Computer Hardware Engineer

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Job Outlook:
Faster than average
Growth % to 2032: 4.6 %
Education: Bachelor's degree
Work From Home
Salary
High: $208,200.00
Average: $140,830.00
Hourly
Average: $67.71

What they do:

Research, design, develop, or test computer or computer-related equipment for commercial, industrial, military, or scientific use. May supervise the manufacturing and installation of computer or computer-related equipment and components.

On the job, you would:

  • Update knowledge and skills to keep up with rapid advancements in computer technology.
  • Design and develop computer hardware and support peripherals, including central processing units (CPUs), support logic, microprocessors, custom integrated circuits, and printers and disk drives.
  • Confer with engineering staff and consult specifications to evaluate interface between hardware and software and operational and performance requirements of overall system.

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.

Personality

A3 Your Strengths Importance

Characteristics of this Career

90% Attention to Detail  -  Job requires being careful about detail and thorough in completing work tasks.
88% Analytical Thinking  -  Job requires analyzing information and using logic to address work-related issues and problems.
77% Innovation  -  Job requires creativity and alternative thinking to develop new ideas for and answers to work-related problems.
76% Initiative  -  Job requires a willingness to take on responsibilities and challenges.
74% Cooperation  -  Job requires being pleasant with others on the job and displaying a good-natured, cooperative attitude.
73% Achievement/Effort  -  Job requires establishing and maintaining personally challenging achievement goals and exerting effort toward mastering tasks.
73% Persistence  -  Job requires persistence in the face of obstacles.
73% Integrity  -  Job requires being honest and ethical.
71% Dependability  -  Job requires being reliable, responsible, and dependable, and fulfilling obligations.
66% Stress Tolerance  -  Job requires accepting criticism and dealing calmly and effectively with high-stress situations.
A3 Your Strengths Importance

Strengths

95% Investigative  -  Work involves studying and researching non-living objects, living organisms, disease or other forms of impairment, or human behavior. Investigative occupations are often associated with physical, life, medical, or social sciences, and can be found in the fields of humanities, mathematics/statistics, information technology, or health care service.
89% Realistic  -  Work involves designing, building, or repairing of equipment, materials, or structures, engaging in physical activity, or working outdoors. Realistic occupations are often associated with engineering, mechanics and electronics, construction, woodworking, transportation, machine operation, agriculture, animal services, physical or manual labor, athletics, or protective services.
A3 Your Strengths Importance

Values of the Work Environment

83% Working Conditions  -  Occupations that satisfy this work value offer job security and good working conditions. Corresponding needs are Activity, Compensation, Independence, Security, Variety and Working Conditions.
72% Achievement  -  Occupations that satisfy this work value are results oriented and allow employees to use their strongest abilities, giving them a feeling of accomplishment. Corresponding needs are Ability Utilization and Achievement.
67% Recognition  -  Occupations that satisfy this work value offer advancement, potential for leadership, and are often considered prestigious. Corresponding needs are Advancement, Authority, Recognition and Social Status.
67% Support  -  Occupations that satisfy this work value offer supportive management that stands behind employees. Corresponding needs are Company Policies, Supervision: Human Relations and Supervision: Technical.
67% Independence  -  Occupations that satisfy this work value allow employees to work on their own and make decisions. Corresponding needs are Creativity, Responsibility and Autonomy.

Aptitude

A3 Your Strengths Importance

Abilities | Cognitive, Physical, Personality

75% Inductive Reasoning  -  The ability to combine pieces of information to form general rules or conclusions (includes finding a relationship among seemingly unrelated events).
75% Written Comprehension  -  The ability to read and understand information and ideas presented in writing.
75% Oral Expression  -  The ability to communicate information and ideas in speaking so others will understand.
75% Information Ordering  -  The ability to arrange things or actions in a certain order or pattern according to a specific rule or set of rules (e.g., patterns of numbers, letters, words, pictures, mathematical operations).
75% Oral Comprehension  -  The ability to listen to and understand information and ideas presented through spoken words and sentences.
75% Deductive Reasoning  -  The ability to apply general rules to specific problems to produce answers that make sense.
72% Problem Sensitivity  -  The ability to tell when something is wrong or is likely to go wrong. It does not involve solving the problem, only recognizing that there is a problem.
69% Written Expression  -  The ability to communicate information and ideas in writing so others will understand.
66% Near Vision  -  The ability to see details at close range (within a few feet of the observer).

