Computer engineers rely on the principles and practices of both computer science and electrical engineering to make computers faster, better and more compact. These engineers may also integrate computers into other machines and construct data transfer networks. In computer engineering, professionals have the option to focus on software, hardware, or some combination of the two. Duties of computer engineering jobs typically include:
Designing computer equipment, such as processors, routers and circuit boards
Testing and analyzing computer hardware
Modifying hardware to accommodate new software
Designing software applications and systems according to users' needs
Maintaining and testing software
Instructing programmers on writing code for software
For entry level jobs, computer engineers will need a bachelor's degree from an accredited computer engineering program. While some employers favor graduates of such a program, many will also accept a bachelor's degree in computer science or electrical engineering. Undergraduate coursework will expose students to computer programming, engineering fundamentals, and math. For both computer software and computer hardware engineering, larger firms or more specialized positions may require a master's degree in the field.
Computer Engineering Job Market
The job outlook is drastically different for computer software and computer hardware engineers. For computer hardware engineers, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts 7 percent, or slower than average, growth over the next decade. The sluggish growth is attributed to the fact that innovation applies mostly to software, whereas hardware is relatively stagnant. By contrast, the BLS expects computer software engineers to experience 22 percent, or much faster than average, growth by 2022. That growth stems from the burgeoning demand for computer software, largely due to the proliferation of mobile devices and their associated apps.
Computer Engineering Job Salary Information
Of all engineering specialties, computer engineering jobs typically have some of the highest starting salaries. The BLS reported that in 2013, computer hardware engineers had a mean salary of $106,930. Hardware engineers in the 90th percentile for income made $154,810, while those in the 10th percentile made $64,620.
The salaries for computer software engineers vary according to specialty. For computer software engineers who design systems software, the mean salary was $96,620 in 2013. The highest earning 10 percent of systems software engineers earned $139,930, and the lowest earning 10 percent made $59,600. For computer software engineers who design applications, the mean salary was $87,900.