Computer hardware engineers are involved in designing, developing, testing and overseeing the manufacturing and installation of computer hardware. This includes keyboards and circuit boards, printers and routers. Their work is similar to electronics engineers because they also are involved in testing and designing circuits and various electronic mechanisms. The difference between these two occupations is that computer hardware engineers focus on tasks related only to computer equipment. New computer technology is usually the result of the innovation, research and development carried out by these workers. Like other engineers, they apply scientific and mathematic principles to create new solutions to computer-related issues. They also combine scientific research to develop computer hardware in order to meet the needs of businesses and consumers.

Computer Hardware Engineers Job Summary

  • To prepare for a career as a computer hardware engineer, a bachelor’s degree in engineering or computer science is needed.
  • Admission into an engineering and computer science bachelor degree program usually requires that individuals take high school courses in mathematics, physical sciences, humanities and the social sciences.
  • Many experienced computer hardware engineers obtain graduate degrees to expand their knowledge.
  • According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment in this field is expected to grow slower than the average due to increased foreign competition.

Work Environment for Computer Hardware Engineers

Most of them work in office settings, laboratories or industrial complexes. They usually work 40 hours per week and may be required to work overtime, including nights and weekends, to meet deadlines.

Education Requirements and Training for Computer Hardware Engineers

To prepare for a career as a computer hardware engineer, individuals need to obtain a bachelor’s degree in engineering, computer science. Baccalaureate engineering programs typically combine a specific engineering concentration with courses in mathematics and physical sciences, humanities and social sciences. Additional courses in computer science, design and information technology are also usually required for computer hardware engineers.

Graduate degrees are required for those wishing to obtain teaching positions at colleges and universities as well as for jobs in research and development. Computer hardware engineers with relevant work experience often obtain a graduate degree in business administration or engineering to expand their knowledge and to learn about new technologies within their field.

Those interested in enrolling in an undergraduate computer science or engineering program will need to have a strong foundation in math including algebra, trigonometry and calculus. They will also need to have taken courses in chemistry, physics and biology, as well as English, humanities and social studies. Although these degrees are part of a four-year program of study, many people find that it usually takes four to five years to actually complete. Most of the time, students concentrate on completing math, science, humanities, social science and basic engineering courses during the first two years. The last two years of the program are focused mainly on engineering topics and computer science.

Employment Outlook, and Salary Data for Computer Engineers

According to research published by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), computer hardware engineers held approximately 75,870 jobs in May 2015. Most of these jobs were in computer systems design and related services, computer and peripheral equipment manufacturing and semiconductor and other electronic component manufacturing. Other jobs were in the federal executive branch and scientific research and development services.

Employment in this field is forecasted by the BLS to grow slower than the average compared to other occupations. This is due to increasing foreign competition in computer hardware manufacturing.

BLS records for May 2015 indicate that the average annual wage for computer hardware engineers was $111,730. The middle 50% earned between $86,300 and $141,280. While the lowest 10% had a yearly salary of $65,570 or less, the highest 10% earned upwards of $167,100 annually.