What Can I Do with a Computer Engineering Degree | Careers & Salaries

Do you want to become a computer engineer? Do you want to know more about computer engineering education and career path? Then, you are definitely in the right place.

We have put together basic information on computer engineering degrees, majors, computer engineering online degrees, careers, jobs, salaries, and many more.

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Also, get answers to some of the FAQs on Computer Engineering such as:

  • what is computer engineering?
  • what does a computer engineer do?
  • how to become a computer engineer?

Before we go further, it will be best we understand the history of what computer engineering is in its entirety.

What Is Computer Engineering?

Computer engineering is a branch of engineering that integrates several fields of computer science and electronic engineering necessary for the development of computer hardware and software.

Computer engineering exists at the intersection of technology and innovation. As a dynamic professional field, it offers diverse career paths in both hardware engineering (e.g. microprocessors) and software development, each of which promotes computing advances in industries ranging from aerospace to healthcare.

History of Computer Engineering

Computer engineering began in 1939 when John Vincent Atanasoff and Clifford Berry began developing the world’s first electronic digital computer through physicsmathematics, and electrical engineering.

John Vincent Atanasoff was once a physics and mathematics professor for Iowa State University and Clifford Berry a former graduate in electrical engineering and physics.

Together, they created the Atanasoff-Berry computer, also known as the ABC which took 5 years to complete. However, the original ABC was dismantled and discarded in the 1940s, and a tribute was made to the late inventors. Then, a replica of the ABC was made in 1997 where it took a team of researchers and engineers four years and $350,000 to build.

Computer Engineering Education

Computer engineering combines computer science and electrical engineering knowledge to further advancements in digital technology, computer networking, and computer systems. At some universities, they refer to it as computer science and engineering.

Computer Engineering Basics

Computer engineers use their in-depth knowledge of hardware and software design and computer programming to make IT platforms and applications more efficient. By seamlessly integrating the latest innovations, computer engineers:

  • develop new hardware,
  • design and implement software applications, and
  • enhance the capabilities of networks and communication systems.

Computer Engineering In-depth 

Computer engineers work with hardware and software, ensuring that both are fully integrated and work properly. They focus on innovation, making computing systems safer, faster, and more powerful.

At the career level, there are two main paths: hardware and software engineering.

Hardware engineers focus on computer systems and components, microprocessor design, circuit boards, routers, and other integrated devices. With respect to software, they create, test, and debug programs and applications running on computers, mobile devices, and so on.

Check out these computer engineering scholarships that you can partake in.

Computer Engineering Job Growth And Prospect

According to CompTIA, given the growing need for technological breakthroughs, it is not surprising that approximately 38% of technology professionals work in the areas of computer engineering (hardware (27%) and software (11%)).

However, between these two paths, the perspective of hardware engineers is slightly moderated compared to that of software engineers.

Also, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the employment of software developers is projected to grow 24 percent from 2016 to 2026. This is much faster than the average for all occupations.

This high demand for Software developers is to respond to the increasing demand for computer software. Furthermore, the factors responsible for this growth include

  • Emerging industries,
  • massive capital investments by venture capitalists in new technology companies, and
  • Growing demand for mobile technologies.

On the other hand, the career growth for computer hardware engineers is to grow 5 percent from 2016 to 2026, about as fast as the average for all occupations.

Due to this, very few engineers will be needed to meet the demand for new computer hardware because more technological innovation takes place with software than with hardware.

Notwithstanding, computer engineers with a master’s degree or higher should have the best prospects.


How to Become A Computer Engineer

In this section, you will get to know the required steps to becoming a computer engineer.

Just like every other career, great attention to detail is of the essence in the computer engineering field. This is due to the job description of computer engineers. These professionals study minutiae, test tiny elements like processors and detect software errors or failures.

Computer engineers must not only consider details when looking at physical structures or lines of code, but they must also be patient and persistent in problem-solving.

While computer engineers can focus on small parts of computers or programming languages, technology is an evolving field, meaning that their efforts can be powerful and have an impact on all industries.

With a growing and insatiable desire for technological advancement, both from businesses and consumers, the need for trained, skilled, and qualified computer engineering professionals seems to have no limit.

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However, becoming a top-notch computer engineer requires a thorough college education that can last from four to seven years.

