Computer hardware engineers analyze, test and design computer hardware, such as circuit boards, modems and computer processors. Bachelor's and master's degree programs in computer engineering may offer a hardware emphasis option, which adds courses in researching, creating and testing computer hardware. Master's program graduates may pursue senior-level positions in software or hardware engineering.
A high school diploma or its equivalent and SAT/ACT scores are required for bachelor's program applicants. A bachelor's degree in computer or electrical engineering, GRE scores, letters of recommendation and a possible minimum GPA are generally required for master's program applicants.
Bachelor of Science in Computer Engineering
A bachelor's degree program in computer engineering gives students basic skills for entry-level computer engineering careers. The four-year program is intensive on software and includes supplementary mathematics courses. Adding a hardware emphasis teaches students how hardware is built, developed and tested, as well as how software interacts with hardware in computer systems to create a working machine. Skills gained from completion of this program should allow graduates to make proper recommendations for hardware, perform diagnostic tests and create basic computer hardware and peripherals.
Classes in the bachelor's degree program focus on mathematics and the operation of software. The courses included with the hardware emphasis focus on design and operation of computer hardware. Coursework may include:
- Data and algorithms
- Microprocessors and applications
- Computer hardware and software
- Software engineering
- Hardware engineering
- Mathematics for engineering majors
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Master of Science in Computer Engineering
A master's program in computer engineering gives students the skills required to enter advanced-level positions. The two-year curriculum focuses on the creation of software and hardware and performing advanced tests. Additionally, the courses teach students managerial skills and how to organize projects. The program often offers students access to research labs for personal projects and required thesis writing courses. These extra services are particularly helpful for graduates looking to enter a doctoral program because of the thesis and project defense.
The master's program curriculum focuses primarily on advanced methods of software programming, circuitry, computer design and how software interacts with hardware. Courses include:
- Integrated circuits: design and analysis
- Advanced computer architecture
- Advanced logic
- Microcomputer design
- Digital circuit fault detection
- Co-design of hardware and software
Popular Career Options
Students that complete the bachelor's degree program have skills in the operation, design, and recommendation of software and hardware. This gives graduates access to entry-level positions like:
- Software developer
- Computer engineer
- Hardware engineer
- IT professional
Graduates of a master's program can enter into high-level jobs in computer engineering. These careers focus more on the creation of hardware and software, and deal with the management of a team.
- Senior hardware engineer
- Senior computer engineer
- Development manager
- Project controller
Continuing Education Information
Graduates of the master's program are equipped to enter high-level positions of computer hardware engineering. Students who wish to continue their academic careers and defend their personal projects against their peers can advance to a doctoral program.
Students interested in hardware engineering will want to earn a B.S. in Computer Engineering and then a M.S. in the field. While the bachelor's degree will focus on software, mathematics and algorithms, elective courses in hardware may be added and the master's program should offer training in computer hardware as well.