Guide to Going into the Computer Engineering Field

Written by Coursera • Updated on

Learn the skills, education, and experience you need to enter the field of computer engineering. Discover different career choices you can make.

[Featured Image]: Computer Engineer working on the design and functionality of the organization's computer system.

Computer engineering is a broad field with many job opportunities in computer science and electronic engineering. As a computer engineer, you can specialize in the area that most interests you. You can find career opportunities in research labs, federal, state, local government, and private sectors.  Learn more about how to become a computer engineer, job opportunities in the computer engineering field, and what separates it from computer science.

What is computer engineering?

Computer engineers work with all aspects of computer operating systems, from hardware to robotics. As a computer engineer, you’ll work closely with other engineers and programmers to design computer systems and test their functionality. You’ll remain up to date with the latest technology and update software and hardware to keep systems running smoothly.

Computer engineering vs. computer science

When considering a career in computer engineering or computer science, you should be sure which field is right for you. The two have some similarities, but they aren’t the same.

Both areas require critical thinking and problem-solving skills, and you’ll need technical writing skills for computer science and engineering. 

Computer scientists work with programming languages, such as Python and Java, and software to achieve complex tasks. Computer scientists will use theoretical ideas to develop real-world solutions.

Conversely, a computer engineer works primarily with hardware to build new and better computer systems. You’ll spend most of your time working with hardware as a computer engineer. Some roles will require limited programming skills, like software design.

A computer engineering major will take coursework in physics, calculus, and electrical circuits, while a computer science major will study software engineering, algorithms, and data analysis.

How to become a computer engineer

Computer engineering is often a competitive field, and most employers seek candidates with at least a bachelor’s degree. You can also specialize in computer engineering areas, such as systems management and network architecture. Joining professional organizations can help you with networking and possible job opportunities.

Necessary skills: Technical and workplace

A computer engineer needs workplace skills, such as solid communication, analytical, and problem-solving skills. Knowledge of operating systems, quality assurance, testing, microprocessors, and circuitry round out the technical skills you need for a computer engineer career.

Get a degree

Many employers will seek at least a bachelor’s degree. You can earn a graduate degree and certifications and attend boot camps to advance your skills and employment prospects or to move upward in your career.

Read more: Types of Engineering Degrees: Your Guide

Consider specialization

You can choose to specialize in a specific area of computer engineering by taking courses related to the field. A specialization shows prospective employers you have expertise in that field and can give you an advantage against non-specialized computer engineers vying for the same job. Some specialization areas include computer communications and networking, software, architecture, and cybersecurity. 

Gain experience

The more experience you have as a computer engineer, the more employment prospects you’ll likely have. Internships and work-study programs can give you early career experience to list on your resume. You can find employment and internship opportunities via various job boards, including general employment boards and sites specializing in technical jobs.

Pursue an advanced degree

You can earn a master’s degree in computer engineering or a specialized area. If you’re interested in research and development, you may want to consider a doctorate in computer engineering.

Read more: Is a Master's Degree in Computer Science Worth It?

Think about getting certifications

Certification and certificate programs can also add to your credentials. Not only can you boost your resume, but certifications and certificates can also help keep you up to date with the latest technology and industry changes.

Join professional organizations

Professional organizations can provide you with networking opportunities and keep you up to date on current industry events and news. Some organizations include the Association for Information Science and Technology and the Association for Computing Machinery.

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Other careers to consider

After earning your computer engineering degree, you can consider a wide range of careers. Here are a few fields you can enter and their projected growth outlook and potential salary ranges. 

Computer and information research scientist

As a computer and information research scientist, your duties will include working with complex issues to improve technology. You may also work in research and write your findings for professional publications. 

The US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) expects the computer and information research specialists field to grow 21 percent between 2021 and 2031. The median annual wage as of May 2021 was $131,490 [1].

Database administrator and architect

As a database administrator and architect, you’ll design databases to store data, maintain these databases, and secure, backup, and restore digital data. The BLS projects the field will grow 9 percent between 2021 and 2031. The median annual income for database administrators and architects was $101,000 as of May 2021 [2].

Information security analyst

As an information security analyst, you’ll ensure computer system security measures are in place. The BLS projects information security analyst jobs will grow 35 percent between 2021 and 2031. The median annual salary was $102,600 as of May 2021 [3].

Hardware engineer

In a hardware engineer role, you’ll design and test computer systems, such as circuit boards and networks. The BLS expects the hardware engineering field to grow 5 percent between 2021 and 2031 The median annual salary for a computer hardware engineer is $128,170 [4].

Next steps

Explore options on Coursera to help you learn more about a career in computer engineering. If your career goal is to work with robotics, you can earn a robotics certificate online or take a data engineering course.

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Article sources

1

US Bureau of Labor Statistics. “Computer and Information Research Scientists: Occupational Outlook Handbook, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/computer-and-information-technology/computer-and-information-research-scientists.htm#tab-1." Accessed December 15, 2022.

Written by Coursera • Updated on

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