  • During the first two years of a bachelor’s degree program, students typically complete prerequisite computer engineering and general education courses.
  • The last two years are for the basic classes of computer science, electrical engineering, and mathematics. Students typically study software, hardware, networks, and security.
  • Also, many employers prefer engineers with higher degrees, which means two more years of mastery to qualify for these jobs.
  • Finally, if professional goals include applied research or a career in academia, a Ph.D. in computer engineering may be the answer.

Also, according to the Bureau of Statistics, most computer hardware engineers need a bachelor’s degree from an accredited computer engineering program. Notwithstanding, below are the requirements of becoming a computer engineer:

  • Education
  • Experience
  • Important Qualities

Education

Most beginner computer hardware engineers have a bachelor’s degree in computer engineering. Notwithstanding,  a degree in electrical engineering or computer engineering is also generally acceptable. A computer engineering major is similar to an electrical engineering major but puts a lot of emphasis on computer science.

  • Earn An Associate Degree

This is optional and for students who:

  • wish to take a direct entry training program, or
  • can not complete a four-year program initially.

An associate degree program in computer science or a related field at a community college or trade school can be a solid first step. In addition, students must ensure that the courses they complete in the two-year associate degree program will transfer to a four-year undergraduate program.

  • Earn A Bachelor’s Degree

Generally, most employers expect software engineers to have at least a bachelor’s degree, while companies hiring hardware engineers traditionally seek applicants with a master’s degree. Bachelor’s degree programs allow students to complete a comprehensive education in computer engineering while concentrating their studies in either hardware or software specializations.

Many engineering programs are accredited by ABET (Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology). Employers may prefer candidates who have graduated from an accredited program (Search for ABET-accredited programs HERE). To prepare for a major in computer or electrical engineering, students should have a solid background in mathematics and science.

Because hardware engineers commonly work with computer software systems, a familiarity with computer programming is usually expected. You can obtain this background through computer science courses.

Advanced Study

With a bachelor’s degree, graduates can get a basic job in software engineering. However, better-paying positions and software management jobs typically call for a master’s degree. This is not the same for Hardware engineers as most of them usually return to college for post-graduate work.

Those who want to rise to leadership or management roles pursue masters of business administration (MBA) degrees with a technology focus. Pay increases are often linked to continuing education, and engineers are curious enough to want to be aware of technological advances.

In many cases, your employer may contribute to ongoing education fees. A doctorate can be an advantageous degree for engineers who want to teach at the university level or conduct advanced research at a university-sponsored laboratory. Engineers with a PhD in information technology can advance to management workplace roles such as

  • IT strategist,
  • chief technology officer, or
  • chief information officer.

Nevertheless, all engineers must continue their learning over the course of their careers in order to keep up with rapid advances in technology.

Experience

Some students participate in internships during their studies in order to gain practical experience.

Computer engineering experience is important for many reasons. It can point professionals to a new field study direction that leads to discovery or advancement. It may also be important for anyone considering a Professional Engineer (PE) license, although licensing requirements vary from state to state.

Generally, you do not need to become a PE in computer  to work according to the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) – United States (2015), unless the computer engineer:

  • Works as a consultant
  • Stamps or signs engineering documents for public firms or agencies that make services available to the public

If becoming EP is important, the experience is a necessity. In fact, you must have at least four years of experience under the supervision of other qualified engineers to be able to seek the PE designation.

Important Qualities

  • Analytical skills

Computer hardware engineers use computer programming tools to analyze the digital circuits in hardware to determine the best design.

  • Critical-thinking skills

These engineers use logic and reasoning to clarify goals, examine assumptions, and identify the strengths and weaknesses of alternative solutions.

  • Problem-solving skills

Computer hardware engineers identify complex problems in computer hardware, develop and evaluate possible solutions, and figure out the best way to implement them.

  • Communication skills

Engineers often work on teams and must be able to communicate with other types of engineers, software developers, and programmers, as well as with nontechnical team members.


Computer Engineering Degree Options

Computer engineering degrees are available in both campus and online formats and range from two-year associate degree programs to advanced graduate studies at the doctoral level.

The instruction varies from a specific career, such as an associate’s degree in electronic technology, to doctoral programs focused on research in digital signal processing.

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Each academic step offers students the opportunity not only to improve their existing skills but also to develop knowledge and skills in new or more specialized areas. Below is a general description of the major types of computer engineering degrees.

