How to Become a Computer Engineer

This article provides in-depth information into What is a Computer Engineer? What Computer Engineer do? Degrees for Computer Engineer, Steps to become Computer Engineer and much more.


Every student interested in programming and computer related concepts aims at landing a computer engineering profession. A computer engineer deals with development, deployment and maintenance of computer systems, networking and infrastructure. Computer engineers work with hardwares and softwares ensuring that both are seamlessly integrated and functioning properly. 

What does a Computer Engineer do ?

Computer engineers use their extensive knowledge of computer programming and hardware and software design to make computing applications and platforms more efficient and effective.

There are two main avenues for computer engineers: hardware and software engineering. Software Engineers create, test and debug applications and programs that run on computers, mobile devices and more. On the other hand, hardware engineers work on computer components and systems, designing circuit boards, microprocessors, routers and other embedded devices.

There are many career options for computer engineers right from robotics to wireless networks and operating systems to aircraft design. 


Steps for becoming a Computer Engineer

1

Earn An Associate Degree

For students who cannot afford to attend a four years bachelor’s degree program initially may opt for an associate degree program in computer engineering or related IT field. Community colleges and trade schools offer associate degree programs in computer science and other IT fields. When applying for an associate’s degree program in computer science, students must ensure the courses they complete in their two years are transferable to a four years bachelor’s degree program. This can save up time as well as money. 

2

Earn A Bachelor’s Degree

A Bachelor’s degree program is the basic requirement for most entry-level jobs in computer engineering. The common curriculum will include coursework in data structures, programming, software design and systems analysis. It will also consist of advanced training depending on the chosen curriculum which may include enterprise architecture, software quality, and testing, R&D and artificial intelligence. While choosing a program, students must ensure that the program is accredited by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET).

3

Work As An Intern

While pursuing bachelor’s degree programs, it is important that students intern with companies to gain work experience and to know how the industry works. Students pursuing degree programs in computer engineering may intern with companies that design and implement products such as operating systems, middleware, computer games and utility applications. Students may opt to intern with non tech companies that use computer technologies for their operations like billing, inventory and payroll. Students can gain experience as IT support specialists or computer technicians before landing a real job in computer engineering. An internship during college is a great way to get hands on experience and make connections in the industry. 

4

Get Certified

Although certification is not mandatory, students who opt for certifications along with their bachelor’s degree program have better chances of landing a job early. There is an array of hardware, software and security certifications from corporations and third party organizations. These certifications will help you demonstrate your expertise in different programming languages, operating systems and software test procedures.

5

Land On A Job

 Most computer engineers land an entry-level job in computer engineering after completion of their bachelor’s degree program. Students must locate job openings in their desired industry, ensure that they meet the minimum qualifications for the job, and follow the application instructions so that hiring managers receive their resume and cover letter. 

6

Aim For Higher Studies

You would have estimated the time you consumed to become a computer engineer by the time you complete these steps. Learning your timelines prior will give you the authority to plan your career path better.

Those that are interested in software engineering may find entry-level software engineering jobs but better-paying positions management jobs typically come with a master’s degree. Mostly hardware engineers pursue a master’s degree or those that want to rise to management or leadership roles pursue a master’s of business administration degree program. The pay increases once you have a master’s degree to your credit. For those that want to teach in colleges and universities can opt for doctorate programs or can opt for working with IT firms as Chief technology officer or as IT strategist.


Computer Engineer Salaries

Computer Engineer

Computer Engineer Degree Levels

Associate

Students can select two educational paths at the associate degree level. They are: Electronics and Computer Technology or pre-engineering with a computer and electrical engineering emphasis. The Associate degree program in Electronics and computer technology offers a career focused program that allows students to either continue their education at bachelor’s degree level or they are made eligible to land an entry level job in the field of computer engineering after graduation.

While pre-engineering is designed primarily for students who want to pursue a four year’s bachelor’s degree program in computer engineering. Both the programs introduce students to fundamental principles in computer engineering and electronics design, including programming, communications and networking, electronic systems, computer hardware and software, electronic systems, instrumentation and maintenance and repair. Depending on the school, these programs typically take 2 years or require 65 -72 credit hours to graduate. 

