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Computer Engineering Degree Programs

Computer engineers design the hardware and software systems that make personal computers, smartphones, industrial robotics, portable electronics, aircraft instrumentation, and many other devices and systems run. Computer engineers generally split into two top-level specializations: hardware engineers and software engineers, although most computer engineers possess a substantial amount of knowledge from both disciplines.

There are several sub-categories found within software and hardware engineering. Some of these specializations include:

  • Networking and telecommunications
  • Information system security
  • Robotics
  • Nanotechnology
  • Microprocessor design and development
  • Mobile app development
  • Computer forensics (law enforcement)
  • Data scientists

The above list is a very small sample of sub-categories, as computer engineering has expanded into every industry that leverages computing technology, which is nearly every identifiable industry that exists in the 21st century.

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What does a computer hardware engineer do?

Computer hardware engineers are responsible for the design, development and testing of electronic hardware as it relates to computer systems.

The information networks of the world rely on a vast array of different hardware products. Computer hardware engineers may develop devices at any link in the chain, from servers, processors and network switches, to video hardware and touch-screen interface devices. Even the monitor, keyboard, and mouse found on nearly every desktop in the world were once just ideas in the mind of a computer hardware engineer.

Computer hardware engineers may work on microstructures such as circuits or microprocessors, or may use these primary components to design and build larger devices. Basically, the work of computer hardware engineers can be found in the smallest components or in the largest integrated systems.

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What does a network engineer do?

If computers are what keep people connected, network engineers are the people who keep computers connected. Net engineers design, set up, test, and build local area networks (LANs), wide area networks (WANs), intranets, and other data communications systems. These systems can be configured in many different ways, and can range from simply connecting two PCs in an office to building global information networks.

Net engineers aren't just tech-savvy, they're problem-solvers. Many leaders in this field point out that their days are rarely spent typing or coding on a computer, but in front of a whiteboard brainstorming and visualizing complex solutions to all sorts of networking conundrums. Though these skilled professionals use tools like packet sniffers and protocol analyzers, the best tool in a net engineer's arsenal is brain power.

Some net engineers specialize in designing, building, and maintaining large data centers, specialized buildings that house hundreds or thousands of computers in highly controlled environments. Data centers are rated for their durability, their disaster-proof features (including the ability to survive catastrophic events like earthquakes and floods), and their overall capacity for hosting network and data storage functions.

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What do cloud engineers do?

Cloud engineers, a subset of the larger category of computer network engineers, are technology experts specialized in cloud computing and all of its related components. While network engineers and cloud engineers have more in common than not, there are some aspects of cloud networking that require additional specialized knowledge and skills, particularly around the following areas of expertise:

  • Cloud architectures, including public vs private clouds.
  • Cloud service models, such as Software as a Service (SaaS).
  • Cloud client compatibility across numerous types of devices.
  • Cloud security issues, which can be more difficult to manage than with traditional private networks.

Cloud-based services have grown in features, complexity, and popularity in recent years. Early cloud-based service offerings were mostly based around communication, such as web-based email and online chat clients. These early cloud-based services were designed for the desktop computing paradigm which dominated the first half of the Internet's history. There are still plenty of web-based email services available today, but they are just one small piece of much larger cloud service offerings.

Cloud engineers are responsible for designing, deploying and maintaining cloud networks and their related services. Sometimes, as is the case with the Internet giant Google, cloud networks are being accessed by millions of users around the world. However, today's organizations are also deploying "private clouds" to provide services to their own employees, which help to enable today's more mobile workforce.

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What do big data engineers do?

"Big data" is the industry term used to refer to data sets so large and complex they cannot be managed through traditional relational database software tools. As the total amount of information on any given subject continues to grow, new technologies are required to not only store and maintain data, but make it usable in a relevant and efficient manner.

It also refers to the solutions being created for managing massive amounts of information. In the past, big data almost exclusively referred to supercomputing, an expensive niche dominated by a few technology providers like IBM and Cray. Today, new solutions like Apache's Hadoop software platform use clusters of standard, so-called "commodity hardware" servers to manage massive data sets.

For example, Facebook currently has information storage and retrieval requirements for more than 300 petabytes of data. In a post on its engineering blog, the company revealed that it has an incoming data rate of 600 terabytes per day.

Big data engineers are responsible for developing, creating, implementing and maintaining data solutions for companies and government branches. This role comes with a challenging set of requirements. Big data engineers are experts in data warehouses, including all aspects of scalability, fault tolerance and disaster recovery. They are usually prolific in several programming and scripting languages, including Java, C++ and Python. Big data engineers are able to take a set of high-level requirements and specifications, and deploy them as a working solution.

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Degree levels and formats

Computer engineering programs

The primary education component for a computer engineer is a bachelor's degree in computer engineering. Some employers will also accept a Bachelor's degree in electrical engineering (for computer hardware engineers), as there is a lot of commonality between the two disciplines.

There are several degree programs for both hardware and software computer engineers. Some of these programs try to offer a full mix of the two disciplines, but the majority of schools have separate dedicated bachelor's degree programs for each specialization.