Job Details

Responsibilities
Update technical knowledge.
Recommend technical design or process changes to improve efficiency, quality, or performance.
Conduct validation tests of equipment or processes.
Monitor processes for compliance with standards.
Analyze design requirements for computer or electronics systems.
Test performance of electrical, electronic, mechanical, or integrated systems or equipment.
Create physical models or prototypes.
Analyze design requirements for computer or electronics systems.
Advise customers on the use of products or services.
Supervise engineering or other technical personnel.
Confer with technical personnel to prepare designs or operational plans.
Select project materials.
Analyze design requirements for computer or electronics systems.
Prepare procedural documents.
Determine operational criteria or specifications.
Train personnel on proper operational procedures.
Advise customers on the use of products or services.
Provide technical guidance to other personnel.
Assemble equipment or components.
Analyze design requirements for computer or electronics systems.
Design electronic or computer equipment or instrumentation.
Recommend technical design or process changes to improve efficiency, quality, or performance.
A3 Your Strengths Importance

Attributes & Percentage of Time Spent

98% Electronic Mail  -  How often do you use electronic mail in this job?
88% Spend Time Sitting  -  How much does this job require sitting?
87% Face-to-Face Discussions  -  How often do you have to have face-to-face discussions with individuals or teams in this job?
86% Indoors, Environmentally Controlled  -  How often does this job require working indoors in environmentally controlled conditions?
85% Importance of Being Exact or Accurate  -  How important is being very exact or highly accurate in performing this job?
84% Work With Work Group or Team  -  How important is it to work with others in a group or team in this job?
81% Freedom to Make Decisions  -  How much decision making freedom, without supervision, does the job offer?
78% Telephone  -  How often do you have telephone conversations in this job?
76% Structured versus Unstructured Work  -  To what extent is this job structured for the worker, rather than allowing the worker to determine tasks, priorities, and goals?
74% Contact With Others  -  How much does this job require the worker to be in contact with others (face-to-face, by telephone, or otherwise) in order to perform it?
73% Level of Competition  -  To what extent does this job require the worker to compete or to be aware of competitive pressures?
67% Time Pressure  -  How often does this job require the worker to meet strict deadlines?
88% Duration of Typical Work Week  -  Number of hours typically worked in one week.
A3 Your Strengths Importance

Tasks & Values

97% Working with Computers  -  Using computers and computer systems (including hardware and software) to program, write software, set up functions, enter data, or process information.
92% Making Decisions and Solving Problems  -  Analyzing information and evaluating results to choose the best solution and solve problems.
87% Updating and Using Relevant Knowledge  -  Keeping up-to-date technically and applying new knowledge to your job.
86% Analyzing Data or Information  -  Identifying the underlying principles, reasons, or facts of information by breaking down information or data into separate parts.
85% Getting Information  -  Observing, receiving, and otherwise obtaining information from all relevant sources.
85% Thinking Creatively  -  Developing, designing, or creating new applications, ideas, relationships, systems, or products, including artistic contributions.
83% Processing Information  -  Compiling, coding, categorizing, calculating, tabulating, auditing, or verifying information or data.
81% Communicating with Supervisors, Peers, or Subordinates  -  Providing information to supervisors, co-workers, and subordinates by telephone, in written form, e-mail, or in person.
78% Evaluating Information to Determine Compliance with Standards  -  Using relevant information and individual judgment to determine whether events or processes comply with laws, regulations, or standards.
76% Estimating the Quantifiable Characteristics of Products, Events, or Information  -  Estimating sizes, distances, and quantities; or determining time, costs, resources, or materials needed to perform a work activity.
74% Identifying Objects, Actions, and Events  -  Identifying information by categorizing, estimating, recognizing differences or similarities, and detecting changes in circumstances or events.
74% Documenting/Recording Information  -  Entering, transcribing, recording, storing, or maintaining information in written or electronic/magnetic form.
73% Organizing, Planning, and Prioritizing Work  -  Developing specific goals and plans to prioritize, organize, and accomplish your work.
71% Drafting, Laying Out, and Specifying Technical Devices, Parts, and Equipment  -  Providing documentation, detailed instructions, drawings, or specifications to tell others about how devices, parts, equipment, or structures are to be fabricated, constructed, assembled, modified, maintained, or used.
66% Providing Consultation and Advice to Others  -  Providing guidance and expert advice to management or other groups on technical, systems-, or process-related topics.
66% Interpreting the Meaning of Information for Others  -  Translating or explaining what information means and how it can be used.
66% Developing Objectives and Strategies  -  Establishing long-range objectives and specifying the strategies and actions to achieve them.

