4 minute read

Hardware Engineer Job Description, Career as a Hardware Engineer, Salary, Employment

Definition and Nature of the Work, Education and Training Requirements, Getting the Job

Education and Training: Bachelor’s degree in engineering

Salary Median: $100,180 per year

Employment Outlook: Fair

Hardware engineers, also known as computer hardware engineers, are responsible for designing and developing computer hardware, like circuit boards, chips, and systems. These computer specialists conduct research prior to making any hardware, oversee the entire manufacturing process, and once the part is created, they test and install it.

Hardware engineers are employed in industries offering computer systems design services and computer and peripheral equipment manufacturing services. A lot of engineers also work for the federal government, scientific research and development organizations, and manufacturing companies.

The job of hardware engineers is not very different from that of electronics engineers. They are both required to design and test electronic circuits and components. However, in contrast to electronics engineers, hardware engineers only handle computer and peripheral equipment.

Education and Training Requirements

In order to join the profession, candidates need to possess at least a bachelor’s degree in engineering. Students can choose from programs in systems engineering and computer science. Some employers also recruit graduates having a degree in mathematics or natural science. Candidates can also choose to specialize, for which it is necessary to have a postgraduate education in production or design-related aspects of engineering. It is advisable to enroll in a program accredited by ABET, Inc.

Hardware engineers wishing to provide services directly to the public need to be licensed. The licensure procedure involves having an accredited engineering degree and at least four years of work experience in a relevant field, and passing a state examination. This process can be completed in two parts. New hardware engineers can complete the Fundamentals of Engineering exam right after graduation, then work for four years and take the Principles and Practice of Engineering exam. On completion, they are referred to as professional engineers. Continuing education courses may be necessary in order to remain licensed.

Apart from educational qualifications, hardware engineers need to have certain qualities in order to achieve success. They should have an analytical mind, good communication skills, creativity, and the ability to pay attention to detail.

Getting the Job

It is not very difficult to find good opportunities in this profession. The majority of employers advertise job openings in classified sections of newspapers and on Internet job sites. A lot of engineering schools provide assistance with job placement. It might also be a good idea to get in touch with others in the profession and discuss prospects with them. Additionally, many professional societies for engineers offer employment news.

Advancement Possibilities and Employment Outlook

Beginners start out by training under experienced professionals. A lot of companies organize formal classroom training sessions and seminars. These are extremely important because they help new hardware engineers gain the required practical knowledge and exposure. With experience, hardware engineers are given independent projects. It may take a few years to advance to the position of a technical specialist, and gradually hardware engineers can start heading teams and training other technicians and engineers. Some even take on managerial positions in large enterprises.

In order to get the best opportunities, hardware engineers should obtain professional certifications. These are offered by many professional associations and can be of great use in advancing to senior positions.

According data, 79,000 people were employed as hardware engineers, as of 2006. The job market for engineers in this specialty is expected to experience a growth of around five percent. The slow growth is attributed to intense competition from foreign countries. Prospects are likely to be the best for those employed in the computer design services industry.

Working Conditions

Hardware engineers mostly work in offices and laboratories, in clean, well-lit, comfortable spaces. They may be required to travel to production sites and monitor or resolve on-site issues. Work hours are generally regular, although hardware engineers may be required to put in extra hours in order to meet deadlines.

Where to Go for More Information

American Society for Engineering Education
1818 N St. NW, Suite 600
Washington, DC 20036-2479

Junior Engineering Technical Society
1420 King St., Suite 405
Alexandria, VA 22314

National Society of Professional Engineers
1420 King St.
Alexandria, VA 22314

Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology, Inc.
111 Market Pl., Suite 1050
Baltimore, MD 21202

The Society of Women Engineers
30 E. Ohio St., Suite 400
Chicago, IL 60611

IEEE Computer Society
2001 L St. NW, Suite 700
Washington, DC 20036-4910

Salary, Earnings and Benefits

As of May 2008, the median annual salary of hardware engineers in the United States is $100,180. The wages depend on the geographic location and industry a candidate is employed in. For instance, the annual mean salary of hardware engineers working in Utah is $90,740, while those in California earn around $111,430 every year. Hardware engineers employed in office administrative services report annual salaries of $109,330, whereas those in data processing, hosting, and related services enjoy an average salary of $124,790 per year.

The fringe benefits of this job include sick leaves, paid annual vacations, and health care services.

Additional topics

Job Descriptions and Careers, Career and Job Opportunities, Career Search, and Career Choices and ProfilesEngineering, Science, Technology, and Social Sciences