Career advice Scandinavia/DE post 'robotics, intelligent systems' bachelor

I have a strong feeling I’m off base on where I expect my education is going to land me, so I’m looking for advice on getting a good start in the (hopefully open-source) robotics industry.

The dream would be to work in a group that doesn’t only do research but also builds unmanned aerial systems, is involved in and contributes to open projects, and has established on-boarding for students.

I am soon finishing my bachelors-, and will be applying for a masters degree. The options I’m considering are applying at Universität Hamburg since I’m guessing there are more job opportunities in Germany than Norway, or continuing at Universitetet i Oslo since I’m very happy with my experience here so far.
I am also wondering for what positions a PhD is usually required, and what kind of work you could do with a MS. Any other general advice or pointers you have to give would be greatly appreciated!


Huge asterisk on the fact that I’m based in the US and obviously I can’t speak to local-specifics.

Alot of the value of a piece of paper saying MS or PhD diminishes after that ‘first job’ if you’re going into industry / industrial research. It helps you get in the door by your credentials but after a few years, its far more important what you know and what you can do rather than formal degrees, after the bachelor’s level. Some large companies are going to have artificial restrictions early in your career (“PhD required”), but if you keep publishing and doing good work, almost all of those will bend for you.

The most important thing you can pull out of a degree program is that you learned important skills like developing and critiquing new ideas, reading and implementing research papers, knowing what you don’t know, and learning the baseline toolset at your disposal. If you feel after a MS you do all of that at a proficient level, then I might not recommend continuing - if academia isn’t your aim.

However if you feel that you can sharpen up, there are more classes you would find genuinely valuable, or need more direct instruction time with a professor, continuing would be the best bet, but only if you’re dead serious about being a researcher rather than an engineer. Once you have that PhD, your job opportunities change from there on out and would give you a minimum floor of position someone could offer you. That can either be a huge catapult up the ladder or a never-ending curse if you later find you’re not happy doing/leading research.

For example, I do not have even a MS. In fact, I left my MS about half way through because I was offered a job unexpectedly to do exactly what I was studying to do at my current skill level at the time. I had expected to go down the PhD route myself. What I did is not a direction I was advise anyone to take (life is fully of winding & foggy paths that only in retrospect seem sensible), I think the MS is a necessary degree if you hadn’t done research prior or have a strong academically-focused support system to help you get there on-the-fly.

This is just a single data point, I obviously don’t know anything about you or your situation but this was my thought process as I was grappling with the same problem about 6 years ago and I think I’m in a good place :wink: .

Just remember you might not get everything right out of the gate, but alot is possible if you’re willing to put in the time, make smart choices, and advocate for what you want.


110% back what @smac wrote (as someone also based in the US) and interacts with robotics/tech students regularly.

If you are looking to eventually work in the robotics industry, then a MS and PhD may not be as potent as, say, dedicating 2 years to work on the Nav2 stack (not a pitch for Nav2, just an example). For the later, you’ll learn tons, have your fingerprints everywhere in a meaningful high-exposure project, meet tons of people / mentors in the industry, and it may potentially be cheaper.


Lots of great points above!

And while I don’t think there’s a right or wrong answer, I’ll add a few points in favor of completing a Masters (individual mileage may vary):

  • If your Bachelors is a 3 year program as it is in some places in Europe (e.g. Switzerland, where I studied), I would encourage completing a Masters. Robotics is a big multidisciplinary mess, and that extra time spent learning fundamentals and the state of the art across the relevant disciplines (and often getting more hands-on experience than in the Bachelors program) does go a long way towards making you more capable in an R&D environment. You certainly can get this experience independently, but I think for many, there is some efficiency to be gained from the support from fellow students / profs and the pace of a graduate program.

I’d say if you know you the niche you want to work in, this can be a great approach. But I think for many, an MS will offer more flexibility to pursue future opportunities.

  • While I don’t know any engineers who would strongly favor a Masters to a few years or relevant experience, I have known some HR personnel that would use that sort of metric to quickly thin a large stack of applicants for a Job Description that asks for a Masters or higher. Graduate degree requirements, in my experience are fairly common for R&D type roles, so getting an interview might be a bit tougher without one, especially for larger companies as @smac mentioned.
  • Hardware access. UAVs are very accessible on their own, to start tinkering and getting comfortable with. That sort of tinkering experience can be invaluable. That said, the sorts of labs you might get involved with during graduate studies could enable you to get hands on experience with more professional hardware that would be out of reach for hobbyists (e.g. motion capture systems, GNSS systems), and that can enable you to pursue more exciting results.

