Computer engineering is a field that integrates electrical engineering and computer science. Computer engineers build devices, design computer networks and develop new technologies. They are focused on computer hardware and understanding how to optimize hardware for different applications through an understanding of how software interacts with hardware.
The future of computer engineering is bright. As more and more electronic devices become embedded in daily life, the need for computer engineers will rise. The rapid increase in Internet of Things (IoT) devices, for example, can show how computer devices are becoming ubiquitous.
What Does a Computer Engineer Do?
Computer engineers work in a variety of roles, focused on developing, deploying and maintaining computer systems, networks and infrastructure.
A computer engineer may design computer hardware to create specialized solutions or new technologies. These jobs involve detailed research and design and is at the core of computer engineering. Companies like Intel and Samsung hire many computer engineers to design devices such as phones, processors and routers. There are also many academic positions for computer engineering research and education.
Computer engineers also work on deploying these technologies by installing and updating related equipment. Many organizations need computer engineers who can design and build computer networks and systems to provide them with access to the newest technology. This can consist of setting up computer networks, installing new components and upgrading old systems.
Computer engineers also need to test the systems they create. They may test computer systems in order to ensure that they are functioning as expected, or to find inefficiencies that can be fixed. They will also test computer hardware to verify that it works as expected. These steps are essential parts of computer engineering that ensure these systems function correctly.
Computer engineers are focused on building computer hardware and systems. They design efficient systems that are well suited to the task at hand.
Steps to Become a Computer Engineer
1. Earn a bachelor’s degree in a relevant field.
A bachelor’s degree is essential to get a job in computer engineering. If you are hoping to get a job directly out of college, you may want to choose a specialized degree. Bachelor’s degrees in software engineering or electrical engineering with a concentration in computer engineering would be appropriate. If you are planning to continue to a higher degree, a bachelor’s in mathematics or computer science will prepare you well for advanced degree programs.
Some computer engineering jobs may be available to professionals with only a bachelor’s degree. Candidates with a bachelor’s degree are more likely to get software engineering jobs than hardware engineering. However, there are limitations to how far you can progress in these fields without a graduate degree. The highest-paying jobs are often reserved for professionals with advanced degrees.
2. Pursue an advanced degree in computer engineering.
Advanced degrees provide greater opportunity in the computer engineering field. There are some advanced degree programs available for computer engineers. Hardware engineers may generally require a masters degree to get most jobs. Software engineers may also benefit from advanced degrees in their field.
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A master’s in computer engineering could provide greater job opportunities and earning potential for graduates. These programs may provide opportunities to learn advanced topics in engineering. They may also provide the skills needed to enter the workforce at upper level positions. Some employers will support you in pursuing higher degrees while working. This can come in the form of scholarships, time off and other support.
Choosing a masters program in computer engineering could be an important step in your career. There are many master’s programs available with different concentrations. When deciding on a master’s program, you should consider what area of computer engineering you are interested in. You can focus on areas such as network security, integrated circuits or software engineering. Some of these programs can be taken online from anywhere in the world. Take a look at some online computer engineering master’s programs.
3. Gain experience and skills in relevant areas
There are many skills that are essential for computer engineers. Many of these skills can be gained through working, professional courses, or training.
Analytics skills are an important skill set for computer engineers. Computer engineers need skills in the following analytic areas.
- Electrical engineering
Computer engineers also need many soft-skills that allow them to work effectively.
- Problem solving
- Good creativity and design sense
The exact skills that a computer engineer needs will change based on their specialties. Many of these skills will be learned on the job by working for experience engineers. Some specialized fields you can work in as a computer engineer are:
- Network security
- Integrated circuits
- Embedded systems
- Quantum computing
4. Become a licensed Professional Engineer (PE)
Being licensed as a professional engineer may provide more job opportunities. It is not required to get computer engineering jobs unless you are working as a consultant. Becoming a licensed professional engineer has specific requirements set by the IEEE-USA:
- You must have an engineering degree from a program that is ABET-Accredited.
- You must pass the Fundamentals of Engineering exam.
- You must have four years of work experience.
- You must pass the eight hour Professional Engineering exam after working for four years.
5. Get relevant certifications to showcase your skills.
There are certifications available on a wide variety of computer engineering topics. You can learn skills from managing network switches to implementing cryptographic security. These certifications are offered by professional organizations, companies and nonprofits. Gaining specialized certifications in your field is a great way to prove you skills to potential employers. Certifications are also a great way to continue learning about new technologies. Though not necessary to work as a computer engineer, certifications can provide valuable credentials to set you apart from the competition. This can help you get jobs in specialized fields.
Average Computer Engineer Salary
Computer engineering is a growing field with high salaries and a good job outlook. Computer engineering jobs are expected to grow steadily in the coming years. As of April 2019, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that computer hardware engineer jobs are expected to grow by 5% from 2016-2026.
The growth in this field can be expected to continue. The increasing use of computers in many industries is fueling this growth. As digital devices begin to play a role in more parts of daily life, the need for better devices and networks will grow. Internet of Things (IoT) devices are becoming ubiquitous. Computer engineers are needed to design, secure and develop these devices.
Computer engineers generally have high salaries. The average computer engineer salary in 2018 was $114,600 according to the BLS. As you progress through a career as a computer engineer you may expect to increase your earning potential. Having an advanced degree in your field is could be important to reach your full earning potential. Getting certifications and experience may also help to achieve an increased salary.