Computer Engineer Skills: Definition and How to Develop Them

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 6 May 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

The information technology (IT) industry consists of various competitive fields. One of these is computer engineering, which integrates aspects of electronic engineering and computer science and focuses on computer hardware development. Learning the important skills necessary for a computer engineer to succeed may be helpful if you're considering a career in this field. In this article, we define what computer engineer skills are and list steps for developing and improving them.

What are computer engineer skills?

Computer engineer skills are the abilities and competencies that a computer engineer uses to fulfil their role. You can typically learn them through education and work experience. These skills allow you to meet deadlines and achieve successful results in the workplace. You can perform daily tasks and larger projects effectively with these skills.

You can categorise computer engineer skills into hard skills and soft skills. Hard skills generally refer to technical knowledge and training that you may learn at work or in school, such as language proficiencies, training and certifications, and soft skills often refer to your interpersonal skills and character traits, such as flexibility, empathy and communication and time-management skills.

Related: How to Become a Computer Engineer (With Essential Skills)

Important skills for computer engineers

Your relevant skills as a computer engineer may change depending on the field in which you choose to specialise. These specialisations typically include embedded systems, integrated circuits, network security, quantum computing, robotics and telecommunications. Regardless of which specialisation you choose, the general skills useful for you to have as a computer engineer may include:

Programming

As a computer engineer, you may typically focus on hardware, but it's also important to know programming. Proficiency in various programming languages can help you accomplish your tasks, particularly if you want to write low-level hardware and system programs. Programming is one of the common career paths for a computer engineer, so it's a useful skill to have.

Coding

Most computer engineering courses tend to include code writing classes. As a computer engineer, you may find that employers expect you to have coding skills as much as they would for employing a computer scientist. This skill includes knowledge of coding best practices and secure coding, such as cryptography. You can also review code if you possess coding skills. This is the process of understanding and analysing codes to identify errors and vulnerabilities and recommend solutions. In some instances, it may be necessary for you to edit and implement changes to make the code more efficient.

Electrical engineering

Electrical engineering is a discipline that involves studying, designing and applying devices, equipment and systems that make use of electricity, electronics and electromagnetism. As a computer engineer, knowledge in this subject is useful especially if your focus is on computer hardware. It's helpful to understand the relationship between various computer components and how to perform hardware testing to ensure the safety, reliability and efficiency of the systems you build and maintain.

Mathematics

The computer engineering certificate or degree you earn involves classes in various subjects, particularly in mathematics. Most computer engineering courses in the curriculum include advanced mathematics topics, such as calculus, data structures and logical proofs. As a computer engineer, a strong foundation in this area is important to be able to perform many of your tasks.

Operating systems

A computer's operating system (OS) is a software program that's responsible for managing the device's processes, memory and hardware and software components. As a computer engineer, knowledge of various operating systems is important so you can develop efficient and reliable computer systems. It's useful you know how to choose, configure and implement the right OS that meets the user's needs.

Debugging

Debugging is a software development process that involves finding and removing defects or bugs in a software program. It's an important part of the Software Development Life Cycle (SDLC) because it allows the developer to fix issues with an application before they launch it. As a computer engineer, this skill enables you to maintain the efficient and accurate operation of computer systems.

Communication

As a computer engineer, it's a good idea for you to have strong written and verbal communication skills. This is because your job often involves working with other people to debug programs, develop software and build computer systems. You may find your role also involves writing reports and providing documentation of your work.

Related: 12 Key Engineer Skills for Your Resume

How to develop and improve computer engineering skills

The right skill set can increase your chances of getting a job in computer engineering. It can also help you advance your career if you're already a professional in this field. Here are five steps you can follow to develop and improve your computer engineering skills:

1. Identify the skills you want to develop

First, determine which skills you may like to improve or learn. Computer engineering is a broad field, so this step can help you maximise your resources. The primary consideration is your specialisation. For example, if you're considering a career in network security, you may want to develop relevant technical skills and expand your knowledge in areas such as cloud security, encryption solutions, secure coding and virtualisation technologies.

It's a good idea to consider your current skills and abilities. If the company you work for regularly performs employee evaluations, it may be a good idea to note your areas for improvement. These can give you an idea of the skills you can develop to be more effective in your position. Your career goals are another factor to consider. For example, if you want a management position in the future, you can begin developing your leadership skills.

2. Develop a concrete plan

Learning or improving a skill often takes focus and commitment. Creating a plan can help you achieve your goal of developing your computer engineering skills. It also allows you to accomplish your task efficiently. Here are three tips you can follow when creating a plan for developing your skills:

  • Specify how you plan to develop the skills you choose. Attending a seminar, pursuing a degree, completing training and obtaining a certification are some of the ways in which you can expand your knowledge and improve your skills in computer engineering. It's important you're specific with your method to help you develop a clear plan so you can meet your objectives.

  • Determine the resources necessary to achieve your goal. These include the time, energy and financial requirements of the method you choose to develop your skills. Getting a degree or certification typically requires more resources than self-studying or undergoing company-sponsored training.

  • Create and follow a schedule. Many people find it easier to accomplish a task if they plan time for it. If you're studying at your own pace, it may be helpful to set a specific time to do this regularly and follow your schedule.

3. Pursue an advanced degree

One of the most effective ways to expand your knowledge and learn new skills and competencies in computer engineering is to obtain a relevant master's degree or doctorate. Many universities run a master's program that you can qualify for if you've got a bachelor's degree in a field such as engineering or IT. Popular advanced degree courses are Master of Computer Science and Master of Information Technology.

If you already have a bachelor's and master's degree, you can apply to a doctorate program to further improve your skills. A Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) can help you enhance your knowledge in your area of expertise and develop your skills in research, analysis and communication. Both a master's and a doctorate can also help you advance your career because they're often credentials employers prefer in candidates for executive and management positions.

4. Obtain relevant certifications

There are many certifications you can get to develop relevant skills for computer engineering. For example, you can learn how to implement cryptographic security or manage network switches. You can also earn certifications to validate your knowledge of a particular skill or product. For example, many computer engineers take certification exams for web development and various programming languages.

Related: 7 Best IT Certifications for a Successful IT Career

5. Join professional organisations

Many people join professional organisations because they provide them with numerous benefits, such as the opportunity for networking with other individuals in the same profession. As a member of one of these groups, you've got the benefit of additional support. It's common for a professional organisation to organise or sponsor seminars that aim to help you develop or improve your skills. Such organisations may regularly inform you of current news and developments in your profession.

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