how to become a computer engineer

What does a Computer Engineer do?

The competition is fierce to produce the latest computer hardware technology that is the most complex, fast, and influential of all others on the market. Do you ever wonder how computers get better and better? That is the job of the computer hardware engineer. Computer engineers evaluate, design, and maintain computer hardware and software systems. They develop, test, and design, computer processors, circuit boards, and network systems. They resolve problems or address any concerns that occur with the hardware or software and aid in the advancement of computer technology.

How to Become a Computer Engineer

Typically, a computer engineer earns a bachelor’s degree in computer engineering to begin their career. A computer engineering degree combines electrical engineering and computer science courses, both needed to be a computer engineer. However, some employers will accept a degree in computer science or electrical engineering. You need knowledge in both to be a competent computer engineer. Some engineering students participate in an intern program while earning their degree to have work experience upon graduation.

In contrast, others may seek an associate’s degree in computer science or engineering. Earning an associate’s degree allows you to enter the workforce sooner. This allows you to work as a technician or helper while earning your bachelors degree. You gain hands-on experience and a paycheck while pursuing your goal to become a computer engineer.

Computer engineering programs usually include math, science, and computer science coursework. Computer engineering consists of both hardware and software, so pending on what specialty you choose coursework can also include software, circuit boards, computer programming, or hardware. Besides that, analytical skills, critical thinking, problem-solving, and strong communication skills are a must. You are continually looking for solutions, developing, evaluating, and working with others while working as a computer engineer.

Though a bachelor’s degree required, it is only the minimum; and leads to entry-level positions. Many employers seek candidates with a master’s degree or doctorate. Besides that, continuous learning throughout your career is expected to keep up with constant advances in technology. In addition, when seeking a degree, you should ensure the program is vetted by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology, Inc. (ABET). This organization accredits computer engineering programs to ensure standards are met in various areas. The criteria that they look at are program curriculum, student performance, faculty credentials, facilities, and resources available to students. ABET accreditation indicates the quality and value of each program. We encourage you to check out their website.

Watch a video to learn what a computer engineer does:

Job Description of a Computer Engineer

how to become a computer engineer

Computer engineering includes work in both hardware and software. Those working in hardware, research, design, develop, and test computer systems and components such as processors, circuit boards, memory devices, networks, and routers. They also use models (working or theoretical) that are constructed with computer simulation to test, build, and modify product prototypes. They develop and design support peripherals and computer hardware, microprocessors, custom integrated circuits, or disk drives. A computer engineer monitors the functioning of an operating system and makes any adjustments or modifications necessary to meet the correct specifications. Those working with software are responsible for the design, development, and application fo software programs. This includes operating systems, networking, and faster processing speeds. Both types of engineers work closely together. They know about computers and electronics, technology and engineering, design, mathematics, and physics.

Computer engineers are also skilled in complex problem solving, speaking effectively to others, active listening, decision making, and operation analysis, among other abilities. They communicate information to supervisors, subordinates, or others in a clear manner, either by phone, in person, or through email. They contribute artistic creativity and ideas that assist in the development or design of a project. Many computer engineers work in research labs or in high-tech manufacturing offices and/or labs. Computer engineers usually work 40 hours, but often have to work weekends or at night due to technical needs or deadlines.

Benefits of being a Computer Engineer

The career of a Computer Engineer is an excellent choice and has several benefits:

  • At the top of the list is helping protect our civil liberties and fight against cybercriminals.
  • They like knowing they are making a positive impact in the world.
  • Computer Engineers get to use their creativity in their work.
  • They benefit from an excellent work/life balance, so there is always time for friends and family.
  • They can work on-site or remotely, so they can be home or work from a coffee shop.
  • Computer Engineers make a competitive salary with a flexible career.

Computer Hardware Engineer Career Video Transcript

With each passing day, we spend more time on computers and expect them to meet more complex needs. Computer hardware engineers have a leading role in the research on, and development of advanced computer technology, and even influence how it’s used. Computer hardware engineers research, design, and test computer systems and components such as processors, circuit boards, memory, and storage media. In most cases, the goal of computer hardware engineers is to discover ways to make computers faster and more powerful. Some more specialized engineers design other devices that incorporate computers, like cars and medical equipment. Some work closely with software developers to design phones, tablets, and other devices.

Computer hardware engineers need to be creative problem-solvers and work well as a member of a team, using their powers of reason to find original solutions. Usually computer hardware engineers have a bachelor’s degree in computer engineering, though degrees in electrical engineering or computer science are also accepted. Some positions require a master’s degree. Many employers expect computer hardware engineers to have at least some familiarity with software. In this fast-moving millennium, few shape our information world like computer hardware engineers.

Article Citations

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Computer Hardware Engineers.

National Center for O*NET Development. 17-2061.00. O*NET OnLine.

The career video is in the public domain from the U. S. Department of Labor, Employment and Training Administration.