Computer hardware engineers focus mainly on the physical aspects of computers, from planning the concept for the system to manufacturing the parts for installation. They develop, plan, test, and investigate computer hardware components such as circuit cards, memory chips, and keyboards. While the work of a computer hardware engineer is similar to that of an electrical engineer, the former work specifically with computers and computer-related equipment.
Computer Hardware Engineer Job Responsibilities
Computer hardware engineers usually work in climate-controlled offices or laboratories due to necessary environment requirements of the electronic components which they are working with. The computer hardware engineer normally works a 5-day, 40-hour week although long hours and tight deadlines can be a part of this job, depending on the nature of the project. However, an engineer’s schedule usually allots enough time for experimentation and testing of prototype models of potential equipment. If the engineer is a consultant, out-of-town travel may be necessary. Additional time may be spent studying technical journals, attending seminars, or training in order to keep up with changes within this field.
Computer Hardware Engineer Training and Education Requirements
A minimum of a Bachelor’s degree in engineering is usually required to become a computer hardware engineer. However, entry-level positions may be filled by those who have sufficient computer-related experience. One must also become registered as a Professional Engineer (PEng) within an association to secure employment and practice in this field. Higher-level management positions require training in business and administration as well as technical training in computer sciences and theory. Computer hardware engineers may also obtain a Master’s degree or even a Doctoral degree, depending on how far they wish to advance.
Those who are pursuing their Bachelor’s degree may expect hands-on experience in laboratory clinics and classroom-based seminars included in the curriculum. The program allows aspiring engineers to study hardware and software applications, and also how the two interact. Classes include the study of circuit boards and their components, electromagnetics, digital design, and embedded systems as well as computer networks.
Graduate students usually study network, parallel computing, or machine vision systems. Coursework includes the architecture of the computer, microprocessors, algorithms, as well as computer organization.
A computer hardware engineer must possess certain knowledge of computers and electronics including circuit boards, processors, and electronic equipment as well as applications and programming. Every programmer must have a solid foundation of mathematics and the English language. The individual also must have a sound background in engineering science and technology, including applying principles, techniques, procedures, and equipment to the design and production of various computer-related hardware. Design techniques are also used for the production of technical plans, blueprints, drawings, and models. If the individual would like to be involved with administration and management, knowledge of strategic planning, resource allotment, human resources modeling, leadership principles, and fabrication methods are all aspects that one should study. There are also clerical duties such as word processing and managing files and records.
Certain skills that are required include operations analysis in which the individual analyzes needs and product requirements to create a design. Troubleshooting, determining causes of operating errors and deciding what to do about it is a big part of the engineer’s job description. Mathematics, science, speaking, critical thinking, active listening, and reading comprehension are all basic skills that the computer hardware engineer should have a solid foundation of.
Computer Hardware Engineer Salary and Wages
The starting salary for a computer hardware engineer is among the highest of all college graduates. It is critical for engineers to continue their education to keep up with ever-changing improvements in technology. The average hourly wage is $48.75, with an annual wage of $101,410. In fact, the average starting salary for graduates of Bachelor’s degree programs in engineering was $61,738 for one specializing in computer hardware.*
*According to the BLS, http://www.bls.gov/oco/
Computer Hardware Engineer Certifications
No specific licensing requirements exist for computer hardware engineer. However, a voluntary certification process, the Computer Service A+ Technician, is available internationally. It is sponsored by the Computing Technology Industry Association, and mandates that students must complete two course modules and two exams in hardware and operating systems in order to meet the requirements. This certification does not replace a Bachelor’s degree, however
Computer Hardware Engineer Professional Associations
There are several organizations that provide professional development support for computer hardware engineers, the largest of which is the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE). It offers numerous professional publications appropriate for many types of technical professionals. Additionally, networking, career development support, and continuing educational opportunities are available for members. Computer hardware engineers may also join professional organizations such as the National Society of Professional Engineers which provides resources on continuing education, career advancement, networking opportunities, professional growth, and advocacy and outreach through its government relations efforts. The Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) is the world’s largest educational and scientific computing society, and provides the computing field’s premier digital library. The ACM also serves its members and the computing profession with leading-edge publications, conferences, and career resources. Both associations have different levels of members (professional, student, retired, graduated) and dues vary based on the type of membership desired.