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What Computer Hardware Engineers Do About this section

Computer hardware engineers
Computer hardware engineers research, design, develop, and test computer systems and components such as circuit boards.

Computer hardware engineers research, design, develop, and test computer systems and components such as processors, circuit boards, memory devices, networks, and routers.

Duties

Computer hardware engineers typically do the following:

  • Design new computer hardware, creating schematics of computer equipment to be built
  • Test the computer hardware they design
  • Analyze the test results and modify the design as needed
  • Update existing computer equipment so that it will work with new software
  • Oversee the manufacturing process for computer hardware

Many hardware engineers design devices used in manufactured products that incorporate processors and other computer components and that connect to the Internet. For example, many new cars, home appliances, and medical devices have Internet-ready computer systems built into them.

Computer hardware engineers ensure that computer hardware components work together with the latest software. Therefore, hardware engineers often work with software developers. For example, the hardware and software for mobile phones and other devices frequently are developed at the same time.

Work Environment About this section

Computer hardware engineers
Most hardware engineers work in labs where they test different types of computer models.

Computer hardware engineers held about 66,200 jobs in 2020. The largest employers of computer hardware engineers were as follows:

Computer systems design and related services 22%
Semiconductor and other electronic component manufacturing 12
Research and development in the physical, engineering, and life sciences 9
Federal government 8
Computer and peripheral equipment manufacturing 5

Work Schedules

Most computer hardware engineers work full time.

How to Become a Computer Hardware Engineer About this section

Computer hardware engineers
Entry-level computer hardware engineers typically need a bachelor’s degree in computer engineering or a related field, such as computer and information technology.

Computer hardware engineers typically need a bachelor’s degree from an accredited program.

Education

Entry-level computer hardware engineers typically need a bachelor’s degree in computer engineering or a related field, such as computer and information technology. Employers may prefer to hire candidates who have graduated from an engineering program accredited by a professional association, such as ABET. To prepare for a major in computer or electrical engineering, students should have a solid background in math and science.

Because hardware engineers commonly work with computer software systems, a familiarity with computer programming is usually expected. This background may be obtained through computer science courses.

Some large firms or specialized jobs may require a master’s degree in computer engineering. Some experienced engineers obtain a master’s degree in business administration (MBA). All engineers must continue their learning over the course of their careers in order to keep up with rapid advances in technology.

Other Experience

Some students participate in internships while in school so that they can gain practical experience.

Advancement

Some computer hardware engineers can advance to become computer and information systems managers.

Important Qualities

Analytical skills. Computer hardware engineers use computer programming tools to analyze the digital circuits in hardware to determine the best design.

Critical-thinking skills. These engineers use logic and reasoning to clarify goals, examine assumptions, and identify the strengths and weaknesses of alternative solutions.

Problem-solving skills. Computer hardware engineers identify complex problems in computer hardware, develop and evaluate possible solutions, and figure out the best way to implement them.

Communication skills. Engineers often work on teams and must be able to communicate with other types of engineers, software developers and programmers, as well as with nontechnical team members.

Pay About this section

Computer Hardware Engineers

Median annual wages, May 2021

Computer hardware engineers

$128,170

Engineers

$99,040

Total, all occupations

$45,760

 

The median annual wage for computer hardware engineers was $128,170 in May 2021. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $77,100, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $208,000.

In May 2021, the median annual wages for computer hardware engineers in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Research and development in the physical, engineering, and life sciences $164,980
Computer and peripheral equipment manufacturing 131,560
Computer systems design and related services 127,690
Semiconductor and other electronic component manufacturing 127,690
Federal government 119,770

Most computer hardware engineers work full time.

Job Outlook About this section

Computer Hardware Engineers

Percent change in employment, projected 2020-30

Total, all occupations

8%

Engineers

7%

Computer hardware engineers

2%

 

Employment of computer hardware engineers is projected to grow 2 percent from 2020 to 2030, slower than the average for all occupations.

Despite limited employment growth, about 4,500 openings for computer hardware engineers are projected each year, on average, over the decade. Most of those openings are expected to result from the need to replace workers who transfer to different occupations or exit the labor force, such as to retire.

Employment

Demand for these engineers is expected to grow as more industries outside of the computer and electronic product manufacturing industry begin to research and develop their own electronic devices. However, centralized computing and networking services may mean fewer engineers will be needed because these worksites cover large networks and geographic areas.

An increase in hardware startup firms and the ongoing increase in the number of devices with computer chips embedded in them, such as household appliances, medical devices, and automobiles, may also lead to some job growth for these workers.

Employment projections data for computer hardware engineers, 2020-30
Occupational Title SOC Code Employment, 2020 Projected Employment, 2030 Change, 2020-30 Employment by Industry
Percent Numeric

SOURCE: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employment Projections program

Computer hardware engineers

17-2061 66,200 67,300 2 1,000 Get data

Contacts for More Information About this section

For more information about computer hardware engineers, visit

Association for Computing Machinery

IEEE Computer Society

For more information about ABET-accredited college and university programs in applied science, computing, engineering, and technology, visit

ABET

CareerOneStop

For a career video on computer hardware engineers, visit

Computer Hardware Engineers

O*NET

Computer Hardware Engineers

Video