Is a Career in Computer Hardware Engineering the Best Choice For You?

Computer Hardware Engineering

Are you good at taking mechanical things apart and putting them back together? Do you find ways to make your cell phone and computer more efficient? Are you fascinated with the nuts and bolts of technology?

If you answered yes to all the above, you may well wish to consider a career in computer hardware engineering. Hardware engineers modify, update, and improve computer components to make them more efficient and user friendly. They look at existing computer systems and hardware and devise ways to make it better, using complex reasoning and advanced problem solving analysis. They identify flaws and deficiencies in existing hardware. They modify circuit boards, routers, printers, and microchips.They frequently make computers run faster and perform with fewer glitches. They also figure out how to reduce the size of computers and how to make them ever more affordable while considering the needs of customers and the standards of the computer industry.

Most major advancements in computer design were accomplished by computer hardware engineers who have their ears to the ground for consumer trends and who routinely evaluate and inspect newly manufactured instruments to ensure they meet expectations. They develop new prototypes and test them to make sure that they perform as designed.

Typically computer hardware engineers work in industrial plants, research laboratories, or computer production facilities. Some work as part of a team, while others work on their own. The vast majority of computer hardware engineers are employed full time. They often log overtime and work weekends when tight deadlines must be met.

In addition to a strong understanding of what makes computers work, these engineers also need good writing skills so that they can clearly communicate their findings. They frequently issue reports that analyze existing problems and make recommendations for how a computer redesign can solve those problems.

The best professionals in this field advance to supervisory positions wherein they teach less experienced engineers and technicians. They may also transition into consulting.

What kind of education will you need?

Preparation for a career as a computer hardware engineer really begins in high school where you will need to take advanced mathematics including algebra, calculus, and trigonometry. You should also take high school classes in physical science and computer science and technology, if possible. Relevant college programs will look for and accept students who demonstrate the aptitude and skills needed for working with computer hardware. Your high school curriculum should also include serious coursework in the humanities and social sciences.

As an undergraduate working toward a four-year college degree, aspiring computer hardware engineers should take coursework in computer engineering, mathematics, information technology, and the usual core requirements of humanities and social science. A bachelor’s degree in computer science, computer engineering, or electrical engineering will get your foot in the door of this industry, but it is a good idea to work toward a Master’s degree if you wish to advance quickly. Online technical degree programs may make it easier to balance work and graduate school.

Salary and growth

Computer hardware engineers can expect to make good money, even starting out right out of college. The median yearly salary for this profession was $104,250 in 2013, according to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). On an hourly basis, these engineers make on average $48.52. Computer hardware engineers at the top of their game are earning over $154,810 a year.

While salaries are high, growth is not especially strong. The BLS predicted only a seven percent growth in this field from 2012 to 2022. That is a slower growth than the average for all job fields. What that means, on a very practical level, is that new graduates in this field may have to work harder to find a job and may have to be more flexible about where they end up working. The United States computer industry will continue to face strong competition from a growing computer industry in other nations, which will make jobs more competitive in this field for US graduates. A rising demand for computer chip development, however, may to some extent offset the slow growth in the field of computer hardware engineering as a whole.

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