How to Become a Hardware Engineer

How to Become a Hardware Engineer: Step-by-Step Guide

Here are the essential steps for becoming a computer hardware engineer:


1. Excel at math, physics, electronics and computer science in high school

2. Determine if this field is suited to your interests and personal traits

3. Earn a bachelor’s degree in computer engineering or a similar field

4. Get an entry-level job during school or upon graduation

5. Pursue a graduate degree

6. Advance your career as you gain experience and further education


Continue reading below to get a good idea of what you'll need to begin a career as a computer hardware engineer in the United States or Canada. We've also included other helpful information, such as an overview of salary level expectations, a list of possible employers, actual job postings, and much more!



What Education Will I Need to Become a Hardware Engineer?

For entry-level jobs, most employers will prefer that you have a bachelor’s degree in Computer Engineering from an accredited school, although a degree in Computer Science or Electrical Engineering is also generally considered acceptable. Having a graduate degree may help you qualify for higher level jobs and advance your career.


While in high school, excelling in math, physics, electronics and computer science is a great way to set your foundation for this career, and to qualify for engineering schools. 




What is a Computer Hardware Engineer?

Computer hardware engineers are engineers that research, plan, design, test and develop the functionality of computers systems. They must develop, plan, test, and investigate computer hardware components such as circuit cards, memory chips, routers, networks and keyboards. Their work helps generate rapid advances in computer technology.



What Does a Hardware Engineer Do?

In general, a computer hardware engineer is responsible for the following:


• Applying computer engineering principles to design new computer hardware

• Conferring with client or employer regarding finalized design

• Creating schematics of computer equipment to be built

• Testing completed models of the computer hardware they design

• Analyzing the test results and modifying the design as needed

• Updating existing computer equipment so that it will work with new software

• Overseeing the manufacturing process for computer hardware

• Conferring with marketing and sales departments regarding product specifications and features

• Maintaining knowledge of computer engineering trends and new technology



Is a Career as a Hardware Engineer Right for Me?

If you have the following traits, you should be a good fit for this career:


• A passion for technology and computer hardware

• A natural aptitude in math and science

• An interest in influencing the future of technology

• An interest in a very well-paying career

• An interest in the possibility of self-employment

• Patience, and a capacity for details

• An interest in working primarily in a lab setting or in front of a computer 



Who Hires Hardware Engineers?

Jobs for computer hardware engineers are most often found in research laboratories that design, build and test various types of computer models, components and related equipment. They may also work as consultants, educators, technical sales specialists, and in management capacities. 


List of types of employers for computer hardware engineers:


• Telecommunications and computer networking companies

• Computer and peripheral equipment manufacturers

• Electronic component manufacturers

• Hardware research and development companies

• Research and development companies in the physical, engineering, and life sciences

• IT and tech consulting firms

• Consumer electronics manufacturers and distributors

• Industrial instrumentation and process control companies



What is the Salary of a Hardware Engineer?

Computer hardware engineers earn a median salary of around $110,000 per year in the United States. Their salary can vary based on factors such as their level of experience and education, the specific region in which they work, level of responsibility involved in the job, and other factors. 



More About Salary Levels

As mentioned above, the salary level you could earn as a computer hardware engineer can vary, typically depending on the following factors:


• Your level of education

• Your level of experience

• The sector you work in (i.e. research, component development, etc.)

• The level of responsibility in your job

• The size and type of your employer

• The region in which you work

• Many other factors


Hardware Engineer Salary in Canada: According to the 2015 Alberta Wage & Salary Survey, the average salary level of Albertans working in the Computer engineers (except software engineers and designers) occupational group is $88,149 per year. Unfortunately, no reliable salary information could be found for the rest of Canada.


Hardware Engineer Salary in the United States: According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median salary level of Americans working in the Computer Hardware Engineers occupational group is $111,730 per year.



Hardware Engineer Jobs

Our job board below has "Hardware Engineer" postings in Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia.

What Career Advancement Opportunities Are There?

As a hardware engineer, if you gain competence and have a good work ethic, you can open the doors to plenty of career advancement options, including:


• Earning an increase in pay and benefits

• Moving into senior-level engineering roles

• Becoming a tester that finds security holes and flaws by deliberately cracking systems

• Moving into management/administrative roles

• Moving into teaching or research roles

• Moving into sales or marketing roles

• Moving into computer systems administration roles

• Becoming self-employed


Success Tip: Earning a graduate degree in computer engineering, or business administration, can greatly help advance your career.



What are Careers Similar to “Hardware Engineer”?

Listed below are careers that may be in the same field, or they may involve many of the same skills, competencies and/or responsibilities as Computer Hardware Engineer:


• Avionics Technician

• Computer Scientist

• Electrical Engineer

• IT Manager

• Network Architect

• Robotics Technologist

• Technical Sales Engineer

• Test Engineer



Scholarships for Becoming a Hardware Engineer

All of the scholarships on our Computer Engineering, and Electrical Engineering Scholarships pages are relevant for becoming a computer hardware engineer.


Success Tip: Be sure to apply for any scholarships that you even barely qualify for, as there are millions of dollars of scholarships that go unused every year due to a lack of applicants!




Please consult the following resources to learn more about what it takes to become a hardware engineer:


• Occupational Profile: “Computer Engineer.” (n.d.). Alberta Government - Alberta Learning Information Service. Retrieved February 1, 2017.

• Occupational Outlook Handbook: “Computer Hardware Engineers.” (n.d.). United States Bureau of Labor Statistics. Retrieved February 1, 2017. 

• Explore Careers - Outlook Report: “Computer Engineers (Except Software Engineers & Designers)” (Dec. 23, 2016). Government of Canada - Statistics Canada. Retrieved January 31, 2017.



Majors in Our Database Relevant for this Career

We have career guides for over 60 university majors in our database. Below we've outlined those that are most relevant to becoming a hardware engineer. Click on the link(s) to see what else you can do with these majors!


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