What Computer Hardware Engineers Do

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

Computer hardware engineers held about 78,100 jobs in 2022. The largest employers of computer hardware engineers were as follows:

Research and development in the physical, engineering, and life sciences 20%
Semiconductor and other electronic component manufacturing 16
Computer systems design and related services 15
Computer and peripheral equipment manufacturing 8
Federal government 7

Work Schedules

Most computer hardware engineers work full time.

Getting Started

Entry Level Education:
Bachelor's degree
Work Experience in a Related Occupation:
None
On The Job Training:
None
Education:
48%
Bachelor's Degree
34%
Master's Degree

How to Become a Computer Hardware Engineer

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.

Job Outlook

Employment of computer hardware engineers is projected to grow 5 percent from 2022 to 2032, faster than the average for all occupations.

About 4,600 openings for computer hardware engineers are projected each year, on average, over the decade. Many 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 computer hardware engineers is expected to grow, as these workers are needed to design parts for manufactured products that use processors and other components, such as household appliances, medical devices, and automobiles. As new technologies expand, however, an expected uptick in focus on software innovation compared with hardware may temper demand for these engineers. 

Contacts for More Information

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

Similar Occupations

This table shows a list of occupations with job duties that are similar to those of computer hardware engineers.

Occupation Job Duties Entry-Level Education Median Annual Pay, May 2022
Aerospace engineers Aerospace Engineers

Aerospace engineers design, develop, and test aircraft, spacecraft, satellites, and missiles.

Bachelor's degree $126,880
Computer and information research scientists Computer and Information Research Scientists

Computer and information research scientists design innovative uses for new and existing computing technology.

Master's degree $136,620
Computer and information systems managers Computer and Information Systems Managers

Computer and information systems managers plan, coordinate, and direct computer-related activities in an organization.

Bachelor's degree $164,070
computer network architects image Computer Network Architects

Computer network architects design and build data communication networks, including local area networks (LANs), wide area networks (WANs), and Intranets.

Bachelor's degree $126,900
Computer programmers Computer Programmers

Computer programmers write, modify, and test code and scripts that allow computer software and applications to function properly.

Bachelor's degree $97,800
Electrical and electronics engineers Electrical and Electronics Engineers

Electrical engineers design, develop, test, and supervise the manufacture of electrical equipment.

Bachelor's degree $104,610
Mechanical engineers Mechanical Engineers

Mechanical engineers design, develop, build, and test mechanical and thermal sensors and devices.

Bachelor's degree $96,310
Software developers Software Developers, Quality Assurance Analysts, and Testers

Software developers design computer applications or programs. Software quality assurance analysts and testers identify problems with applications or programs and report defects.  

Bachelor's degree $124,200
Network and computer systems administrators Network and Computer Systems Administrators

Network and computer systems administrators install, configure, and maintain organizations’ computer networks and systems.

Bachelor's degree $90,520

Information provided by CareerFitter, LLC and other sources.

Sections of this page includes information from the O*NET 27.3 Database by the U.S. Department of Labor, Employment and Training Administration (USDOL/ETA). Used under the CC BY 4.0 license.

CareerFitter, LLC has modified all or some of this information. USDOL/ETA has not approved, endorsed, or tested these modifications.