Associate Degrees in Computer Engineering

At the associate degree level, potential students can choose between two paths: electronics and computer science or pre-engineering, with a focus on computer science and electrical engineering.

An associate in electronics and computer technology offers a career-oriented curriculum that allows students to either continue their studies at the bachelor’s degree level or pursue entry-level employment opportunities after graduation. A pre-engineering degree is for students wishing to transfer to a four-year university to obtain a degree in computer engineering.

Both options are designed to introduce students to the fundamentals of computer engineering and electronic design, including programming, communications, and networks, electronic systems, hardware and software, electronic systems, computer science instrumentation as well as maintenance and repair.

For example, students may take courses in subjects such as computer architecture, object-oriented programming, circuit theory, network and Internet technologies, and digital electronics.

Students can complete these programs in two or three years and generally require between 65 and 72 credit hours to graduate, depending on the school and program.

Courses Offered include:

  • Networking and Internet Technologies
    CE Skills & Knowledge Gained  
    • Structure query language (SQL)
    • Internet applications
    • Relational databases
  • Object-Oriented Programming
    CE Skills & Knowledge Gained  
    • Object-oriented programming
    • Data abstractions
    • C++ and Java
    • Algorithm analysis, design, and implementation
  • Data Communication and Networking
      CE Skills & Knowledge Gained
    • Data security
    • Signal processing
    • TCP/IP communication
    • Internet protocol (IP)
    • Client-server API
  • C++ Programming
    CE Skills & Knowledge Gained
    • C++
    • Functions
    • Arrays
    • Loops
    • Variables

Bachelor’s Degrees in Computer Engineering

At the bachelor’s level, there are several Bachelor’s degrees, including:

  • Bachelor of Computer Science and Engineering (BSCSE),
  • A Bachelor of Science in Computer Engineering (BSCE), and
  • Bachelor of Science in Computer Engineering Technology (BSCET).

While the curriculum varies by program type, each presents a balanced approach to computer engineering study with a focus on the design, integration, and support of computer hardware, software, and network systems.

Typically, they require between 120 and 128-semester credits, the program is divided into general education and computer engineering.

In general, students develop foundational technical skills by studying programming languages, databases, computer and network architecture, and electromechanical systems.

System software, digitally integrated circuit design, microcomputer systems, and electrical and computer engineering design are examples of specific areas of study.

Some universities allow students to individualize their studies through a concentration of programs in software, hardware and related fields such as robotics, web technologies, information assurance, and web design.

  • Advanced Programming
    CE Skills & Knowledge Gained  
    • Problem definition and program design
    • Algorithm programming
    • UNIX, PHP, C languages
  •  Embedded Systems
    CE Skills & Knowledge Gained
  • Multi-threaded programming
  • Assembly language programming
  • Computer organization
  • I/O interfaces
  • Applied Programming
    CE Skills & Knowledge Gained  
    • MATLAB language and environment
    • Input/output programming
    • Top-down design
    • Mathematical operations
  • Mobile Application Development
    CE Skills & Knowledge Gained  
    • Mobile application platforms
    • Mobile application programming
    • User interface
    • Mobile software development kits
    • Memory management
    • Data storage

Masters Degree In Computer Engineering

The master’s degree in computer engineering is designed to prepare students for further studies at the doctoral level or career advancement. Master’s programs are available both on-campus and online. Depending on their professional and educational goals, students may choose between a Master of Science degree in Computer Engineering or a Master’s degree in Computer Engineering.

Generally speaking, the MSc program is a research-based study program that requires students to complete an independent survey that concludes with a thesis project. The Master in Engineering is a professional-oriented curriculum that aims to enable students to explore professional interests both in and out of computer engineering. However, both types of masters have a rigorous curriculum and allow students to focus their program in specialized areas such as:

  • hardware and computer architecture,
  • computer communications and networks,
  • software,
  • cybersecurity,
  • VSLI design, and computer-aided design
  • energy systems.

To graduate, students normally earn between 30 and 33-semester credits, which is generally equivalent to about two years of full-time study.

