Computer Engineer: Career Profile, Employment Outlook, and Educational Requirements

Research what it takes to become a computer engineer. Learn about job duties, education requirements, job outlook, and salary information to find out if this is the career for you. Schools offering Computer Engineering degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is a Computer Engineer?

Computer engineers are employed to develop computer technologies, new software programs and computer hardware. Computer engineers working primarily with software will develop software to meet people's needs, recommend updates and ensure a program works correctly. They often collaborate with other computer specialists to ensure optimum software. Computer engineers working with hardware will design and create new hardware, test the new hardware, analyze the results and modify their model. They will oversee any manufacturing of hardware, and must be up-to-date on current technologies. The following chart gives you an overview about entering this field.

Degree Required Bachelor's degree
Certification Available
Skills Required Computer software programming, hardware engineering, electrical
Job Duties Develop and design new software programs and hardware components, test programs and hardware, identify issues, provide solutions, market software and hardware to possible buyers
Job Growth (2014-2024)* 17% (for all software developers); 3% (for all computer hardware engineers)
Median Salary (2015)* $105,570 (for all software developers, systems); $111,730 (for all computer hardware engineers)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Does a Computer Engineer Do?

A computer engineer uses computer software programming, hardware engineering and electrical skills and training to design and develop new software programs and hardware components. Additionally, computer engineers ensure these new tools are ready for public or business use. In this job, they are also responsible for testing the programs and hardware before and during use to ensure everything is running efficiently and without error. When problems arise, computer engineers identify the problem and develop a solution to fix it. They may also market programs or equipment to possible buyers.

What Education Do I Need?

Due to the competitive nature of computer engineering and the regularly evolving technologies associated with the career, a Bachelor of Science in Computer Engineering, Bachelor of Science in Computer Science or a degree in a related field is necessary for employment. If you're certain you want a career as a computer engineer, you'll want to take courses in the math and sciences as early as possible. If possible, start taking these courses in high school so they provide the needed foundation to pursue your bachelor's degree in the field.

Your college courses will continue your science and mathematics studies with classes in computer programming, hardware design and electrical engineering. Even after completing your degree, you'll probably continue researching computer engineering technology and practices to maintain a competitive edge. Professional certification opportunities are offered through a variety of venues. For example, the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers offers certifications for entry-level and mid-career professionals (www.computer.org).

What Is the Employment Outlook?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the demand for software developers is expected to grow at a rate of 17% between 2014 and 2024, while demand for computer hardware engineers is expected to grow at a rate of 3% in the same period (www.bls.gov). Those with a bachelor's degree or higher should be able to find excellent career opportunities, especially if they keep up-to-date with new advances in technology. In May 2015, the median salary of software systems developers was $105,570. The median salary of computer hardware engineers, in comparison, was $111,730 during the same period.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

There are several related careers that require a bachelor's degree, such as computer programmers, information security analysts and mechanical engineers. Computer programmers create and test code to help computers run more efficiently and effectively. Information security analysts are responsible for producing security measures for computer networks and systems. Mechanical engineers design and create various mechanical and thermal devices.

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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