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Hardware Engineering Essay

"Hardware engineering" redirects here. For engineering of other types of hardware, see mechanical engineering. For engineering electrical systems, see electrical engineering.

Computer engineering is a discipline that integrates several fields of electrical engineering and computer science required to develop computer hardware and software.[1] Computer engineers usually have training in electronic engineering (or electrical engineering), software design, and hardware–software integration instead of only software engineering or electronic engineering. Computer engineers are involved in many hardware and software aspects of computing, from the design of individual microcontrollers, microprocessors, personal computers, and supercomputers, to circuit design. This field of engineering not only focuses on how computer systems themselves work, but also how they integrate into the larger picture.[2]

Usual tasks involving computer engineers include writing software and firmware for embeddedmicrocontrollers, designing VLSI chips, designing analogsensors, designing mixed signal circuit boards, and designing operating systems. Computer engineers are also suited for robotics research, which relies heavily on using digital systems to control and monitor electrical systems like motors, communications, and sensors.

In many institutions, computer engineering students are allowed to choose areas of in-depth study in their junior and senior year, because the full breadth of knowledge used in the design and application of computers is beyond the scope of an undergraduate degree. Other institutions may require engineering students to complete one or two years of General Engineering before declaring computer engineering as their primary focus.[3][4][5][6]


  • 1History
  • 2Work
  • 3Specialty areas
    • 3.1Coding, cryptography, and information protection
    • 3.2Communications and wireless networks
    • 3.3Compilers and operating systems
    • 3.4Computational science and engineering
    • 3.5Computer networks, mobile computing, and distributed systems
    • 3.6Computer systems: architecture, parallel processing, and dependability
    • 3.7Computer vision and robotics
    • 3.8Embedded systems
    • 3.9Integrated circuits, VLSI design, testing and CAD
    • 3.10Signal, image and speech processing
  • 4Education
  • 5Job outlook in the United States
  • 6Similar occupations and fields
  • 7See also
  • 8References


Computer engineering began in 1939 when John Vincent Atanasoff and Clifford Berry began developing the worlds first electronic digital computer through physics, mathematics, and electrical engineering. John Vincent Atanasoff was once a physics and mathematics teacher for Iowa State University and Clifford Berry a former graduate under electrical engineering and physics. Together, they created the Atanasoff-Berry computer, also known as the ABC which took 5 years to complete.[7] While the original ABC was dismantled and discarded in the 1940s a tribute was made to the late inventors, a replica of the ABC was made in 1997 where it took a team of researchers and engineers four years and $350,000 to build.[8]

The first computer engineering degree program in the United States was established in 1972 at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio. As of 2015[update], there were 250 ABET-accredited computer engineering programs in the US.[9] In Europe, accreditation of computer engineering schools is done by a variety of agencies part of the EQANIE network. Due to increasing job requirements for engineers who can concurrently design hardware, software, firmware, and manage all forms of computer systems used in industry, some tertiary institutions around the world offer a bachelor's degree generally called computer engineering. Both computer engineering and electronic engineering programs include analog and digital circuit design in their curriculum. As with most engineering disciplines, having a sound knowledge of mathematics and science is necessary for computer engineers.


There are two major specialties in computer engineering: hardware and software.

Computer hardware engineering[edit]

Most computer hardware engineers research, develop, design, and test various computer equipment. This can range from circuit boards and microprocessors to routers. Some update existing computer equipment to be more efficient and work with newer software. Most computer hardware engineers work in research laboratories and high-tech manufacturing firms. Some also work for the federal government. According to BLS, 95% of computer hardware engineers work in metropolitan areas.[citation needed] They generally work full-time. Approximately 33% of their work requires more than 40 hours a week. For example, the typical computer hardware engineer with a bachelor's degree as of 2015 makes 111,730 USD annually and an hourly pay of 53.72 USD. The expected ten year growth as of 2014 for computer hardware engineering was an estimated three percent and there was a total of 77,700 jobs that same year.

Computer software engineering[edit]

Main article: Software engineering

Computer software engineers develop, design, and test software. They construct, and maintain computer programs, as well as set up networks such as "intranets" for companies. Software engineers can also design or code new applications to meet the needs of a business or individual. Some software engineers work independently as freelancers and sell their software products/applications to an enterprise or individual. A computer software engineer with a bachelor's degree as of 2015 makes 100,690 USD annually and an hourly rate of 48.41 USD. The expected ten year growth as of 2014 for computer software engineering was an estimated seventeen percent and there was a total of 1,114,000 jobs that same year.[10]

Specialty areas[edit]

There are many specialty areas in the field of computer engineering.

