Computer & Electronics Engineering Technology Careers: Job Description & Salary Info

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What are the pros and cons of a computer and electronics engineering technology career? Get real job descriptions, career options and salary info to see if becoming a computer and electronics engineer is right for you.
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Pros and Cons of a Career in Computer & Electronics Engineering Technology

Computer and electronics engineering technology involves the design, development and manufacturing of computer hardware and equipment.

A few examples of related careers include electronic engineering technician, computer hardware engineer and electrical engineer. You can learn more about these professions at a glance here:

Electronic Engineering Technicians Computer Hardware Engineers Electrical Engineers
Career Overview Electronic engineering technicians assist engineers with designing, testing and developing computers and electronic equipment. Computer hardware engineers solve complex problems with hardware and design computer equipment. Electrical and electronics engineers design and develop electrical and electronic equipment.
Education Requirement Associate's degree Bachelor's degree Bachelor's degree
Program Length 2 years 4 years 4 years
Experience Requirement None; entry-level None; entry-level Entry-level; experience may be acquired during undergraduate studies
Job Outlook for 2012-2022 0 additional jobs expected (0% change)* 6,200 additional jobs expected (7% increase)* 7,900 additional jobs expected (5% increase)*
Mean Salary (2014) Roughly $60,300* Roughly $110,600* Roughly $95,800*

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)

Electrical & Electronic Engineering Technician

Electrical and electronic engineering technicians work with engineers on the design and development of electrical and electronic equipment, such as medical monitoring devices, computers, navigational equipment and communications equipment. The typical duties of an electrical engineering technician include calibrating electrical instruments, inspecting designs for quality control, maintaining electrical control systems and modifying prototypes. Electronic engineering technicians typically build prototypes, maintain circuitry, replace electronics components, calibrate systems, read blueprints and write reports.

According to the BLS, technicians held roughly 151,000 jobs in 2010, with the majority employed by the architectural, engineering and related services industry. Professionals work with engineers in offices, factories and laboratories. In some instances, technicians may be exposed to toxic materials and hazards; however, incidents are rare.

Requirements

An associate's degree is the entry-level requirement for a career as an electrical and electronic engineering technician. Fields of study include electronic or electrical engineering technology with courses in programming, circuitry, microprocessors and physics. Employers prefer graduates of programs accredited by ABET. Bachelor's degree programs in electrical engineering technology are available, but graduates of these programs are able to find work in more advanced roles, such as electrical engineering technologist or applied electrical engineer.

In December 2012, some employers of electrical and electronic engineering technicians were looking for the following:

  • A medical device company in California is looking to hire an electronic engineering technician with lab experience for a temporary contract lasting one year. Duties include performing verification instrument testing, monitoring instrument operation, writing reports based on data analysis and repairing instruments. Applicants must have work experience with mechanical systems and components, and a basic knowledge of electronics, power supplies and printed circuit boards is essential.
  • An aerospace and defense company in Missouri wants to hire an electronics technician with a focus on the aerospace industry. Responsibilities include identifying source data inaccuracies, developing a technical publication project plan, creating a budget and estimating changes to publication elements. Candidates must have repair and electronics troubleshooting experience.
  • In Las Vegas, an aerospace and defense company is looking to hire an electronic technician to work on various types of electronic equipment, such as transmission lines, keying circuits, analog strip chart recorders and microwave amplifiers. Candidates must have an associate's degree and a background in general electronics with three to five years of hands-on experience. Due to the work environment, candidates should also be able to climb towers, work in confined spaces and lift up to 50 pounds.

Standing Out

To stand out as an electrical and electronic engineering technician, you should consider focusing on the computer systems design services industry because it has an increased demand for technicians who can work closely with computer hardware engineers. Pursing voluntary professional certification can also help you stand out as an applicant and demonstrate your proficiency in electronics technology. A variety of related credentials are available for technicians at this level, such as the certified electrical systems technician credential from the Electronic Systems Professional Alliance (ESPA) or electrical testing technician trainee classification from the InterNational Electrical Testing Association (NETA).

Computer Hardware Engineer

Computer hardware engineers are on the front lines of the rapid advances in computer technology. Typical duties include creating blueprints of computer equipment, designing hardware, testing models, analyzing test results, updating existing equipment and overseeing the manufacturing process. In addition, some professionals collaborate with software developers to ensure that new hardware components are able to function with the latest software.

