A Computer Engineering degree combines the techniques and principles of both computer science and electrical engineering.
Computer engineering also includes other technical areas like networking, cybersecurity, biomedical, computer software, embedded systems, machine intelligence and design automation. Learn how to become a computer engineer and how online education can fit into this career.
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How to Become a Computer Engineer
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that computer engineers usually have at least a bachelor’s degree. However, many computer engineers have master’s degrees. Bachelor’s degrees usually take four years to complete. Earning a master’s degree can add two to three more years in addition to the bachelor’s degree.
Individuals who are interested in teaching or working in research may pursue a doctoral degree. Some students may initially earn an associate degree in a computer-related field like computer, gain some work experience and a computer engineering degree at a later date. Bachelor degree programs may also be offered as computer engineering technology programs.
How Does Online Education Work?
Online education, also known as distance learning, is very similar to on-campus education with one major exception. Online education can be done at home at your convenience. However, online students usually have the same assignments and exams; students often also have the same instructors. Online students login to the school’s online website and learn through various educational tools such as DVDS, interactive lectures, streaming videos, email and more. Another major difference is that online students often have to find their own internships. Internships are usually required as a capstone project and a requirement for graduation. Online master degree programs are often chosen by aspiring computer engineers because any required internships were completed during the bachelor’s degree program.
Accredited Online Computer Engineering Schools
One of the most important factors when choosing a computer engineering school is finding one that’s accredited. Engineering programs are most commonly accredited by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET). Employers typically prefer their engineers be graduates of accredited schools and ABET is the industry standard in the field of engineering. According to ABET, there are more than 200 ABET-accredited schools in the nation, although many are not offered through distance learning.
Online Computer Engineering Schools to Consider
Online education has become very popular in recent years because it allows students to earn degrees while continuing to work and meet other obligations. Today more and more schools are offering degrees through distance learning, including computer engineering programs. The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) offers a listing of online schools offering computer engineering degrees. U.S. News & World Report also provides a list and ranking of schools offering computer engineering degree programs. Below is a list of some colleges and universities that offer online computer engineering programs.
- Syracuse University
- North Carolina State University
- University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
- Colorado Technical University
- Purdue University
- Iowa State University
- University of Maine System
What Does a Computer Engineering Degree Entail?
It can take anywhere from four to seven years to become a computer engineer. The student must complete prerequisite courses and general education courses. These are usually completed during the first two years of the bachelor’s degree program. During the last two years the student learns about networking, security, software and hardware. Typical courses a student may have include microprocessor applications, basic and advanced robotics, network engineering, linear systems analysis, digital systems processing, microprogramming and hardware applications, among others. Students pursuing a master’s degree may be required to complete a thesis.
Computer Engineering Concentrations & Sub Branches
As stated above, computer engineering includes various related fields. Therefore, it also offers many technical areas of study and concentrations, which may include computer programming, computer science, electrical engineering, computer systems engineering, and Internet technology security.
Computer engineering may also be offered as a combined program such as the Master of Science in Electrical and Computer Engineering offered at North Carolina State University. Iowa State University also offers a Master of Engineering in Computer Engineering.
What Type of Career Does Computer Engineering Offer?
Because computer engineering combines various fields, computer engineers may have many career opportunities available. They can choose to work with computer software, computer hardware or a combination of both. Computer engineers can be found in many industries such as computer manufacturers, financial services, manufacturing, transportation, chemical companies and even healthcare.
The BLS reports that computer hardware engineers can expect an employment growth of seven percent between 2012 and 2022. However, Forbes indicates that computer engineers would see a growth of up to twenty-one percent between 2008 and 2018.
Of all the engineering fields, computer engineering offers some of the highest starting salaries. As of May 2014, computer hardware engineers earned an average annual wage of $108,430 with some earning as high as $160,000, according to the BLS. Forbes ranked computer engineering 3rd among the five college degrees with the highest salaries. Factors that can affect wages include level of skill, years of experience, industry and geographical location.