Some examples of computer engineering courses are:

  • Microprocessors and microcomputers
  • Programming for embedded systems
  • Operating systems and systems deployment
  • Wireless networking
  • Information system security
  • Computer architecture
  • Digital signal processing
  • Semiconductors
  • Agile software development processes
  • Software testing and quality assurance

Some schools offer associate degrees in computer engineering, which may provide access to some entry-level computer engineering jobs. An associate degree can usually be earned in 2-3 years (as opposed to four years for a bachelor's degree) and may have somewhat less-strenuous requirements than a traditional bachelor's of computer engineering program.

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Computer Engineering Training

What training or certification does it take to become a computer hardware engineer?

Career seekers looking to get into computer hardware engineering will typically need a bachelor's of science degree in engineering to be considered by employers, although computer science degree paths may allow students to concentrate on the engineering aspect of the field. At some institutions, electrical engineering degrees may be earned alongside a computer hardware engineering certificate.

Because of the speed with which technology advances, computer hardware engineers should expect to undertake ongoing training throughout their careers. As new components, protocols and methodologies hit the market, hardware engineering professionals can gain new and valuable knowledge and tools to help them produce the highest quality work possible.

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What training is required to become a cloud engineer?

Cloud engineers commonly have a bachelor's degree (or equivalent) in computing science or a related area. They will often move into the field of cloud engineering from the discipline of networking engineering, or from another related job role such as database administrator or system analyst.

There are several training and certification programs for cloud-based technologies:

  • Microsoft offers a version of its Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert (MCSE) certification that is specialized in cloud technologies, the MCSE: Private Cloud designation.
  • CompTIA offers two vendor-neutral, cloud-related designations: the entry-level Cloud Essentials certification, and the more advanced Cloud+ certification.
  • IBM has two cloud-related designations in its training and certification program: the IBM Certified Cloud Solution Architect, v1 and v3.

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What training or certification is required to become a big data engineer?

Job postings for big data engineers typically ask for candidates with a minimum of a bachelor's degree in computer science, with several years' experience in Java programming, network engineering and database administration.

Oracle offers two certifications for Java SE 7 programmers:

  • Oracle Certified Associate, Java SE 7 Programmer: The basic Oracle certification for Java SE 7, contingent on passing the 1ZO-803 Java SE 7 Programmer exam.
  • Oracle Certified Professional, Java SE 7 Programmer: Oracle's second level certification, issued upon passing the 1Z0-804 Java SE 7 Programmer II exam, which is taken after completing the 1Z0-803.

Cloudera, a big data technology company, offers a number of certifications related to Hadoop, the current industry leading software framework for big data deployments:

  • Cloudera Certified Professional: Data Scientist (CCP:DS): Aimed at experts who are able to design and develop a production-quality big data solution.
  • Cloudera Certified Developer for Apache Hadoop (CCDH): Issued to programmers who've demonstrated an ability to create and maintain Apache Hadoop development projects.
  • Cloud Certified Administrator for Apache Hadoop (CCAH): The CCAH is geared towards administrators who run maintenance operations for a Hadoop cluster.
  • Cloudera Certified Specialist in Apache HBase (CCSHB): Geared towards individuals who work with HBase, the Java database model that powers Hadoop.

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A computer engineering degree leads to a career designing or supporting digital hardware and software for computing devices.

Design and development job titles, accessible with a bachelor's degree or higher, include:

  • Lead software engineer
  • Computer hardware engineer
  • Testing engineer
  • Engineering R&D manager
  • Software architect

Support roles, which require a technical certificate or associate degree in computer engineering, include:

  • Network or systems administrator
  • Wireless network technician
  • Network support technician
  • Computer support specialist
  • Data communications analyst

According to the IEEE Computer Society, hot sectors in computer engineering include cloud computing, health information systems, and computer graphics software development. The Association of Computing Machinery profiles opportunities for computer engineers in computer security research, computer engineering management, quality assurance engineering, embedded systems engineering and health information technology.

Computer engineering is among the fastest growing career fields in the nation. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports much faster than average job growth in the 2008-to-2018 period, with computer software engineering jobs growing by 32 percent. A computer engineering degree offers a versatile credential for careers in computer systems design and maintenance.

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What is the job outlook for computer hardware engineers?

Employment opportunities for computer hardware engineers are expected to increase according to the BLS. The job market for these computing professionals is expected to see fierce competition from international markets in the coming years.

Job TitleProjected 2012-2022 Growth
Computer Hardware Engineers-U.S.7.4
*This data is sourced from the 2013 BLS employment report (BLS.gov)

An upshot of the outlook for this profession is that computer hardware engineers are most likely to find gainful employment in the computer systems design industry. The BLS reports that computer systems design and related services is expected to outpace most other industries nationwide in terms of growth.

What sort of salary can computer hardware engineers expect?

As is the case with many engineering professions, computer hardware engineers are likely to see larger salary figures than average, at the entry level and beyond. Here is one sample of data from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics.

*This data is sourced from the 2013 BLS employment report (BLS.gov)

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What's the job outlook for cloud engineers?

Although people have been talking about "the cloud" for well over two decades, it's really been in the last 6-8 years that cloud technology has been leveraged by both the private and public sectors. The growth in cloud technology is reflected in recent job outlook statistics from the BLS:

Job TitleProjected 2012-2022 Growth
Computer Network Architects-U.S.14.6
Database Administrators-U.S.15.1
Network and Computer Systems Administrators-U.S.11.7
*This data is sourced from the 2013 BLS employment report (BLS.gov)

What's the salary for cloud engineers?

Job TitleBottom 10% Annual WageAnnual Median WageTop 10% Annual Wage
Computer Network Architects-U.S.5516098430150460
Database Administrators-U.S.4447080280123780
Network and Computer Systems Administrators-U.S.4622075790120000
*This data is sourced from the 2013 BLS employment report (BLS.gov)

What's the job outlook for big data engineers?

Due to the relative newness of the field and the vast and complex skill sets required, there is a widely reported shortage of all types of big data experts, including big data engineers.

Job TitleProjected 2012-2022 Growth
Computer and Information Research Scientists-U.S.15.3
Computer Network Architects-U.S.14.6
Computer Occupations, All Other-U.S.3.8
*This data is sourced from the 2013 BLS employment report (BLS.gov)

What's the salary for big data engineers?

As the job role of big data engineer is relatively new, there are no official salary numbers from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics as of 2013. Related statistics are challenging to report, as the big data engineer role encompasses multiple disciplines.

Job TitleBottom 10% Annual WageAnnual Median WageTop 10% Annual Wage
Computer and Information Research Scientists-U.S.66030108360165600
Computer Network Architects-U.S.5516098430150460
Computer Occupations, All Other-U.S.4503083410126900
*This data is sourced from the 2013 BLS employment report (BLS.gov)

Network Engineer Salary and Job Outlook

What is the job outlook for network engineers?

Network engineers are also sometimes referred to as Computer Network Architects, which is how the BLS categorizes this job role. Demand for net engineers is expected to grow as companies continue to broaden and expand their use of traditional, wireless, and mobile networks.

What is the salary for network engineers?

The BLS has detailed salary statistics for the job role "Computer Network Architects", a common variation used for net engineers. The compensation for this job role continues to impress many candidates looking to enter the field.

*This data is sourced from the 2013 BLS employment report (BLS.gov)

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When it comes to computer engineers, the most relevant professional IT certifications are offered by the vendors who make the most popular hardware and software tools and components used in the profession. Vendors who offer certification programs for their products include Microsoft, Cisco, Oracle and Red Hat Linux.

Other industry organizations who offer relevant computing technology certifications include CompTIA, IEEE and ITIL.

For software engineers, there are numerous industry certifications available for most popular programming languages, including Java, Python, C++ and Ruby.

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Sources
"15-1199.02 – Computer Systems Engineers/Architects," O*NET OnLine, 2015, https://www.onetonline.org/link/summary/15-1199.02
"15-1132.00 – Software Developers, Applications," O*NET OnLine, 2015, https://www.onetonline.org/link/summary/15-1132.00
"15-1133 Software Developers, Systems Software," U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2014, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes151133.htm
"Computer Hardware Engineers," U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2015, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/architecture-and-engineering/computer-hardware-engineers.htm
"Scaling the Facebook data warehouse to 300 PB," Facebook, April 10, 2014, https://code.facebook.com/posts/229861827208629/scaling-the-facebook-data-warehouse-to-300-pb/
"Beginner's Guide to Python," Python, December 17, 2014, https://wiki.python.org/moin/BeginnersGuide
"Principles behind the Agile Manifesto," Agile Manifesto, 2001, http://agilemanifesto.org/iso/en/principles.html
"The state of Agile software development in the UK," Computer Weekly, November 26, 2013, http://www.computerweekly.com/news/2240209932/The-state-of-agile-software-development-in-the-UK
The Perl Job Site, 2015, http://jobs.perl.org/
"College & Career Info," IEEE Computer Society, 2015, http://www.computer.org/web/students/career

Computer Engineering Degree Programs

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Regent University prepares students with the knowledge to excel and the faith to live with purpose. Our 20,000 alumni, from more than 110 countries, are changing the world as accomplished professionals. Named a top-15 school nationally for online bachelor's programs (U.S. News & World Report, 2015), Regent is among the most affordable undergraduate Christian colleges (CCCU 2015). Fully accredited, challenging programs are available online and on campus. New classes begin every eight weeks.

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The University of Arizona is a place without limits-where teaching, research, service and innovation merge to improve lives in Arizona and beyond. We aren’t afraid to ask big questions and find even better answers.

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You can advance your career with a degree from Charter College Online. We offer several Associates and Bachelors degrees in the business, health care, accounting and legal fields. Our accelerated programs are designed to help you complete your degree as quickly as possible. We offer year-round classes and flexible scheduling - study anytime from anywhere. We help students get not only with the technical skills necessary for success, but also job search and placement assistance so you can find new opportunities after graduation.

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