Computer Engineers develop and improve the software programs and hardware that make computers run. Computer Engineers may specialize in either software or hardware.
From operating system software, such as Windows and Linux, to individual computer programs, such as Photoshop and Microsoft Office, Software Engineers turn piles of hardware into fully functional computers. Hardware Engineers develop the hardware of computers, including the motherboards, graphics and audio cards and drives that are later programmed by Software Engineers.
A Day in the Life of a Computer Engineer
Computer Engineers program and maintain games, email programs, software tools for businesses and schools, operating systems and hardware. When something isn’t working with the email client at work or a bug turns up in the latest release of a computer operating system, Computer Engineers use their knowledge of coding and computer frameworks to solve the problem. Computer Engineers work in a variety of settings from corporate offices to schools and government laboratories.
Becoming a Computer Engineer
To become a Computer Engineer, you should consider pursuing a degree in Computer Science or another closely related field. While some Computer Engineers manage to learn the skills they need to succeed without a formal education, the vast majority of competition in the work force have college degrees.
In addition to a formal education, aspiring Computer Engineers should use their free time to keep up on the latest trends and changes in software and hardware development. Familiarity with recently developed software programs, patches, and computer chips is essential because the knowledge base of the Computer Engineering field is constantly evolving to keep up with new technologies.
Computer Engineer Training and Education
A large percentage of Computer Engineers possess at least a bachelor’s degree in computer science or another related field. Most entry-level positions in Computer Engineering require a bachelor’s degree, and it is highly recommended that Computer Engineers continue their education though the master’s level to advance their careers.
Work experience training is often required for entry-level Computer Engineers to advance in a company or other workplace. Computer Engineering students often work on a freelance basis or pursue paid and unpaid internships while in school to build their resumes and increase employment opportunities upon graduation.
Common majors for this field
Computer Engineering is the most common major for Computer Engineers. The second most common major for Computer Engineers is Computer Science. Computer Science takes a more theoretical approach to the information frameworks and codes that make computers work, while Computer Engineering takes a more hands-on, applied approach to the same subject matter. Both majors provide graduates with a solid understanding of computer software and there are excellent Computer Engineers who majored in each one.
Computer Engineer Employment & Outlook
The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts that Computer Hardware Engineer employment will increase by 9% between 2010 and 2020. Computer Software Engineer employment is expected to increase by 12% between 2010 and 2020 (BSL). The difference in employment outlook between these two closely related Computer Engineering fields is due to the fact that software practices and development change at a much faster rate than hardware practices and development.
Typical Computer Engineer Salary
The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) estimates that Computer Hardware Engineers made an annual median salary of $98,810 in 2010. Software Engineers made a considerably lower salary of $71,380 in 2010 (BLS).
Career Advancement Opportunities
Computer Engineers generally have plenty of opportunities for career advancement within their workplaces. Pursuit of a graduate degree in Computer Engineering or a related field can lead to the opportunity to train and teach other Computer Engineers at a college or university. Many Computer Engineers choose to start their own engineering firms or work on a freelance basis as their own bosses.
Is this career the right one for you?
Before deciding if a career in Computer Engineering is right for you, consider taking some courses in Computer Science or Computer Engineering in high school or college.
Additionally, read as many articles on recent developments and topics of interest in the field as you can. By studying the major publications for the Computer Engineering field, you’ll gain a better understanding of the specifics that the job entails. An internship in Computer Engineering is by far the best way to find out if the career is right for you. Most internships offer a variety of experiences in both the software and hardware sides of Computer Engineering.
Are there any Computer Engineer associations?
The IIEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers) Computer Society