Computer engineers develop the hardware needed for computers and peripheral equipment. They typically develop prototypes and both virtual and physical models, before releasing a design for production. Computer engineers normally need at least a bachelor's degree in computer engineering, but a bachelor's degree in electrical engineering is often an acceptable substitute if the degree plan includes sufficient classes in computer science. Although each school develops its own degree plan, typical computer engineering programs share many basic similarities.
Typical Math Courses Required
A computer engineering degree requires numerous math courses. At minimum, students should expect three different calculus courses plus differential equations. Mathematical modeling, probability, cryptography and statistics may also be in the degree plan.
Typical Science Courses Required
Obtaining a computer engineering degree will also require completing an assortment of science classes. At minimum, expect one semester of chemistry and one semester of physics, and many programs require two semesters of each. These typically require a lab in conjunction with the class. Programs may require biology or allow students to choose it as an elective.
Typical Computer Science and Electronics Courses Required
Computer science and electronics classes make up the bulk of mandatory classes for a computer engineering degree. Schools may title the classes somewhat differently, but sample classes usually include introduction to programming, algorithms, operating systems, discrete structures, microprocessors, circuits and systems, digital logic, electronic circuits, artificial intelligence, database systems and linear control systems. Some programs allow students to focus on a particular area, such as game design or wireless communications, and may require students to take classes that are specific to the chosen focus.
Typical General Education Courses Required
The emphasis on science, math, engineering and technology does not mean that computer engineering students get a pass on general education classes. Expect classes in English, humanities, social sciences, political science and, depending on the school, foreign language and physical education. Most schools allow students to select some of their electives from classes such as zoology, biology, philosophy or history.
Salary Data and Job Outlook
A computer engineering degree might not be the easiest degree to earn, but it can be financially rewarding. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the average salary for computer engineers in May 2012 was $103,980, and 10 percent earned at least $150,130. However, the BLS predicts that the occupation will grow at a rate of 9 percent between 2010 and 2020, slightly slower than the 14 percent projected for all U.S. occupations. Computer engineers who are knowledgeable about software or who have graduate degrees should have the best opportunities.
- O*Net Online: Summary Report for Computer Hardware Engineers
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: What Computer Hardware Engineers Do
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: How to Become a Computer Hardware Engineer
- Michigan State University: Computer Engineering
- Texas A&M University: Undergraduate Degree Plan in Computer Engineering
- University of California -- Santa Barbara: Four Year Course Plan
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Computer Hardware Engineers -- Job Outlook
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2012 -- Computer Hardware Engineers
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