Degrees Needed to Become a Computer Hardware Engineer

Check out this article to learn everything you need to know about a career as a computer hardware engineer. You'll get info on the degrees and skills you'll need to enter this field as well as the job growth and the salary you might make. Schools offering Computer Engineering degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Career Information at a Glance

Computer hardware engineers design schematics, build computers or components and then test what they've built. It's a highly technical field and one that requires at least a bachelor's degree in computer engineering or a related field of study. For more info on the career, take a peek at the chart below.

Degree Required Bachelor's degree
Education Field of Study Computer engineering, electrical engineering, computer science
Key Skills Critical-thinking, problem-solving, analytical skills
Job Growth (2016-2026) 5%*
Median Salary (2017) $115,120 per year*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Do Computer Hardware Engineers Do?

Computer hardware engineers dream up designs for computer systems and put those designs to the test by building prototypes. Some may work on entire computer systems while others focus on a smaller component of the equation, like a circuit board, RAM or a processor. Some computer engineers don't work with conventional computer systems at all. Instead, they design hardware for things like home appliances, cars and medical devices.

Once they've perfected a design, they may oversee its construction. Typically, those systems and components are ultimately released to the public for purchase.

What Degree Do You Need?

If that sounds interesting to you, here's what you need to do to get into the business. Employers in the computer hardware field want candidates with at least a bachelor's degree in computer engineering, computer science or electrical engineering. You'll want to choose a program that's accredited by ABET, the most recognized accreditation board for engineering programs in the country. Some computer hardware engineers go even further and get a master's degree in business administration or computer engineering.

Of course, the technology game is always changing, so engineers are expected to stay on top of new advances in both hardware and software, and that can mean taking continuing education classes and seminars.

Where Do Computer Hardware Engineers Work?

Computer hardware engineers usually work in labs developing sensitive pieces of equipment and testing them. Twenty-six percent work in the computer systems design industry; 14% work in computer manufacturing, and 12% work in the semiconductor and electronic component manufacturing field, according to BLS figures for 2016. Another 7% work for the federal government. For most, computer hardware engineering is a full-time career.

What's the Median Salary for a Computer Hardware Engineer?

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) released salary data for computer hardware engineers back in May 2017. At that time, their median salary was $115,120 a year. However, many of the top employers paid higher salaries. Engineers working in the semiconductor and electronic component manufacturing field brought home median wages of $130,150 per year, while engineers performing research and development in the life sciences, engineering and physical science fields earned $126,670.

How's the Job Market?

The BLS sees employment for computer hardware engineers increasing by 5% between 2016 and 2026. This is slightly below its projected average for all other occupations, which is 7%. Why? According to the BLS, software will see greater advancements than hardware over that period. However, that slowdown may be tempered by the fact that hardware components now go in all sorts of devices across a huge range of industries.

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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