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Students who enjoy logic, technology, and devising out-of-the-box solutions may consider computer engineering careers. Professionals in the field build hardware and software for computer and network systems.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that computer and information technology (IT) professionals earned a median annual salary of $91,250 as of May 2020, more than twice the national average.
Computer engineers build tools for others and stay up to date on current practices. Most positions in the field require a bachelor's degree.
The following information covers what it takes to earn an online computer engineering degree, including admission requirements, courses, and possible careers.
What Is Computer Engineering?
The original computer engineers began work in 1939 when they built the first digital computer. The field did not emerge, though, until personal computers started appearing in private homes in the 1980s. As families, schools, and companies grew increasingly reliant on the technology, the need for software and hardware developers also increased.
Universities across the country then formed computer engineering programs. The first launched in 1996. Today, many schools offer degrees in computer engineering.
Computer science degrees typically appeal to persistent, competitive people who love solving problems. Coders and programmers may advance to computer engineers, but this career requires more than a love for coding. It also takes a blend of passion, creativity, and logic to succeed. Candidates may also need at least a bachelor's degree and relevant experience.
Computer engineering offers one of the fastest-growing and highest-paying career fields. The BLS projects 22% job growth for software developers between 2020-2030, three times more than the national average. These positions pay a median salary of $110,140.
Salaries depend on education, experience, location, and industry. Universities across the country offer computer engineering degrees that can prepare new graduates for work in many industries.
Why Get an Online Computer Engineering Degree?
Computer engineering offers an in-demand field that may appeal to people with a passion for problem-solving and developing new products. This degree can help prepare graduates for careers in the well-paying, fast-paced tech industry. Most tech jobs require a bachelor's degree to get started. Some roles, like coders, programmers, or computer specialists, may accept applicants from associate degree programs computer engineering bootcamps.
- High Salaries
- Prospective students looking for lucrative careers can consider computer engineering. According to the BLS, software developers earn a median annual salary of $110,140, well ahead of the national median of $41,950.
- Job Availability
- The BLS projects 667,600 new computer and information technology jobs between 2020 and 2030, making the sector among the fastest-growing in the nation. The projected job growth includes 409,500 software developer positions.
- Career Satisfaction
- According to a 2018 Machine Desig survey, 87% of computer engineers reported feeling happy in their work. Computer engineers constantly face new challenges. These professionals research and design new solutions, staying ahead of updates in the field.
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What To Expect From Bachelor's in Computer Engineering Programs
Prospective students may wonder: What can I do with a computer engineering degree after graduation?
Degree-holders can choose between developing software or hardware components. While computer hardware engineers may earn slightly more than software developers, they are less in demand, according to the BLS.
New computer engineers join a field that stretches back to 1939 when two inventors developed the first digital computer. Personal computers did not become common until the 1970s-1980s, however.
Today, computer engineering is a fast-growing, high-paying field. Typically, an undergraduate computer engineering degree requires 120 credits. Coursework comprises general education courses, electives, and technology-focused classes such as cybersecurity, programming languages, and full-stack development.
By taking 12-18 credits per term, a degree-seeker can finish in about four years. To accelerate this timeline, students can maximize credits during terms, transfer in credits, or take summer courses.
Although a computer engineering salary surpasses the median wage in the U.S., paying for school upfront can be challenging. Students may save money by attending public universities in their home states or completing two years of community college before enrolling in a bachelor's program.
Each college has its own admission requirements. Many schools expect applicants to have significant math prerequisites. Prospective students should hold a high school diploma or a GED certificate. Some institutions set minimum GPA requirements, and several also require minimum SAT or ACT scores.
Schools consider applicants with academic backgrounds in math, technology, and computer science. Holding an associate degree in computer science or certification in a related field may also benefit applicants.
Prospective students should expect to submit an application along with a fee, transcripts from previous schools, and letters of recommendation. Most schools now use the Common App, which makes it easier to apply to several institutions at once.
Degree and Concentration Options
Prospective learners can choose from a variety of bachelor's programs in computer engineering. Schools may offer a computer engineering major culminating in a bachelor of applied science (BAS), bachelor of science (BS), bachelor of business administration (BBA), or a bachelor of engineering (BEng).
Bachelor of Applied Science
Bachelor of Science
Bachelor of Business Administration
Bachelor of Engineering
Comparing Computer Engineering to General Computer Science Degrees
What is the difference between computer science and computer engineering? Which degree is right for aspiring technology pros?
