Today’s businesses and organizations are powered by silicon, chips and circuits. If you’re the type who doesn’t mind opening up the computer case or transforming a series of components into a workable electronics system, then a career as a computer hardware engineer may be in your future.
Computer hardware engineers are responsible for researching, designing, building, testing and supervising computer hardware installations. These engineers are the professionals who have helped technology evolve from its early days of massive room-sized computers and punch cards to the modern micro systems in use today.
Computer hardware engineers are well-educated. Most jobs in this field require a bachelor’s degree, but due to the rapid pace of technology, a bachelor’s degree is just the beginning. Expect to enroll in continuing education courses throughout your career. In addition, engineers that serve the public must be licensed by their state.
This field is fast paced and ideal for those with technical aptitudes, but a variety of skills are required, including mathematics, reporting, analytical and technological.
Computer hardware engineers are responsible for the hardware side of the computer, while computer software engineers develop the software that runs on the physical machine. For example, the hardware engineers design everything from the keyboard to the CPU as well as functional and design elements such as built-in speakers and rotating screens.
These computer science professionals work in various disciplines such as research and development, manufacturing or even designing computer systems and networks for small businesses.
Because technology is getting smaller and more powerful, computer hardware engineers must understand technology, math, science and programming. Designing a faster processor or higher capacity hard drive requires such focus. In addition, these engineers work closely with others and must be able to communicate their ideas both orally as well as in writing.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, as of 2006, roughly 79,000 jobs were held by computer hardware engineers across the United States. Forty-one percent of these professionals worked in the computer and electronic product manufacturing industry while 19 percent focused on computer systems design and related services.
In 2006, computer hardware engineers earned a median annual income of $88,470. Those on the lower end of the tier earned $53,910 while the top 10 percent earned $135,260.