Computer hardware engineers research, design, develop, and test computer systems and components such as processors, circuit boards, memory devices, networks, and routers. These engineers discover new directions in computer hardware, which generate rapid advances in computer technology.
Computer hardware engineers typically do the following:
Design new computer hardware, creating schematics of computer equipment to be built
Test the completed models of 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
Maintain knowledge of computer engineering trends and new technology
Many hardware engineers design noncomputer devices that incorporate processors and other computer components and connect to the Internet. For example, many car parts have computer systems embedded in them. Computer hardware engineers also are designing a growing number of medical devices with a computer system and the ability to connect to the Internet.
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 a mobile phone frequently are developed jointly. Hardware engineers also may perform some computer programming in a hardware description language (HDL), which describes the digital circuits in hardware. Using this language, computer hardware engineers can simulate how the hardware design would work, test for errors, and then fix the design.
Work Environment for Computer Hardware Engineers
Computer hardware engineers held about 77, 700 jobs in 2014. The industries that employed the most computer hardware engineers were as follows:
Computer systems design and related services
Computer and peripheral equipment manufacturing
Semiconductor and other electronic component manufacturing
Research and development in the physical, engineering, and life sciences
Computer hardware engineers usually work in research laboratories that build and test various types of computer models. Most work in high-tech manufacturing firms.
Computer Hardware Engineer Work Schedules
Most computer hardware engineers work full time. About 1 in 4 worked more than 40 hours per week in 2014.
Get the education you need: Find schools for Computer Hardware Engineers near you!
Most computer hardware engineers need a bachelor’s degree from an accredited computer engineering program.
Computer Hardware Engineer 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 (formerly the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology). Employers may prefer students from an accredited program. To prepare for a major in computer or electrical engineering, students should have a solid background in math and science.