To qualify for a career in the field of computer hardware, you'll need at least a bachelor's degree. Math, science and electronics should be stressed throughout your curriculum. However, you'll also need good communication skills to perform your duties in an effective, efficient manner.
As computers are advancing, computer hardware engineers are responsible for cramming the most power and memory into the smallest possible spaces. As you might suspect, the study of computer hardware engineering includes lots of math, science and electronics coursework, because it's important to understand hardware down to the electron. However, you'll also have to write a lot on the job, and not just in computer code, which is why students in computer hardware degree programs take writing and communications classes to help them develop all-important communications skills. Some bachelor's programs combine work experience with classroom learning, which can make the degree program last a little longer. Some sample computer hardware engineering coursework includes:
- Digital logic
- Embedded systems
- Assembly language
- Systems programming
- Hardware design
|Career||Database Administrator||Computer Systems Analyst||Computer Hardware Engineer|
|Required Education||Bachelor's degree||Bachelor's degree||Bachelor's degree|
|Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)||11%*||21%*||3%*|
|Median Salary (2015)||$81,710*||$85,800*||$111,730*|
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
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Computer hardware is often taught in computer science and computer engineering programs. In addition to having some computer hardware coursework, some programs feature a specialization in the subject. Students in one these programs learn how to design circuits, chips and complete computing systems. These skills can be applied to careers in computer hardware engineering, computer systems analysis and database administration.
Computer Hardware Engineer
Computer hardware engineers are primarily concerned with designing, managing and testing the hardware components that power computer systems. Some of the components they work with include circuit boards, routers, memory and computer processors. Responsibilities include installation, upgrading and end-user support. Becoming a computer hardware engineer typically involves earning a bachelor's degree related to computer engineering, computer science or electrical engineering, as well as having an understanding of computer programming.
Due in part to more innovations occurring in the software field, computer hardware engineers will see a slower-than-average employment growth rate in the coming years, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). As a qualified computer hardware engineer, you can expect a salary range of about $86,300 to $141,280 per year, depending on your level of expertise and location; these figures represent the earnings of the middle 50% of computer hardware engineers as of May 2015, per the BLS.
Computer Systems Analyst
Computer systems analysts have the responsibility of monitoring and repairing the complex computer systems that form the backbone of our modern information infrastructure. Their responsibilities include research, development and reporting of systems errors. A computer-related bachelor's degree is usually needed to become a computer systems analysts, and having a business background or master's degree in business administration is also helpful.
With the increase in the number of computer systems to handle the immense amounts of information stored and used by today's businesses, computer systems analysts should see strong employment growth over the next few years. The middle 50% of qualified computer systems analysts earned between $66,340 and $109,210 a year as of May 2015, according to the BLS.
Database administrators are responsible for the handling, organizing and storing of information -- a task that has become increasingly important in recent years as the information used by companies has grown significantly. These professionals are also responsibility for the security of data, so they do backups and adjust settings to prevent unauthorized access. Becoming a database administration usually involves having previous experience working with databases and possessing a computer-related bachelor's degree. Knowledge of Structured Query Language (SQL) is also essential.
As a database administrator, you can expect to enjoy above-average growth in employment opportunities. The BLS reported that the middle 50% of database administrators earned between $60,100 and $106,390 per year as of May 2015, depending on experience, location and employer.
Though a bachelor's degree may qualify you for a position in the computer hardware field, possibly because of the complex nature of the field, appropriate work experience and/or an additional degree such as an MBA may prove helpful. Though employment opportunities for the lucrative field of computer hardware engineer are projected to increase at a slower rate than the national average for all occupations, those for database administrators and computer systems analysts are expected to increase at a faster and much faster rate than the national average, respectively.