Becoming a Computer Engineer

Updated September 9, 2022

Interested in a computer engineering career? Explore this guide to discover how to become a computer engineer, including required education and experience.

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Technology professionals with computer engineering backgrounds qualify for many well-paid roles with strong growth profiles. For instance, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects job growth of 22% for software engineers from 2019-2029. The BLS reports that hardware engineers earned a median annual salary of $119,560 in 2020.

Most computer engineering careers require a degree in computer engineering, computer science, or electrical engineering. A bachelor's serves as the minimum for entry-level positions in the field.

The BLS reports that hardware engineers earned a median annual salary of $119,560 in 2020.

This guide provides a detailed explanation of how to become a computer engineer, including schooling, experience, and certification.

What Is a Computer Engineer?

Computer engineers design, develop, test, and refine computer systems, software, and equipment. The profession encompasses hardware engineering, software engineering, and network engineering. Computer engineers may also work in subsectors like cybersecurity, robotics, and artificial intelligence.

Though some computer engineers freelance, most hold regular jobs with technology companies. Typically working in offices or research and development laboratories, these professionals often lead teams of quality assurance analysts and testers.

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Computer Engineering Education Requirements

Computer engineers usually hold at least a bachelor's degree. Employers may prefer to hire graduates from an ABET-accredited program. Computer engineering professionals need a strong background in both computer science and electrical engineering. Earning a master's degree can lead to higher-paying jobs with greater advancement potential.

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Internship Opportunities

Many computer engineering students choose to pursue internships. These valuable opportunities help new labor market entrants expand their networks and develop their professional skills.

Many major technology companies offer computer engineering internships, including:

  • Google: This Silicon Valley giant regularly updates its engineering and technical internship postings.
  • Microsoft: Students and recent graduates may qualify for this leading tech company's varied internship programs.
  • Intel: This computer hardware developer and manufacturer welcomes thousands of student interns.

Many of these resume-enhancing opportunities integrate interns with professional teams working on real-world projects. Some internships also pay modest stipends.

Certifications for Computer Engineers

Employers maintain varying standards for job openings and promotions. Computer engineering professionals can stay up-to-date in their field by pursuing certifications. Optional credentials can boost a professional's credibility and demonstrate a commitment to ongoing development.

Many institutions offer certification programs, including private companies and professional organizations. Examples of computer engineering certifications include:

Computer engineers can also pursue professional engineering licensure through the National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying.

How Do I Become a Computer Engineer?

The steps to become a computer engineer start with a bachelor's degree in computer engineering, computer science, or electrical engineering. Candidates with graduate degrees can pursue higher-paying positions with greater responsibilities.

Steps to Becoming a Computer Engineer

  1. Earn Your Degree. The BLS cites a bachelor's degree as the minimum education needed to become a computer engineer. Some employers prefer that applicants earn their degree through an ABET-accredited program.
  2. Pursue an Engineering Internship. Computer engineering students can gain practical experience by completing an internship before or after they graduate.
  3. Gain Professional Experience. The BLS reports that computer engineers can advance to computer and information systems manager positions after they gain experience in the field.
  4. Pursue Optional Certifications. Computer engineers can pursue optional industry certifications and credentials to stay ahead of emerging trends and practices.

Should I Become a Computer Engineer?

Computer engineers have a strong understanding of engineering and technology concepts. Many work in research laboratories or in the manufacturing sector designing and testing computer components. Becoming a computer engineer involves getting a bachelor's degree in the field. Students typically take classes in math, physics, and computer science.

These professionals need critical thinking skills to develop solutions for various problems. They also need strong communication abilities to work well on a team. Many computer engineers complete continuing education throughout their careers to stay on top of emerging issues and trends in the field.

In deciding whether to become a computer engineer, you should carefully consider your interests, skill set, and personal objectives.

The Job Hunt

Many bachelor's programs offer practicums, work-study programs, and internships. These opportunities provide students with excellent networking opportunities. They also double as a great way to get your foot in the door with prospective employers. College career centers and on-campus recruitment campaigns may also provide valuable job search resources.

Job boards and professional organizations maintain exclusive employment listings. Below are several job boards for prospective computer engineers:

  • IEEE Computer Society Jobs: Open to IEEE members, this portal's exclusive listings also include resume hosting and job alerts.
  • Stack Overflow: A leading technology job portal since 2008, Stack Overflow attracts more than 100 million visitors per month.
  • Dice: Dice features opportunities for emerging and established tech professionals. Users can apply precision job search filters to find the most relevant opportunities.
  • Indeed: As the most widely visited job search website, Indeed attracts more than 250 million users a month. The site consistently hosts a high volume of computer engineering opportunities.
  • LinkedIn: This popular professional networking platform's job portal features millions of vacancies. Job-seekers can also use LinkedIn to research prospective employers.

Resources for Future Computer Engineers

What Is a Computer Engineer?

What Is a Computer Engineer?

This resource provides a deep dive into a computer engineer's job description, typical duties, and work environments.

Salary and Career Outlook for Computer Engineers

Salary and Career Outlook for Computer Engineers

The job outlook for technology professionals is bright. On this page, you can explore computer engineering career trends and earning potential.

Day in the Life of a Computer Engineer

Day in the Life of a Computer Engineer

Before you decide to become a computer engineer, learn more about a typical day on the job.

Computer Engineering Degrees

Computer Engineering Degrees

Finding an accredited computer engineering program marks the first step in your career journey. Explore your options here.

Computer Engineering Certificates

Computer Engineering Certificates

Degrees are not the only educational option for aspiring computer engineers. This resource examines certificate opportunities in the field.

Frequently Asked Questions About Computer Engineers

How long does it take to become a computer engineer?

The steps to become a computer engineer include earning a bachelor's degree and gaining work experience. A bachelor's degree typically takes four years to complete.

What degree do I need to become a computer engineer?

To become a computer engineer, you need at least a bachelor's degree. Many schools offer programs in computer engineering, but some candidates have backgrounds in electrical engineering or computer science.

What experience do I need to become a computer engineer?

Computer engineering students take computer science courses to learn coding. They also complete internships to gain hands-on experience in the field.

Is it easy to become a computer engineer?

Computer engineer education requirements are demanding but attainable. Students typically need a strong background in math and science. Graduates can pursue high-paying jobs in an in-demand field.

Featured Image: 10'000 Hours / DigitalVision / Getty Images

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