Computer engineering is a blend of computer science and electronic engineering. Computer engineers may be involved in developing networks, designing high-tech devices and sharing their knowledge on the “body” and “mind” of computers, among other responsibilities.
One way to learn about this field and work toward a career in it is with a computer engineering degree. A computer engineer degree program helps prepare students to conduct research and develop solutions in the field of computer science and with congruent technologies. Students in computer engineering degree programs also learn about the interdisciplinary roles they can potentially pursue and the different industries available to them.
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If you plan on teaching courses in computer engineering at the college level, want to advance in your current computer engineering career or you’re just looking to expand your learning, a master’s-level online computer engineering degree program may be a viable pathway for you.
What Does a Computer Engineer Do?
Computer engineers are in the business of problem-solving. They synthesize concepts from computer science and electrical engineering to improve and develop systems, applications and technologies. The field evolved out of electrical engineering as computers became more and more common. Today, the two disciplines share some characteristics.
Computer engineers are well-versed in hardware and software. The solutions and ideas they dream up may involve finessing either or both. They often focus on making computers more powerful, intelligent and accurate—all as devices shrink in size. Unlike electrical engineers, who may work outside of an office and on building infrastructure, computer engineers might work in government buildings, corporate offices, colleges and more, shuffling between computers and devices.
Computer engineering isn’t limited to personal computers or laptops. Today, computer engineers help to develop a wide range of emerging technologies, from virtual reality (VR) to robotics to artificial intelligence (AI). Their work can be found in multiple facets of daily life. For example, they may develop the computers found in medical equipment, cars and even smart home devices (for instance, a mattress or a coffee pot).
Bachelor’s vs Master’s in Computer Engineering Degree
If you’re beginning your journey toward becoming a computer engineer, you may be wondering what level of education you’ll need to break into the field. A number of entry-level computer engineering jobs require, at minimum, a bachelor’s degree in computer engineering, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Overall, education requirements for computer science and STEM careers vary. But similar to other industries, an advanced degree may help you gain a competitive edge, as noted in a BLS article on the value of master’s degrees. Possessing a master’s degree could lead to opportunities like more on-the-job responsibilities or a higher salary.
A bachelor’s degree generally takes longer to complete than a graduate degree—approximately four years as opposed to one to two years. Remember that the average curriculum will have core courses and electives built in per your institution’s guidelines. Computer engineering majors typically kick off their course of study with the core classes. Among the topics covered are calculus, data structures and digital systems design. Electives delve into technical areas like systems programming, wireless communications and nanoelectronics. At the master’s-level, students take a deep dive into subsets of the field, such as machine intelligence and high performance architectures.
Cost is another factor to consider when deciding which degree may be best for you. Tuition rate per credit hour varies by program—when totaled, the total cost of a program may be thousands of dollars. As you budget for your education, you may consider scholarship and grant opportunities geared at students enrolled in STEM graduate programs. A number of schools, government agencies and private corporations offer such opportunities. Confirm the eligibility requirements for scholarships just as you would for admissions requirements because they may vary.
The degree that is right for you depends on your career goals, interests and current needs. The good news is that both degrees are designed to equip candidates with knowledge and skills to work in the field—and some schools offer online programs.
Is an Online Master’s in Computer Engineering the Right Degree for You?
An online master’s in computer engineering may be a suitable option for you if you are unable to relocate or take time off from your job to earn your degree. Online programs generally allow you to complete coursework on your own schedule.
A number of online master’s in computer engineering programs require around 30 credits, and completion of your degree depends on enrollment status and program type. Each program may offer you different options. Some programs offer electives and thesis options while others will require the completion of a project before awarding your computer engineering degree. It may be helpful to discuss the following questions with an advisor or admissions counselor to find the best computer engineering program for you:
How will an online master’s in computer engineering help my career? Will a master’s degree help you get further in your current role? How will your salary change, if at all? There is a move toward the definitive integration of technology in various aspects of our lives, according to a Pew Research Center article on the future of digital life. Consider how obtaining an online master’s in computer engineering might affect your role in this progression.
What is the difference between a bachelor’s and master’s degree in computer engineering? A bachelor’s degree in computer engineering sets the foundation for individuals to learn about and explore a variety of roles in the field. Earning a master’s degree in computer engineering may help to prepare students for managerial positions as they cover complex topics in depth. Graduates of computer engineering graduate programs may work in research and development for private or government firms.
What does an online master’s degree in computer engineering look like? Generally, online programs don’t differ much from their on-campus counterparts. In an online computer engineering program, you can expect live classes that allow students to interact in real time with instructors and peers. However, not all programs will be synchronous, and some may combine asynchronous course content with scheduled classes. Schools may offer academic planning and career support to their online students as well as suggestions for networking opportunities.
Each master’s degree program in computer engineering will have a specific set of requirements, so it’s important to confirm the eligibility requirements with the institution you’re applying to. Generally, institutions require a bachelor’s degree in the STEM field or a closely related one as well as a minimum GPA. Sometimes the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) is required for entry, but you may also come across programs in your search that waive this requirement.
