Computer engineers are passionate problem solvers flexible enough to work both collaboratively and independently. Read on to learn more about computer engineering careers, as well as how much education you'll need to obtain a position.
Computer engineering is a fast-growing field of technology that involves designing and installing a variety of computer hardware and software. As a student and aspiring professional, you'll be able to tailor your degree program and career according to your area of special interest. For example, if you enjoy building computers and computer equipment, such as chips and circuit boards, you may pursue a career in computer hardware engineering. However, if developing games and computer applications seems more your style, then you might consider a position as a computer software engineer or computer programmer.
You could also become a computer engineering technician, which involves working alongside computer engineers, providing them with needed assistance. As a computer engineering technician, you might be asked to collect and analyze data, test prototypes and perform stress tests on new products.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment of software engineers was expected to increase by 22% from 2012-2022, with a 7%, or slower-than-average, growth in opportunities projected for computer hardware engineers during the same period. Between 2012 and 2022, employment prospects for computer programmers were predicted to increase by an average rate of 8%.
As reported by the BLS in May 2013, the median annual salary for computer programmers was $76,140, while hardware engineers earned $104,250. In the same month, applications software developers had a median annual income of $92,660, while systems software developers made $101,410 (www.bls.gov).
Formal education programs for computer engineers can be found at the associate, bachelor's and master's degree levels. Both undergraduate and graduate certificate programs also exist. According to the BLS, earning a bachelor's degree is a good starting point, since many employers require this level of education.
In an undergraduate computer engineering program, you may be able to specialize in systems engineering or information systems, or participate in research projects, like robotics, networking or security. Course topics might include the study of software and hardware integration, computer applications, data structures and operating systems. Your program may also include training in computer networking, the use of microcomputer systems and Web technologies.
A master's degree program in computer engineering can provide you with the training you'll need for top-level and specialized positions. A graduate curriculum may cover topics in communication software, integrated multimedia, network systems and electronics. In preparation for a career in business management, you might also study finance, marketing and corporate planning.
You can demonstrate your talents in computer engineering by earning a voluntary certification from a software corporation or computer science organization. For instance, you can become a Certified Software Development Professional (CSDP) through the IEEE Computer Society once you meet specific education and experience requirements.