in control systems. Allen-Bradley counting functions such as CTU and CTD are presented in detail and the theory is reinforced through lab projects using lab simulation software. In addition, students will learn practical programming techniques for counters including cascading counters and combining counting and timing circuits.

Learning Outcomes:
  • Name two types of mechanical counters.
  • Define the two basic types of PLC counters.
  • Write a ladder logic program using CTU, CTD and RES.
  • Explain the terms underflow and overflow.
  • Describe the function of an event-driven circuit.
  • Design an up/down counter.
  • Define cascading counters.
  • Explain the advantages of combining timers and counters.

This module provides students with an introduction to the principles of Logix 5000 data handling, including bits, words, and arrays. Using PLCLogix simulation, various aspects of data transfer will be demonstrated and students will program and observe transfer instructions such as MOV, FIFO and LIFO. An introduction to shift registers is also presented with an emphasis on practical applications in industrial control circuits.

Learning Outcomes:
  • Name the three main data handling functions.
  • Differentiate between words and arrays.
  • Convert data from one form to another.
  • Explain the purpose of a move instruction.
  • Write a ladder logic program using an MOV instruction.
  • Describe the purpose of an array to array move.
  • Name two types of shift registers.
  • Differentiate between FIFO and LIFO instructions.
  • Transfer data between memory locations.

This module provides an overview of basic and advanced mathematical functions found in the Logix 5000 PLC. It provides thorough coverage of data comparison instructions such as SQR, EQU, LES, and GRT. In addition, this course provides a foundation for more advanced programming techniques including analog input and output control. Topics such as combining math functions, averaging, scaling and ramping are presented with an emphasis on practical application and are demonstrated using PLCLogix lab simulation.

Learning Outcomes:
  • Name the four main PLC mathematical functions.
  • List three types of data comparison.
  • Add and subtract numbers using PLC instructions.
  • Write a ladder logic program using MUL and DIV instructions.
  • Define the terms scaling and ramping.
  • Use LES, GRT, and EQU instructions in a ladder logic program.
  • Write a program using the SQR instruction.
  • List three advanced math operations.
  • Describe the purpose of an AVE instruction.

This module is designed to introduce the student to the fundamental concepts of robotics and describe some basic applications. It covers operating principles of a manipulator and describes four types of actuators found in industry. The history of robotics is presented, as well as an overview of the main applications of industrial robots. The advantages of robots are also outlined, and the main components associated with robotic systems are explored. An introduction to robot cost/benefit analysis is presented and the most common non-industrial applications of robots are explored.

Learning Outcomes:
  • List the main components of a robot.
  • Describe the operating principles of a manipulator.
  • Identify four types of actuators.
  • Explain the role of Devol and Engelberger in robotics history.
  • Define the terms ROV and TROV.
  • Name the two types of robot arms.
  • List five non-industrial applications of robots.
  • Explain the purpose of a controller in a robotic system.
  • Describe two cost/benefit analysis factors related to production volumes.
  • Identify seven factors which should be considered when selecting a robot.

This module is designed to cover the fundamentals of manipulators, links, and joints. A discussion of kinematics and haptic technology is presented, as well as dextrous manipulation, and an overview of the basic coordinate systems for a robot manipulator. The theoretical and practical aspects of manipulators and spatial analysis are introduced in this course using a combination of video, animation and a laboratory projects and featuring Robotics simulation software.

Learning Outcomes:
  • Name the most common type of manipulator.
  • Differentiate between robot links and joints.
  • Define major axes and minor axes.
  • Explain the purpose of kinematics in robotic systems.
  • Describe screw theory in kinematic applications.
  • Name the three types of revolute joints.
  • Define haptic technology.
  • List the four general categories of robotic manipulation.
  • Differentiate between velocity manipulability and velocity workspace analysis.
  • Describe the function of dexterous manipulation.
  • Name the three basic co-ordinate systems for a robot manipulator.
  • Explain the operation of a gantry robot.
  • List six end effectors used in industrial robotics.
  • Determine the shape of a work envelope.

It is in this module that the student learns the principles of robotic vision systems including cameras, frame grabbers and vision algorithms. 3D vision, photogrammetry and tactile sensing are covered with an emphasis on practical application and design. An introduction to robot inspection and speech recognition is also presented in this module. In addition, this module also provides an overview of CCD and CMOS cameras and describes their application in industrial robotics. The student will learn design techniques and the principles of F/T sensing as well as the most common characteristics of touch sensors.

Learning Outcomes:
  • Explain the purpose of a robot pose.
  • Name the two most important sensors for a robot.
  • List five functions performed by vision and touch sensors.
  • Explain the three steps required for a vision system to process data.
  • Describe the two levels of world modeling.
  • Define the term photogrammetry.
  • Compare CCD and CMOS cameras.
  • Calculate the field of view for a vision system.
  • Discuss the purpose of a frame grabber in a vision system.
  • List the three basic techniques used for 3D vision.
  • Define the term slip sensing.
  • Differentiate between touch sensing and F/T sensing.
  • Name six desirable characteristics of touch sensors.
  • Define robot audition.

This module provides an introduction to robot software, programming languages and various programming techniques associated with industrial robots. On-line and off-line programming, teach pendants and automatic programming are presented using a combination of theoretical and laboratory exercises utilizing robotics simulation software. In addition, this module also introduces the student to web-based programming and open architecture programming and provides coverage of some of the major robot programming languages and techniques.

Learning Outcomes:
  • Explain the purpose of a layered system for robot programming.
  • Name the two major categories of robot programming.
  • List five criteria for standardized programming languages.
  • Define software architecture.
  • Differentiate between manual and automatic programming.
  • Name three types of non-proprietary robot languages.
  • Identify five types of motion instructions.
  • Describe the most popular type of robot programming language.
  • Explain how program touch-up is used when programming.
  • List two types of simulation used in industry.
  • Compare keyframing and skeletal animation in 3D modeling.
  • Discuss the benefits of open-architecture programming.
  • Name four characteristics of DSSP in Microsoft Robotics Studio.