Career Outlook and Salary for Hardware Engineers


Updated September 14, 2023

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A hardware engineer designs and helps produce computer hardware and related components. These professionals should continue to be pivotal to society as computer technology continues to weave into our everyday lives.

As of 2020, more than 54,000 hardware engineers worked in the United States. People choose this career for its varied daily activities and ability to blend technology with practical creation and development.

This guide explores typical influences on a hardware engineer's average salary and the profession's outlook in the industry.

What Does a Hardware Engineer Do?

Also known as computer hardware engineers, hardware engineers create new technologies for computers. The daily duties of a hardware engineer include ideation, testing and upgrading current technologies, maintenance, and contacting teams and project managers for project updates.

These professionals may work with one organization to develop computer system components or collaborate with technology companies to design hardware for specific products or systems. Governments, school districts, healthcare systems, and research agencies may also employ hardware engineers.

They typically work with other hardware engineers, software developers, researchers, and manufacturers to carry out their visions. Because hardware engineers collaborate with other individuals and teams, they may encounter bottlenecks during various project phases. Often, software and hardware engineers rely on collaborators for project success.

How Much Does a Hardware Engineer Make?

According to Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) 2021 data, the median computer hardware engineer salary is $128,170. Hardware engineers who work in research or computer equipment manufacturing industries may earn even more.

Education may also influence a hardware engineer's average salary. Professionals who obtain master's degrees and on-the-job experience can pursue leadership roles as computer and information systems managers. These leaders earned a median salary of $159,010 as of May 2021.

Median Annual Salary of Hardware Engineers, 2021


Source: BLS

Hardware Engineer Average Salary by Experience

The average salary for hardware engineers can increase significantly over time as they gain on-the-job experience and credentials. For example, Payscale's January 2023 data notes a salary jump from $78,440 to $99,790 from entry-level to mid-career professionals.

How much does a hardware engineer make as an experienced professional? According to Payscale's data, engineers with ten or more years of experience earn $118,740, on average, with the potential to earn $129,730.

Hardware Engineer Average Salary by Education

Aspiring professionals can consider several pathways to becoming hardware engineers, including various degrees, like bachelor's degrees in computer science or master's degrees in information technology.

According to Payscale's January 2023 data, a bachelor's degree in computer engineering delivers the highest salary for undergraduates, on average. This higher salary is likely because it is a specialized degree that teaches advanced programming and technical skills.

In contrast, a master's degree in software engineering pays the highest average salary for graduates. The BLS projects software development careers to grow by 25% from 2021-2031, while computer hardware engineer jobs have a 5% projected growth.

Computer hardware engineers may also enter the field without degrees by pursuing online bootcamps. These programs explore fundamental computer science, programming, and project management concepts essential to a hardware engineer career. However, they may offer different starting salaries than a degree would and cover a broader curriculum than just hardware engineering.

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Hardware Engineer Average Salary by Location

On average, some states pay higher computer hardware engineer salaries than others. According to BLS May 2021 data, California ranks as the top-paying and top-employing state for these professionals. Additionally, Payscale notes that three California cities — San Jose, San Francisco, and San Diego — offer the highest average annual wages in the country for the profession.

Cost of living may also factor into the average hardware engineer salary. For instance, California ranks third for the country's highest cost of living figures — its residents can typically expect higher housing, grocery, and other living expenses.

A state's technology industry can also play a role in the demand and salary of a hardware engineer. For example, California, Washington, and Virginia each have steadily growing technology industries and provide top salaries for hardware engineers.

Top-Paying Cities for Hardware Engineers
State Average Annual Wage Percent Above the National Average

San Jose, California



San Francisco, California



San Diego, California



Source: Payscale, January 2023

Top-Paying States for Hardware Engineers, May 2021
State Number of Hardware Engineers Employed Annual Mean Wage
















Source: BLS

Career Outlook for Hardware Engineers

The BLS projects the demand for hardware engineers to increase by 5% from 2021-2031, keeping pace with the average for all occupations. This career meets the needs of consistently growing technological advances. Many industries also need these professionals, including manufacturing, software publishing, scientific research, and government agencies.

Some industries may see a more significant increase in their need for hardware engineers from 2021-2031. For instance, BLS data indicates a projected 10% growth for hardware engineers in electrical equipment and component manufacturing but a 12.8% decrease in the electric power generation industry.

Anyone considering this career should remain aware of post-pandemic layoffs in the tech industry, which could influence future job opportunities.

Still, the overall outlook for this career appears promising. Even if spending decreases across the tech industry, the need for hardware and software engineers should remain relatively stable as quality technical equipment continues to be necessary.

Explore some of the best locations and potential career opportunities for hardware engineers in the following section.

Employment Outlook for Hardware Engineers, 2021-2031


Source: BLS

Best Locations for Hardware Engineers

The most plentiful opportunities for hardware engineers concentrate in states with massive tech industries, such as California, Texas, and Virginia. These states are known for their high employment rates for technology professionals.

Cities typically employ more hardware engineers than rural areas. Several California metropolitan regions, such as San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara and San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, also feature ample employment opportunities. Additionally, the Portland-Vancouver-Hillsboro of Washington and Oregon is a top employer for hardware engineers.

Washington and Colorado lead the country with the greatest projected change in demand for this profession, at 35.3% and 32.1%, respectively. These states have shown some of the most promising technology climates, especially in Seattle and Colorado Springs.

Top-Employing States for Hardware Engineers, May 2021
Top-Employing States Number of Hardware Engineers Employed Annual Mean Wage
















Source: BLS

States With the Greatest Projected Increase in Employment for Computer Hardware Engineers, 2020-2030
State Percent Projected Change, 2020-30 Average Annual Openings
















Source: Projections Central

Career Opportunities for Hardware Engineers

With experience and professional development, hardware engineers can move into leadership roles. Project management positions are often a logical next step, with hardware engineers managing development teams and acting as liaisons between their teams and executives.

Hardware engineers can also become computer and information systems managers. These professionals manage IT departments for their organizations. They oversee projects, analyze data, assist with decision-making, and provide hands-on support for their teams.

Job experience is often more critical than education to advance a hardware engineer career, especially for executive roles, like chief technology officer. However, pursuing a certification relevant to an organization's most-used tools, like Cisco certified technician, could open doors for advancement.

FAQ About a Hardware Engineer's Career Outlook

  • Do hardware engineers make good money?

    Yes — hardware engineers can earn strong salaries, especially in specific industries. For instance, the securities and financial investment services industry pays hardware engineers an average of $194,630, while information service companies pay an average salary of $183,640, according to the BLS.

  • Which states are best for hardware engineers?

    BLS data from May 2021 shows that California is both the top-paying and top-employing state for hardware engineers. Virginia and Oregon also offer attractive salaries and employ many of these professionals.

  • Which cities are best for hardware engineers?

    Cities with tech-focused economies, like Seattle and San Francisco, offer hardware engineers opportunities for career and salary growth. Several cities in California, including San Jose and San Diego, pay some of the highest salaries for hardware engineers.

  • Are software engineers or hardware engineers paid more?

    Hardware and software engineers typically earn similar wages, on average. According to Payscale data from January 2023, software engineers earn an average salary of $90,750, while hardware engineers earn $90,880. However, location, experience, education, and other factors can influence software and hardware engineer salary.

Page last reviewed on Jan 20, 2023

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