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7 Different Types of Jobs for Computer Engineers (Career Opportunities)

Man hands with screw driver fixing motherboard.

If you are similar to me and have known your way around technology, a career as a computer engineer might have passed your mind. However, I wondered how large the spectrum of jobs was, and I went and researched to discover my options. Is a degree in computer engineering a beneficial one?

These jobs focus on hardware components, so positions such as System Engineer, Network Engineer, and Firmware Engineer will suit you. Anything technology-related will also be available for you to explore. You will never have to worry about finding a position within this career field.

I proceeded to dig deeper to understand what would be necessary to excel in a career as a computer engineer. I researched all possible obstacles such as finance, location, or even just the required skills. Let’s go over the step-by-step process of achieving a successful position in this large spectrum of opportunities.

Type of Subjects to Take in School

Open book and notebook on a wooden table in the library.

Professionals highly suggest that choosing certain subjects is essential to becoming a computer engineer. One crucial subject that you require for computer engineering is mathematics. However, additional choices such as chemistry and physics are also good choices to help you understand certain concepts easier.

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There is also the option of computer-related subjects such as computer science or any other topics that connect with computer engineering or robotics. Excelling in these subjects will help you prepare for your future studies.

As a result, you will be better prepared when you proceed to tertiary education, allowing for a smoother beginning in your first year of study.

Additional Classes for Computer Engineering

Certain institutions offer classes relating to computer engineering that are separate from the standard school syllabus. Enrolling in one of these classes will provide some practical advantages and knowledge to thrive in your studies to come. Here are examples of topics that these classes will introduce you to in the beginning:

  • Introduction to electronics
  • Circuit analysis
  • Signal Processing
  • Embedded systems
  • Engineering computing
  • Computer vision
  • Computer networks
  • Autonomous robotics
  • Computer architecture
  • Programming principles

Skills Needed (Academic And Non-Academic)

Man working on his laptop.

Listed below are skills for one that wishes to obtain a successful job as a computer engineer.

  • Coding and programming
  • SDLC (software development life cycle) Intelligence
  • Electrical Engineering
  • Networking
  • Secure coding
  • Cryptography
  • Code reviewing
  • Database Knowledge
  • Communication Skills
  • Team Coordination
  • Resilience
  • Analytical thinking
  • Problem-solving
  • Creativity
  • Attention to details

Computer Engineering Degrees (Time, Cost, Type)

There are different degrees available that will assist you in selecting a suitable job best suited for you. Other degrees come with different periods and costs needed to complete them.

In addition, some computer science schools offer students, who study abroad in the United States, the option to choose a double major in both Computer Science and Computer Engineering. However, this degree is more challenging than a regular degree.

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Within the United States, there are 390 colleges and universities that offer a course in computer engineering. The years needed to finish a course in computer engineering can range from four up to seven years’ worth of studying.

The tuition fees also vary depending on whether you are a state resident or an out-of-state student. The costs also differ on whether you are an undergraduate or a graduate.

Average Tuition Fees of Computer Engineering Courses
  In-State Out-of-State
Undergraduate $10 008 $28 756
Graduate $11 771 $23 624

There are two main types of degrees, and those are Computer Science and Computer Engineering. Computer Science specializes in artificial intelligence, data science, cyber-security, cloud computing, and video game development.

Computer Engineering (CompE) specializes in hardware systems, robotics/cybernetics, embedded systems, medical image computing, and distributed computing. The existence of these two degrees allows you to choose which direction you would instead prefer to develop in.

In addition, these two options ensure that you hone your skills to something of interest to you and shape your existing skills.  The difference between the two simplified is that Computer Science deals with algorithms and data, and Computer Engineering deals with firmware and hardware.

Computer Science or Computer Engineering – Which Is Harder?

Man coding on his laptop.

The challenges vary from course to course, and the difficulty often depends on your self-discipline, abilities, and mental capacity to learn new concepts.

Computer scientists get paid well because the demand for IT specialists is constantly growing larger. However, you will discover that it is not easy to become a Computer Science expert. Most jobs only require a Bachelor’s degree in Computer Science.

