Top Five Career Specializations in Computer Engineering
- Mobile Device Design
- Embedded Systems Design
- Microprocessor Design
- Academic Research
- Proprietary Research
Computer science is one of the most popular college majors, but relatively few graduates continue on from this major to become computer engineers. The field of computer engineering requires a slightly different skill set than programming, but much of the underlying theory is the same. For many computer engineering careers, strong programming skills are essential because computer software must be designed to work with a specific set of hardware.
1. Mobile Device Design
Thousands of companies are involved in the mobile device market, and computer engineers are needed to design the features and electronic circuitry of handheld devices such as smartphones, tablets, netbooks, MP3 players, and other more specialized pieces of equipment. This career path typically requires some knowledge of low level programming, which is the field of programming that deals with the machine code and assembly language that instruct the hardware in how to behave.
2. Embedded Systems Design
Another vast market for computer hardware is the embedded systems market, which is primarily a business-to-business domain. Virtually all industries rely on embedded systems to function smoothly, so computer engineers are needed to design proprietary or custom modules for clients and B2B suppliers. Embedded systems can be as simple as a control panel printed on a membrane circuit board or as complex as a custom-built computer dispatch console.
3. Microprocessor Design
When most people think of computer hardware design, they may think of engineers designing microprocessors that become twice as fast and half as expensive every two years. While this career specialization is less in demand than the previous two, it's certainly no less important or fascinating. With the increasing importance of video processing in many areas of computing, engineers are needed to design high-powered, affordable graphics cards for gaming, data mining, and 3D rendering. Engineers are also needed to design efficient, affordable, low-voltage processors for mobile devices.
4. Academic Research
Many hardware engineers choose to go into academic research rather than enter the industry of computer hardware design. A career as a researcher is ideal for engineers who like dreaming about new types of technology and solving abstract problems that may not directly relate to a product on the market. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual salary for this occupation is $114,520, and it is projected to grow 19 percent over next 10 years, which is much faster than average.
5. Proprietary Research
Another area of computer hardware engineering that is projected to grow over the coming years is proprietary research and systems design. Large corporations need engineers to design computer interfaces, robotic equipment, weapons, drones, and many other types of electronic systems for proprietary use within an organization or for sale to the public. Famous examples of this specialization include research conducted by Bell Labs, which revolutionized computer science in the mid 20th century, and IBM, which produced an artificial intelligence, called Watson, that defeated the top champions of the game show Jeopardy.
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Computer hardware engineering may not be quite as popular as software design, but there are still many careers available for anyone who loves designing logic paths and searching for solutions to important problems. Career specializations in computer engineering are prestigious, rewarding, and always interesting.