Those who wish to work in computer architecture will need to begin with a four-year bachelor's degree in computer science or computer engineering, which will lead to highly developed information in computer architecture. Advanced positions in this field may require a master's degree, which typically takes two years of full-time study to complete. Both undergraduate and graduate degree programs are widely available at colleges and universities, and these programs are often offered online.
Admission to these programs can be competitive. Applicants to bachelor's programs tend to need advanced high school coursework in math. Computer programming experience is helpful, but not usually required. Most graduate programs require GRE scores and possibly work experience, along with a bachelor's degree in a related field.
Bachelor of Science in Computer Science and Engineering
A bachelor's degree program in computer science and engineering is ideal for any undergraduate student who wishes to gain a strong background in the concepts of computer science, mathematics, and engineering. Many programs allow students to select a particular concentration of study, such as information systems, hardware systems, or software systems. A specialization in hardware systems often emphasizes topics related to computer architecture.
Students learn how to design and control the interface between a computer system's software and hardware. The core courses included within a bachelor's degree program in computer science and engineering are often divided up into the areas of mathematics, computer science, engineering, and physics. Courses in the program may include:
- Computer programming
- Discrete structures
- Physics for engineering
- Computer architecture
- Numerical computing and data structures
Master of Science in Computer Science and Engineering
Master's degree programs in computer science and engineering build upon the foundational computer science courses at the baccalaureate level. Many such programs require students to have a basic understanding of computer architecture, computer hardware, and software programs. They often require students to complete either a practical or a research project in the field that focuses on a new type of software program.
Much of the coursework and hands-on, practical assignments are to be completed on an individual basis. Students enrolled in a master's degree program in computer science and engineering complete courses related to programming language principles, advanced systems programming, and software development. Some specific courses might include:
- Computer architecture
- Network design and programming
- Microcomputer programming
- Computer systems programming
- Computational theory
- Distributed computing
Popular Career Options
Individuals who have a strong undergraduate background in computer science and engineering are eligible for various positions within the IT industry. Some of these might include:
- Computer systems engineer
- Computer test engineer
- Network communications manager
- Network architect
Employment Outlook and Salary Info
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), computer network architects are expected to see 9% job growth for the decade 2014-2024 (www.bls.gov). During that same decade, web developers are expected to see 27% job growth and information security analysts are expected to see 18% growth. These growths are considered faster than average. Computer network architects earned a median annual salary of $100,240 in 2015.
In the IT field, certifications are primarily offered through product vendors and software developers. For example, Cisco offers a designation for network architects and master network architects. Some for-profit training institutions might offer certification programs for network architects and engineers.
Bachelor's and master's degree programs in computer science and computer engineering provide a strong foundation for students looking to enter computer architecture careers. Professional certifications are available for network architects, engineers, and others working in this field.