Career Shadowing

Computer Engineering

What They Do

Definition - A computer engineer has an important job in the world of technology. The basic definition of a computer engineer is one who researches, plans and develops computer operating systems. Computer engineers come in a variety of types as one who is a computer engineer can work with general computer use or deal with computer usage which goes along with a specific job position, such as military, industrial or medical, to name just a few.

Typical Duties - A computer engineer has many specific duties relative to his/her job. One such duty is that the computer engineer must perform research regarding the computer operating systems. This relates not only to the current operating systems which the computer engineer works with but new concepts as well. The computer engineer will perform a wide array of research in relation to operating systems as a whole.

Specialties - Computer engineers have varied duties to fulfill in their job role. In order to complete the various tasks in the best way possible, there are a few traits which are highly desirable for a computer engineer to possess. The first trait which computer engineers should have is good analytical skills. Thorough analysis is something which a computer engineer must partake in on a frequent basis therefore one who has good skills of this type will benefit in the end.

Work Environment

Work Setting - Computer hardware engineers usually work in research laboratories that build and test various types of computer models. Most work in high-tech manufacturing firms.

Work Schedules - Most computer hardware engineers work full time. About 1 in 3 worked more than 40 hours per week in 2012.

Common Injuries - Not relevant.

How To Become One

Education Requirements - Most entry-level computer hardware engineers have a bachelor’s degree in computer engineering, although a degree in electrical engineering or computer science generally is acceptable. A computer engineering major is similar to electrical engineering but with a heavy emphasis on computer science curriculum.

Important Qualities - Analytical skills-Computer hardware engineers analyze complex equipment to determine the best way to improve it.

Creativity-Computer hardware engineers design new types of information technology devices.

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

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.

Speaking skills-Engineers often work on teams and must be able to communicate with other types of engineers as well as with nontechnical team members.

Other Experience - some students participate in internships while in school to gain practical experience.

Advancement - Some computer hardware engineers can advance to become computer and information systems mangers.


Pay - The median annual wage for computer hardware engineers was $100,920 in May 2012. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $63,970, and the top 10 percent earned more than $150,130.

Job Outlook

Employment of computer hardware engineers is projected to grow 7 percent from 2012 to 2022, slower than the average for all occupations. A limited number of engineers will be needed to meet the demand for new computer hardware because more innovation takes place with software than with hardware. Although declining employment in the manufacturing industries that employ many of these workers will negatively affect the growth of this occupation, computer hardware engineers should be less affected than production occupations because firms are less likely to outsource their type of work.

An increase in hardware startup firms and the increase in devices with computer chips embedded in them such as household appliances, medical devices, or automobiles may lead to some job growth for computer hardware engineers.

Similar Occupations

Aerospace Engineers - Bachelor’s degree - $103,720

Computer and Information Research Scientists - Doctoral or professional degree - $102,190

Computer and Information Systems Managers - Bachelor’s degree - $120,950

Computer Network Architects - Bachelor’s degree - $91,000

Computer Programmers - Bachelor’s degree - $74,280

Electrical and Electronics Engineers - Bachelor’s degree - $89,630

Information Security Analysts - Bachelor’s degree - $86,170

Mathematicians - Master’s degree - $101,360

Mechanical Engineers - Bachelor’s degree - $80,580

Software Developers - Bachelor's degree - $93,350



Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition, Computer Hardware Engineers, on the Internet at

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