Can’t decide whether you prefer physical engineering or software-based design? Computer engineering means you don’t have to choose.
To get your start in computer engineering, you’ll typically need at least a bachelor’s degree. Take a look at our ranking for the Best Online Computer Engineering Degrees to find the perfect program for you.
What is computer engineering?
Computer engineering sits at the intersection of electrical engineering and computer science. Professionals who work in this field are at the frontiers of software and interface design, from robotics to microprocessors to computer architecture.
While computer science focuses largely on software, and electrical engineering focuses mostly on hardware, computer engineering involves the interaction of both of these aspects. A degree in computer engineering can be a launching point for a career in cybersecurity, application development, technology interface design, and many other areas.
How much money can I make with a computer engineering degree?
Graduates with a computer engineering degree will have a number of career options, of which computer hardware engineer is just one. Other common job titles for computer engineering graduates include software developer or computer network architect.
A computer network architect typically earns around $101,210 per year, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The average software developer earns roughly $102,280 per year. For a computer hardware engineer, the average pay is $115,080.
Although the median salaries are fairly similar for these three occupations, the expected job growth rates are very different. Computer engineers have a predicted job growth rate of just 3 percent between 2014 and 2024. For computer network architects, that number is 9 percent—a little faster than the overall expected growth rate of roughly 7 percent.
But software engineers have the best job outlook: The expected growth rate is 17 percent for this occupation.
What kinds of degrees can I earn in computer engineering?
Both associate’s degrees and undergraduate professional certificates are widely available in computer engineering. In fact, according to job website Monster, an associate’s degree in computer engineering is one of the most lucrative two-year degrees you can earn.
At the bachelor’s degree level, programs will offer opportunities for more in-depth study and specialization. Regardless of their planned specialization, undergraduate students in computer engineering will almost always take classes such as:
- Human-Computer Interaction
- Data Structures and Algorithms
- Information Security
- Object-Oriented Programming
- Mobile and Web Development
After their bachelor’s degree, students may choose to go on to an advanced degree. A Master of Computer Engineering or a Ph.D. in Computer Engineering will typically require a culminating project. This culminating project could be anything from designing robotics for biomedical applications to developing new methods of digital encryption.
What are the specializations within computer engineering?
In this highly diverse field, students will have the chance to gain a strong background in many aspects of technology. Based on their strengths and interests, students can leverage their coursework in any of the following areas into a career path:
- Input devices (like touch screens, gaming controllers, and remote sensors) and output devices (like audio devices, remote controls, and monitors)
- Operating systems
- Microprocessors and microchips
- Programming languages, such as Java, Ruby, Python, and C
- Networking and communications
For more details about the niches within computer engineering, visit our FAQ post called “What are the specializations within computer engineering?”