If Germany is an option, consider Switzerland as well! Plenty of bleeding-edge UAV research labs and startups all over, with great salaries. Though I may be a bit biased…


It’s so nice to see such a quick reaction from the community!

I’ll give two points, from my personal perspective.

I agree that, If your bachelor is a 3 years bachelor, there’s a high chance you haven’t had any thorough education on some specific topics that are always helpful to have when working on robotics and I’d encourage pursuing an M Sc or MEng degree, If you’re looking to jump into the industry, I personally don’t see a PhD as a requirement.

I’ll jump in to point you, if you want to scout a bit nearby, Denmark. Just in Odense, (Where Universal Robots and Mobile Industrial Robots HQ are and are making a joint hub), there are ~300 startups of robotics. The main university there, the University of Southern Denmark, has nice projects which involve a lot of the industry around, with lots of career choices (including an Msc on UAV). That said, the city is not like Oslo (rather quite small), so it could have its downside, but it’s full of spirit.


Thank you for all your responses! It’s genuinely uplifting to get so many well thought out answers.

In addition to lacking a clear career path other than a master’s right now, I do recognize shonigmann’s and bjv’s description of a 3 year Bachelors program. It feels like we’ve done a lot of ground work to be able to understand the real work, so leaving my education before finishing a Master’s degree is not something I’m really considering. I will try to more actively get practical experience over the next few years though. Still it is good to hear that a PhD is not required for going into engineering as that is something I do not think is something for me.

Speaking of, getting confirmation there is a real difference between going into research and engineering is a relief. I guess only focusing on lectures at uni and not spending enough time exploring the different job seminars etc. has left me a bit over exposed to the research side of things.

I appreciate the uni suggestions and will for sure check out both the University of Southern Denmark and the different universities in Switzerland, though the top ones do seem a bit out of my league.

Oh I’m in no way expecting to get all that from my first position out of uni, it was just to give you guys an idea of what I was hoping for :smile:

Again, thanks for all the replies! Hopefully we’ll be colleagues in the not too distant future!

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here some experience on studying in Europe (Croatia) BSc + MSc and Germany (exchange year) and doing PhD in Germany (KIT). I am talking about the situation in Germany as I realize it.

Actually, it depends on the end what you want to do:

  1. If you would to be a developer and eventually team-lead – then you can stop after MSc. You can get higher position with it but then more in small and mid-sized companies.
  2. If you would like to lead teams and projects and even go higher in big companies then PhD is not bad idea.

MSc in Germany is (practically) the same as in the rest of Europe and doing Engineering degree you will become excellent developer known whom to find and use stuff. From my experience of supervising 20+ students for their Bachelor- and Master Theses there is no much research you will usually do, but mostly apply things. There can be some small differences, but for developer and robotics engineer is this enough.

Regarding PhD in Germany, I feel there is some difference to other countries (I can especially compare to Croatia and few other countries I have friends and colleagues doing PhD. In Germany there is actually PhD in Engineering (Dr.-Ing. which I have) which can also be very application oriented. For example, in my PhD I developed a robot from scratch, designed its software and did a lot of integration and tests with end-users. It was heavily applied. I could also very much decide how and what I am doing in PhD (which depends on Professor and Institute you are working). And actually during all that time one is working on research and engineering projects (even directly for the industry) which is usually very applied. I had the opportunity to work on many things from Robotic integration in Industry 4.0 over control of industrial and mobile robots (I only didn’t do aerial robotics :slight_smile: ).
Also, you can gather experience into writing proposals, planning and managing projects and finally hands-on “education” on leading people (students and if you are lucky even projects). On the other hand, you have the possibility to go very narrow into a subject if you like to.
And import to mention is that during PhD in Germany you have a full-time job (there is no need to accept anything less) which is not less paid than in industry.

Often, after PhD in Germany, you can simpler get team-lead position directly and go faster along the ladder (especially in the big companies). There is also very intriguing to mention that many CEOs of Engineering companies in Germany actually have PhD in Engineering.

The question of where do you see yourself in 10 years.