How Do I Become a Computer Engineer?

Computer engineers use their knowledge of computer science to design and develop computer hardware or software. Get information on the degrees you'll need in this career, and learn about the potential for job growth in this field. Explore your specialty options in computer engineering. Schools offering Computer Engineering degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Does a Computer Engineer Do?

Computer engineers include software developers and hardware engineers. Software developers create the programs associated with computers, whereas hardware engineers work with processors, circuit boards, memory devices, and networks. They also have to confirm that all the hardware and software work well together. It is important that both hardware and software engineers pay close attention to new directions in the industry as it is often subject to rapid advances in technology. Below, you can learn some details about a couple of careers in this field:

Software DeveloperComputer Hardware Engineer
Degree Required Bachelor'sBachelor's
Education Field of Study Computer Science, Software Engineering Computer Science, Computer Engineering, Electrical Engineering
Key Responsibilities Design and develop software programsWork with various computer hardware units, like circuit boards, processors and networks to make sure they are functioning correctly; design new units
Job Growth (2014-2024)* 17%3%
Median Salary (2015)* $100,690$111,730

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Getting an Education in Computer Engineering

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), if you earn a bachelor's degree in computer engineering, you may have a competitive edge and qualify for more jobs than those who don't (www.bls.gov). Other bachelor's degree programs that you might enroll in include computer science, mathematics, electrical engineering and software engineering. Topics that courses may cover include software design, programming, Web development, networks and database systems.

Community colleges and technical institutes offer certificates and associate degrees; however, they may not qualify individuals for many jobs in the field. Computer engineers with master's or doctorate degrees may experience greater chances of landing jobs doing research or teaching at the postsecondary level.

Choosing a Specialty

Since there are many specialties within the field of computer engineering, you may want to narrow your focus. A few areas that you could concentrate on are networking, databases, applications, systems, hardware, software and design automation. You can also learn about the field that you want to enter, such as the biomedical industry, then take courses specifically related to that discipline.

Gaining Experience and Staying Current

You may increase your job prospects by gaining experience in your area of interest though internships. Internships may also provide you with the opportunity to network and to establish connections. This may be useful when looking for a position after graduation.

The BLS states that employers generally look for applicants who have experience and stay current with the latest trends in technology. Taking additional coursework offered by schools or vendors or going to seminars may be good ways to increase your chances of being hired or promoted. You may want to consider earning certification from a product vendor, professional organization or software firm.

Job Outlook

Computer use has become commonplace in homes and in businesses. For this reason, the field of computer engineering was expected to experience job growth from 2014-2024, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The growth for computer software developers was projected to be 17%, which was much faster than the national average, while growth for computer hardware engineers was expected to be 3%. Advances in technology, increased use of the Internet and the need for information security were expected to contribute to this job growth.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Computer information research scientists discover new uses for computing technology while computer information system managers run all of a company's computer-related activities. Both of these roles require similar strengths and knowledge bases as computer engineers, but research scientists need a doctoral or professional degree. Managers need a bachelor's. Other similar careers include computer programmers and information security analysts. Both require bachelor's degrees and make sure software functions properly and safely. These roles extend across industries that regularly use technology.

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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