Computer Hardware Engineers


Quick Facts: Computer Hardware Engineers
2017 Median Pay $115,120 per year 
$55.35 per hour
Typical Entry-Level Education Bachelor's degree
Work Experience in a Related Occupation None
On-the-job Training None
Number of Jobs, 2016 73,600
Job Outlook, 2016-26 5% (As fast as average)
Employment Change, 2016-26 4,000

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Computer Hardware Engineering Career, Salary and Education Information

what Computer Hardware Engineers Do

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

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COMPUTER hardware engineers

Duties of computer hardware engineers

Computer hardware engineers typically do the following:

  • 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

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.


Work Environment for Computer Hardware Engineers

Computer hardware engineers held about 73,600 jobs in 2016. The largest employers of computer hardware engineers were as follows:

Computer systems design and related services: 26%

Computer and peripheral equipment manufacturing: 14%

Semiconductor and other electronic component manufacturing: 12%

Research and development in the physical, engineering, and life sciences: 9%

Federal government: 7%

Work Schedules

Most computer hardware engineers work full time.


How to Become a Computer Hardware Engineer

Most computer hardware engineers need a bachelor’s degree from an accredited computer engineering program.

Education

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.

Important Qualities

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.

Other Experience

Some students participate in internships while in school so that they can gain practical experience.

Advancement

Some computer hardware engineers can advance to become computer and information systems managers.


salaries for Computer Hardware Engineers

The median annual wage for computer hardware engineers was $115,120 in May 2017. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. 

In May 2017, the median annual wages for computer hardware engineers in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Semiconductor and other electronic component manufacturing: $130,150

Research and development in the physical, engineering, and life sciences: $126,670

Computer and peripheral equipment manufacturing: $122,060

Computer systems design and related services: $114,030

Federal government: $111,550


Job Outlook for computer hardware engineers

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. 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.

Job Prospects

Employment projections data for Computer Hardware Engineers, 2016-26

Employment, 2016: 73,600

Projected Employment, 2026: 77,600

Change, 2016-2026: 5%, +4,000


Careers Related to computer hardware engineers

Aerospace Engineers

Aerospace engineers design primarily aircraft, spacecraft, satellites, and missiles. In addition, they create and test prototypes to make sure that they function according to design.

Computer and Information Research Scientists

Computer and information research scientists invent and design new approaches to computing technology and find innovative uses for existing technology. They study and solve complex problems in computing for business, medicine, science, and other fields.

Computer and Information Systems Managers

Computer and information systems managers, often called information technology (IT) managers or IT project managers, plan, coordinate, and direct computer-related activities in an organization. They help determine the information technology goals of an organization and are responsible for implementing computer systems to meet those goals.

Computer Network Architects

Computer network architects design and build data communication networks, including local area networks (LANs), wide area networks (WANs), and Intranets. These networks range from small connections between two offices to next-generation networking capabilities such as a cloud infrastructure that serves multiple customers.

Computer Programmers

Computer programmers write and test code that allows computer applications and software programs to function properly. They turn the program designs created by software developers and engineers into instructions that a computer can follow.

Electrical and Electronics Engineers

Electrical engineers design, develop, test, and supervise the manufacturing of electrical equipment, such as electric motors, radar and navigation systems, communications systems, and power generation equipment. Electronics engineers design and develop electronic equipment, including broadcast and communications systems, such as portable music players and Global Positioning System (GPS) devices.

Mechanical Engineers

Mechanical engineers design, develop, build, and test mechanical and thermal sensors and devices, including tools, engines, and machines.

Network and Computer Systems Administrators

Computer networks are critical parts of almost every organization. Network and computer systems administrators are responsible for the day-to-day operation of these networks.

Software Developers

Software developers are the creative minds behind computer programs. Some develop the applications that allow people to do specific tasks on a computer or another device. Others develop the underlying systems that run the devices or that control networks.

OccupationENTRY-LEVEL EDUCATION2017 MEDIAN PAY
Aerospace Engineering and Operations TechniciansAssociate's degree$67,240
Architectural and Engineering ManagersBachelor's degree$137,720
Computer Hardware EngineersBachelor's degree$115,120
Electrical and Electronics Engineering TechniciansAssociate's degree$63,660
Electrical and Electronics EngineersBachelor's degree$97,970
Industrial EngineersBachelor's degree$85,880
Materials EngineersBachelor's degree$94,610
Mechanical EngineersBachelor's degree$85,880

Citation:

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Computer Hardware Engineers,
on the Internet at https://www.bls.gov/ooh/architecture-and-engineering/computer-hardware-engineers.htm