Computer Hardware Engineer

Career Clusters: STEM

What you need to know

Overview

Computer hardware engineers research, design, develop, and test computer systems and components such as processors, circuit boards, memory devices, networks, and routers.

What is this career like?

Computer hardware engineers usually work in research laboratories that build and test various types of computer models. Most work in computer systems design services and in manufacturing.

Some of the things computer hardware engineers might do:

  • Design new computer hardware, creating schematics of computer equipment to be built
  • Test the computer hardware they design
  • Analyze the test results and modify the design as needed
  • Update existing computer equipment so that it will work with new software
  • Oversee the manufacturing process for computer hardware
What skills are needed?
  • Analytical skills. Computer hardware engineers use computer programming tools to analyze the digital circuits in hardware to determine the best design.
  • Critical-thinking skills. These engineers use logic and reasoning to clarify goals, examine assumptions, and identify the strengths and weaknesses of alternative solutions.
  • Problem-solving skills. Computer hardware engineers identify complex problems in computer hardware, develop and evaluate possible solutions, and figure out the best way to implement them.
  • Communication skills. Engineers often work on teams and must be able to communicate with other types of engineers, software developers and programmers, as well as with nontechnical team members.
What is the pay?

The average pay for computer hardware engineers in the United States ranges from $66,290 to $176,900.

The specific pay depends on factors such as level of experience, education and training, geographic location, and specific industry.

What is the career outlook?

Employment of computer hardware engineers is projected to grow 5 percent from 2016 to 2026, about as fast as the average for all occupations.

A limited number of engineers will be needed to meet the demand for new computer hardware because more technological innovation takes place with software than with hardware.

However, demand may grow for hardware engineers as more industries outside of the computer and electronic product manufacturing industry begin to research and develop their own electronic devices.

What education is required?

Most entry-level computer hardware engineers have a bachelor’s degree in computer engineering, although a degree in electrical engineering or computer science also is generally acceptable. A computer engineering major is similar to a major in electrical engineering but with a heavy emphasis on computer science.

Discover some of the courses you will take pursuing a degree in Computer Science or Electrical Engineering.