Computer Engineer Salary and Career Outlook

| Staff Modified on June 23, 2022

Computer Engineer Salary and Career Outlook
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Computer systems have evolved significantly over the past several decades. This is thanks to computer engineers who design, test, and improve these systems. This skilled career can lead to high-paying jobs with some of the best-known companies in the world, including Apple, Amazon, and Google.

Although the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects a slower-than-average growth rate of 2% for computer engineers, these professionals earned a healthy median annual salary of $119,560 as of 2020. Moreover, with computers used in so many types of technology, demand for computer engineers will likely continue into the future.

This page takes an in-depth look at computer engineer salary and job prospects.

What Does a Computer Engineer Do?

Computer engineers design, implement, and test computer systems. They also improve computer systems' efficiency and reliability. A computer engineer might create technology for vehicles, security systems, or other electronic devices. These professionals must understand programming languages and have exceptional problem-solving skills.

Computer engineers work closely with software developers, computer programmers, and other related professionals. Although computer engineers typically work in technology, they may also find jobs in manufacturing, research, and government positions.

Learn more about the life and responsibilities of a computer engineer by visiting the following links:

How Much Can You Earn as a Computer Engineer?

Computer engineers typically made salaries approaching $120,000 as of 2020. However, salaries vary depending on factors like experience: Computer engineers with more years of experience often earn higher salaries than entry-level workers.

Advanced computer engineering degree-holders can land high-paying roles in computer and information systems management, earning a median salary of $151,150 as of 2020.

Degree specializations also contribute to differences in pay. For example, a networking specialization qualifies graduates for network administrator careers with a 2020 median salary of $84,810. Advanced computer engineering degree-holders can land high-paying roles in computer and information systems management, earning a median salary of $151,150 as of 2020.

Location also influences industry salaries. For example, the BLS lists Washington, California, and Massachusetts as the states with the highest wages for computer hardware engineers. Meanwhile, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Nevada offer some of the lowest average salaries.


Source: BLS

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Computer Engineer Salary by Experience

Generally, more experienced professionals earn higher salaries. As computer engineers accrue experience and advanced degrees or certifications, they can command higher salaries.

The following table lists the average annual computer engineer salary outlook based on experience.

Average Computer Engineering Salary by Experience

Years of Experience Average Annual Salary
Entry-Level (<1 year) $75,380
Early Career (1-4 years) $82,250
Mid Career (5-9 years) $94,600
Late Career (10-19 years) $114,130
Source: PayScale, August 2021

Computer Engineer Salary by Education

Recent computer engineering graduates pursue entry-level careers, gaining on-the-job experience as their career advances. An associate degree in computer science or a coding bootcamp can lead to apprenticeship or junior-level opportunities. However, most skilled positions require at least a bachelor's degree. These jobs typically offer higher wages.

A master of science in computer engineering can also significantly boost a graduate's ability to advance their career and earn a higher salary. Gaining several years of experience with a company can also lead to advancement.

Additionally, computer engineering certificates build crucial computer networking and architecture skills to make prospective employees more competitive. These certificates are often more affordable than a graduate degree.

The table below lists the average hourly and annual wages for degree-holders at different education levels. Note that these figures represent all degree-holders across computer science, not solely computer engineers.

Average Salaries by Education

Education Level Average Hourly Wage Average Annual Wage
Associate in Computer Science $16.40 $65,000
Bachelor of Science in Computer Engineering $27.20 $89,000
Master of Science in Computer Engineering $41.00 $102,000
Doctorate of Computer Science $47.50 $127,000
Source: PayScale, August 2021

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Computer Engineer Salary by Location

Like many careers, computer science salaries tend to rise in urban areas where the cost of living is higher. States with thriving business sectors — like Washington, California, and Massachusetts — top the list of states with the highest average computer engineer salary.

The World Population Review notes these states also have some of the highest costs of living in the country: Where the national average cost of living scores 100, California's is 151.7, Massachusetts's is 131.6, and Washington's is 110.7. A higher cost of living leads to higher housing costs and living expenses, which can negate the benefits of a sizable salary.

Other states with more rural communities also need computer engineers and pay well for them. For example, data from the BLS shows the average salary for computer engineers in Alabama, Wisconsin, and Utah tops $100,000. All three states also have lower-than-average costs of living, ranging from 89.3 to 98.4.

