PC Engineer: Job Outlook & Career Requirements

Mar 29, 2019

PC engineers are specialists in the internal electronic components of personal computer systems. Learn about their work responsibilities, the academic and skill requirements, and the salary and employment outlook to decide if this is the right career choice for you.

Career Definition for PC Engineers

PC engineers, generally referred to as hardware engineers, typically start their careers in large companies where they test and troubleshoot new designs of hardware computer components such as microchips or modems. They may eventually work as salespeople or freelancers, providing their services and technical support to corporations or private individuals. They may also develop hardware components for PCs.

Education Bachelor's degree, often with a certificate
Job Skills PC systems mastery, customer service skills, hardware and software expertise, communication skills
Median Salary 2017* $115,120 (computer hardware engineers), $107,600 (software developers)
Career Outlook 2016-2026* 5% (computer hardware engineers)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Required Education

Although computer engineering certificate programs are available, typically a certificate alone will not provide adequate training for a career in PC engineering. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the majority of computer engineers have at least a bachelor's degree in computer science or a related field. Due to the growing concern with network security and protection, PC engineers with an advanced degree in mathematics or system design will be in high demand as government organizations and computer developers look to improve their security measures. PC engineers will typically start their careers in large companies that test new computer designs. With experience, they may become project managers, chief information officers, or independent consultants.

Required Skills

PC engineers are experts in the intricacies of PC hardware and software. They must configure routers and wireless hubs and troubleshoot when problems arise. Some PC engineers travel from location to location to provide technical support to corporate and domestic clients. They upgrade and install hardware, fix internal problems, and set new security measures. For this reason, they need excellent knowledge of the PC system and accessories, good communication, and excellent customer service skills.

Career and Economic Outlook

According to the BLS, computer hardware engineering careers are expected to grow by about 5% between 2016 and 2026. The BLS reported that computer hardware engineers earned a median annual salary of $115,120 in May 2017; software developers of computer systems software earned a median salary of $107,600 during the same time frame.

Alternative Careers

Similar careers include:

Electronics Engineer

Those interested in designing electrical components for other equipment and devices besides computers should consider becoming an electronics engineer. Electronics engineers create software, products and parts for use in the military, industrial manufacturing, science research and commercial enterprises. They also develop testing procedures, perform inspections to make sure electronics are safe, analyze costs and explore ways to improve systems and equipment.

A bachelor's degree in electronics engineering is required in order to work in the profession, and pursuing the Professional Engineer license can provide a competitive advantage in the job market. Electronics engineers, excluding computer designers, received a median wage of $102,180, based on 2017 figures from the BLS. Because of decreased manufacturing activities in the U.S., the BLS projects a 4% increase in job opportunities for this field during the 2016-2026 decade.

Computer Support Specialist

For those who want to set up and repair computers and provide support to users, becoming a computer support specialist may be a good fit. Support specialists not only troubleshoot and find solutions to computer issues, but they also provide instruction to users and assist with software installation. Although specific educational requirements are dependent on the type of organization and the complexity of their technology, postsecondary training or an associate degree in computer studies may be sufficient for many positions. According to the BLS, employment growth of 11% is predicted for computer support specialists from 2016-2026. These user support workers can expect to earn a median salary of $52,810, based on 2017 estimates from the BLS.

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