How to Become a Computer Engineer (With Essential Skills)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated 22 January 2023

Published 31 August 2021

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.

Computer engineers develop operating systems and applications on desktops, laptops and other smart devices. They use their design and coding skills to create faster components and optimised systems. Knowing what computer engineers do and the steps to become one can help you make a career plan. In this article, we look at the skills and qualifications of computer engineers, their typical duties, average salary of computer engineering jobs, and step to follow to become a professional computer engineer.

Related: What Is Control System Engineering? (With Job Requirements)

What does a computer engineer do?

Computer engineers usually work on a range of tasks from coding to system-level design to troubleshooting. They also ensure the hardware components and the operating systems and other user applications work together properly. Below are the typical duties of a professional computer engineer:

  • Research and investigate computer hardware and software solutions and technologies

  • Design, test and install hardware components such as memory devices, circuit boards, processors and routers

  • Write and test software and applications for mobile devices and computers

  • Create programs to support various products, from surgical technology to automotive components

  • Create programming to support a range of products, from aircraft components to surgical technology

  • Assess and recommend improvements to enterprise software, integrated hardware and operating systems

  • Analyse, develop and evaluate complex system design, data models, configuration and integration of advanced computer systems

  • Assist staff with establishing computer hardware and components required to run IT systems

  • Maintain codebases and perform peer review to any changes by other parties

  • Manage computer engineering projects and supervise junior designers and programmers

  • Assess and recommend improvements to existing software, integrated hardware and operating systems

Related: What Does a Software Engineer Do? (Plus How to Become One)

How to become a computer engineer

The following steps can tell you how to become a computer engineer:

1. Earn a bachelor's degree

You can start by completing a bachelor's degree in computer engineering, software engineering or computer science. A bachelor's degree is usually a requirement for most computer engineering jobs. To enrol in these courses, you generally need to have a secondary certificate. Mathematics, English, chemistry and physics are prerequisites in many universities.

2. Gain work experience

Since many computer engineer jobs require some experience, it may be useful to gain practical skills that help you perform the job. Consider an internship during your university break to obtain hands-on experience and skills to become a computer engineer. You may also apply for entry-level IT roles like computer technician or support specialist.

3. Earn professional certifications

You can choose to obtain any relevant software, security or hardware certifications from IT corporations and vendors. Certifications are an effective way to demonstrate your expertise in various operating systems, software and programming languages. For example, Microsoft-certified solutions associate and Cisco-certified network associate are good starting points. The former demonstrates your expertise with Microsoft solutions while the latter illustrates your proficiency in Cisco infrastructure products. Both certifications can boost your credentials and help you secure a computer engineer role.

4. Create a professional resume

Create a professional resume that showcases your skills and attributes, along with a personal statement that outlines your area of expertise. Consider starting with the most recent qualifications and experience to improve readability. For each position, include the name of the company and the period you worked there. Ensure that you list your technical skills such as an understanding of programming languages, communication or project management skills. Remember to add any professional certification you have to your resume.

Related: Resume Format Guide (With Examples)

5. Search for computer engineer jobs

After acquiring the necessary skills and qualifications, you can apply for computer engineer jobs. The Indeed Job Board is a good place to start searching for a suitable job for computer engineers. You can create an account and upload your resume and cover letter or follow the link to apply on the company's website. Ensure you tailor your application to align with the job description of each job.

6. Join a professional body

Finally, consider joining the Australian Computer Society. Its memberships are available to professionals and academics. Certified professionals (CP) are to complete 30 professional development hours per year while certified technologists (CT) are to complete 20 professoinal development hours.

To get certified, you may need to submit an updated resume, academic transcripts and any professional certifications you have achieved. You might be asked to specify your knowledge and experience of the ICT industry accompanied by examples of your work. The society has a range of membership options which can allow you to progress through various levels of your career. Obtaining a membership can provide you with valuable networking opportunities and industry insights.

Related: How to Become a Design Engineer in 4 Steps

Top computer engineer skills

Computer engineers usually require a mix of hard and soft skills to perform their jobs. Hard skills enable the employee to perform technical duties, while soft skills can help them maintain good working relationships. To succeed as a computer engineer, you can nurture the following skills:

  • Programming: Software products are usually coded using a programming language. Being fluent in multiple programming languages helps the computer engineer develop different software solutions and programs.

  • Problem-solving and debugging: Innovative solutions are often essential for computer engineering jobs. Debugging helps the engineer analyse and fix errors and anomalies before they cause problems for users.

  • Project management: Aside from working with other professionals, computer engineers may need excellent project and time management skills. Experience is key and helps the engineer determine the project's scope, set appropriate milestones and create budgets.

  • Creativity: As a computer engineer, you can brainstorm with other computer engineers to solve problems and develop new software. Creativity is helpful for computer engineers as it allows them to improve upon current computers and suggest alternative methods and formats for various information technology applications.

  • Communication: Clear and open communication ensures the engineer understands the client's expectations and communicates with their team of developers, designers and coders. Engineers may also need to train new engineers and demonstrate to clients how the new software works from time to time.

  • Microprocessor design: Microprocessors are usually vital in designing and constructing computers, input and output devices, networking components and smart devices. Computer engineers may need to know how microarchitecture and create data paths based on the technical requirements for computer hardware.

  • Teamwork: It's useful for computer engineers to collaborate with programmers, UX designers, systems experts, researchers and project managers on group projects. They use this skill to share work based on their strengths, accept responsibilities and exchange ideas with team members.

Related:

  • 12 Key Engineer Skills for Your Resume

  • Writing an Effective Computer Technician Resume Objective

FAQs on computer engineering jobs

Below we answer some of the common questions about this line of work.

Is computer engineering a good career choice?

A career as a computer engineer might be a good choice if you are passionate about computers and technology in general. You may follow different career paths depending on your interests. After graduating, you can work as a systems architect, hardware developer, software developer, API integration engineer or network analyst. In addition, computer engineering jobs also come with attractive remuneration packages and a certain prestige.

Related: 10 Highest Paying Engineering Jobs

Is it hard to become a computer engineer?

Computer engineering shares a foundation with other engineering courses and might be quite difficult early on. However, with hard work and persistence, you can advance in your career. If you have a passion for engineering, strong math and science skills and a curious mind, you can easily develop the skills and earn the qualifications to become a professional computer engineer.

What is the average salary for computer engineers?

The average salary of a computer engineer is $75,915 per year. However, the amount may vary depending on their education level, job experience and the size of the company that they work for. Their specialisation also determines their wages. Full-time engineers usually earn more than their counterparts in part-time roles.

What employment opportunities exist for a computer engineer?

Computer engineers mostly work in the IT sector, where they use their skills to create software and hardware for different vendors. After working for computer and hardware vendors, some computer engineers may choose to specialise in artificial intelligence, computer networks, robotics, virtual reality, and operating systems. With experience and sufficient start-up capital, they can also venture into private enterprises as consultants or freelance computer engineers.

Salary figures reflect the data published on Indeed Salaries at the time of writing and may vary depending on the candidate's experience, job location, and the hiring company. Please note, none of the above-mentioned companies is affiliated with Indeed.

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