Learn more about what you can do with a degree in computer engineering. Find information on computer engineering careers, job outlook, salary, and recommended schools. View popular schools that prepare students for careers as computer engineers.
Over the course of the last two decades, computers have become an integral component of most aspects of our daily lives. While many of the tasks completed on computers are taken for granted, the reality is that a considerable amount of hard work has gone into creating the modern computer systems that we use today. Without computer engineers working in both hardware and software design most of us would not be able to send an email or surf the internet.
Generally speaking computer engineers provide an invaluable service that facilitates important aspects of our social and economic well being. The ability to use the internet and computers for communication, business and knowledge sharing has had a profound impact on our daily lives. Advances in computer systems have served as the foundation for connecting remote areas of the globe and for providing information and insight on different cultures and ways of life. Businesses have been able to capitalize on computer technology to augment their operations and create new foundations for expansion and profit generation. When one considers that these changes and benefits have been made possible by the work of computer engineers, the role and importance of this career becomes more apparent.
Careers in computer engineering typically include those focused on either software or hardware design and development. Software engineers are typically responsible for developing products such as games, programs for business applications and operating systems (e.g., Windows). Typically software engineers can be classified into one of two groups. These include applications or systems engineers. Applications engineers work on developing specific programs needed by professionals. One specific example is the development of video games. Systems engineers work to develop entire operating systems for computers.
Computer hardware engineers, on the other hand, work on the design of the physical construction of the computer, e.g., chips, circuit boards, etc. Professionals working in this field must keep pace with rapid changes in technology in order to ensure that they are able to develop and design the latest devices. Computer devices, including handheld computers, require different types of hardware for successful operation. Hardware engineers are responsible for creating the physical structures that comprise these devices.
Computer engineers working in both hardware and software applications command generous salaries. Many of the positions in the field of computer engineering require considerable technical expertise. Salaries will vary based on the professional’s level of education and the specific organization in which the individual is employed. Median annual salaries for computer hardware engineers were $100,180 in 2008. Median annual salaries for computer software engineers were slightly lower at $85,430 in 2008. Professionals at the top of their careers in software engineering commanded salaries of $128,870 while those at the lowest end of the pay scale had median annual salaries of $53,720. For graduates with a Bachelors Degree in computer science, average starting salaries in 2009 were $61,407. Software engineers working in scientific research and development services command higher salaries than professionals working niche companies such as insurance carriers. Most positions in the profession are full-time and provide the employee with access to benefits packages in addition to their annual salaries.
The job outlook for computer engineers is mixed, depending on the area of specialization. While job growth in computer software engineering is expected to be higher than average through 2018, job growth in computer hardware engineering is expected to be below average during this same time period. Growth in computer software engineering will occur as a result of demand for more computer networking. Linking of computer devices will be essential for organizations and individuals to operate businesses across national and international boundaries. Growth will also be spurred by changes in technology that require new software platforms for operation. While similar forces are occurring in computer hardware engineering, job growth in this discipline is expected to be lower than average. This is due to outsourcing of computer hardware manufacturing. As more jobs are moved overseas, professionals with expertise in computer hardware engineering will find it more difficult to find a job.