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How Do I Become a Cisco Engineer?

Explore the career requirements for Cisco engineers. Get the facts about education and licensure requirements, salary, and potential job growth to determine if this is the right career for you.

What is a Cisco Engineer?

Cisco hardware and software engineers are trained in computer science and engineering; they're involved in the design and development of software programs and hardware devices.

There are two types of software engineers: applications software developers and systems software developers. Applications software developers create programs to meet a users needs, but is not necessary for the operating system of a computer. This includes word processors, games, spread sheets and other data bases. Systems software developers create software that is part of the operating systems, which computers themselves cannot function with out. In both cases software engineers need to be able to design software using code. They also analyze how different programs function together, test software and trouble shoot problems.

Computer hardware engineers develop new computer hardware. They start by drawing out schematics of computer components. They then design new hardware to incorporate with or replace existing components. Once newly designed components are manufactured they test those components. They make sure the hardware meets the needs of the project, and that it works will with software. The following chart gives you an overview of what you need to know about entering this field.

Software Engineer Hardware Engineer
Degree Required Bachelor's degree Bachelor's degree
Education Field of Study Computer science, computer engineering Computer science, computer engineering, electrical engineering
Key Responsibilities Design network applications
Write new programs
Test and develop new hardware
Job Outlook (2018-2028) 26%* (all applications software developers); 10%* (all systems software developers) 6%* (all hardware engineers)
Median Salary (2018) $103,620* (all applications software developers); $110,000* (all systems software developers) $114,600* (all hardware engineers)

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

Education Options for Cisco Engineers

Cisco requires candidates for hardware and software engineering positions to have at least a bachelor's degree; some positions may require a graduate degree (www.cisco.com). At the bachelor's degree level, you could enroll in a Bachelor of Science (B.S.) in Computer Science, Computer Engineering or Electrical Engineering. In a computer science program, you would take courses in programming, software development, mathematics, databases, hardware and software, file processing and algorithm analysis. You would receive practical training in computer labs, exploring a computer's architecture and gaining experience using different operating systems.

A B.S. in Electrical Engineering program will teach you about all facets of electronics, including circuitry, electromagnetic fields, semiconductors and AC/DC electricity. Some programs include computer engineering topics, from writing programming codes to designing communication networks.

Aside from typical courses, you would receive practical training in engineering labs; you might conduct experiments and use electronic instruments like transmitters, receivers and motors. B.S. in Computer Engineering programs teach computer design, electrical and software engineering, discrete mathematics and digital design. Many B.S. programs culminate in a senior design project.

A Master of Science (M.S.) in Computer Science program will teach you about software design and security, computer programming, operating systems, computer architecture and algorithm design. You might also be able to choose a concentration in software engineering. An M.S. in Electrical Engineering consists of coursework in computer hardware and software, systems engineering, circuitry, operating systems and electronic devices.

Master's degree programs in computer engineering offer courses in microprocessor design, software engineering, network architecture and operating systems design. M.S. programs are research-oriented and generally take 2-3 years to complete. Most M.S. programs culminate in a master's thesis or capstone project, which are basically research projects that demonstrate expertise in electrical engineering.

Participate in an Internship

An internship is a good way to gain experience in your chosen career field. You can find an internship through your school or through Cisco, which offers software and hardware internships to undergraduate and graduate students. The Cisco Choice intern program recruits interns on college campuses between the months of September-March. Because of the competitive nature of the program, you should have a GPA of at least 3.0 and be enrolled in one of the above degree programs.

Typical Job Duties

According to Cisco's description of prospective software engineers, you could be responsible for designing network applications, developing device drivers and using Web and script languages to write new programs. Cisco hardware engineers, also called systems development engineers, are responsible for developing networking systems, testing hardware and developing new hardware and architecture. You could design and test modems, routers, power converters and flash drives.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Computer and information systems management is related as professionals in the field need to have a firm understanding of the software and hardware in a company's network to do their job. These professionals are responsible for insuring a company's technological needs are met, by organizing computer related activities, determining technological goals and working to ensure the company has what it needs to meet those goals. Computer programmers use code to ensure applications operate properly. They play a role in the development of computer software, often taking the programs designed by software engineers and writing code that serve as instructions for a computer to follow, allowing users to use the program. Both of these careers require a bachelor's degree in a computer related field.