Coding, cryptography, and information protection[edit]

Main article: Information security

Computer engineers work in coding, cryptography, and information protection to develop new methods for protecting various information, such as digital images and music, fragmentation, copyright infringement and other forms of tampering. Examples include work on wireless communications, multi-antenna systems, optical transmission, and digital watermarking.[11]

Communications and wireless networks[edit]

Main articles: Communications networks and Wireless network

Those focusing on communications and wireless networks, work advancements in telecommunications systems and networks (especially wireless networks), modulation and error-control coding, and information theory. High-speed network design, interference suppression and modulation, design and analysis of fault-tolerant system, and storage and transmission schemes are all a part of this specialty.[11]

Compilers and operating systems[edit]

Main articles: Compiler and Operating system

This specialty focuses on compilers and operating systems design and development. Engineers in this field develop new operating system architecture, program analysis techniques, and new techniques to assure quality. Examples of work in this field includes post-link-time code transformation algorithm development and new operating system development.[11]

Computational science and engineering[edit]

Main article: Computational science and engineering

Computational Science and Engineering is a relatively new discipline. According to the Sloan Career Cornerstone Center, individuals working in this area, "computational methods are applied to formulate and solve complex mathematical problems in engineering and the physical and the social sciences. Examples include aircraft design, the plasma processing of nanometer features on semiconductor wafers, VLSI circuit design, radar detection systems, ion transport through biological channels, and much more".[11]

Computer networks, mobile computing, and distributed systems[edit]

Main articles: Computer network, Mobile computing, and Distributed computing

In this specialty, engineers build integrated environments for computing, communications, and information access. Examples include shared-channel wireless networks, adaptive resource management in various systems, and improving the quality of service in mobile and ATM environments. Some other examples include work on wireless network systems and fast Ethernet cluster wired systems.[11]

Computer systems: architecture, parallel processing, and dependability[edit]

Main articles: Computer architecture, Parallel computing, and Dependability

Engineers working in computer systems work on research projects that allow for reliable, secure, and high-performance computer systems. Projects such as designing processors for multi-threading and parallel processing are included in this field. Other examples of work in this field include development of new theories, algorithms, and other tools that add performance to computer systems.[11]

Computer vision and robotics[edit]

Main articles: Computer vision and Robotics

In this specialty, computer engineers focus on developing visual sensing technology to sense an environment, representation of an environment, and manipulation of the environment. The gathered three-dimensional information is then implemented to perform a variety of tasks. These include, improved human modeling, image communication, and human–computer interfaces, as well as devices such as special-purpose cameras with versatile vision sensors.[11]

Embedded systems[edit]

Main article: Embedded systems

Individuals working in this area design technology for enhancing the speed, reliability, and performance of systems. Embedded systems are found in many devices from a small FM radio to the space shuttle. According to the Sloan Cornerstone Career Center, ongoing developments in embedded systems include "automated vehicles and equipment to conduct search and rescue, automated transportation systems, and human–robot coordination to repair equipment in space."[11]

Integrated circuits, VLSI design, testing and CAD[edit]

Main articles: Integrated circuit and Very-large-scale integration

This specialty of computer engineering requires adequate knowledge of electronics and electrical systems. Engineers working in this area work on enhancing the speed, reliability, and energy efficiency of next-generation very-large-scale integrated (VLSI) circuits and microsystems. An example of this specialty is work done on reducing the power consumption of VLSI algorithms and architecture.[11]

Signal, image and speech processing[edit]

Main articles: Signal processing, Image processing, and Speech processing

Computer engineers in this area develop improvements in human–computer interaction, including speech recognition and synthesis, medical and scientific imaging, or communications systems. Other work in this area includes computer vision development such as recognition of human facial features.[11]


Most entry-level computer engineering jobs require at least a bachelor's degree in computer engineering. Typically one must learn an array of mathematics such as calculus, algebra and trigonometry and even a few computer science classes. Sometimes a degree in electronic engineering is accepted, due to the similarity of the two fields. Because hardware engineers commonly work with computer software systems, a background in computer programming usually is needed. According to BLS, "a computer engineering major is similar to electrical engineering but with some computer science courses added to the curriculum".[12] Some large firms or specialized jobs require a master's degree.

It is also important for computer engineers to keep up with rapid advances in technology. Therefore, many continue learning throughout their careers. This can be helpful, especially when it comes to learning new skills or improving existing ones. For example, as the relative cost of fixing a bug increases the further along it is in the software development cycle, there can be greater cost savings attributed to developing and testing for quality code as soon as possible in the process, and particularly before release.[13]

Job outlook in the United States[edit]

Computer hardware engineering[edit]

According to the BLS, Job Outlook employment for computer hardware engineers, the expected ten year growth as of 2014 for computer hardware engineering was an estimated three percent and there was a total of 77,700 jobs that same year. ("Slower than average" in their own words when compared to other occupations)"[14] and is down from 7% for 2012 to 2022 BLS estimate[14] and is further down from 9% in the BLS 2010 to 2020 estimate." Today, computer hardware is somehow equal to electronic and computer engineering (ECE) and has divided to many subcategories, the most significant of them is Embedded system design.[12]

Computer software engineering[edit]

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), "computer applications software engineers and computer systems software engineers are projected to be among the faster than average growing occupations" The expected ten year growth as of 2014 for computer software engineering was an estimated seventeen percent and there was a total of 1,114,000 jobs that same year.[15] This is down from the 2012 to 2022 BLS estimate of 22% for software developers.[10][15] And, further down from the 30% 2010 to 2020 BLS estimate.[16] In addition, growing concerns over cyber security add up to put computer software engineering high above the average rate of increase for all fields. However, some of the work will be outsourced in foreign countries. Due to this, job growth will not be as fast as during the last decade, as jobs that would have gone to computer software engineers in the United States would instead go to computer software engineers in countries such as India.[17] In addition the BLS Job Outlook for Computer Programmers, 2014–24 has an −8% (a decline in their words)[17] for those who program computers (i.e. embedded systems) who are not computer application developers.[18]

