Computer Hardware Engineers Overview
The job outlook for computer hardware engineers is expected to be good as employment is projected to grow at an average rate. Starting salaries for computer hardware engineers are typically some of the highest compared to other careers. Most entry-level positions require a bachelor’s degree in engineering, though some research positions require a masters degree. Continuing education for computer hardware engineers is a must as technology is constantly changing.
Nature of the Work for Computer Hardware Engineers
The principles of math and science are used by computer hardware engineers to develop economical solutions to technical problems. They link scientific discoveries with commercial applications to meet consumer needs.
Many computer hardware engineers develop new products. They consider several factors during the process including, functional requirements, design, testing and the overall cost, reliability, safety and effectiveness.
In addition to development and design, computer hardware engineers often work in maintenance, testing or production. They may determine causes of malfunctions, test for quality or supervise factory production. Supervises oversee entire projects or major components.
Computers are used by computer hardware engineers extensively to simulate system operations, analyze and produce designs, monitor quality and control efficiency. Nanotechnology also comes into play as it introduces new principles to the design process.
Computer hardware engineers are responsible for the design, development, research, testing and supervision of the manufacture and installation of computer hardware including computer systems, circuit boards, computer chips and related equipment like printers and routers. Similar to the job of electronics engineers, computer hardware engineers also design and test circuits and other electronic components. The difference is that computer hardware engineers only work on those components as it relates to computers and related equipment. These computer hardware engineers are largely responsible for the rapid advances in computer technology through their research, design and development efforts.
Typically, computer hardware engineers work in a lab, office or factory. They may travel extensively to worksites here and abroad.
Most computer hardware engineers work a standard 40-hour workweek, except when deadline pressure call for longer hours.
Training, Other Qualifications and Advancement for Computer Hardware Engineers
Usually computer hardware engineers must have a bachelor’s degree in engineering for entry-level positions. However, natural science majors and mathematics majors can occasionally find work in high demand specialties. Engineering degrees are offered in mechanical engineering, civil engineering and electrical and electronics engineering. Computer hardware engineers choose one branch to major in and then can later find work in other areas as the job market changes.
Most programs for computer hardware engineers include courses in general engineering, mathematics, sciences, computers, laboratory classes, social sciences and humanities.
Beyond the standard 4-year engineering bachelor’s degree, many colleges offer 2- year engineering technology degrees as well as 4-year engineering technology degrees. These programs offer a hands-on approach to learning current issues in engineering applications rather than the scientific or theoretical side. Graduates of these 4-year programs often find similar jobs to computer hardware engineers with bachelor’s degrees. However, the often aren’t eligible for licenses and employers view their skill levels as somewhere between a technician and an engineer.
For faculty or research and development jobs, computer hardware engineers usually need a graduate degree. Many computer hardware engineers go back to school to earn a masters degree in business administration or a masters degree in engineering to broaden their knowledge or learn new technology.
A license is required in all 50 states for those computer hardware engineers who will offer their services directly to the public. To become a professional engineer (PE) computer hardware engineers must graduate from a program accredited by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET), have 4 years of related work experience and pass an exam. Recent grads can start the process right away by taking one half of the exam for an engineer intern title. Then with suitable work experience they can take part two for the license.
Other helpful skills for computer hardware engineers include being creative, detail oriented, inquisitive and analytical. Computer hardware engineers should be able to work on a team and communication skills – both oral and written – should be top notch.
Entry-level computer hardware engineers usually work closely with an experienced engineer to gain experience and knowledge. Some larger companies also offer on the job training in the form of classes and seminars. Once skills are built, computer hardware engineers can take on more challenging projects. Later they may advance to technical specialist or supervisory positions. Some computer hardware engineers also move into sales or managerial positions.
There are several professional certifications available to computer hardware engineers and they’re often beneficial to workers looking to become managers or senior technical engineers.
Top 10 Most Popular Computer Engineering Schools
1. Carnegie Mellon University (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania)
2. University of California, San Diego (La Jolla, California)
3. Westwood College (Multiple Campus Locations)
4. Marquette University (Milwaukee, Wisconsin)
5. Universidad Politecnica de Puerto Rico (San Juan, Puerto Rico)
6. Temple University (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania)
7. Lawrence Technological University (Southfield, Michigan)
8. Johnson C Smith University (Charlotte, North Carolina)
9. Gaston College, Dallas (Dallas, North Carolina)
10. Lake Superior State University (Sault Sainte Marie, Michigan)
See All Computer Engineering Schools
Most Popular Online Computer Engineering Schools
1. University of Phoenix - Online School
2. Colorado Technical University - Online School
3. Walden University - Online School
4. Capella University - Online School
5. New England Institute of Technology - Online School
6. Western Governors University
Employment and Job Outlook for Computer Hardware Engineers
Number of People in Profession
Changing Employment (2008-2018)
Employment is projected to decline slowly or moderately (decrease 3 - 9%)
About 1.6 million engineers are working and 74,700 are computer hardware engineers. Most engineering jobs are found in manufacturing industries and the professional, scientific and technical services industries. Though many are also found in telecommunications, construction and wholesale trade, too. Government agencies employed 12 percent of engineers while 3 percent were self-employed.
Even though engineering jobs overall are expected to grow at an average rate, computer hardware engineers are only expected to grow about 4 percent over the next decade, which is slower than average compared to all occupations. The use of computer and information technology is expanding rapidly, but intense foreign competition is expected to adversely affect the manufacture of computer hardware and thus the job market for computer hardware engineers. Computer and semiconductor manufacturers are contracting more and more of the engineering need out to foreign and domestic design firms. Therefore, must of the growth for computer hardware engineers will take place in the computer systems design and related services industry.
Continuing education throughout one’s career is very important for computer hardware engineers. Employers value their knowledge of the latest technology and expect computer hardware engineers to use that expertise to find the best solutions and offer the greatest value. Those who haven’t keep current in the field will be at a disadvantage when it comes time for layoffs, promotions or a new job.
Earnings and Salary for Computer Hardware Engineers
The median annual salaries for computer hardware engineers are $98,820. The highest 10 percent earn above $148,910, the lowest 10 percent earn $60,690 and the middle 50 percent earn between $77,280 and $124,120. Computer hardware engineers earn average starting salaries of $61,738, one of the highest of all starting salary offers among those holding bachelor’s degrees.
Annual Salary for Computer Hardware Engineers
On average, Computer Hardware Engineers earn $98,820 per year.
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook