Is a Computer Engineering Degree Right for You?
Students who are more interested in building computers and designing computer systems than in theory or programming would thrive in an online bachelor’s degree program in computer engineering. While students will take many of the same entry-level computing courses as a computer science major, computer engineering focuses more on the hardware side of computing, or how hardware and software interact to solve real engineering problems. A bachelor’s in computer engineering is a good fit for those who enjoy coming up with creative solutions to practical problems, who are proficient in mathematics, and who want to learn first-hand how computers work.
Advice for Earning Your Computer Engineering Degree Online
To make sure you are choosing an online bachelor’s degree in computer engineering that is of high quality, we recommend enrolling in programs that are accredited by ABET. While few ABET-accredited programs are offered 100% online, many are offered in partially online format. Such programs must be delivered partially online because of the lab and design projects involved that require hands-on work. Since employers highly value experience in the field, look for programs that require or encourage co-ops, summer internships, or that conclude with a portfolio that showcases your engineering skills.
A computer engineering curriculum builds on a foundation of advanced mathematics, science, and computing principles, including calculus, engineering physics, differential equations, and digital logic. From here, students move on to courses in computer design, operating systems, and microcomputer systems. Course work typically incorporates at least two senior design projects, or a capstone design project. Other courses you will likely come across in a computer engineering online bachelor’s degree include:
- Circuit Theory
- Software/hardware design
- System Design
- Computer Architecture
- Principles of Electrical Engineering
Common Career Paths
Students who graduate from computer engineering bachelor’s degree programs often go on to become computer engineers, but many go on to pursue other careers in computing or information technology. They also have the option of pursuing information technology specialist positions. Some specific careers are outlined below. Keep in mind that salaries vary greatly depending on your level of experience, your roles and responsibilities, and the size and type of your employer.
Computer Hardware Engineer
- Expected Growth: 9%
- Average Annual Salary: $101,360
Computer hardware engineers are responsible for developing, testing, and fixing different physical components that comprise computers. They research how best to use equipment for routers, computer chips, and other pieces of hardware. Finally, they also make sure that software is compatible with the hardware they create.
A bachelor’s degree in computer engineering or electrical engineering is typically required for entry-level careers in the field, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The above job outlook and salary average were provided by the BLS.
- Expected Growth: 30%
- Average Annual Salary: $100,420 (for systems software) / $92,080 (for applications software)
Software developers design computer programs, with some developers focusing on applications, such as word processors or games, and others focusing on the underlying systems, such as the operating systems that control consumer electronics. Along with designing software, they must test and maintain that software.
A bachelor’s degree in computer science or a related area, such as computer engineering, is typically required for positions in the field, the BLS indicated. The job growth projection and salary figure provided above was drawn from the BLS.
- Expected Growth: 5%
- Average Annual Salary: $94,670
Since computer engineering and electronics engineering share many of the same courses, some people who start out in computer engineering transition into electronics engineering. These engineers are responsible for designing and testing electronics and electronic components.
A bachelor’s degree is required to obtain work as an electronics engineer, and course work in digital systems design, differential equations, and electrical circuit theory are vital, the BLS indicated. The employment growth projection and salary average provided above were taken from the BLS.
Network and Computer Systems Administrator
- Expected Growth: 28%
- Average Annual Salary: $74,270
Network and computer systems administrators manage an organization’s local area networks (LANs), and wide area networks (WANs), and intranet systems. They also ensure network security and optimum system performance, troubleshooting and fixing any problems that arise. A minimum of a bachelor’s degree in a computing field is typical for the profession, and since these administrators frequently work with computer hardware and equipment, majors in computer engineering or electrical engineering are appropriate, the BLS explained. The job growth and salary statistics provided above are available through the BLS.
Computer and Information Systems Managers
- Expected Growth: 18%
- Average Annual Salary: $125,660
Engineers, developers, and administrators may work their way up to management after gaining experience in the field. These managers are in charge of an organization’s computer or IT systems, and they set and implement IT goals for their organization, make recommendations on hardware and software upgrades, and direct the work of other IT professionals who report to them. Their titles could include anything from IT director, IT security manager, chief technology officer (CTO), or chief information officer (CIO).
A minimum of a bachelor’s degree is typically required for the position, but work experience is also required, the BLS explains. The above employment growth projection and salary average were provided by the BLS.