What It Takes to Become a Computer Engineer

The Education and Skills You Need To Become a Computer Engineer

Programmer in a small office
Gunnar Svanberg

Tech jobs of all kinds are in-demand, especially computer engineers. 

Computer engineers are responsible for designing, developing, implementing and testing computer-based hardware and software. This also includes the components that are found inside computer equipment, as well as the actual devices that contain the computers and the software that runs on those machines.

They may also design networks that connect computer systems, and work on integrating software programs with computer hardware.

Educational Requirements

To become a computer engineer, you will typically need to obtain a bachelor of science degree in computer engineering, computer science or electrical engineering. However, nowadays the growth of online education and in-person bootcamps makes it much easier to become a computer engineer and/or programmer without a formal degree.

Important Technical Skills for Becoming a Computer Engineer

Since the computer engineering field is quite broad, the required technical skills listed in the job postings you come across will vary, depending on whether the job is more hardware- or software-focused. And of course which industry the employer belongs to.

Typically, you will need to have the following:

  • an understanding of the particular computer hardware architecture you will be working with;
  • experience designing, coding and testing software;
  • familiarity with software test procedures or scripts;
  • experience building your own PC systems;
  • understanding of different operating systems, including Windows and Linux, and how certain types of software will work with them;
  • experience with device drivers;
  • understanding of networking and security;
  • understanding of the (sometimes specialized) software that is typically used in a particular industry;
  • knowledge of programming languages such as C++, Java, and other object-oriented languages.

Other Crucial Skills

Since computer engineers work closely with programmers, designers, product developers and testers, they really need to have strong interpersonal and communication skills, as well as the ability to work in a team.

Fields Employing Computer Engineers

Computer engineers are likely to find work in a variety of fields, including (but not limited to):

  • telecommunications;
  • manufacturing;
  • transportation;
  • product development.

Here are some interesting "niche" areas of computer engineering:

  • working with radar and communications technology;
  • supporting high performance and embedded computing systems for nuclear medicine;
  • military software support;
  • designing new motors and sensors for robotic equipment.

The Future of Computer Engineering

One thing that is certain about the future of computer engineering is that it's an industry full of countless opportunities, but none of which come without some hard work.

Most of the attention put on computer engineers looks at the private sectors. Yet all the while, there are some who are concerned with recent declines in research budgets for computer science and engineering — especially in government institutions. Beyond the lack of funding, many computer engineers and related are disinterested in serving in these government agencies. 

Without a doubt, engineers play an important role in the future of the U.S. — in the private and public sector. And not only for the obvious things like  setting up sound IT and/or database infrastructure. But also when it comes to implementing public policy—such as computer science and related in the school systems. 


Note: updates have been made to this article by Laurence Bradford since the original date of publish.

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