Networking and Internet Technologies
  • Introduction to networking fundamentals

  • Internet applications

  • Relational databases

Objectives

This program usually focuses on the network and its fundamentals. A detailed description of internet and database is provided

Object oriented programming
  • Object-oriented programming

  • Data abstractions

  • Algorithm analysis and design

Objectives

This program focuses on object-oriented design programming techniques, including different programming languages and data manipulation

Data communication and Networking
  • Data security

  • Signal processing

  • TCP/IP communication

Objectives

Introduces students to the basics of data communications, networking, and the Internet.

Bachelors

There are three primary degree formats at the bachelor’s level- 

  • Bachelor of Science in Computer Science and Engineering (BSCSE)

  • Bachelor of Science in Computer Engineering (BSCE)

  • Bachelor of Science in Computer Engineering Technology (BSCET) 

While the curriculum varies by program type, each program features a balanced approach to the study of computer engineering with an emphasis on the design, integration and support of computer hardware, software and network systems.

The curriculum is divided between general education and computer engineering classes and typically requires 120 to 128 credit hours to successfully complete the program. The aim of the program is to develop the foundations of technical skills in students. Students study programming languages, databases, electro-mechanical systems and computer and network architecture.

Advanced Programming
  • Problem definition and program design

  • Algorithm programming

  • UNIX, PHP, C languages

Objectives

This program is a Broad study of the C language, including its structure, style, and operators and problem solving

Embedded System
  • Multi-threaded programming

  • Assembly language programming

  • Computer organization

Objectives

A detailed study of components of the embedded system

Applied programming
  • MATLAB language and environment

  • Input/output programming

  • Top-down design

Objectives

This program focuses on the study of computer programming design which includes MATLAB environments

Masters

Master’s degree in computer engineering is designed either for those who want to pursue higher studies or those that want a career advancement. Depending on the student’s professional and educational goals, there are two programs at master’s degree level to choose from - Master of Science in Computer Engineering or a Master of Engineering in Computer Engineering.

While master’s of science is a research based program requiring students to complete independent research that culminates with a thesis project, master’s of engineering is a professionally focused program aiming to allow students opportunities of exploring professional interests both within and outside the field of computer engineering. Master’s degree typically requires 30 to 33 credit hours which is equivalent to two years of full time study to be completed successfully and allows students to concentrate their program in specialized areas like hardware and computer architecture, software,cyber security, computer communications and networks to name a few. 

Distributed Computing
  • Distributed algorithms

  • Resource allocation

  • Byzantine agreement

Objectives

This program focuses on the understanding of distributed computer and information processing

Advanced computer networks
  • Complex network systems

  • Network visualization

  • Mobility issues

Objectives

This program focuses on the principles and protocols used in network systems

Computer architecture
  • Trends in processor and memory design

  • Quantitative analysis

  • High-performance processors

Objectives

An advanced study of the organization of computer systems, functionality, design, and performance


Doctoral Degree 

Those that want to pursue a career in academia, applied research and the government, may pursue doctoral degree programs in computer engineering. In order to pursue a doctoral degree program in computer engineering, students must complete their master’s degree and an additional 32-36 credit hours. Areas of study in a doctoral program are determined by student’s interest and faculty research areas. This area of interest may cover a multitude of aspects in computing theory, software, hardware and computing applications. Earning a PhD in computer engineering includes a research examination, comprehensive examinations, a dissertation and a successful defense of the dissertation before a graduate jury.

By the time you pursue the fourth degree level, you have probably exhausted your finances. To regain an effective money management, borrow the Best Student Loans availabe with affordable plans and interest rates.

Online computer engineering degrees and schools

One of the major benefits of online degree programs is convenience. Through online programs, students can gain industry specific skills and prepare themselves for the professional world. Below are the three factors that students should keep in mind while opting for online degree programs in computer engineering.

