Computer Engineer: Career Outlook for the Computer Engineering Professions

Published Nov 03, 2009

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Computer engineers can work in both hardware and software. Computer software engineers apply their design and scientific knowledge to the building of third-party programs that are installed in existing computers. Computer hardware engineers are involved in the design and testing of the computers themselves.

Computer Software Engineer Overview and Career Outlook

Computer software engineers apply principals of computer science and math to the testing, design and evaluation of computer software and systems that make computers run properly. Members of this occupation are involved in several types of software, including games, business applications, operating systems, network distribution, word processing and compilers.

Computer software engineers must use a detailed set of instructions to tell the computer what to do while creating the programs, often giving instructions to the computer in the computer's own language, which is called programming or coding. Computer software engineering employment is projected to increase by 38% between 2006 and 2016, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics ( This statistic makes it one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States. As of May 2006, median annual earnings of computer software engineers were $79,780, with the highest ten percent earning more than $119,770.

Computer Hardware Engineer Overview and Career Outlook

Computer hardware engineers design, develop, test and oversee the installation and manufacturing of computer hardware. This includes circuit boards, computer chips, computer systems, keyboards, modems and printers. Computer hardware engineers may also design and test circuits and other electronic components as it relates to computers and computer-related equipment. This occupation is the main source behind the rapid advances in computer technology.

Most computer hardware engineers work in office buildings, laboratories or industrial plants. Their job may involve extensive traveling, as well. As of 2006, there were about 79,000 computer hardware engineering jobs in the United States.

Employment growth is expected to be at five percent between 2006 and 2016, slower than the national average. This is mostly due to heavy foreign competition and manufacturing jobs moving overseas. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (, the median annual earnings of computer hardware engineers was $88,470 in 2006.

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