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Still, a Master’s degree will take priority if you wish to land a position in management, which commonly demands more specialized knowledge and good work experience. So, as stated previously, both these areas have their challenges and obstacles for you to face, and one should not consider one branch any less demanding than the other.

However, both degrees offer an excellent opportunity for a successful job in many different positions, which are known to become more and more available due to technology’s constant advancing development. So, investing in these branches of careers is a secure and stable option.

Computer Engineering Specializations

In addition to general Computer Engineering degrees, you can expect universities and colleges that offer various specializations for you to narrow down onto an exact branch you find the most interesting. Here are a few examples:

  • Hardware Systems
  • Distributed Computing
  • Robotics and Cybernetics
  • Embedded Systems
  • Computer Graphics and Visualization
  • Medical Image Computing
  • Computer Network and Security

Salaries for Computer Engineering Jobs

Woman in denim pants holding a bunch of money.

The state average salary for Computer Engineering is $89 256 annually in the United States. But it’s not left unsaid that with different careers come various paychecks, so let’s look at a few examples of average salaries for these types of jobs.

  • Firmware Engineer                                      –           $98 250
  • Computer Engineer                                     –           $92 000
  • Mobile Device Engineer                             –           $91 700
  • Computer Architecture Developer           –           $85 750
  • Computer Scientist                                      –           $78 300
  • System Engineer                                          –           $77 750
  • Network Engineer                                       –           $72 350

Computer Engineering Jobs in Detail

We have already mentioned some jobs that computer engineers can obtain. However, let us now look at these jobs in more detail.

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Computer Engineer

Computer engineer testing circuits.

Computer Engineering originally began and is still considered a branch of Electrical Engineering. However, to clarify the definition, computer engineers deal more with the hardware aspects of modern technology.

They develop and test microchips, circuits, processors, and many other physical components of a computer system. They also create firmware, a vital software program that allows the operating systems and applications to take complete advantage of the hardware.

Let’s look at a real-life example, such as a smartphone. Computer engineers are the ones who test and manufacture the motherboard, the chipset, the memory (RAM), and various other components.

They also create the basic firmware, which allows these different components to communicate or interact with the iOS or Android mobile operating system.

Firmware Engineer

Firmware engineer working on her phone and laptop.

A firmware engineer creates software that tells how a device should react to various inputs. There are similarities between software engineers and electrical engineers; firmware engineers combine both those professions’ skill sets.

These engineers are mainly in charge of ensuring that a device’s electrical components turn active signals into precise operations. The engineers achieve this by creating embedded software within the memory storage of different products.

Firmware engineers must have exceptional knowledge of software development. As they design, they will be integrating embedded programs with various systems.

Firmware engineers also work quite closely with the hardware development team because they determine their necessities during the firmware development process. Firmware engineers must understand how product elements operate to create the proper software to analyze commands.

Mobile Device Engineer

Mobile device engineer working on his iPhone.

They are pretty similar to firmware engineers, but, as the name states, they are more connected to software implemented in mobile devices.

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These engineers model, develop and apply software programs for smartphones and other mobile devices. In addition, they specialize in operating systems that they design specifically for mobile devices such as Android or IOS.

They collect data which then provides them insight to guide the development of various programs and apps that meet a user’s requirements.

They provide instructions and intricate plans, write code and manage the test and debugging. They also perform a direct role in the launch of new official products. Collaborating with different departments such as other engineers, designers and analysts is often a part of a firmware engineer’s schedule.

Computer Architecture Developer

Computer architecture developer with headset working on her laptop and dual monitor.

Computer architects will depend on their vast hardware, software, systems, and network platforms knowledge to deal with various business needs. The main milestone for these professionals is to use their knowledge to improve the efficiency and reliability of computer systems that function within different workplaces.

They examine various systems for issues and conceive new inventive solutions to difficulties as they regularly discover. They often work with devices such as financial (POS), scientific, and banking systems.

 Computer architectures assist in modeling computer systems and improving the effectiveness of the system. Once they discover areas where improvement is possible, they use their extensive knowledge and collaboration with other computer programmers to fix potential problems.

They are also responsible for repairing, updating, or adjusting existing programs and network systems and assisting generic system troubleshooting and security examinations.

