COMPUTER ENGINEER: Definition, Salary, What They do & Requirements

Computer engineer job description degrees salary

The field of computer engineering is where new ideas and established technologies meet. Computer engineers are at the forefront of technological innovation across many sectors, from aerospace to healthcare. This dynamic industry offers opportunities in both hardware engineering (e.g. microprocessors) and software development. This article explains the job description and salary of a computer engineer. We also listed and explained the degrees you need to obtain to become a computer engineer. Enjoy the ride!

Who Is a Computer Engineer?

A Computer Engineer, often known as a Software Engineer, is someone who creates programs for computers and other electronic devices. One of their many responsibilities is the design, development, testing, and maintenance of computer networks and associated hardware and software, such as routers, circuit boards, and computer programs.

What Does a Computer Engineer Do?

The duties of a computer engineer vary widely according to their area of expertise. To meet the needs and objectives of an organization’s technology, computer engineers typically apply their knowledge in computer science and electrical engineering. They can focus on software engineering, hardware engineering, or network engineering, among other fields.

  • The primary responsibilities of a software engineer are the creation of software and applications. From operating systems to mobile apps and business solutions, they develop and maintain it all.
  • Physical computer components including processors, memory, and storage devices are designed, developed, and maintained by hardware engineers. The system integration team’s job is to make sure that every piece of hardware functions properly with the others.
  • Network engineers are responsible for the creation, development, and upkeep of data and voice transmission networks. Data transmission through LANs, WANs, and the internet is made possible because of their dedication to ensuring its safety and efficiency.

Computer engineers are responsible for a wide range of tasks, including but not limited to system design, system maintenance, analysis of system performance, and software development and maintenance. They must also expand their knowledge into new areas of IT as they emerge, such as cybersecurity, power management, digital logic design, and computer architecture, to keep up with the industry’s rapid pace of change.

Computer engineers must be excellent communicators because they frequently need to explain complicated technical concepts to coworkers, clients, and vendors who are not experts in the field. They must also have the ability to make quick decisions, evaluate circumstances, and offer suggestions on how to move forward in order to find the best possible solutions.

Computer Engineer Job Description

Thinking of what the job description of a computer engineer is? Here is the job description of a computer engineer:

  • Establishing objectives and timeframes in conjunction with senior Engineers, Designers, Developers, and Project Managers
  • Finding programming and technology solutions through research
  • Creating working software and hardware based on the blueprints laid out by other team members.
  • Custom software development based on business requirements
  • Finding and fixing database bugs, inefficiencies, and missing data
  • Reporting on company operations and development to upper management on a monthly basis
  • Handling technical support queries on major and minor bug fixes and other issues
  • Integrating updates and new features to existing software and hardware

Skills for a Computer Engineer

The following are the skills needed by a computer engineer:

#1. Microprocessors and Circuitry

Engineers in the field of computing must have a firm grasp of the fundamentals of microprocessors and circuitry. Electronics cannot be developed without first comprehending the physical processes involved in producing electric currents and transmitting information.

#2. Quality Assurance and Testing

Hardware and software are tested extensively by tech professionals to make sure they function as intended. Engineers may focus on crucial tasks like cybersecurity with this skill set at their backs while they figure out solutions to more trivial problems.

#3. Digital Signal Processing

Systems that enable data transmission across wireless networks are created by computer engineers. Modern data storage, the internet, and speech and video processing are all supported by digital signals.

#4. Operating Systems

Since a computer engineer’s job often involves integrating hardware with software, they need to be well-versed in all of the major operating systems. This includes Windows, ReactOS, MacOS, and Linux.

Steps to Becoming a Computer Engineer

The demand for experienced, talented, and certified computer engineering specialists appears to know no bounds due to an expanding, insatiable thirst for technology advancements—both by organizations and consumers alike. A computer engineer must complete a rigorous university program that typically lasts between four and seven years. Prerequisite and general education courses for computer engineering majors are typically completed within the first two years of undergraduate study. Foundational courses in computer science, electrical engineering, and mathematics are the main focus of the previous two years. Software, hardware, networks, and cyber security are common topics of study in universities. Many engineering firms give preference to candidates with master’s degrees, which requires additional study of two years. Finally, a Ph.D. in computer engineering could be the answer if your professional aspirations include practical research or a career in academia.

#1. Complete a Bachelor’s Degree

The minimum educational requirement for entry-level computer engineering positions is a bachelor’s degree in computer science, computer engineering, or software engineering. Professional success can be achieved even without a degree if one possesses great technical and programming skills. The Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET) certifies that a program of study in computer engineering has met its criteria for curriculum, faculty, and student outcomes in order to earn its seal of approval. Finishing a recognized curriculum also improves your odds of getting employed by a respectable company.

