There’s a lot of talk nowadays about software programming, artificial intelligence, system administration, and Computer Science in general.
But where does Computer Engineering fit in? Which students should choose this specialisation, and what can they expect to learn in classes?
In this article, we offer the answer to these questions and many others. By the end, you’ll have everything you need to know in order to decide if a Bachelor’s or Master’s in Computer Engineering is right for you.
What is Computer Engineering?
Computer Engineering uses principles from Computer Science and Electrical Engineering to create hardware (physical components) and firmware which are used in a wide range of areas: consumer electronics, medical devices, communication systems, aircraft, self-driving cars, etc.
Computer Engineering students learn how to develop, prototype, and test microchips, circuits, processors, conductors and any other component used in computer devices or systems (e.g. supercomputers, smartphones, laptops, servers, IoT gadgets). They also develop firmware, an essential type of software that allows operating systems and applications to take full advantage of the hardware.
Some of the most common Computer Science abbreviations are: CE/CEN, CompEngineering, CompE, or CpE.
Computer Engineering specialisations
In addition to general Computer Engineering degrees, universities and colleges also offer different specialisations or subdisciplines if you want to narrow down your focus. Here are a few examples:
- Hardware Systems
- Distributed Computing
- Robotics and Cybernetics
- Embedded Systems
- Computer Graphics and Visualisation
- Medical Image Computing
- Computer and Network Security
Computer Engineering classes
To know what you’ll actually study, check out the curriculum before choosing an academic programme and don’t rely only on the title of the programme. If you have other questions, contact the university or college where you want to apply. They’ll be more than happy to help you.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at some typical classes offered by general Computer Engineering degrees:
- Introduction to electronics
- Circuit analysis
- Signal processing
- Engineering computing
- Embedded systems
- Computer networks
- Computer vision
- Autonomous robotics
- Programming principles
- Computer architecture
Good to know: If you plan to study abroad in the United States, some computer science schools offer the opportunity to study a double major in both Computer Science and Engineering. It’s a great way to make the best of both worlds, but it’s also more challenging than a regular degree.
Best universities offering Computer Engineering courses
Since we’re talking about universities, specialisations, and classes, we’ve decided it would also be useful to list the best computer engineering schools in the world. Based on the QS Rankings 2021 created by TopUniversities, the top 10 is:
- Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), the USA
- Stanford University, the USA
- Carnegie Mellon University, the USA
- National University of Singapore (NUS), Singapore
- University of California Berkeley (UCB), the USA
- University of Oxford, the UK
- Harvard University, the USA
- University of Cambridge, the UK
- Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Lausanne (EPFL), Switzerland
- ETH Zurich, Switzerland
This isn’t the only top 10 list with the best universities offering Computer Engineering degrees. Other rankings might use different evaluation factors.
Computer Engineering skills
To succeed as a computer engineer, you need to develop or improve abilities like:
- Analytical thinking
- Critical thinking
- Attention to details
- Technical writing
With the use of these skills, computer engineers find new solutions that make our devices faster, safer, and more power-efficient. If you’ve ever wondered how new phones or computers are better than previous models, it’s thanks to all the hard work put into designing faster components and more optimised operating systems and applications.
Computer Engineering jobs and salaries
According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the job outlook for future computer engineers looks stable. Based on their data, Computer Engineering jobs are expected to grow 2% by 2029.
Still, don’t make the mistake of thinking it will be easy. The competition for good positions is high, and knowledge from classes isn’t enough. To stand out among other applicants, you should invest in your career early: look for internships, get involved in research projects, and learn on your own.
These are some of the most popular Computer Engineering jobs. We’ve also included the annual salaries in the US based on data from Glassdoor.
- Computer Engineer – 92,000 USD
- Computer Architecture Developer – 85,750 USD
- Systems Engineer – 77,750 USD
- Network Engineer – 72,350 USD
- Firmware Engineer – 98,250 USD
- Mobile Device Engineer – 91,700 USD
- Quality Control (QC) Engineer – 44,400 USD
So, what does all this information mean?
That future computer engineers don’t need to worry about job opportunities despite the highly competitive market. You’ll have a well-paid job, and your salary will increase with experience. Computer Engineering jobs are also safe from the automation process, which looks likely to take out many work opportunities in the future.
- You can see Computer Engineering as either a Computer Science or Electrical Engineering specialisation.
- Computer Engineers mainly work on developing the hardware (the physical components) that are used in most machines and gadgets we use today.
- Computer Engineering jobs come with high salaries are expected to grow steadily in the next decade.
- You should study a Computer Engineering degree if you’re a tinker, someone who enjoys taking things apart, understanding how they work, improving them, and creating better models with each iteration.
If you don't know where to start, here are a few universities we recommend for Computer Engineering programmes: