Doctorate in Computer Engineering

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Computer engineering incorporates aspects of computer science and electrical engineering. Computer engineers design computer systems, hardware, and software. They work with microprocessors, operating systems, and applications.

Ph.D. in computer engineering programs focus on advanced principles and practices in the field. These degrees prepare students for high-level careers in research and development, teaching, and entrepreneurship.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports computer hardware engineers earned a median annual salary of $119,560 as of May 2020.

Computer engineering graduates can earn significantly more than the national average. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports computer hardware engineers earned a median annual salary of $119,560 as of May 2020. The demand for computer engineering professionals may grow as companies put more computer chips in everyday objects like cars and household appliances.

This guide provides information on doctorate in computer engineering programs, including tips for choosing the right school and potential careers for graduates.

What To Expect From Ph.D. in Computer Engineering Programs

Ph.D. in computer engineering programs comprise computer architecture, parallel computing, big data, and database systems. Other topics include the internet of things, operating systems, and artificial intelligence. Like most disciplines at the doctoral level, Ph.D. in computer engineering degrees focus heavily on research.

Colleges and universities may offer doctorate in computer engineering degrees through computer science or electrical and computer engineering departments. In some cases, these departments collaborate to offer joint programs in computer engineering.

Many factors affect program length, but it usually takes 4-5 years and 64-72 credits to earn a Ph.D. in computer engineering. Students can choose from concentrations like robotics, embedded systems, and nanotechnology.

A typical curriculum may include social media mining, robot design, and advanced digital communications. Each computer engineering Ph.D. student usually completes a dissertation and must pass a comprehensive exam.

Below, we go into more detail about what to expect from a doctorate in computer engineering program.

Learn More About Computer Engineers

Admission Requirements

Admission requirements for Ph.D. in computer engineering programs vary by school. A candidate typically has a substantial background in the field, along with a bachelor’s degree from an accredited university in computer engineering, electrical engineering, or a related field. Doctoral programs in computer engineering may require a minimum 3.5 GPA.

Some programs consider students with bachelor degrees in other disciplines. However, they may be required to complete prerequisite courses. Applicants with master’s degrees in computer science or other related fields can stand out among the competition. Prospective students typically need to outline their research interests and intended concentration areas.

Additional required materials may include a resume or CV, GRE or GMAT scores, letters of recommendation, and a writing sample.

Degree and Specialization Options

Not all Ph.D. in computer engineering programs offer specializations. In some cases, general engineering doctoral programs offer a concentration in computer engineering.

Concentrations explore different aspects of computer engineering and prepare learners for specialized career paths. Potential options include:

  • Robotics and Embedded Systems: A robotics and embedded systems specialization focuses on artificial intelligence, perception, human-robot interaction, and computer vision. Students need strong backgrounds in computer science. Unique career paths include robotics engineer, embedded systems engineer, and robotics tester.
  • Machine Learning: Students specializing in machine learning develop skills in designing and assess machine learning algorithms. Topics include deep learning, optimization theory, digital signal processing, and advanced data structures.

Comparing Similar Degrees

Prospective computer engineering doctoral students may want to consider other degrees in the field. Related programs include general computer science, information technology, and data science. Consider your interests, background, and career goals to decide if a Ph.D. in computer engineering is right for you.

The following information compares the focus, length, types of classes, and course load of similar degrees.

Degree Focus Length Types of Classes Course Load
Ph.D. in Computer Engineering Computer architecture, big data, artificial intelligence, machine learning 4-5 years Game theory and networked systems, advanced digital communications, deep learning 64-72 credits
Ph.D. in Computer Science Computer science, machine learning, software engineering, human-computer interaction 4-5 years Revolutionary molecules, fundamentals of chemistry, environmental chemistry 72-90 credits
Ph.D. in Information Technology Computer and network security, research, cybersecurity, data science 4 years Ph.D. dissertation research seminar, information technology strategic planning in global environments, literature review 90-120 credits
Ph.D. in Data Science Data analysis, statistics, programming, artificial intelligence 5 years Computational methods in analysis, informatics research design, applied cloud computing 36-60 credits

These degrees above take around 4-5 years to complete, even though credit requirements vary. Some classes overlap among computer engineering, general computer science, information technology, and data science programs.

The degrees differ mainly by the focus of each program and available career pathways after graduation. Consider your professional goals to find a degree that provides the best preparation.

Explore Top Computer Science Ph.D. Programs Get an Overview of All Computer Science Degree Levels

Popular Computer Engineering Courses

Ph.D. in computer engineering classes may focus on computer systems, algorithms, computer security, and machine learning. Popular courses include social media mining, introduction to numerical electromagnetics, and robot design studio.

