Main image of article CES 2021 is Big on Robotics. But Will the Trend Last?

Every year at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES), a different fad grips many of the tech companies rolling out the latest products. For a number of years, smartphones and tablets dominated the show, as manufacturers large and small attempted to capitalize on the growing mobile-device market; after the success of the James Cameron movie “Avatar” in 2009, companies shifted to focus on all kinds of 3D screens.

Many of the products shown off at CES never reach mainstream ubiquity (notice how 3D just isn’t a thing these days). That’s a disappointment for consumers who really love certain gadgets, but it’s a bigger danger for technologists and companies that decide to embrace a particular fad, only to see that attention and effort wasted when it fails to last. At CES 2021, it seems that drones and robots are attracting most of the buzz—but are robotics really here to stay as a category?

On the surface, at least, the next generation of robots will make humans’ home lives much easier. Do you enjoy the little Roomba currently vacuuming your floors? Then you might love Samsung’s still-in-development robot (seen above) that loads dishwashers and even pours drinks. Ever thought about shooting movies from an aerial drone? Sony has one that will allow you to film in 4K

That’s in addition to the other drones and concept cars rolling out at the show. The building and development of such products relies on technologists who’ve mastered everything from computer vision to machine learning to hardware. It takes a long time to learn these skills, which is why knowing whether a trend will last is so important, especially with regard to employment opportunities.

According to Burning Glass, which collects and analyzes millions of job postings from across the country, robotics as a job category will grow 11 percent over the next decade. Median salary for robotics-related positions, meanwhile, stands at $69,000; while that’s far lower than the average technologist salary, those with the right mix of robotics skills and experience can make far above $122,000 in base salary. As with so many other technology professions, the key is specialization.

Which professions require robotics skills? As you can see from the following chart (also generated via Burning Glass), a significant (and growing) percentage of electrical and mechanical engineering roles require some robotics knowledge. It’s also important to note that, while the percentage of software engineers/developers who need robotics skills is still pretty small, that will only increase in coming years:

Robotics engineer was also highlighted in LinkedIn’s recent Emerging Jobs Report (PDF), with a projected annual growth of 40 percent; associated skills include robotic process automation, UiPath, Blue Prism, Automation Anywhere, and robotics. While some (heck, probably most) of the robots and drones making an appearance at this year’s CES likely won’t make it to the mainstream, it’s clear that robotics is here to stay as both a tech category and a profession