Coursework for bachelor’s degree programs typically includes the following subjects:

  • Introduction to software engineering
  • Microprocessors
  • Computer organization
  • Probability theory in electrical and computer engineering
  • Applied algorithms for engineering
  • Systems programming
  • Operating systems
  • Control systems
  • Differential equations
  • Microcomputer architecture
  • Computer science

#2. Earn a Relevant Master’s Degree

To increase their earning potential and job opportunities, some prospective computer engineers choose to earn master’s degrees in computer science, computer engineering, or software engineering. A master’s degree in computer engineering is typically a two-year commitment. You can find these courses on university websites or on actual campuses. You can improve your research, engineering theory, and application skills by taking advantage of their advanced coursework and hands-on projects.

Common prerequisites for computer engineering master’s degree programs include:

  • A bachelor’s degree in computer science or a related field from an ABET-accredited college or university
  • A GPA of 3.0 or higher
  • A passing score in the Graduate Record Examination (GRE)
  • Transcript of records showing completion of the pre-requisite courses

#3. Gain Practical Experience

Gaining real-world experience is the best way to learn the fundamentals of computer engineering and how to apply them in a variety of contexts. It’s a good idea for aspiring computer engineers to participate in internships and cooperative education programs during their time in college. Experiences like these provide you a chance to hone your abilities as a computer engineer while receiving feedback from knowledgeable experts in the field. They are also great for boosting your CV.

Entry-level positions and apprenticeships are good options whether you want to go on to graduate school directly after earning your bachelor’s degree or not. Applying what you’ve learned in class and practicing the skills you honed on projects or during an internship are both great ways to grow professionally. Entry-level positions typically place you on a team with more seasoned employees. With the intention of using their mentorship to advance, you receive training from a seasoned expert as an apprentice.

#4. Earn Your License

An appropriate professional license may be required for many occupations of increasing responsibility and authority. Having a license as a computer engineer opens up additional doors for you professionally, including those in the public sector and the consulting sector.

To obtain a professional license as a computer engineer, one must:

  • A degree from an accredited university or college
  • A passing score on the Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) exam
  • Four years of professional experience
  • A passing score on the Professional Engineering exam

#5. Pursue Professional Certification

After gaining experience as a computer engineer, you can further specialize in your field by earning professional or vendor certification. Earning a certification could open doors to better jobs, salaries, and promotions. They also show that you’re dedicated to being a top performer in the field of computer engineering.

Professional computer engineers typically have access to the following certifications:

  • Red Hat Certified Engineer
  • Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) Certified Software Development Associate
  • Linux Certified Engineer
  • Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) Certified Software Development Professional

Computer Engineer Salary

Professionals in computer engineering may have stable employment if the technology sector continues to thrive as a whole. From 2023 to 2031, the BLS predicts a 15% rise in employment for roles in information technology and computing. However, computer hardware engineers are expected to see slower-than-average job growth of 5% over the same time period.

According to the BLS, the median salary for a computer engineer is a hefty $128,170 per year. The pay for these jobs varies by industry; engineers working in the production of computers and related peripheral equipment make an average yearly compensation of $142,160, compared to those designing computer systems, who make an average annual salary of $128,440.

Computer Engineer Degrees

It is possible to earn a degree in computer engineering in a variety of formats, from a two-year associate’s degree to a doctorate. The degrees of a computer engineer range from those tailored to specific careers, like an associate’s degree in electronics technology, to those more focused on academic research, such as doctoral degrees in digital signal processing. Each subsequent level of study provides students with the chance to not only build upon prior learning but also acquire expertise in an entirely new or more specialized subject matter. The following are the degrees of a computer engineer:

#1. Bachelor’s Degrees

There are a few different bachelor’s degree forms available, including a Bachelor of Science in Computer Science and Engineering (BSCSE), a Bachelor of Science in Computer Engineering (BSCE), and a Bachelor of Science in Computer Engineering Technology (BSCET). All programs take a well-rounded approach to the study of computer engineering, with equal weight given to the development, integration, and maintenance of computer hardware, software, and network systems. The program is typically between 120 and 128 semester credits long, and it is split between general education and computer engineering courses. The study of programming languages, databases, computer and network architecture, and electro-mechanical systems all contribute to the development of students’ rudimentary technical abilities. 

#2. Master’s Degrees

Master’s programs in computer engineering typically aim to get its graduates ready for either doctorate study or higher-level professional positions. It’s possible to earn a master’s degree either on campus or online. Students can choose between a Master of Science in Computer Engineering and a Master of Engineering in Computer Engineering, depending on their career and academic aspirations. Master’s degree programs are typically research-intensive, with students conducting their own experiments and writing a thesis as capstone experiences. The Master of Engineering is a career-oriented degree that gives students a solid foundation in computer science while also giving them the freedom to pursue other professional interests. 

