Computer Design Degree Program Overviews

People interested in designing computers or computer applications can earn a degree in computer engineering, computer engineering technology, computer science or information systems.

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Essential Information

Degrees in the field of computer design are available from the associate degree level up to the doctoral level. Students studying computer engineering and design can expect to discuss networking, systems development, algorithms and artificial intelligence depending on which program they enroll in. Studies often combine traditional instruction with hands-on lab exercises on computer hardware and software systems. General education courses in math and the physical sciences are also common in computer design programs. Some programs allow students to choose an area of concentration, such as software engineering, computer architecture or electrophysics.

Associate Degree in Computer Engineering Technology

Associate of Applied Science (AAS) in Computer Engineering Technology programs teach students how computer components relate to one another and how various operating systems can control these components. Students learn about microprocessors, microcontrollers and other electronic parts that help computers function. Programs allow students to work directly with computer hardware and software, gaining relevant practical experience.

A high school diploma or equivalent as well as coursework in calculus, geometry and physics, and experience operating, building or fixing computer hardware may be required for admittance. AAS degree programs in computer engineering technology teach students to build, test and repair computer hardware and software. Students learn about the relationship between software and hardware, along with how to upgrade computer components to improve performance. The subjects below are usually covered:

  • Computer programming
  • System development
  • Computer networking
  • Control systems
  • Electrical circuits

Bachelor's Degree in Computer Engineering

Bachelor's degree programs in computer engineering or computer systems engineering combine coursework in mathematics, engineering and physics to teach students how to create or operate hardware and software. Students in Bachelor of Science (B.S.) or Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) programs learn to design, build, troubleshoot and upgrade electrical components and software programs. Programs cover topics related to personal computers and computer networks, instructing students to create links allowing computers to share information with each other.

A high school diploma, standardized test scores and a background in math and science may be required for entrance into this bachelor's program. Computer engineering undergraduate programs give students hands-on experience with computer hardware and software. Students take courses on microchips, computer architecture, network administration and computer design. Programs often require students to take classes on the following topics:

  • Computer programming
  • Computer organization
  • Data structures
  • Digital hardware
  • Microsystems

Master's Degree in Computer Engineering

Some graduate programs combine computer engineering with computer science at the master's degree level. Programs usually award a Master of Science (M.S.) degree, though some award a Master of Engineering (M.Eng) degree instead. Both types of program teach students to conduct original research in computer design and software programming. Students often choose a specialization like software engineering, information assurance or computer architecture. Programs include extensive laboratory work and require students to complete a thesis project.

A bachelor's degree and experience in computer science and engineering is typically required for these master's programs. Students in computer engineering master's degree programs take advanced classes in data organization, computer design and computer architecture. Programs emphasize the research methodology and statistical analyses used to evaluate computer engineering theory. Students often take the classes noted below:

  • Logic design
  • Computer assembly language
  • Algorithm design
  • Programming languages
  • Multimedia processing

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Doctorate Degree in Computer Engineering

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) and Doctor of Engineering (D.Eng.) programs in computer science and computer engineering are designed for people who want to conduct original research. Students also learn about the cultural and financial issues that influence computer design. Programs require students to complete advanced coursework in statistics, the physical sciences and engineering to gain an overall understanding of how computers are designed and created. Students are expected to finish a dissertation based on their own computer engineering research.

A bachelor's or master's degree in computer engineering or a related field is usually required for these doctoral programs. Doctoral students in computer engineering work with an academic advisor to design a degree plan. Students often choose a concentration within computer engineering, like electrophysics or software engineering. Classes are offered on the following subjects:

  • Analyzing network designs
  • Developing secure systems
  • Client/server issues
  • Advanced network programming
  • Artificial intelligence

Popular Career Options

People who earn an associate degree in computer engineering technology can find entry-level positions relevant to computer design. Graduates often choose the following careers:

  • Computer assembler
  • Computer hardware tester
  • Computer repair technician

People who earn a bachelor's degree in computer engineering qualify for positions in information technology (IT), consulting and software installation. Private companies and governmental organizations hire computer engineering graduates, typically in areas such as:

  • Networks
  • Computer hardware manufacturing
  • Security
  • Programming
  • Design

A Ph.D. or D.Eng. degree in computer engineering qualifies people for advanced theoretical and academic positions. Graduates can work in the following careers:

  • University professor
  • Computer system designer
  • Computer engineering researcher

Employment Outlook and Salary Information

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistic, computer hardware engineers were projected to see a three percent growth in employment opportunities from 2014-2024, which is slower than the national average. The median annual wages for computer hardware engineers were $111,730 as of May 2015.

Students interested in computer design can consider a variety of relevant degree programs, with options including degrees in computer engineering, computer engineering technology, computer science, and information systems. These degrees can lead to several careers working with computers, a common example being computer hardware engineering.

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