As mentioned, accredited online graduate computer engineering degree programs offer similar core coursework that is equivalent to the on-campus counterparts. In addition to the topic areas we described previously, you may enroll in the following courses as a part of your online computer engineering program:
Computer Architecture: In this class, students explore the concepts of memory systems, run-time optimization, parallel processing, cache design, and analysis and data flow architectures.
Hardware/Software Design: Students may learn partitioning of hardware and software systems. They’ll also develop an understanding of actuators and embedded control, software development life cycle and system level modeling.
Computer Networks: This course emphasizes techniques for networking tasks, such as error and flow control, switching, routing and traffic control. Students can expect to conduct a review of data communication networks as well as principles of network and protocol design.
Graduate programs generally have professors and instructors who are leading experts within their fields. These faculty members may also work on real-world solutions and research. You can review faculty profiles to learn more.
Common Computer Engineer Skills
What are some of the key skills computer engineers might use? There are various skills that may come in handy in this profession, and depending on your role, one may prove more useful than another. On the whole, being a computer engineer often calls for technical and analytical skills. In the same vein, rational reasoning may help these professionals complete work tasks, accomplish goals and invent new technological structures.
Another skill computer engineers employ is creativity—especially when it comes to problem solving or creating new technical systems.
Technology is rapidly evolving. Computer engineers do well to maintain a current knowledge of key programming languages and software tools so that they know their way around a computer’s hardware and software components and can apply principles of design, science, physics and mathematics across various scenarios. Though some of a computer engineer’s work may be done in isolation, some professionals invest in honing their communication and teamwork abilities. By doing so, they learn to collaborate with members of their team as well as external stakeholders, depending on the work environment.
As you can see, computer engineers employ a combination of hard and soft skills. The goal of an online degree in computer engineering is to help you develop relevant knowledge and skills for a career in the field. Once you obtain work in the field, you can further your education with certifications in key areas like cybersecurity to continue developing new skills.
Job Outlook and Salaries
With the increase of technological advances, we may find ourselves relying on the expertise of computer engineers and related professionals more often. While the BLS projects that computer hardware engineer jobs will grow 2% between 2019 and 2029, it reports that employment of software developers is expected to grow 22% during the same time period. These roles are just two out of a wide selection within the field. Job outlook will differ from position to position. Keep in mind that industry and location may also affect employment outlook.
The median annual salary for computer hardware engineers was $117,220 in May 2019, according to the BLS. The highest 10% of these professionals earned more than $185,240. Like job outlook, computer engineer pay varies. A number of factors can affect how much you earn. Take industry for example: The median yearly wage for those working in the computer and peripheral equipment manufacturing industry was $140,840 while those whose work was focused on research and development in the physical, engineering and life sciences earned an average salary of $132,450. The BLS also reports that the median annual salary for computer hardware engineers employed by the federal government was $113,430.
A master’s degree in computer engineering may open the door to a variety of jobs. And for those who are already in the field, earning this advanced degree might allow you to take on more job responsibilities or advance to a senior role in the workplace. Depending on your job title, you’ll perform multiple technical tasks such as completing designs for integration of devices in processors and other components of computers. With a deep knowledge of analytical softwares, computer-aided design, object or component orientation, and operating systems, computer engineers are also likely to be relied upon in the development and maintenance of new and existing computer systems.
Online Master’s in Computer Engineering Programs
We’ve compiled a list of online master’s in computer engineering programs to assist you in your search for the best degree for you. You may also consider program options that do not appear on this list. If you represent a university and would like to contact us about editing any of our listings or adding new programs, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Last updated February 2021.
Syracuse University’s College of Engineering and Computer Science offers a Master of Science in Computer Engineering program delivered online. This program requires 30 credits and prepares students to create groundbreaking hardware and software solutions in an ever-changing industry. Students will gain the skills to solve computer engineering challenges through live, online classes, an on-campus immersion, and interactive coursework. The M.S. in Computer Engineering program requires applicants hold a bachelor’s degree in a related technical field with a GPA of 3.0 or higher. Applicants must submit official transcripts, letters of recommendation, a resume, and a personal statement. GRE waivers are available for qualified applicants
Colorado State University
Colorado State University’s Master of Science (M.S.) in Computer Engineering and Master of Engineering (M.E.) with a specialization in Computer Engineering both place a heavy emphasis on computer system design and exploration, architecture of mobile and warehouse scale computers, network programming, and internet protocols. Students learn to identify, formulate, and solve advanced engineering problems using fundamental computer engineering principles, methodologies, and tools. Both the M.S. and M.E. degrees are comprised of 30 credits, no thesis is required.
Florida International University
Florida International University offers a Master of Science in Computer Engineering degree with a concentration in Network Security that consists of 30 credits. By graduation, students will not only have skills to protect and defend networks from attacks, but also the ability to take on a leadership role. The program is offered in an asynchronous format, with course materials available at all times. The comprehensive program can be completed full-time in 10 months.