Similar occupations and fields[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^IEEE Computer Society; ACM (December 12, 2004). Computer Engineering 2004: Curriculum Guidelines for Undergraduate Degree Programs in Computer Engineering(PDF). p. iii. Retrieved December 17, 2012.  
  2. ^Trinity College Dublin. "What is Computer System Engineering". Retrieved April 21, 2006. , "Computer engineers need not only to understand how computer systems themselves work, but also how they integrate into the larger picture. Consider the car. A modern car contains many separate computer systems for controlling such things as the engine timing, the brakes and the air bags. To be able to design and implement such a car, the computer engineer needs a broad theoretical understanding of all these various subsystems & how they interact.
  3. ^"Changing Majors @ Clemson". Clemson University. Retrieved September 20, 2011. 
  4. ^"Declaring a College of Engineering Major". University of Arkansas. Retrieved September 20, 2011. 
  5. ^"Degree Requirements". Carnegie Mellon University. Retrieved September 20, 2011. 
  6. ^"Programas de Materias" (in Spanish). Universidad Católica Argentina. 
  7. ^"John Vincent Atanasoff - the father of the computer". Retrieved 2017-12-05. 
  8. ^"Iowa State replica of first electronic digital computer going to Computer History Museum - News Service - Iowa State University". Retrieved 2017-12-05. 
  9. ^"Find an ABET-Accredited Program | ABET". Retrieved 2015-11-29. 
  10. ^ ab"Computer Software Engineer". Bureau of Labor Statistics. March 19, 2010. Archived from the original on July 26, 2013. Retrieved July 20, 2012. 
  11. ^ abcdefghij"Computer Engineering Overview"(PDF). Sloan Career Cornerstone Center. Retrieved July 20, 2012. 
  12. ^ ab"Computer Hardware Engineers". Bureau of Labor Statistics. January 8, 2014. Retrieved July 20, 2012. 
  13. ^"Feabhas_Infographic_FINAL"(pdf). feabhas. Feabhas. 
  14. ^ ab"Computer Hardware Engineers: Occupational Outlook Handbook". U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. 
  15. ^ ab"Software Developers: Occupational Outlook Handbook". U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. 
  16. ^"Software Developers". Bureau of Labor Statistics. January 8, 2014. Retrieved July 21, 2012. 
  17. ^ ab"Computer Programmers: Occupational Outlook Handbook". U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. 
  18. ^

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Examples of devices that use embedded systems.

Describe your reasoning behind choosing your major.

Kathryn Rivard; Computer Engineering

     One thing I have always liked about the field of Computer Engineering is that it is vastly applicable to many careers, depending on the focus I choose. There are opportunities to research and develop new hardware, and opportunities to install and maintain that hardware in the field. I could troubleshoot individual computers, or I could design and manage vast networks of machines. I need only to choose.
     At this point in my life I am inclined towards networking and IT, more software -centered aspects of Comptuer Engineering. My junior year I took part in my school�s Computer Troubleshooting class, in which I designed and administered an ASIP network of 150 users who were taking Keyboarding. I was also on the main task force for maintaining three hubs, student and teacher computers, and peripherals throughout campus. This was a lot of fun for me, because not only did I get to be a part of the entire process of a network in terms of design, creation, and maintenance, but I was also able to experience the �wild card� aspect of solving individual computer problems. I like to think I would enjoy doing these sorts of things for a living as well.
     Another area of Computer Engineering I think I might take to is the more Electrical Engineering side of the field, in terms of how the actual bits and pieces of the hardware all work together to perform the hundreds of thousands of calculations it takes to run a modern computer. I have some experience in this side of CE through building Rube-Goldberg type devices for Science Olympiad. The easiest way to link the 60 or so energy transfers in the device between mechanical, electromagnetic, chemical, heat, and electrical energy is to use electronic circuits. We end up using so many electronic sensors all linked together on the same circuit board that being able to read a schematic is essential for fixing things when they break. Each successive year we end up with increasingly complicated logic to give us more efficient use of the different energies, and my dad�s old electronics texts come in handy. Though I don�t have as much hardcore experience with the technical side of Computer Engineering as I do with the software side, I still think it is a career I would enjoy.
     No matter which focus I choose to tackle in studying Computer Engineering, I know I�m going to end up with valuable and marketable job skills. That�s a given. What I�m really excited about is all in the getting there. There�s nothing better than furrowing my eyebrows over a tough concept or impossible problem and suddenly seeing a straight path to the answer. Answers lead to more questions, questions lead to confusion, and confusion hopefully leads to research and thought and more answers. That�s definately what I hope to find in college, and hopefully continue throughout the rest of my life.

Copyright 2001 Katie Rivard <> Web Services available, email for info.