Computer Scientist

Computer scientists utilize technology and their excellent problem-solving skills to resolve a range of various issues.

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They work on multiple areas such as space explorations, discovering vulnerable spots in the gene code of threatening viruses, and designing software that enables autonomous drones and robotics to perform their allocated tasks.

They also spend their time on the utility grid and generation appliances of power-producing companies. However, they spend most of their time performing various tasks, such as designing algorithms into software that creates mobile applications for smartphones.

This list also includes managing complicated machinery, replicating advanced processes to make forecasts, improving business operation, examining a vast amount of collected data to discover patterns. More advanced tasks are automating physical tasks and building AI systems that produce faster, reliable, and precise diagnoses.

System Engineer

System engineer coding on his laptop.

These engineers define a customer’s necessities and essential functions in the beginning stages of a products and services development cycle. Then, simplistically, system engineers assist in coordinating different teams and testing and managing the evaluation for the development or design to ensure the best output possible.

In addition, they often collaborate with a project manager and the engineering crew, which enables them to thoroughly communicate between the two to simplify the performance of a successful system.

There are two primary processes that system engineers follow: a system engineer technical process and a system engineer management process.

The technological revolution is the integration of computers and their network under IT operations, and the management process is the management goal to arrange the technical effort in their lifecycle.

Network Engineer

Network engineer fixing network cables.

A network engineer professionalizes designing, implementing, and managing the computer networks that assist in-house voice, data, video, and wireless network services.

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People often compare the concept of a network engineer as being similar to a network administrator; however, a network engineer has additional executive responsibilities. The engineering side is known to deal primarily with organizing, design, and technical requirements.

In addition, these engineers focus on providing highly accessible network infrastructures to maintain the users’ online information technology ventures.

Network engineers sometimes overlap with other positions, such as computer network architects or security system engineers, and work with an organization internally or as an outside consultant.

Network engineers have an extensive range of duties such as designing and implementing network configurations, troubleshooting performance problems, monitoring networks and configuring security systems such as firewalls.

Work Hours for Computer Engineers

A man in suit going to work.

Computer Engineers work for 8 hours over four days resulting in a minimum of 32 work hours. Of course, like all workers, downtime is also available. Still, the amount of time depends on various factors such as which country you are situated in, what company you work for, and the number of years you have provided your service.

Besides sick and emergency leave, the days of vacation leave can vary between 10 to 20 days.

Highest and Lowest Positions for Computer Engineers

One of the highest positions for a computer engineer is a Software DevelopmentDirector, which results in an average yearly salary of $143 000.

The primary responsibilities of this position are to structure the software development process, manage communication between different teams’ participants and departments, and converse with clients, leading to future product improvements.

One of the lowest positions, also known as entry-level computer science jobs, is a Computer User Support Specialist that provides an average annual salary of $48 500.

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A few responsibilities of someone in this position are to log and manage supports calls or emails. They also determine and troubleshoot software and hardware complications and assist clients with installing and operating software and cloud applications.

Is a Computer Engineer Career a Successful One?

Men and women in corporate attire raising one of their hands.

While job opportunities are different between computer scientists and computer engineers, future graduates can predetermine that they will be working in software positions as the industry demand is higher in that area.

Besides the fact that the salaries one receives from these jobs are higher than a minimum wage, it is also a field that is vastly accessible, meaning that finding a position should not prove to be a tedious process. There is a large spectrum of jobs for any personality type.

Furthermore, salaries for computer engineers will gradually increase within the coming years. According to an analysis by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the jobs available for computer engineers will surely increase by 2% by 2029.

This data guarantees that positions within the career field of computer engineering will always be available for you no matter where you may situate in the world. Furthermore, this area of jobs is also immune to the automation process, which shortens job availability for other career fields.

However, don’t disregard that the career field is competitive, so perseverance and a good work ethic will be essential aspects of your journey.

The competition for an excellent position is high, and knowledge from classes won’t be enough. However, to possibly stand out amongst other applicants, you should invest in your career early, such as looking for internships, getting involved in research projects, and learning independently.

