How Do I Become a Computer Engineer?

If you naturally analyze problems, think critically to develop solutions and enjoy science and mathematics, you might wonder how to become a computer engineer. Computer engineers create components of computers. Generally, computer engineers design either the physical hardware that makes up computers and networks or the intangible software programs and systems that make computer technology functional.

Computer hardware engineers create and install the physical components of computers, including routers, circuit boards, modems, chips and printers. Aspiring computer engineers who enjoy taking computers apart and putting the pieces back together should seek a position in computer hardware engineering. These professionals design pieces of hardware, including not only what they will do and how they will function, but how they will be constructed. They make visual representations, such as blueprints, to illustrate how to set up these computers. Computer engineers also try the hardware they design in order to find any problems that exist and develop design changes to solve those issues.

Computer software engineers, better known as computer software developers, program the software that computer users utilize every day for work and entertainment. They begin a project by determining what capabilities prospective users need the software to have. They design the program to meet these needs as effectively as possible. To actually create the software, computer software engineers use coding, programming languages or mathematical algorithms to communicate with computers. They test software for problems and develop solutions to any glitches they find. Within the discipline of computer software engineering, one may choose to work with either systems software, which keep computers running, or applications software, with which users can create documents, play games, or perform other work or leisure tasks.

Aspiring computer engineers should pursue a bachelor’s degree in computer or electrical engineering from an accredited institution. Throughout their academic careers, candidates should make sure to study science, mathematics and programming extensively. To improve job prospects, aspiring computer engineers may seek an advanced degree. Usually candidates earn a master’s degree in computer engineering, though earning a Master of Business Administration (MBA) may also be beneficial. Internships may help a student gain the real-world experience that companies look for when deciding to hire a computer engineer.

The median salary for computer hardware engineers was $98,810 per year, the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics reported in 2010. For software developers, the median annual salary was $90,530. While positions as computer hardware engineers may pay somewhat higher salaries, candidates may find that positions as software engineers or developers are easier to find. The field of software development is expected to increase job opportunities by as much as 30 percent from 2010 to 2020, the BLS reported, which is significantly faster growth than the 14 percent expected for all occupations. If you have the creative skills to develop new computer materials and the technical skill to program software or design equipment, knowing how to become a computer engineer could be the start of a rewarding new career.

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