Find out What It Takes to Become a Computer Engineer

Programmer in a small office
••• Gunnar Svanberg

Tech jobs of all kinds are in-demand, including computer engineers, who are responsible for designing, developing, implementing, and testing computer-based hardware and software. This also includes the components that are found inside computer equipment, as well as the actual devices that contain the computers and the software that runs on those machines. They also may design networks that connect computer systems and work on integrating software programs with computer hardware.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, job growth for computer hardware engineers is projected at 6% for the decade ending in 2026, which is comparable for the growth projected for all professions. Job growth for computer software engineers is projected to be even higher.

Educational & Skills

Computer engineers typically need a bachelor's degree in computer engineering, computer science, or electrical engineering. However, the growth of online education and in-person boot camps makes it much easier to become a computer engineer or programmer without a formal degree.

Since the computer engineering field is quite broad, the required technical skills listed in the job postings you come across will vary, depending on whether the job is more hardware- or software-focused. The employer's industry also plays a major role.

Jobs typically require the following skills:

  • An understanding of the particular computer hardware architecture you will be working with
  • Experience designing, coding, and testing software
  • Familiarity with software test procedures or scripts
  • Experience building your own PC systems
  • Understanding of different operating systems, including Windows and Linux, and how certain types of software will work with them
  • Experience with device drivers
  • Understanding of networking and security
  • Understanding of specialized software typically used in some industries
  • knowledge of programming languages such as C++, Java, and other object-oriented languages

Since computer engineers work closely with programmers, designers, product developers, and testers, they also need to have strong interpersonal and communication skills, as well as the ability to work as part of a team.

Fields Employing Computer Engineers

Computer engineers are likely to find work in a variety of fields, including telecommunications, manufacturing, transportation, and product development.

However, there also are some interesting niche areas of computer engineering where prospective employees might find opportunities. These include:

  • Radar and communications technology
  • High-performance and embedded computing systems for nuclear medicine
  • Military software support
  • Designing new motors and sensors for robotic equipment

The Future of Computer Engineering

Computer engineering is full of countless opportunities in the future for those who are willing to do the work.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, one of the areas of growth for hardware engineers will be with companies that build appliances, cars, trucks, and medical equipment. Every year, more such items come embedded with computer chips, and somebody has to design them.

The real growth, however, is in computer software, where job growth is expected to outpace that of hardware engineers four times over. Health care-related fields, including the insurance industry, need software designers who can create innovative computer programs to manage their data.

In addition to the private sector, government institutions—including the military—need hardware and software engineers to help build and maintain equipment.