Computer science degrees prepare graduates to work with existing software or hardware. Computer engineering, by contrast, equips students to create new software or hardware.
Computer science alumni usually seek jobs in database administration, cybersecurity, or IT departments. Computer engineering graduates typically pursue careers as software developers or network architects.
Computer professionals in both fields may work on exciting frontiers of technology such as virtual reality, artificial intelligence, or cryptocurrency. For example, an engineer might build a new bot for a computer scientist to program. The table below explains more:
|What Is the Difference Between Computer Science and Computer Engineering Degrees?|
|Bachelor's in Computer Engineering||Bachelor's in Computer Science|
|Academic Focus||Emphasizes designing interfaces and solving problems||Focuses on operating systems, databases, and maintenance|
|Specializations||May offer specializations in cybersecurity, robotics, or aerospace||Often provides similar specializations to computer engineering|
|Theory vs. Practice||Emphasizes practical hands-on work.||Leans toward theories and ideas that support and drive digital technology.|
|Career Focus||Graduates with a degree in computer engineering may pursue jobs as software or hardware engineers, designers, or network engineers. They often work in technology or telecom settings.||Computer science graduates typically seek jobs as web developers, project managers, or database administrators. They may work in organizations across an array of industries.|
|Prerequisites||Requires an academic background in higher mathematics, computer science theory, and programming||Similar prerequisites to computer engineering|
Popular Computer Engineering Courses
Most computer engineering programs include a series of general education courses, a core computer science curriculum, a concentration in engineering, and electives. Core courses usually blend data, programming languages, cybersecurity, and systems infrastructure with architecture and software development.
Nearly all programs include a hands-on educational component, such as an internship or real-world capstone requirement. While the specific curriculum varies between programs, degree-seekers generally take classes like these:
How Much Will a Bachelor's in Computer Engineering Cost?
Higher education can be costly, but through careful planning, a degree does not have to break the bank. In general, public in-state institutions charge less than private, for-profit, and out-of-state public school programs.
Prestigious private schools may charge high tuition because their brand holds value in the marketplace. But these same institutions can also give generous financial aid packages to qualifying candidates. For many aspiring computer engineers, though, a publicly supported school with an online program can provide a valuable education at a surprisingly affordable price tag.
Degree-seekers rarely pay the whole cost of their education out of pocket anyway. The U.S. government provides grants and work-study programs, state governments often maintain grant programs, and private donors award scholarships.
Many companies help their employees cover the cost of higher education in exchange for a work commitment. Some schools also offer academic scholarships or grants for students from underrepresented groups.
Jobs for Bachelor's in Computer Engineering Graduates
A computer systems engineer degree can prepare learners to enter a variety of tech careers. The computer and IT sector include some of today's fastest-growing, highest-paying, and most in-demand occupations. According to the BLS, jobs in this sector pay a median salary of $91,250 as of May 2020, more than twice the national average for all occupations.
Nearly all of these occupations require new professionals to hold a bachelor's degree in computer science or a related field. Advancement in computer engineering often means accruing rigorous certifications or going back to school for a master's degree in the field.
These professionals create and test computer and software code. Computer programmers translate a software designer or computer engineer's design into code that creates a functional product. They also test code for bugs or errors. The BLS projects a sharp decrease in jobs for computer programmers in the U.S. due to competition from qualified professionals in developing countries.
Companies hire database administrators to organize and store their data safely. These professionals work in a variety of industries, including healthcare, education, retail, and insurance. Database administrators may specialize in building and maintaining system architecture, or they may focus on the applications that work with the databases.
Computer Network Architect
Sometimes called IT network architects or enterprise architects, these professionals develop data communication networks including intranets, local area networks, and wide area networks. Computer network architects may need certification or education in specific software. In many cases, earning an MBA can help them advance in their careers.
Choosing the Right Computer Engineering Program
Aspiring computer engineers should think carefully about choosing the right program. Online rankings can provide a helpful start to learners who are exploring computer engineering degrees. But prospective students should also consider other factors:
- Attending an accredited school can help students access financial aid packages, transfer credits between institutions, and ensure course content viability. Many of the top computer engineering degree programs also hold programmatic accreditation from ABET.
- Alumni Network
- A school's alumni community can offer valuable connections in the work world to graduating seniors. Prospective enrollees should consider the size, strength, and organization of the alumni at any school they consider.
- Cost and Financial Aid
- Prices for online computer engineering degrees vary from school to school. Top programs typically charge top prices. However, attending an in-state school and maximizing financial aid options can help make higher education more affordable.
