Difference Between Computer Engineer & Technician

Computer engineers design and test new and more efficient hardware for computer devices, while computer technicians repair, troubleshoot, and maintain computer devices for clients. This article compares vital career information for computer engineers and technicians.

Comparing Computer Engineers to Technicians

The main job of a computer hardware engineer is to research, design, build and test systems for computer products like servers, circuit units, routers, and processors. Computer technicians, also known as computer support specialists, troubleshoot, repair, and maintain these hardware components in addition to software and networks. Below you can find a comparison between these two computer jobs.

Job Title Education Requirements Median Salary* (2016) Job Growth* (2014-2024)
Computer Engineer Bachelor's degree $115,080 (for computer hardware engineers) 3% (for computer hardware engineers)
Computer Technician Bachelor's degree $52,160 (for computer support specialists) 12% (for computer support specialists)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Responsibilities of Computer Engineers vs. Technicians

Computer engineers design and build physical computer parts to improve their efficiency, durability, safety, and speed. These parts can be used in traditional computers or anything with a computer system or Internet capability, including cars. They create processors that can carry information faster and networks that are able to hold more information. They design, build and execute new products and then test them exhaustively; they may use a specialized programming language known as hardware description language (HDL) to analyze and troubleshoot. On the other hand, computer technicians, also known as computer support specialists, don't design, build, or improve computer parts or systems, but troubleshoot and repair those already in place. A computer technician may replace a malfunctioning processor, but they won't be assigned the duty to build a new one. They may work in the IT department for an organization or remotely to resolve non-IT consumer issues; tasks could range from helping an individual install software over the phone to running network tests for a major corporation when the Internet goes down. In a sense, computer technicians keep the products created by computer engineers functioning optimally for a given client.

Computer Engineers

Computer engineers must conduct constant research to stay on the cutting edge of computer technology and design hardware the fills diverse industry needs. They not only design and test the parts used in laptops and phones, but also any equipment that connects to the Internet, such as medical machines, automobiles and televisions. Hardware engineers work closely with software developers to make sure parts communicate properly with each other. For instance, cell phone software needs to run smoothly with the hardware inside the phone, and it is up to computer engineers to see to it that it does.

Job responsibilities of a computer engineer include:

  • Draft schematics of parts to be built
  • Test design models
  • Analyze test data
  • Adjust product according to test results
  • Keep updated and current to changes in technology

Computer Technicians

Computer technicians' main task is to aid computer users with computer software and/or hardware problems. This could mean troubleshooting network or service problems by phone or face-to-face. Some technicians work as network support specialists within an organization, essentially maintaining and repairing networks for the IT department. These professionals manage updates and information back-ups in addition to their repair duties. Other technicians may work as part of a help desk to resolve consumer issues with a particular type of computer or software.

Job responsibilities of a computer technician include:

  • Test network systems for problems
  • Troubleshoot hardware and software issues
  • Perform software and hardware maintenance
  • Ask pertinent questions and listen carefully to client issues
  • Train clients on proper use of networks and software

Related Careers

Computer engineers and computer technicians both work with computer technology but have very different responsibilities. Computer engineers may be interested in work as an electrical engineer. This career, like computer engineering, tasks engineers with building and testing electrical equipment. Computer support specialists might consider becoming computer network architects. Rather than repairing networks, network architects create and build data network centers.

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