#3. Doctoral Degrees

Earning a doctorate in computer engineering opens doors to rewarding jobs in academia, government, and the private sector. To earn a doctorate degree, students need to take 32–36 more semester courses above what is required for a master’s degree. Studies may span a wide range of topics in computing theory, software, hardware, and applications. Study fields are often chosen based on student interests and staff research interests. Examples of fields of study include nanotechnology, bioelectrical engineering, mobile computing, and bioinformatics. Earning a Ph.D. in Computer Engineering often requires students to complete a series of exams, including a research exam, comprehensive exams, a dissertation, and a dissertation defense in front of a graduate committee.

Online Computer Engineer Degrees and Schools

Computer engineering students can benefit from the flexibility that online education provides. Online learning allows students to acquire sector-specific knowledge and practice what they learn in preparation for a successful career. Most students who are thinking about enrolling in an online school do so because of the time savings it offers. However, not all online schools offer the same quality of education. 

#1. ABET Accreditation

For the most part, computer engineering programs can only be accredited by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology, Inc. (ABET). It is important for students to verify that the programs they are considering are accredited by ABET. The curriculum, student performance, student outcomes, faculty, facilities, and resources of computer engineering schools are all evaluated by ABET. There is a direct correlation between accreditation and quality and value. It proves that the program meets or exceeds benchmarks set at the national level and that its graduates are well-equipped to succeed in their chosen fields.

#2. Faculty Experience and Professional Background

The caliber of a department’s teachers and instructors greatly impacts the quality of the program and the subsequent success of the students enrolled in it. Students enrolled in computer engineering courses, especially those offered online, would do well to research the academic and professional credentials of their instructors. Due to the variety of subfields within this discipline (nanotechnology, software engineering, embedded systems, etc.), prospective students should look for schools whose faculty members have relevant work or research expertise.

#3. Specializations and Breadth of Instruction

Earning a degree in computer engineering helps prepare students for careers in the rapidly evolving fields of science and technology. Prospective students should carefully examine the course offerings of each school to ensure that they receive a solid grounding in both electrical engineering and computer science. Second, it’s important for pupils to consider where they are in their studies. Do they receive an introduction to both the hardware and software components of computer systems?

What Can You Do With a Degree in Computer Engineering?

Graduates can pursue rewarding professions in fields that require qualified computer engineers. Some examples of these sectors are the production sector, the research and development sector, the government and military sector, and the electronic systems design sector. Jobs in hardware design, embedded software engineering, data science, and senior project engineering are common for graduates.

Professionals in the computer engineering field can improve their knowledge and skills by earning certificates from organizations like CompTIA, Cisco, and the IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers).

Computer Engineer Experience Requirements

Candidates for entry-level Computer Engineer positions may have relevant work experience from academic internships or cooperative education programs. All the candidates with 1-2 years of work experience in a junior position or technical support may also be considered for entry-level positions. The candidates with more than 5 years of experience as a Computer Engineer may be well suited for careers involving more sophisticated tasks or leadership responsibilities.

Is Computer Engineering a Good Career Choice?

For those with a high knack for problem-solving, logical thinking, and creativity, and who also possess strong quantitative and analytical skills, computer engineering is a fantastic career choice. There will be a bright future and stable employment prospects for qualified computer engineers as technology continues to improve. People who possess these traits make excellent candidates for a career in computer engineering.

  • Interested in and excited by cutting-edge technological developments.
  • Detail-oriented, with a keen ability to identify and analyze intricate patterns and systems.
  • Effective communicators, capable of explaining complex technical concepts to non-experts.
  • Team players that can work effectively with others across a wide range of expertise to accomplish a common goal.
  • Adaptable and open-minded, able to respond to rapidly changing technologies and industry demands.
  • Eager to learn and experiment, always looking for new methods to advance technology.

Does Computer Engineers Make a Lot of Money?

Salary ranges for a senior computer engineer can be $86,000 to $136,000, while entry-level engineers start at roughly $55,000.

Which Is Better Computer Science or Computer Engineering?

Computer engineers focus on developing hardware and networks to efficiently convey information while computer scientists create algorithms and construct software solutions to problems. As a field of study, computer engineering is more sought after than computer science.

What Software Do Computer Engineers Use?

Since computer engineers’ work frequently involves integrating hardware with software, they need to be well-versed in all of the major operating systems. This includes Windows, ReactOS, MacOS, and Linux.

Final Thoughts

The duties of a computer engineer include a wide spectrum of creative and technological endeavors. They are expected to use their technical expertise, in-depth understanding of hardware and software, and aptitude for working with complicated systems to build, install, test, and maintain hardware and software. Finding out what it takes to become a computer engineer and what you would be doing on the job might help you determine if this is the correct career path for you.


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