Becoming a Computer Science Engineer
This job title can refer to individuals working as computer hardware engineers, computer software applications engineers, or computer systems engineers. In general, they design elements that help computers operate. They may develop computer chips, create software programs that help computer systems run, or design software applications. Many of their work hours may be spent sitting at a desk and looking at a computer screen.
|Degree Level||Bachelor's degree most common; some positions require a master's degree|
|Degree Field||Computer engineering technology, computer science, information systems, or other related field|
|Experience||2 to 5 years of experience usually required|
|Certification||Voluntary certifications available|
|Key Skills||Critical-thinking, communication skills, computer knowledge, creativity, analytical skills and problem-solving|
|Median Salary (2015)*||$111,730 per year (for all computer hardware engineers)|
Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, O*Net OnLine, Online Job Postings (August 2015), Payscale.com
Step 1: Choose an Area of Focus
It may be helpful for prospective computer science engineers to decide whether they want to focus on hardware of software engineering, as this can determine what degree program or elective courses to choose. For example, classes that deal with microprocessor architecture and electronic circuits may be more beneficial in the hardware engineering discipline, as computer hardware engineers typically create blueprints for new hardware and update existing hardware components. Conversely, software engineers may oversee a company's computer operation systems platform. So a program of study that offers coursework in software applications and operating systems would be more beneficial to software engineers.
Step 2: Earn a Bachelor's Degree
A bachelor's degree in computer science, computer engineering, or a related field can help prepare students for a career in computer science engineering. In these programs, students learn about the theoretical and practical aspects of computer engineering, the mathematical foundations of computing, and computer hardware and software development techniques. Classes in these programs may cover topics like operating systems concepts, artificial intelligence, database systems, programming languages, electronic circuits, and software engineering.
To really get the most out of your degree program, complete an internship. Computer-related bachelor's degree programs commonly offer internship programs, thereby giving students the opportunity to gain additional knowledge and practical experience.
Additionally, you may consider concentrating your studies. Some bachelor's degree programs allow students to concentrate their studies in an area such as software engineering. Students planning to work in a specific area of computer engineering, such as software application engineering, may find that concentrating their studies in that area improves their employment prospects.
Step 3: Continue Education With a Master's Degree
Engineers, particularly those work with computer hardware, may be required to have a master's degree if they work for a large company or perform specialized tasks, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. This may be a degree in a computer or business administration field. Some schools offer joint programs, a Master of Science in Computer Science/Master of Business Administration.
Step 4: Consider Becoming Certified
Several organizations offer credentials to experienced computer professionals. For example, the Institute for the Certification of Computing Professionals offers the Certified Computing Professional credential to individuals with 2 to 4 years of work experience, depending on education level. Possessing a professional certification may increase an engineer's opportunity to advance to a more senior-level role, like that of a computer and information systems manager.
You may also want to consider earning a government clearance. Some employers may prefer to hire workers who are able to obtain and maintain a government clearance. Acquiring a government clearance usually includes undergoing a background check.
To recap, with the completion of a bachelor's degree program in computer engineering or science and several years of experience, computer science engineers can earn around $112,000 to develop computer chips, create software programs that help computer systems run, or design software applications.