Georgia Institute of Technology
Georgia Institute of Technology is home to the largest Electrical and Computer Engineering graduate academic program in the nation. The program, comprised of 30 credits, is offered both online and in-person. All online classes are asynchronous, with resources available 24/7. Resources the program have include research centers, and numerous laboratories. The program must be completed within six years after enrollment.
Iowa State University
Iowa State University offers a Master of Science in Computer Engineering degree that is comprised of 30 credits. The program is offered in an asynchronous format. The program is typically completed within five years. Applicants must have a 3.0 GPA. GRE scores are required for those with a GPA below 3.0 or with less than 2 years of professional experience.
Johns Hopkins University
Johns Hopkins University offers a Master of Science in Electrical and Computer Engineering degree. The program is designed to prepare students to develop systems for communication, computation, information transformation, power generation and transmission, measurement, and control. The program offers two areas of concentration in Photonics and Communications and Networking, but the curriculum covers foundational topics such as electromagnetics, electronic devices, and systems theory.
Missouri University of Science and Technology
Missouri University of Science and Technology offers students a unique opportunity to learn about the relationships among different engineering disciplines through their Master of Science in Computer Engineering. Class topics and studies provided to students include: Design of Digital Systems, Computer Architecture, Embedded Computer Systems, Computer Networks, Computer Security and Computational Intelligence. A bachelor’s degree is in a field of engineering required.
Old Dominion University
Old Dominion University offers a 30-credit Master’s in Electrical and Computer Engineering program with a focus on leadership. Through ODU’s program, students will benefit from the teaching and research expertise of ODU’s Electrical & Computer Engineering faculty as they learn both engineering theory and practical application. Students will participate in online classes that are offered in a synchronous format. Applicants should have a bachelor’s in computer or electrical engineering or a related field, with a 3.0 GPA.
Purdue’s Electrical and Computer Engineering curriculum provides the foundation to excel and lead in a global engineering environment. Most students in Purdue’s Computer Engineering program choose to begin their studies by taking one course at a time to ensure they find a successful balance of work, life, and school. An undergraduate degree in electrical or computer engineering, computer science, physics, or math is recommended.
Stevens Institute of Technology
With a mix of theory, applied research, and technical knowledge, Stevens Institute of Technology offers a Master of Science in Computer Engineering degree that equips students with the skills needed to pursue a career on the cutting edge of design and development. The 30-credit program offers a variety of areas of focus, including embedded systems, software and data engineering, artificial intelligence, and networks and security.
Texas A&M University
Texas A&M boasts a rigorous online Master’s of Electrical and Computer Engineering program that matches their on-campus program. Students enrolled in the 30 credit program have access to class lecture notes, tutoring from well-qualified teaching assistants and relevant software tools.
University of Arizona
The Master of Science in Electrical and Computer Engineering at the University of Arizona is a 30-credit program that requires students to specialize in one of the following: wireless communications and networks, communications and control, digital signal processing, high-performance computing, computer networks, software engineering, artificial intelligence, detection and estimation, holography and diffractive optics, simulation modeling, or heterogeneous systems design.
University of Delaware
With a 30-credit curriculum designed to prepare students to lead the development of sophisticated engineering solutions that repel cyber threats, University of Delaware’s Master of Science in Computer Engineering program is a good fit for students interested in focusing on security. The program offers asynchronous courses that use foundational theory and hands-on skill building to challenge you to develop efficient designs and algorithms that incorporate defenses against cyber threats during information exchange. The comprehensive curriculum covers information processing, networks, and efficient algorithm design.
University of Idaho
University of Idaho offers a Master of Science and a Master of Engineering in Computer Engineering. These degrees are both composed of 30 credits delivered in an asynchronous format. The master of science requires a thesis and the master of engineering does not. Areas of emphasis include digital systems design, digital hardware design, computer systems, and others.
University of Michigan-Dearborn
University of Michigan offers a Master of Science in Computer Engineering degree that aims to provide graduates with a strong background in theories and a good knowledge of the latest technologies in the electrical and computer engineering disciplines. The following concentrations are offered: computer architecture and design, networks and communications, intelligent systems, and multimedia engineering. The program teaches students the skills needed to conduct research in advanced engineering fields.
University of Virginia
University of Virginia offers a Master’s of Engineering in Electrical and Computer Engineering program designed for engineers currently in practice who feel the need to become knowledgeable in the latest areas of Electrical and Computer Engineering. The 30-credit comprehensive curriculum offers online classes in an asynchronous format most of the time, though there may be some synchronous requirements.
Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University
Virginia Tech offers a Master of Science in Computer Engineering degree that is comprised of 32 credits. Two tracks are available: a thesis track, or a project and report track. The thesis track is perfect for students who want to hone in on a specific skill within the field, where the non-thesis option is better or students who seek broad-based knowledge which results from more coursework.