ABET Accreditation:

While choosing an online program for computer engineering students should ensure that it is accredited by The Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology, Inc (ABET). ABET reviews multiple criteria of computer engineering programs including curriculum, student performance, student outcomes, faculties, facilities and resources.

  • Faculty experience and professional background: the caliber of the department's faculty and instructors determine the quality of the program and subsequent success rate of the students. For an online degree program in computer engineering students should review carefully each faculty member’s background, education and professional experience. Students should opt for programs where faculty members have real world or research experience in their field of interest.

  • Specializations and breadth of Instruction: Students should review the curriculum of each potential program so as to ensure they are provided with fundamental instruction in both electrical engineering and computer science. Students should also examine the progression of learning.

Also to guide you on this, there are Top Online Computer Science Degree Programs which details you about the career prospects, tuitions, student financial aid and accreditation. 

Computer Engineer’s salaries

According to the Bureau of Labour Statistics,the average salary earned by a computer engineer is about $84,686 and it typically ranges between  $75,381 and $94,006 depending on the education, skills, experience gained in this field and others.

Job growth

The demand for computer engineers has rapidly increased due to their activities and roles required in every field. It is estimated that the profession will grow to about 24% by the end of 2026 hence increasing the job opportunities. Career oriented students can increase their caliber by meeting the qualification required for a computer engineer and become more employable in the competitive world. 

Job concentrations for computer engineers

By earning a degree in computer engineering you could choose other career concentrations to advance your future. As a computer engineer explore the related high paying career options listed below, 

Software Developer:

Average salary: $69,090

Software developers are familiar with a host of programming languages and frameworks such as NET, C++,  Java. Software developers are responsible for coding and testing computer programs, designing and developing new applications, updating existing applications and documenting processes. 

Network and computer system administrators:

Average salary: $83,510

Network administrators are responsible for administering corporate network services, coordinating network upgrades, analyzing network performance and managing network security. Network administrators have experience with protocols and fundamental principles of LAN and WAN operations.

Computer Network architects:

Average salary:137,129 

Computer Network architects are commonly known as network engineers. They identify the business requirements for corporate data and voice networks. They are responsible for installing networks, system backup, security and network enhancement. They make recommendations for improving and maintaining network performance.

Want to know how to become a Computer networking Professional? The degree levels, courses and steps are detailed based on your requirement. 

Big data scientist:

Average salary: 80,676

Engineers who deal with big data are responsible for harnessing and transforming data into unseenable, actionable insights. This has led to a revolution in the computer science and engineering world.

Nanotechnology:

Computers working in nanotechnology explore new techniques to design and manufacture electronic components which are increasingly smaller, faster and more reliant computing systems. Nanotechnology merges with mechanical engineering, material science, electrical engineering, biology and applied physics.

Stand out skills for a computer engineer

To be successful, computer engineer must possess both hard and soft skills which are as follows:

Analytical: A computer engineer has to be detail oriented and must be meticulously analytical since their job includes identifying problems, developing a solution, implementing the solution and trouble shooting the result.

Teamwork: Computer engineers work in a team with designers, testers, system experts, security experts, researchers, marketing employees, sales team to launch a product. This is where teamwork comes into play. Computer engineers must be able to accept responsibilities, delegate work and share ideas with all team members. 

Technical skills: It is important for computer engineers to be fluent in  a few languages because they need to code in multiple languages such as python, java, javascript, SQL etc. Although it is not necessary to know all the languages, it is important to know at least a few of them. The more languages they know, the better it is for the advancement of their career.

Time Management: A computer engineer has to often juggle between several projects or multiple aspects of one large project. They should know the importance of time and be good with time management so that they are able to prioritize tasks, make and adhere to deadlines and create timelines for work completion.

Good Communication Skills: Computer engineers work with various people like clients, managers, teammates, sales and marketing teams and technicians and hence it is important to have clear and open communication. Computer engineers must be able to use non technical terms so that the communication process remains open even with those unfamiliar with the tech industry.