According to the BLS, the majority of these professionals work in the computer and electronic product manufacturing industry. Most work in research laboratories or high-tech manufacturing firms, although some work in computer systems design firms or for the federal government.

Requirements

A bachelor's degree in computer engineering or electrical engineering is the entry-level requirement for computer hardware engineers. Employers prefer to hire candidates who have completed a degree program accredited by ABET. Courses in computer programming and computer science are essential, and completing internships would be highly beneficial. In addition, some employers may require a master's degree in computer engineering or business administration. Continuing education courses are required.

In December 2012, some employers of computer hardware engineers were looking for the following:

  • An engineering services company in New York wants to hire a senior hardware engineer/developer with 5-7 years experience in hardware development. Candidates holding an advanced degree in electrical engineering are preferred. Duties include using commercial software packages for circuit design, creating layout footprints, reworking and soldering fine pitch SMT parts and creating designs meeting all company specifications.
  • In Florida, a manufacturing company wants to hire a hardware design engineer to develop new electro-mechanical instruments. Candidates must have experience with electronic hardware development, analog signal conditioning circuitry design, various communication protocols and thermometry. A master's degree is preferred, although a bachelor's may be considered in combination with 5-8 years of relevant work experience.
  • A telecommunications services company in Indiana is looking to hire an electronics hardware engineer with a bachelor's or master's degree in a relevant field. Candidates should also possess more than 6 years of experience, preferably in the cellular or wireless industry. Responsibilities include developing, designing, testing and producing hardware and systems interfaces for the company.

Standing Out

To stand out as a computer hardware engineer, you should have a strong background in math, science and computer programming. A master's degree in computer engineering could also help you gain an advantage in the workforce. By gaining experience and knowledge of computer software, you could also stand out among your peers, especially since innovation in software is occurring more rapidly than with hardware. If you already have experience in the field, you may consider obtaining professional certification, such as the Wireless Communication Engineering Technologies (WCET) certification from the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE).

Electrical and Electronics Engineer

Electrical and electronics engineering roles are similar, yet separate professions related to computer and electronics engineering technology. Electrical engineers work with electrical equipment, such as radar and navigation systems, power generation equipment and electric motors. Typical duties include improving products, creating detailed manufacturing specifications, directing the installation of products, investigating customer complaints and working with project managers to ensure the efficient production of designs.

Electronics engineers work with broadcast and communications systems. Typical duties include designing electronic components, analyzing system requirements, developing testing procedures, evaluating design modifications and inspecting instruments. Some are employed by the federal government to design and develop federal electronic systems, such as flight systems, satellites and sonar systems. Both electrical and electronics engineers use specific software and equipment to perform these tasks. Electrical and electronics engineers work full-time in offices, although travel to sites may frequently be required.

Requirements

A bachelor's degree program in electrical engineering accredited by ABET is the entry-level requirement for a career in this field. Courses in electrical circuit theory, digital systems design and differential equations are essential. Cooperative programs that combine work experience with courses are available, although most students complete internships to gain work experience. In addition, 5-year programs are available that enable students to earn both a bachelor's and master's degree related to this field. These advanced degree programs can prepare graduates for careers in research or academia. Licensure is available, but not required.

In December 2012, some employers of electrical and electronics engineers were looking for the following:

  • An engineering firm in New Hampshire wants to hire an electrical/electronic engineer to support machine controls and develop one-off custom automation systems. Additional duties include designing panel layouts, flow charts and PLC programs. Candidates must have at least five years experience with machine controls, customer support and documentation. Experience with AutoCAD, robotics, validation processes, program management and pneumatic components is preferred.
  • In New Jersey, a manufacturing firm is looking to hire an electrical electronic design engineer with three years of related work experience. Candidates must have a bachelor's degree in engineering and knowledge of programming languages, as well as the ability to lift 40-65 pounds.
  • An engineering firm in Ohio wants to hire an electrical engineer with a bachelor's degree in electrical engineering. Candidates must have 3-5 years of experience with electrical control panel design, a working knowledge of CAD design and strong communication skills. The company will train new hires to develop mechanical piping drawings, perform hydraulic piping calculations and develop complete bill of materials.

Standing Out

Licensure is available for this field, but is uncommon for electrical and electronics engineers. You could stand out by becoming a professional engineer (PE). To earn this designation, you will need to earn an ABET-accredited degree, pass the Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) examination, obtain relevant work experience and pass the Professional Engineering (PE) examination. You can greatly improve your job prospects with this designation, but keep in mind that continuing education courses are required to maintain this credential.

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