What Is a Computer Hardware Engineer?

A computer hardware engineer is in charge of researching, developing, and testing hardware, or the physical equipment that makes up a computer. If you have a passion for updating and upgrading computers, read on to find out what you might do as a computer hardware engineer. Schools offering Computer Engineering degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Description of a Computer Hardware Engineer

We can thank computer hardware engineers for the latest advances in computer technology. Though a computer software engineer may have designed your favorite operating system or program, a computer hardware engineer is the person who developed the extra-fast processor or large memory capacity unit needed to use the software itself.

The role of the computer hardware engineer involves resolving technical issues and providing solutions to computer issues for clients. The position may also focus on internal components such as circuit boards or computer chips. As a member of this profession, you might work with peripheral components like keyboards, printers, or modems.

Using your acquired engineering skills, you'll analyze each project and develop economically sound products for your customers. To become a successful computer hardware engineer, you need to first acquire the necessary education and skills.

Important Facts About This Occupation

Professional Certification Certified IT Consultant offered by the Institute for the Certification of Computing Professionals
On-the-Job Training May be required to have on-the-job training or related experience
Work Environment Research laboratories
Similar Occupations Aerospace engineer, computer network architect, computer programmer

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Education Necessary to Become a Computer Hardware Engineer

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that a bachelor's degree in computer engineering is the most common route to a computer hardware engineering position, though in some cases a bachelor's degree in computer science or electrical engineering might get you a position (www.bls.gov). While many schools tailor their programs to prepare you for potential employment, some programs are designed for continuing your education in a master's or doctoral degree program. Throughout your career, you must stay up-to-date with the latest computer hardware engineering technology through continuing education.

Gaining entry to an engineering bachelor's degree program typically requires that you have good grades and a strong background in high school science and mathematics. Other helpful background classes include computer applications and English.

A bachelor's degree program will likely address the mathematics and science skills that you need in your career. Common courses cover computer system architecture, interfaces, microprocessors, and integrated circuits. Some educational programs specifically teach computer hardware engineering, while others are offered as a concentration within an electrical engineering or computer science major.

Helpful Skills

Having an imagination and strong technical aptitude are important characteristics of a computer hardware engineer. Curiosity, good communication skills, and the ability to work as team members are other desirable traits that employers might look for when deciding to hire computer hardware engineers. Additional helpful competencies include critical-thinking skills, attention to detail, and good reading comprehension.

Salary and Career Outlook

The BLS reported that the annual median wage of computer hardware engineers was $114,600 in May 2018. California employed the highest number of computer hardware engineers at that time, and these employees also made the most money on average.

In 2018, the BLS reported that approximately 60,750 computer hardware engineers worked in the United States, with an estimated five percent growth projected between 2016 and 2026. Jobs were available in various industries including the industrial, commercial, scientific, and military sectors.

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