It is crucial to consider computer engineer salary versus demand and cost of living when choosing the best area to start your career. The BLS data in the tables below shows the top-paying states and metropolitan regions for computer engineers in 2020.

Top-Paying Metropolitan Areas for Computer Engineers

Metropolitan Area Number of Computer Engineers Employed Average Annual Wage
San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, California 6,980 $179,570
Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue, Washington 1,660 $171,540
Boston-Cambridge-Nashua, Massachusetts-New Hampshire 1,840 $153,780
San Diego-Carlsbad, California 1,110 $135,010
San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, California 2,250 $134,950
Source: BLS, 2020

Top-Paying States for Computer Engineers

State Average Annual Wage Percent Above the National Average
Washington $168,320 33.4%
California $153,730 21.9%
Massachusetts $138,680 9.9%
Maryland $126,870 0.6%
New York $126,510 0.3%
Source: BLS, 2020

Computer Engineers' Job Outlook and Career Prospects

The demand for computer engineers continues to grow, albeit more slowly than other computer-related occupations. The BLS projects 2% growth for this career from 2019-2029, slower than the 4% growth projected for all occupations. Still, companies need computer engineers to create and improve computer hardware, a trend that shows no sign of ceasing.

The BLS projects faster growth for jobs related to computer engineering, including software engineers and web developers: 22% growth and 8% growth, respectively, in these careers from 2019-2029. Thus, degree-seekers prioritizing future job security can specialize in one of these similar, faster-growing disciplines instead.

Location also has a significant impact on available jobs. For example, densely populated regions like the San Francisco Bay Area or the Washington, D.C. metro area offer high computer engineer employment rates. In contrast, states with more rural regions, like Alaska and Louisiana, provide fewer opportunities for these professionals.

+2% from 2019 to 2029

Source: BLS

Best Locations for Computer Engineers

Because most computer engineering jobs are in the tech industry, these positions often cluster in urban areas near companies' headquarters. California employs 15,140 computer engineers, the highest-employing state for these professionals. Several Californian metropolitan areas, including San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara and Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim, lead the pack in employment and wages.

The sections below examine states, areas, and cities with the most potential for computer engineers.

Top States

Computer engineer salaries and job opportunities vary significantly across the country. Generally, states with large metropolitan areas, like California and Texas, employ the most computer engineers and offer some of the highest salaries. These states also tend to have higher projected employment increases for computer engineers.

However, other states with large rural areas, like Missouri and Tennessee, also exhibit excellent job growth projections from 2018-2028, according to Projections Central.

Generally, states with large metropolitan areas, like California and Texas, employ the most computer engineers and offer some of the highest salaries.

Though states like Florida and Texas offer wages lower than the national median salary, for computer engineers, their costs of living are also lower relative to the national index. Florida employs almost 4,000 computer engineers who earn an average wage of $102,610. The cost of living index is 97.9, compared to the national average of 100. Texas employs 4,670 computer engineers who earn an average wage of $113,610. This state's cost of living index is 91.5.

The tables below analyze top-employing states and states with high projected growth for computer engineer employment. This data may help computer science degree-seekers find states with high-paying opportunities.

Top-Employing States for Computer Engineers
Top-Employing States Number of Computer Engineers Employed Average Annual Wage
California 15,140 $153,730
Texas 4,670 $113,610
Colorado 4,350 $119,230
Florida 3,930 $102,610
Maryland 3,170 $126,870
Source: BLS, 2020
States With the Greatest Projected Increase in Employment for Computer Engineers
State Percent Projected Change, 2018-28 Average Annual Openings
Greatest Projected Percentage Increase
Colorado 22.8 420
Missouri 22.2 20
Tennessee 19 60
Kentucky 18.5 30
Nebraska 17.5 40
Most Projected Average Annual Openings
California 10.6 1,960
Maryland 10.6 520
Colorado 22.8 420
Washington 17.1 240
Florida 15.6 210
Source: Projections Central, 2018-28

Top Cities

Generally, cities and metropolitan areas lead the nation's technology industry. Well-known tech companies like PayPal and Google call these areas home. California employs the largest number of computer engineers nationally, thanks to its many metropolitan areas and its business incentives that attract companies to the state.

