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IT Engineer: Career and Salary Facts

Explore the career requirements for IT engineers. Get the facts about education requirements, key duties, salary, and job outlook to determine if this is the right career for you.

What Is an IT Engineer?

Creating and developing new computer technologies is one of the duties of an IT (information technology) engineer. These engineers typically work with either software, applications, or hardware, depending on their education and skills. Systems software developers specialize in designing operating systems utilized across broad industries, such as healthcare or military. Applications developers engineer the computer software applications that most people use daily, including games. Hardware engineers design and test physical computing equipment.

All IT engineers research and develop newer and better versions of their software or equipment. They typically collaborate with other engineers to develop better products more quickly, making teamwork skills useful in this industry. The chart below includes important details about becoming an IT engineer.

Degree Required Bachelor's degree
Education Field of Study Computer science, software engineering, computer engineering
Key Duties Software engineers design and test new software; hardware engineers develop and test computer systems
Job Growth (2018-2028)* 26% (applications developers)
10% (systems software developers)
6% (hardware engineers)
Average Salary (2018)* $108,080 (applications developers)
$114,000 (systems software developers)
$117,840 (hardware engineers)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Are the Different Types of IT Engineering?

There is no one position referred to as an IT engineer. Rather, IT engineering is a broad field that can encompass many different types of positions, including a computer hardware engineer, a computer software engineer, and an applications engineer.

When you work as a computer hardware engineer, your job is to research, develop, and test the physical components of a computer system, such as keyboards, computer chips, modems, and circuit boards. When you work as a computer software engineer, your job is to create and develop new types of software, such as operating systems, computer games, and business applications. You must have an understanding of computer programming languages and algorithms.

What Educational Programs Are Available?

Most employers in the IT engineering field will prefer you to have a bachelor's or a master's degree. If you are interested in becoming a computer software engineer, you might consider completing a 4-year degree program in computer science or computer software engineering. A Bachelor of Science in Computer Software Engineering should provide you with an introduction to data structures, programming, bioinformatics, computer algorithms, and game design. If you are interested in becoming a computer hardware engineer, you might consider completing a degree program in math, science, or computer science.

Some schools also offer graduate programs in software engineering and hardware engineering. Such 2-year programs are designed to provide you with access to new and developing research in the IT engineering field. They should also provide you with the skills to conduct your own research and contribute to new developments in computer engineering.

Will I Need Certification?

Various software vendors and computer hardware vendors offer certification to engineers who master their programs or equipment. You can typically earn such certification by completing an examination offered through the company. Some professional computing societies also offer voluntary certification. For example, the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) offers the Certified Software Development Professional (CSDP) credential. If you are a software engineer you can earn that certification by preparing for and passing an examination.

What Salary Could I Expect to Make?

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that computer hardware engineers earned an average income of $117,840 annually in 2018 (www.bls.gov). Job opportunities are anticipated to increase 6% from 2018-2028, which is slower than average growth. Hardware engineers who had higher levels of education can anticipate the best job prospects, and those with a degree from a program accredited by ABET (formerly the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology) stand the best chance of getting hired.

Software developers, including those who focus on applications and computer software, are expected to see 26% job growth from 2018-2028, which is much faster than average. Those working in applications earned an average of $108,080 in 2018, while systems software developers made an average annual salary of about $114,000.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Computer network architects create communication networks for companies, ranging from small scale intra-office connections to improve efficiency to large scale global cloud storage systems. Database administrators secure digital files by encryption methods, keeping their client's information safe from hacking and unauthorized access. Electronics engineers design and construct electronics for consumer and business use and research new technology to improve devices. All of these careers require a bachelor's degree.