What They Do: Computer hardware engineers research, design, develop, and test computer systems and components.
Work Environment: 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.
How to Become One: Most computer hardware engineers need a bachelor’s degree from an accredited program.
Salary: The median annual wage for computer hardware engineers is $117,220.
Job Outlook: Employment of computer hardware engineers is projected to grow 6 percent over the next ten years, 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.
Related Careers: Explore occupations that share similar duties, skills, interests, education, or training with the occupation covered in the profile.
Computer hardware engineers research, design, develop, and test computer systems and components such as processors, circuit boards, memory devices, networks, and routers.
Computer hardware engineers typically do the following:
Many hardware engineers design devices used in manufactured products that incorporate processors and other computer components and that connect to the Internet. For example, many new cars, home appliances, and medical devices have Internet-ready computer systems built into them.
Computer hardware engineers ensure that computer hardware components work together with the latest software. Therefore, hardware engineers often work with software developers. For example, the hardware and software for mobile phones and other devices frequently are developed at the same time.
Computer hardware engineers hold about 64,400 jobs. The largest employers of computer hardware engineers were as follows:
|Computer systems design and related services||25%|
|Research and development in the physical, engineering, and life sciences||10%|
|Computer and peripheral equipment manufacturing||10%|
|Semiconductor and other electronic component manufacturing||9%|
Most computer hardware engineers work full time.
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Most computer hardware engineers need a bachelor's degree from an accredited computer engineering program.
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.
Many engineering programs are accredited by ABET. Employers may prefer candidates who have graduated from an accredited program. To prepare for a major in computer or electrical engineering, students should have a solid background in math and science.
Because hardware engineers commonly work with computer software systems, a familiarity with computer programming is usually expected. This background may be obtained through computer science courses.
Some large firms or specialized jobs may require a master's degree in computer engineering. Some experienced engineers obtain a master's degree in business administration (MBA). All engineers must continue their learning over the course of their careers in order to keep up with rapid advances in technology.
Some students participate in internships while in school so that they can gain practical experience.
Some computer hardware engineers can advance to become computer and information systems managers.
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.
The median annual wage for computer hardware engineers is $117,220. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $68,460, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $185,240.
The median annual wages for computer hardware engineers in the top industries in which they work are as follows:
|Computer and peripheral equipment manufacturing||$140,840|
|Research and development in the physical, engineering, and life sciences||$132,450|
|Semiconductor and other electronic component manufacturing||$113,050|
|Computer systems design and related services||$111,610|
Most computer hardware engineers work full time.
Employment of computer hardware engineers is projected to grow 6 percent over the next ten years, 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. Thus, although declining employment in the manufacturing industries that employ many of these workers will impede the growth of this occupation, computer hardware engineers should be less affected than production occupations because firms are less likely to outsource this type of work.
An increase in hardware startup firms and the ongoing increase in devices with computer chips embedded in them, such as household appliances, medical devices, and automobiles, may lead to some job growth for computer hardware engineers.
|Occupational Title||Employment, 2018||Projected Employment, 2028||Change, 2018-28|
|Computer hardware engineers||64,400||68,400||6||4,000|
A portion of the information on this page is used by permission of the U.S. Department of Labor.