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Computer Hardware Engineer Job Description

Aarti R
Computers are rapidly advancing day-by-day, and the ones spearheading this progress are computer hardware engineers. Read this story if you are eager to learn more about this exciting job profile.
Computers have become the mainstay of modern times. There is no organization, no business, no job, and indeed hardly any home where computers aren't used. Life, as we know it today, would be entirely impossible without these innovative and extremely useful machines.
However, while using computers, we must not forget about the real brains behind these artificial ones; namely, computer engineers. They are the ones who work behind the scenes, day in and day out, to design and develop the best computers.
Building a complex machine such as a computer is no simple feat, and hence, this task has been divided into two, giving rise to two types of computer engineers - software engineers and hardware engineers. Each of these specializes in a particular aspect of computer system development.
In the following section, we shall explore the job description of a computer hardware engineer. Go through it to find out if you have what it takes to work on the frontiers of computing technology and make a career for yourself in this exciting field of engineering.

Job Description

Computer hardware engineers, also referred to simply as hardware engineers, specialize in the physical aspect, that is, the hardware of a computer system. They are responsible for researching, designing, testing, and developing computers and related peripherals, including the processors, circuit-boards, memory devices, networking units, routers, etc.
The following is a list of a few of the main duties that a computer hardware engineer is typically expected to carry out.
1) The hardware engineer guides the team members in a project, including the designers, engineers, marketing and sales department, etc., throughout the development of the product.

2) He is responsible for designing and developing the important components of a computer system, including the CPU, motherboard, ALU, microprocessors, etc.
3) He works on designing the external peripherals of a computer system, such as printers, routers, disk-drives, etc.

4) A hardware engineer conceptualizes a new hardware, and works on creating the blueprint of the same.
5) He studies the specifications and requirements of a project, and effectively plans the design process. He has to decide on the power supply requirements, system dimensions, testing procedures, and the details of the development of hardware prototype. At the same time, he has to consider the cost constraints in the product development.
6) He builds the prototype of a new product, and tests it to ensure proper functioning. He uses various software testing tools that allow him to run simulations, to better assess the working of the product.
7) He works on perfecting the prototypes, making them compatible to the existing system. He carries out extensive testing and analysis to ensure that the newly developed product is market-ready.

8) He is responsible for the testing and verification of the newly developed hardware, to ensure that they conform to the various testing norms and specifications.
9) A hardware engineer monitors the working of equipment in its typical work-environment, and notifies any hardware-related issue(s) to the design and development team. He may sometimes even be required to carry out these modifications.
10) He oversees the manufacturing process of a new computer hardware, and even works on updating the older existing ones in order to make them compatible with a newly developed software.
11) He is expected to keep all the design and development related data well-documented, so that it can be referred to in the event of future modifications or developments.

12) He is required to keep his knowledge-base updated with the latest technological advancements along with engineering trends.

Educational Requirements

The basic requirement for those aspiring to become computer hardware engineers is a Bachelor's degree in computer engineering. A similar degree in computer science or electrical engineering may also be acceptable.
Many employers prefer candidates who have completed an engineering course or program that is accredited by the ABET. You can visit ABET's website and use the search tool on it to find a suitable program for yourself.
For certain fields and specialized job profiles, having a Master's degree is essential. Hardware engineers are expected to have thorough knowledge of hardware devices like processors, electronic circuits, computer equipment, and computer programming, which they can obtain by completing necessary engineering programs.
Lastly, the basic knowledge of management and administration is necessary, comprising skills like strategic planning, resource management, leadership techniques, and other managerial skills.

Additional Requirements

To make a successful career in this field, one needs to develop the right skills. The skill-set includes a good programming ability, understanding and troubleshooting a problem, scientific problem-solving ability, logical reasoning, and solution-finding ability.
An aspiring computer hardware engineer also needs to also have certain soft skills in his bag. He should have good communication skills (verbal and non-verbal), pay attention to details, be inquisitive, be a good team player, etc.

Employment Scope

Trained hardware engineers are in demand in a variety of fields. A recent survey has shown that 36% of hardware engineers are employed in the manufacturing sector, 30% in professional, technical services, and scientific research, and 15% in other industries such as IT and government organizations. Experienced engineers can even head their own start-ups.

Average Salary Package

Trained hardware engineers can expect to draw a sizable payment package, on par with what software and IT professionals earn. In May 2018, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) noted that the median annual salary of these engineers was $81,250, with the highest paid engineer earning more than $129,000 annually.

Future Projections

The growth in the employment rate for hardware engineers in the coming years is projected to be slower than other occupations. This largely due to the fact that more innovation in expected to take place in the software domain. However, computer hardware engineers should still be less affected as compared to other production related occupations.
Also, the increase in hardware start-up firms, especially the ones specializing in devices having computer chips embedded in them, such as household appliances, medical instruments, high-end automobiles, etc., can lead to more jobs becoming available for hardware engineers.
Regardless of the projections for the future, quality engineers having a higher knowledge level and expertise can always expect to land the best jobs.
Thus, computer hardware engineering is an exciting and challenging field, having ample opportunities for one to be able to make a respected career in. It involves considerable amount of hard work, with many hardware engineers typically working for around 40 hours a week, on an average.
However, at the end of the day, the knowledge gained and the fact that one gets to work on cutting-edge computing technology, makes this a rewarding career option.