Computer engineers are in demand in many industries, including the military, and they can find jobs in software development and data analysis. There is also a growing need for computer engineers in the medical field, where they often work on imaging technologies or designing new surgical instruments.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BIS) reported that employment rose by about 10% between 2014 and 2024, with an estimated 62,400 new jobs opening up each year over this period. The BIS predicts that computer engineering will be one of the fastest-growing occupations over the next decade – at least 9%, more than double the national average predicted growth rate of 4%.
If you want to learn more about what it takes to become a successful computer engineer, scroll down and discover how to become a computer engineer.
1. What Is a Computer Engineer?
Computer engineers design and create software, hardware, networks, and computer systems. Computer engineers are often called “computer scientists” or “software developers.” They work in many different industries, including manufacturing, finance, healthcare, transportation. Their goal is to make computers easier to use by solving problems like making it possible for people to type words on a screen instead of using a keyboard (like the first computer).
Computer engineers also test their ideas through experiments before building them into products or services. For example: If you want to know how much space it would take for all the information stored on your hard drive, if you were storing 1 gigabyte per square inch of the surface area of your storage device’s platters–a standard measurement, used today–you might Google it. But if you wanted to know how much space it takes for all the information stored on your cell phone, you would need to ask a computer engineer (or do the math yourself).
Computer engineers also need to understand human behavior and be able to talk with others–they are good at communicating their ideas through written documents, visual aids like posters and drawings, and oral presentations.
Computer engineers often develop new ways to solve problems by thinking of novel ideas or fresh approaches. That’s why they spend time inventing new things–like a new kind of car part or a better way to transport packages through the air.
Computer engineers typically need a bachelor’s degree in computer science, electrical engineering, or a related engineering field, and some employers may require a master’s degree.
Some colleges and universities offer a five-year combined bachelor’s and master’s degree program in computer engineering. After completing a four-year bachelor’s degree program, students in such a program would study for an additional year to earn their master’s degree.
A few colleges and universities also offer a three-year bachelor’s degree program in computer engineering. In this program, students would study for an extra year to earn a master’s degree in either computer science, electrical engineering, or another engineering field.
A bachelor’s degree in computer engineering prepares students for the design and development of computers, digital systems, controllers, microprocessors, and all kinds of other electrical systems.
In addition to being knowledgeable about electronics and hardware and how these devices communicate with each other and with people (such as through a graphical user interface), computer engineers must understand software. Computer engineers are typically responsible for developing and integrating hardware and software components into a fully functional computer system.
Computer engineering students typically complete courses in calculus, linear algebra, statistics, probability theory, differential equations, circuits, solid-state physics, computer architecture, electrical engineering principles (including digital design), VLSI design, computer engineering design (including digital systems and microprocessors), general courses in mathematics, chemistry, writing (including communication skills), undergraduate laboratory courses.
3. The Job of a Computer Engineer
Computer engineers can design either commercial or defense electrical/computer products. The following are examples of tasks that may be assigned to computer engineers:
* Developing software programs to control and integrate different kinds of electrical systems.
* Developing or analyzing computer models that predict the performance and behavior of integrated circuits, microprocessors, and other types of electronic devices under a variety of operating conditions.
* Drafting specifications for digital circuits, networks, controllers, small-scale computers (microcomputers), and networking devices.
* Developing specifications for the physical size, weight, shape, performance levels (speed), reliability, security features (for computers or computer software programs), power consumption levels, environmental conditions (e.g., temperature ranges) of equipment such as desktop computers, laptop computers, workstations, mobile devices, embedded systems, routers, switches, printers, servers, mainframe computers, supercomputers.
* Evaluating design specifications for electrical/computer products components concerning cost limitations and performance requirements.
Computer engineers are employed in many sectors of the economy, including software development companies, government organizations (i.e., defense), electronics firms, computer manufacturers, telecommunications companies, consulting firms, financial institutions, large corporations.
4. Job Opportunities Available to Computer Engineers
The job of a computer engineer is to design and develop computers, digital systems, controllers, microprocessors, and other electrical systems.
Computer engineers are also responsible for developing and integrating hardware and software components into a fully functional computer system.
Some of the job titles held by computer engineers include:
* Computer systems engineer
* Electrical engineer (specializing in computers)
* Hardware designer/engineer (for computers or other electronic devices)
* Network design specialist (for computer networks)
* Network engineer (designing and maintaining computer networks)
* Operating systems specialist (for designing and developing operating systems for computers or other electronic devices)
* Programmer/software developer (for computer software programs; may specialize in designing and developing operating systems, compilers, network communication software programs, web servers, multimedia applications).
* Research and development (R&D) engineer (for designing, developing, testing new computer hardware/electrical systems; may specialize in certain types of electrical/computer technologies such as electronics or telecommunications).