According to the BLS, regions outside California also offer attractive salaries for computer engineers, including Durham-Chapel Hill, North Carolina ($132,550), and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania ($108,280). Furthermore, these states have much lower cost of living indexes than California: 94.9 and 101.7, respectively.

The table below notes the metropolitan areas with the highest computer engineer employments, along with their average annual wages for reference.

Top-Employing Metropolitan Areas for Computer Engineers
Metropolitan Area Number of Computer Engineers Employed Average Annual Wage
San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, California 6,980 $179,570
Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-Virginia-Maryland-West Virginia 3,460 $129,980
Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim, California 2,700 $124,440
San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, California 2,250 $134,950
Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington, Texas 2,130 $116,910
Source: BLS, 2020

Best Industries for Computer Engineers

The computer systems design industry boasts the highest employment numbers for computer engineers, as indicated in the BLS data below. Despite this higher total jobs in this field, other industries like software publishing and securities and financial investment pay higher average salaries.

Computer engineers can find work in diverse fields, including semiconductor and electronic component manufacturing and scientific research and development services. Some of the more lucrative industries like insurance carriers or securities and financial investment employ very few engineers, making these fields competitive.

The computer-related service industry offers excellent opportunities for entry-level professionals. However, computer engineers with a master's degree or advanced certifications may prefer applying their progressive skill sets to other relevant industries, like navigational manufacturing or computer equipment manufacturing.

Computer engineers should consider how their duties might shift in various industries. For instance, software publishing professionals might design, test, and improve computer hardware to accommodate the publisher's latest business software release. In contrast, a computer engineer working in manufacturing might design circuit boards for industrial machinery.

Top-Paying Industries for Computer Engineers

Top-Paying Industries Employment Average Annual Wage
Securities, Commodity Contracts, and Other Financial Investments and Related Activities 100 $170,190
Software Publishers 2,050 $164,270
Computer and Peripheral Equipment Manufacturing 3,350 $147,220
Insurance Carriers 50 $145,680
Scientific Research and Development Services 5,950 $143,850
Source: BLS, 2020

Employment by Industry for Computer Engineers

Industries with Highest Employment Employment Average Annual Wage
Computer Systems Design and Related Services 14,940 $126,100
Semiconductor and Other Electronic Component Manufacturing 7,920 $120,960
Scientific Research and Development Services 5,950 $143,850
Federal Executive Branch 4,890 $117,340
Navigational, Measuring, Electromedical, and Control Instruments Manufacturing 3,630 $129,640
Source: BLS, 2020

Upward Mobility for Computer Engineers

Graduate-level education, certifications, and job experience can lead to career advancement for computer engineers. As these professionals gain new skills, they can move upward into supervisorial, research, and data-focused positions with excellent salaries and job outlooks. Some examples include:

  • Data Scientist: Computer engineers may transition to data science roles by pursuing an advanced degree or specialization in data science. These high-paying roles require mathematical and computational skills to assist businesses with creating data-driven solutions.
  • Computer and Information Research Scientists: The BLS projects this career field will grow 15% between 2019 and 2029. Computer and information research scientists typically hold a master's degree or doctorate in a computer engineering-related field.
  • Computer and Information Systems Managers: These professionals hold a minimum of a bachelor's degree in computer engineering. Completing a master's of business administration (MBA) or other graduate degree and gaining several years of professional experience can boost a candidate's potential for advancement to this position.

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Frequently Asked Questions About Computer Engineers

How much do starting computer engineers make?

According to PayScale data from August 2021, the average computer engineer salary for entry-level workers is $75,380. Early-career wages after 1-4 years rise to an average $82,250, while the long-term professional's average salary is $114,130.

What is the highest salary for a computer engineer?

The highest salary potential for computer engineers typically occurs with experience. The BLS reports that as of May 2020, computer engineers earned a median annual salary approaching 120,000.

What are the highest paying companies for computer engineering?

The highest-paying companies for computer engineering are in the securities, commodity contracts, and financial investments industry. BLS data shows an average annual salary of $170,190 for computer engineers in this industry.

Is computer engineering in demand?

Although not growing as fast as other computer-related careers, the BLS projects a 2% job growth for computer engineers between 2019 and 2029. Computer systems design and manufacturing industries are among the top-employing industries seeking these professionals.

Featured Image: Thomas Barwick / DigitalVision / Getty Images

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