Hardware Engineers


Employment Prospects


Approximately 64,400 computer hardware engineers are employed in the United States. Hardware engineers are employed in nearly every industry by small and large corporations alike. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, about 25 percent of hardware engineers work in computer systems design and related services. Ten percent are employed in computer and peripheral equipment manufacturing, and another 10 percent are emplyed in research and development firms that specialize in the physical, engineering, and life sciences

Jobs are available nationwide, though salary averages, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, tend to be higher in San Francisco and San Jose, California, Boston, and Washington, D.C. Note, however, that these cities are notorious for their high cost of living, which, in the end, may offset a higher income.

Starting Out

Education and solid work experience will open industry doors. Though a bachelor's degree is a minimum requirement for most corporate giants, some companies, smaller ones especially, will hire based largely on work experience and practical training. Many computer professionals employed in the computer industry for some time do not have traditional electrical engineering or computer science degrees, but rather moved up on the basis of their work record. However, if you aspire to a management position, or want to work as a teacher, then a college degree is a necessity.

Large computer companies aggressively recruit on campus armed with signing bonuses and other incentives. Employment opportunities are posted in newspaper want ads daily, with some papers devoting a separate section to computer-related positions. The Internet offers a wealth of employment information plus several sites for browsing job openings, or to post your resume. Most companies maintain a Web page where they post employment opportunities or solicit resumes.

Advancement Prospects

Many companies hire new grads to work as junior engineers. Problem-solving skills and the ability to implement solutions is a big part of this entry-level job. With enough work experience, junior engineers can move into positions that focus on a particular area in the computer industry, such as networks or peripherals. Landing a senior-level engineering position, such as systems architect, for example, is possible after considerable work experience and study. Aspiring hardware engineers should hone their computer skills to the highest level through continuing education, certification, or even advanced graduate study. Many high-level engineers hold a master's degree or higher. 

Some computer professionals working on the technical side of the industry opt to switch over to the marketing side of the business. Advancement opportunities here may include positions in product management or sales.

Tips for Entry

Visit the following Web sites for job listings: http://www.dice.com, https://jobs.computer.org, and http://jobs.acm.org.

Read ACM Career News at https://www.acm.org/articles/careernews to keep up to date on career trends and get advice on the job-search.

Join professional associations such as the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) to access training and networking resources, industry publications, and employment opportunities. The ACM has Special Interest Groups in Computer Architecture, Embedded Systems, Microarchitecture, and other fields of interest to hardware engineers.