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Computer Hardware Engineering Careers, Jobs and Career Information

Computer Hardware Engineering Career Overview

Computer hardware engineers are involved in researching, designing, developing and testing the computer hardware as well as supervising its production and installation. Hardware is the term applied to computer chips, circuit boards, computer systems, and other equipment like keyboards, modems, and printers. (Computer software engineers on the other hand, deal with designing and developing software systems that control computers and are called simply, computer engineers. This topic is dealt with later in this Handbook. Although the work of computer hardware engineers resembles that of an electronics engineer, the former focus on computer and computer-related equipment. Added to devising and developmental activities, computer hardware engineers also oversee the production and installation of computer equipment. It is because of the R&D work of computer hardware engineers that there are such quick advances in the computer technology industry. And in order to be up-to-date with these technological innovations, these engineers are required to keep abreast of recent changes.

Computer hardware engineers are smaller in number as contrasted against the number of people involved in software, computer application and other computer related work. In 2002, computer hardware workers had around 74,000 jobs. Of these, 40% had jobs in computer and electronic product manufacture, and one-quarter were employed in professional, scientific, and technical services firms which were related to the computer industry. Most of the remaining engineers worked in the telecommunications industry.

Computer Hardware Engineering Job and Employment Opportunities

Computer hardware engineers may face competition for jobs because the number of degrees granted in this field has increased rapidly and because employment is expected grow more slowly than average, but opportunity will be available for skilled professionals. Although the use of information technology continues to expand rapidly, the manufacture of computer hardware is expected to be adversely affected by intense foreign competition. Also, this industry is expected to continue to experience very high levels of productivity growth, which will even affect computer hardware engineers. The utilization of foreign computer hardware engineering services also will serve to limit growth. In addition to job openings arising from employment growth, other vacancies will result from the need to replace workers who move into managerial positions, transfer to other occupations, or leave the labor force.

Although competition might be faced for securing good jobs in computer hardware engineering due to increase in the quantity of degrees granted in this field and slow growth of employment, skilled professionals will have good employment opportunities. Due to immense foreign competitors, computer hardware manufacture will not be able to fully benefit from the advances in use of information technology. It is also expected that the IT industry will face a high level of productivity growth which will have an effect on computer hardware engineers. However, computer engineers will be needed to fill in position emptied die to retirement and transfers of computer engineers who move to managerial positions.

Historical Earnings Information

In 2002, the median salary received by computer hardware engineers was $72,150 annually. The middle 50 percent received salaries between $56,490 and $91,730. The lowest 10 percent earned below $46,190, while the highest 10 percent earned above $114,880. In 2002, the median annual earnings in the industries employing the largest numbers of computer hardware engineers were:

  • Semiconductor and other electronic component manufacturing – $76,600
  • Computer and peripheral equipment manufacturing – &75,300
  • Computer systems designs and related services – $74,320

In a 2003 salary survey conducted by thee National Association of Colleges and Employers a computer hardware engineer with a bachelor’s degree received a starting salary of candidates $51,343 a yea on an average while master’s degree candidates received around $64,200.

Seasoned engineers may earn even more.