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Benefits of a Job as a Computer Engineer

Because the selection of jobs is so vast, it guarantees that there will always be a position for you to occupy. There is also the aspect of career stability. The fact that the available jobs for computer engineers will only increase in the upcoming years provides more support than this career field is a great one for those who are computer savvy.

Because the jobs are computer-related, this gives you the freedom to work from anywhere in the world. Even if you work with a company, they are more likely to deal with travel and accommodation costs; therefore, you can do what you love while traveling for free – sounds pretty spectacular.

The creation of open-source software allows you to share your work internationally. This feature provides an excellent way for collaboration between different computer engineers and makes sure that your finished product is one of quality. But, like all careers, some disadvantages are worth mentioning.

Sitting and working for long nights in front of a bright screen can lead to various health issues such as eye strain, headaches, and repetitive strain injury (RSI). In addition, bad posture can also lead to other health complications such as neck and back pain.

Computer engineers work very long hours, especially when dealing with crucial tasks such as repairing serious bugs, monitoring a server transition, or maintenance tasks. Specific jobs, such as a Cyber Security Specialist, need to be prepared at any time for an emergency call.

The time zones between you and the company you work for could differ. This aspect means that your sleep schedule will probably rotate to you working during the night and sleeping during the day. This schedule could affect other parts of your life, such as your social life and daily routines.

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Is this Job Financially Stable for a Family?

A family sitting on the living room's carpet.

The average annual household budget for a family within the United States is $63 784. So, if you were to live alone, the salary received from a job as a computer engineer will provide enough financial stability for you to live comfortably.

It also provides a large sum of money to provide for a family; therefore, there shouldn’t be any financial pressure that you will have to experience in the future.

Top 10 Institutions in the US to Study Computer Engineering

No. Institution Location Tuition Fee
      In-state Out-of-state
1. Massachusetts Institute of Technology Cambridge, MA $53 450
2. University of California Berkeley, CA $11 442 $26 544
3. Stanford University Stanford, CA $57 861
4. University of Illinois Urbana, IL $18 998 $36 150
5. Carnegie Mellon University Pittsburgh, PA $50 100
6. Georgia Institute of Technology Atlanta, GA $14 064 $29 140
7. University of Michigan Ann Arbor, MI $27 718 $52 098
8. California Institute of Technology Pasadena, CA $23 820
9. Cornell University Ithaca, NY $29 500
10. University of Texas Austin, TX $10 554 $19 320

Top 5 Institutions Outside the United States

  1. University of Cambridge – Cambridge, United Kingdom
  2. University of Oxford – Oxford, United Kingdom
  3. EPFL – Lausanne, Switzerland
  4. ETH Zurich – Swiss Federal Institution of Technology – Zürich, Switzerland
  5. National University of Singapore – Singapore, Singapore

Conclusion

After analyzing all the information gathered, we can conclude that a computer engineer can choose many jobs. Whether they be more software or hardware involved is entirely your choice. Furthermore, you won’t need to worry about a position not being available because the market is so large and will only grow more in the future.

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There is also a long list of institutions for you to study at within the United States and worldwide. The salary these jobs provide is a large sum that will guarantee that you can live your life while staying financially comfortable every year.

In addition, you can travel around and experience the world while doing something that you enjoy.

References:

Quora: What kind of high school courses to take for computer engineering?

CareerAddict: 10 Important Skills Needed to Become a Computer Engineer

College Tuition Compare: Computer Engineering Schools

Mastersportal.com: Computer Science vs Computer Engineering – Which Degree to Study in 2021?

Mastersportal.com: Highest-Paying Computer Science Jobs in 2021 – Career Benefits and Disadvantages

Mastersportal.com: What Is Computer Engineering? Should I Study It in 2021?

80,000 Hours: Software engineering at large tech-firms

Quora: How many vacation days do computer programmers get?

ValuePenguin: Average Household Budget

U.S. News & World Report: Best Computer Engineering Programs

QS Top Universities: Computer Science and Information Systems

Career Karma: How to Become a Firmware EngGlassdoorineer and Control the Modern World

Glassdoor: What does a Mobile Engineer do?

Learn.org: Computer Architect: Salary and Career Facts

Murdoch University: What does a career in computer science look like?

Field Engineer: How to Become a Systems Engineer

TechTarget: network engineer