  • Distributed Computing CE Skills & Knowledge Gained
    • Distributed algorithms
    • Resource allocation
    • Byzantine agreement
  • Advanced Computer Networks
    CE Skills & Knowledge Gained
    • Complex network systems
    • Network visualization
    • Mobility issues
  • Computer Architecture
    CE Skills & Knowledge Gained  
    • Trends in processor and memory design
    • Quantitative analysis
    • High-performance processors
    • Memory hierarchies
  • VSLI Design
    CE Skills & Knowledge Gained
    • MOS transistors
    • VSLI design techniques
    • Low power digital design
    • CMOS technology
    • Computer-aided design
Doctoral Degree in Computer Engineering

Doctoral studies in computer engineering prepare students for careers in applied research, universities, the private sector, and government. In addition to meeting the requirements of the master’s degree, doctoral candidates must also complete an additional credit of 32 to 36 semesters to graduate.

Fields of study are traditionally driven by student interest and the research areas of the faculty and can cover a multitude of aspects in computer science theory, software, hardware, and computer applications.

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Examples of research range from nanotechnology to bioelectrical engineering, mobile computing, and bioinformatics. Obtaining a Ph.D. in computer engineering typically ends with a research exam, in-depth examinations, a dissertation, and a successful defense of the thesis before a committee of graduates.

Ph.D. Level Skills
  • Technical Competence
  • Effective Communication
  • Research
  • Problem Solving

Computer Engineering Online Degree

Obtaining an online bachelor’s degree in computer engineering, or its equivalent gives students an incredibly high return on their investment and gives graduates access to a large number of work environments where their experience is required.

We have a list of top 5 online computer engineering degree programs ranked according to a methodology of:

  • It provides undergraduates with exciting opportunities to design and build their own projects in creative online environments.
  • Professors are well-experienced scientists and engineers who pass on a great deal of knowledge to diverse student populations.
  • Adequate accreditation in the field of computer engineering.
  • Financial Aid availability, Grants and Scholarships, Military Aid.
  • Prestige and notability as an online school according to reputable journalistic and academic resources,
  • Programs designed to educate each student on the fundamentals needed to gain an entry-level job within the field of Computer Engineering,
  • Ease of transfer credits for continued education, such as a Master’s degree program,
  • Provides practical, leadership and technical skills need to excel in the field,
  • Integrates new technologies used today in the field of Computer Engineering.

List of top computer engineering online degree programs


Career And Salary Projections For Computer Engineers

As a future computer engineer, you will want to know the average annual salary of professionals and job growth in the field. The salaries of computer hardware engineers and software developers are relatively generous, with an average salary of almost $ 100,000 or more in both occupations.

Job Outlook – Computer Hardware Engineers

According to BLS, the employment of computer hardware engineers is projected to grow 5 percent from 2016 to 2026, about as fast as the average for all occupations.

This is compared to an expected 7 percent average growth across all occupations in the U.S. With this, the career outlook of computer hardware engineers could be best for those with a graduate-level degree and some knowledge of computer software.

Salary – Computer Hardware Engineers

From the April 2019 report of the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, computer hardware engineers earned a median annual wage of $114,600 in May 2018. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less.  The highest wages in the field were earned by people working in computer systems design and related services, followed by those in computer and peripheral equipment manufacturing.

In May 2018, the median annual wages for computer hardware engineers in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Research and development in the physical, engineering, and life sciences$128,340
Computer and peripheral equipment manufacturing126,610
Semiconductor and other electronic component manufacturing119,540
Federal government113,430
Computer systems design and related services109,400

Job Outlook – Software Developers

According to BLS, employment of software developers is projected to grow 24 percent from 2016 to 2026, much faster than the average for all occupations. Software developers will be needed to respond to an increased demand for computer software. With this, the career outlook could be best for software developers who know at least one or more computer programming languages.

Salary – Software Developers

From the April 2019 report of the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage for software developers, applications was $103,620 in May 2018.

The lowest 10 percent earned less than $61,660, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $161,290.

The median annual wage for software developers, systems software was $110,000 in May 2018. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $66,740, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $166,960.

In May 2018, the median annual wages for software developers, applications in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Software publishers$114,320
Manufacturing110,290
Finance and insurance107,960
Management of companies and enterprises104,420
Computer systems design and related services100,080

In May 2018, the median annual wages for software developers, systems software in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Manufacturing$118,900
Engineering services113,250
Finance and insurance111,380
Software publishers110,920
Computer systems design and related services108,790

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