- Graduate Program Options
- Does the school under consideration offer a graduate program? Colleges that invest in graduate computer engineering education may provide more options, future growth opportunities, and stronger support than their peers.
- What does the school's admission committee require? Prospective students need to know if they meet minimum academic and professional standards before applying.
Why You Should Get Your Degree Online
For many technology-focused degrees such as computer engineering, online programs are the norm. The vast majority of learners in the major complete their studies online or in hybrid formats.
The National Center for Education Statistics states that roughly 35% of college enrollees took one or distance education classes before 2020. Once the pandemic began, though, nearly every student became an online or hybrid learner, and online education continues to increase in popularity.
Online learning offers many benefits, including accessibility, flexibility, and freedom from the time and expense of commuting to campus. Some online students can combine full-time employment with their studies, reducing the opportunity costs of earning a computer engineering degree.
Prospective students who struggle with time management or who flourish in a face-to-face environment may want to consider a traditional program. But for self-disciplined learners who thrive on flexibility, an online computer engineering degree can offer the best of all worlds.
Frequently Asked Questions About Online Computer Engineering Degrees
Can I get a computer engineering degree online?
Many colleges and universities offer computer engineering degrees online. As a technology-centric major, computer engineering provides an ideal focus for remote education.
Which degree is best for computer engineering?
Computer engineering degrees are as distinct as the schools that offer them. Some aspiring technology professionals earn a bachelor's in computer engineering. Others major in IT, data science, or software engineering.
Can I be a software engineer with a computer engineering degree?
Both disciplines involve similar technical skills, but some employers require software engineers to hold specific credentials and backgrounds. A computer engineer focused on hardware might need to complete more software programming coursework before becoming a software engineer, for example.
What degree do you need to become a computer systems engineer?
Almost all computer engineering occupations require a minimum of a bachelor's degree for entry-level jobs. Computer engineers who want to pursue a career in research need at least a master's degree.
What is a computer engineering salary?
The BLS reports the median annual salary for computer and IT occupations was $91,250 as of 2020. Software developers earned $110,140 in comparison..
Top Two Program Rankings
This guide highlights our top two online bachelor's degrees in computer engineering for 2022. Find out about our methods for ranking programs at the link below.
Florida International University
A public research institution in Miami, Florida International University (FIU) serves almost 54,000 students. One of the largest universities in the U.S., FIU offers online and in-person undergraduate and graduate degrees.
Online Bachelor of Science in Computer Engineering
FIU's College of Engineering and Computing offers an ABET-accredited BS in computer engineering. The 128-credit program explores computer networking, software engineering, instrumentation, and signal and image processing. Students develop reasoning, communication, and problem-solving skills. The online curriculum includes lectures, group projects, and live instructor feedback.
This program prepares learners to pursue positions like electronic drafter, computer science teacher, and computer support specialist. Graduates work for companies like Boeing and Intel.�
Course topics include applied software techniques, discrete mathematics, and computer design. Electives explore areas like cybersecurity, entrepreneurship, and bioengineering. Students learn from full-time faculty members with doctoral degrees in computer and electrical engineering.
Applying to FIU
First-year applicants must complete an online application and pay an application fee. The program requires official high school transcripts and SAT or ACT scores.
Program at a Glance
- Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC); Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET)
- Tuition: $229/credit (in state); $346/credit (out of state)
- Program Length: 128 credits
- Delivery Format: 100% online (asynchronous)
- Percentage Awarded Loans: 29%
University of Arizona
The University of Arizona in Tucson offers more than 300 majors. A land-grant university and Hispanic-serving institution, Arizona enrolls more than 46,000 students.
Bachelor of Science in Electrical and Computer Engineering
U of A's online BS in electrical and computer engineering helps prepare graduates for careers in industries like aerospace, healthcare, and information technology. Students can customize their curriculum with electives. Areas of interest may include software design, power systems, and robotics.�
The College of Engineering offers classes like device electronics, computer programming for engineering applications, and circuit theory. The four-year, 128-credit degree includes hands-on experience through company partnerships and faculty research. Students enjoy one-on-one interaction with instructors.�
Applying to U of A
Admission requirements include an online application and transcripts. Evaluation criteria for the College of Engineering include GPA, math and science grades, and rigor of high school classes.
Program at a Glance
- Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission (HLC); Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET)
- Tuition: $600/credit
- Program Length: 4 years�
- Delivery Format: 100% online
- Percentage Awarded Loans: 36%
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