5. Salary of a Computer Engineer
Computer engineers are knowledgeable people who use their intelligence to design, build, program and maintain computer software. They also work with hardware that is related to the operation of computers. The median salary for a computer engineer in the US is $78,000 per year as of 2017.
The lower 10 percent of computer engineers make an average salary of $58,000 per year. The middle 50 percent make between $64,000 and $90,000 annually. And the top 90 percent make over $100,000 each year.
A computer engineer with less than five years’ experience can expect to earn an average salary in the range of $57,000 to $67,000 per year. An experienced engineer can expect to make between $83,000 and $98,000 annually, while a computer engineer with over 20 years’ experience will make around $101,000 per year.
6. Top Skills Needed by Computer Engineers
Computer engineers are needed in almost every technological field. They need to succeed in their field are creativity, analytical thinking, critical thinking, and problem-solving. Understanding and using computers and computer systems is also an essential skill that one must possess to work in this field. An engineer’s essential skill is communication; if not essential, you need to communicate with your co-workers, supervisors, managers, clients, etc. You also need to be able to communicate your ideas and designs, both in written forms and orally. You also require thinking of new ways that can help solve problems.
Computer engineers work with the use of computers daily. This type of engineer is more focused on hardware than software because these are the people who put together the new devices that we use regularly. These engineers work differently than those who create software for computers because their focus is more on putting together a machine rather than adding to it or working with what is already there. However, the computer engineering industry does need both types of engineers.
Most of these engineers are self-employed or hired by tech companies who need to create new machines. The tech industry employs the most computer engineers, so you must know the tech industry if you are interested in being a computer engineer. It will be much easier for you to look for a job in this line of work if you have experience in the field.
7. Future Career Prospects of Computer Engineering
The field of computer engineering has seen a rise in popularity, as it is one of the fastest-growing fields.
Computer engineers are responsible for developing and implementing computing technologies. This includes hardware design, software development, networking, operating systems design, and more. Computer engineers utilize both creative and analytical skills to solve problems in these areas. They have no set career path that they follow but instead work on projects based on their interests or what needs to be done at any given time by an organization employing them.
One thing is for sure: the demand for computer engineers will only continue to grow as new technologies are developed, which makes this an excellent field for those looking into STEM careers.
8. What’s the Difference Between a Software Engineer and a Computer Engineer?
The two most common usages of the terms “software engineer” and “computer engineer” are for different engineers with different specialties. A software engineer typically works on designing, coding, testing, and debugging computer programs that allow a computer to carry out particular tasks or functions. Computer engineers usually develop hardware technologies such as semiconductors or operating systems. Software engineering is not limited to any industry; it can include developing applications for medical devices, aerospace equipment, transportation infrastructure, business management systems – anything where an application needs to be designed and coded to run on a computer. “Computer engineering is only used when referring to the design of computers themselves, not for designing an application that runs on a computer, or any other electronic device.”
9. Top Recruiting Companies for Computer Engineers
Several organizations recruit computer engineers. Some of the most notable software engineer jobs include IBM, Apple, Microsoft, and Google.
IBM is one of the largest technology companies globally, with over 380,000 employees worldwide. They have been around since 1911 and specialize in IT services, consulting, and systems management. Most people think about an IBM office as an ample space filled with cubicles where you will find hundreds or thousands of folks quietly going about their days doing their job while speaking on headsets to other offices across the globe.
Apple is another huge company with over 120 billion dollars in revenue last year alone (a new record). It is best known for its computers (the Mac) but has become increasingly popular with smartphones and tablets.
Google was founded by two students in 1998 as a research project out of Stanford University. Since then, they have grown into one of the most popular search engines on the internet. They also have many projects that offer web applications, mobile devices, gaming consoles, and much more.
Microsoft is an IT company that produces software and hardware for desktops, laptops, and mobile devices. The company has been around since 1975 and is currently headed by Sat ya Nadella (the ex-CEO of Microsoft’s cloud department).
Other companies in the top recruitment companies are IBM, Dell, Cisco, Intel, etc.
10. Best Colleges to Study Computer Engineering
If you want to study computer engineering, these are the best colleges for you. The following are the top 10 colleges ranked by Forbes in 2018 for computer engineering. The following are the top-ranked schools below.
- Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)
- Stanford University
- California Institute of Technology (Caltech)
- Harvey Mudd College
- Princeton University
- Harvard University
- University of Pennsylvania
- Carnegie Mellon University (CMU)
- Cornell University
- Georgia Institute of Technology
If you’ve been considering a career in the field of computer engineering, we hope this article has helped to provide some insight into what it takes. A degree is typically not enough; you need experience and expertise with specific programming languages like Java or C++. Usually, people who want to get started learning more can enroll in an online course that teaches coding basics for free, such as MIT’s Introduction to Computer Science and Programming. You may be able to find other resources through your school library or local community center.