Computer engineering doctoral students typically must pass comprehensive exams after completing core classes. Each enrollee also completes an original dissertation with research. The following list covers common engineering doctoral degree courses.

  • Robot Design Studio: In this hands-on class, students design and build electromechanical systems. Topics include embedded systems and microcontrollers, sensors, rapid prototyping, and software design. Learners may work individually or in teams to create working prototypes.
  • Social Media Mining: The course introduces social computing, new developments in social networks, and multidisciplinary approaches to mining the web. Students learn to use algorithms, applications, and software for social media mining. Other concepts include link analysis, emerging problems in social media, and information extraction.
  • Ph.D. Dissertation Research: Students receive credit toward their Ph.D. degrees for completing dissertation research. The program may require enrollees to meet regularly with dissertation advisors while conducting research and writing their papers.
  • Introduction to Numerical Electromagnetics: Students learn about applications for shielded transmission lines, commercial software for design and analysis, and finite differences for time-dependent fields.

How Much Will a Ph.D. in Computer Engineering Cost?

While tuition rates vary by schools, Ph.D. in computer engineering programs can range from $1,614-$2,272 per credit. Factors affecting cost include public or private school status, in-state vs. out-of-state residency, and program length. Choosing a public university and paying in-state tuition may offer the most affordable option.

While tuition rates vary by schools, Ph.D. in computer engineering programs can range from $1,614-$2,272 per credit.

Grants, financial aid, scholarships, and loans can also offset Ph.D. in computer engineering costs. Many doctoral programs award fellowships and assistantships to enrollees. These opportunities provide funding in exchange for teaching or departmental research. However, these scholarships are competitive and may not last for the entire program or cover all costs.

Learn More About Scholarships and Financial Aid for Computer Science Degrees

Is a Ph.D. in Computer Engineering Worth It?

Prospective students may wonder if completing a Ph.D. in computer engineering is worth it. Earning a doctoral degree requires a significant investment of hard work, time, and money. Learners should consider potential degree length, cost, and salary expectations after graduation.

Computer engineers do not necessarily need to earn Ph.D. degrees, but it can help open opportunities in advanced research and development. A doctoral degree also paves the way for high-level careers in university teaching, industry, and entrepreneurship. See the links below for some potential careers you can pursue with a doctorate in computer engineering.

Read More:

What Is a Computer Engineer? How to Become a Computer Engineer Salary and Career Outlook for Computer Engineers

Choosing the Right Computer Engineering Program

Prospective Ph.D. in computer engineering students must consider several factors when choosing their programs. While priorities vary by individual, we highlight some of the primary considerations below.

  • Accreditation: Make sure that any school you consider holds regional accreditation. ABET accredits bachelor’s and master’s computing programs but not at the doctoral level.
  • Price: Computer engineering Ph.D. costs can vary significantly by school. Some programs offer significant funding to doctoral candidates, while others provide limited financial aid.
  • Available Concentrations: Do you want to focus on a specialized area of computer engineering? Research potential concentrations to see if your prospective program offers expertise in this area.
  • Prestige/Reputation: Completing your Ph.D. in computer engineering at a prestigious university can improve your fellowship and career prospects after graduation. Schools with the best reputations typically maintain stricter admission standards.

Should You Get Your Doctorate in Computer Engineering Online?

Earning a doctorate in computer engineering online offers potential benefits like convenience, flexibility, and affordability. Students can continue working while in graduate school, completing coursework around their schedules. Schools may offer computer engineering doctorates fully or partially online.

A Ph.D. in computer engineering may translate particularly well to an online learning environment — most classes include a substantial amount of computer work. Each student needs to consider the pros and cons of the online learning experience and their personal preferences to make the right decision for themselves.

Compare Doctorate vs. Online Doctorate Programs

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Computer Engineering Certificates

Computer Engineering Certificates

If a Ph.D. does not seem like not the right choice, a computer engineering certificate may be right for you. Learn how to find computer engineering certificates and what to expect from these programs.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Do you need a Ph.D. to be a computer engineer?

    No. Most computer engineers hold bachelor’s degrees at minimum. Students seeking Ph.D. degrees typically plan to teach at universities or pursue high-level research positions.

  • Can you get a Ph.D. in computer engineering?

    Yes. Many universities offer Ph.D. in computer engineering programs to qualified applicants. Available specializations vary by school.

  • How long does it take to get a Ph.D. in computer engineering?

    Program length varies by school. Most students complete their Ph.D. in computer engineering programs in 4-5 years.

  • What is a typical Ph.D. in computer engineering salary?

    Salaries depend on the specific position and industry, but computer engineering graduates can earn higher-than-average salaries. The BLS reports that computer and information scientists earned a median annual salary of $126,830 in 2020.


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