Computer Designer: Salary and Career Facts

Find out about the types of jobs you could pursue in computer design. Read on to learn more about career options, along with salary and job outlook information. Schools offering 3D Animation degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is a Computer Designer?

Computer designers integrate, develop, modify, and create various aspects of computer functions. Some possible options in this field include hardware engineering, software development, and computer programming. Hardware engineers usually work in a laboratory setting to test computer models as they build them. These jobs tend to be within high-tech manufacturing firms. They are familiar with many different types of computer models as well. Software developers create the programs that people use on their computers and smartphones. Computer programmers, on the other hand, write code and test what they have written, eventually allowing computers to function properly for consumers.

The table below outlines the general requirements for these career options.

Hardware Engineer Software Developer Computer Programmer
Degree Required Bachelor's degree Bachelor's degree Bachelor's degree
Education Field of Study Computer science (or related field) Computer science (or related field) Computer science (or related field)
Key Skills Design/test computer hardware Design/test computer software Write/update computer programs
Training Required Internship Internship Internship
Job Outlook (2014-2024) 3%* 17%* -8%*
Median Salary (2015) $111,730* $100,690* $79,530*

Source: * U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)

What Is a Computer Designer?

Computer design is an integration of the fields of electrical engineering, programming and computer architecture. At the core of computer design is a fundamental understanding of the hardware and software components that make up computers and computer systems, as well as how they're designed, configured and constructed. Numerous job opportunities exist for you as a professional computer designer, including computer systems analyst, hardware or software programmer and system or peripheral architect.

What Education Do I Need?

If you have a high school diploma or a GED, you can work toward becoming a computer designer by enrolling in a bachelor's degree program in computer engineering. Recommended preparation for some programs includes fundamental knowledge of computer languages, such as C++ and Java. Common course topics introduce you to data analysis, application development, calculus, databases and computer architecture. Depending on your career goals, you can continue your education to pursue a graduate degree that can qualify you for management or teaching positions.

Like computer science majors, a computer engineering program teaches you the fundamentals of both hardware integration and software development. However, you'll usually receive more hands-on training in designing and configuring electronics related to computer systems in the computer engineering option. You can choose to focus your studies on software development, which might broaden your postgraduate employment opportunities.

What Is the Job Market Like?

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that employment projections in the computer design field vary significantly based on your specific interest (www.bls.gov). Computer hardware engineers are expected to experience a 3% growth in employment in the decade of 2014-2024, according to the BLS. However, software developers are expected to grow 17% in the same time period. The BLS also predicts an -8% decrease in employment opportunities between 2014 and 2024 for computer programmers.

How Much Can I Expect To Earn?

Your salary will vary depending on your particular job, location and industry. The BLS stated the median salary for hardware engineers was $111,730 in 2015, with the majority working for design firms and peripheral manufacturers. If you specialize in software development, the BLS reported a median wage of $100,690 per year. Computer programmers earned the lowest salary of the three fields, with the BLS reporting a mean wage of $79,530 in May 2015.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

If you like programming computers, you might also enjoy having a career as a computer systems analyst or as a database administrator. A computer systems analyst monitors computer programs to make sure that they work properly, among other important tasks. They usually need a four year degree and several years of on-the-job training. A database administrator tests database programs and makes modifications that are necessary, as well as many other functions. They usually also need a four-year degree and job training to find good jobs.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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