Computer hardware engineering is typically a concentration within an electrical and computer engineering or computer engineering program. Associate's, bachelor's and master's degrees are commonly available, with a bachelor's or master's degree being the most common educational requirement for a computer hardware engineering career. The coursework of computer engineering and electrical engineering programs often overlaps, with such programs being heavy with science and mathematics courses, including those in calculus and physics. There's also a lot of laboratory instruction for science and engineering courses.
Students in a program focusing on computer hardware engineering learn to design, create and test computer hardware equipment, as well as researching and developing new technologies. Computer programming languages, digital logic, networking and computer operating systems are normally also studied.
Here are some main concepts covered in computer hardware engineering courses:
- Electrical engineering fundamentals
- Circuitry and Ohm's Law
- Sequential and combinational logic
- Control systems
- Computer programming
Overview of Computer Hardware Engineering Courses
Introduction to Computer Engineering Course
This first-year course introduces the fundamentals of computer and electrical engineering. Students will become familiar with the basic concepts of circuits, systems and their applications. They will also analyze the tools necessary for creating electrical devices. Topics covered include linear circuit analysis, flip-flops, logic circuits and the historical background of electrical computer engineering.
This course develops a full understanding of AC and DC electrical circuitry. Students learn to analyze complex electrical circuitry through Thevenin and Norton theorems and Kirchoff's current and voltage laws. Students will also become familiar with Very Large Scale Integrated (VLSI) systems and computer aided design (CAD) techniques. Topics covered include amplifiers, resistors, conductors, phasors and resonance. This course is generally taken in the first or second year of a program.
Digital Systems Course
Here students learn to use computer aided design and hardware implementation devices to design complex digital systems. They also study Boolean algebra, logic design, instruction sets, assembly language programming, digital number systems and computer arithmetic. Students should be familiar with computer programming and architecture as well as hardware circuitry before taking this course.
Computer Architecture Course
Computer architecture is the interconnectedness of computer components that create a functional machine. This course examines components such as input and output processors, memory hierarchies, parallel processing and instruction sets processors. Students will have an introduction to assembly language programming and performance evaluation. This course requires a strong foundation, thus it is usually taken in the third or fourth year of a program.
Computer Microprocessor Course
This is an upper-level course that introduces the architecture, application and operation of microprocessors or microcomputers. Students will understand how to design a standalone embedded microprocessor system. Components studied include programmable input and output devices, assembly language programming for microprocessors, interfacing peripherals, timing analyses and instruction sets.