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Computer Hardware Engineer: Career Info & Requirements

Learn about what education a computer hardware engineer needs. Explore salary and necessary skills as well as job duties and employment outlook to determine if this is the right career for you.

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Career Definition for a Computer Hardware Engineer

The rapid improvements seen in computer technology are largely due to the work of computer hardware engineers. The responsibilities of a computer hardware engineer may include designing and testing new keyboards, computer chips or printers or overseeing the manufacturing of these types of items. A computer hardware engineer usually works indoors in a typical office or laboratory and has a traditional 40-hour work week.

Education Bachelor's degree in computer engineering, electrical engineering or related field; some positions may require a master's degree
Job Skills Analytical, creative, communication, detail oriented
Median Salary (2015)* $111,730 (all computer hardware engineers)
Job Growth (2014-2024)* 3% (all computer hardware engineers)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Education Required

A 4-year degree in computer engineering, electrical engineering or a related field is required for most jobs in computer hardware engineering; however, a master's degree may be necessary for some specialties, supervisory or high-ranking positions with cutting-edge companies. Coursework for the student computer hardware engineer will cover such topics as engineering electronics, electric circuits, computer design and statistics for engineers.

Skills Required

Those with successful careers in computer hardware engineering are usually creative, analytically-minded and detail-oriented people who enjoy being part of a team. Because computer hardware engineers must relate with people from a variety of fields, good interpersonal skills are also important.

Career and Economic Outlook

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects jobs for computer hardware engineers to grow slower than average at 3%, from 2014-2024 when compared to other occupations, partly due to foreign competition. The BLS reported median annual earnings of $111,730 in 2015 for computer hardware engineers with the highest 10% of earners making $167,100 or more yearly.

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  • Computer Engineering Technologies, General
  • Computer Hardware
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Alternative Careers

A degree program in computer science or engineering can prepare you for a variety of occupations, including designing computer networks and electronics engineering.

Computer Network Architect

If designing communication networks and determining what computer equipment should be included sounds interesting, consider becoming a computer network architect. Network architects create network plans, make software and hardware selections, submit their ideas to management, lay out equipment placement and explore new technological advances that could benefit the company. To enter this profession, a computer-related bachelor's degree is usually necessary, as is job experience in a lower-level position, such as computer systems analysis or network administration. According to the BLS, over 146,000 network architects were employed in the U.S. in 2015 and earned a median salary of $100,240. Employment of these architects is predicted to grow by 9% during the 2014-2024 decade, as reported by the BLS.

Electronics Engineer

For those interested in designing the pieces that make up electronic products and systems, becoming an electronics engineer could be a strong career option. Electronics engineers create electrical components for government, scientific, medical and commercial industries. They draft out schematic plans, estimate costs, create testing procedures, execute inspections, suggest modifications and look for ways to boost performance. A bachelor's degree in electronics engineering or a related field is required to qualify for employment in the field. Although not required, earning a Professional Engineer license could provide a competitive advantage when seeking employment. The BLS projected electronics engineering job opportunities to decrease by 1% from 2014-2024, mostly attributed to decreased U.S. manufacturing operations. Based on BLS figures from May of 2015, electronics engineers not employed in the computer industry received $98,270 in median annual income.

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