Study Computer Engineering: PhD, Masters Degree & Online Course Info

About this article
What will you learn in a computer engineering degree program? Read about degree requirements, the pros and cons of a master's and PhD, and potential careers.
View available schools

Computer Engineering: Graduate Degrees at a Glance

Earning a graduate degree in computer engineering can help you gain a competitive advantage in the engineering field. If you enroll in a computer engineering graduate program, you must be prepared to use a multitude of problem-solving skills, investigative techniques, effective communication skills, and multitasking abilities. Some of the positions your program may prepare you for include computer software developer, computer hardware engineer, and computer research scientist.

While a bachelor's degree is usually all that's needed to enter the field, a graduate degree can allow you to advance in your career or perform research. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projected that software developers would experience a 30% increase in employment between 2010 and 2020, while computer hardware engineers would experience only a 9% increase. Employment of computer and information research scientists was expected to increase 19%.

Master's Doctorate
Who is this degree for? Individuals who want to advance their careers or take on more specialized roles in computer engineering Those seeking to lead project developments, become research scientists, or teach at the university level
Common Career Paths (with approximate mean annual salary) - Computer Hardware Engineer ($101,000)*
- Computer Applications Software Developer ($92,000)*
- Computer Systems Software Developer ($100,000)*
- Postsecondary Computer Science Teacher ($80,000)*
- Computer and Information Research Scientist ($103,000)*
Time to Completion 1.5-3 years full-time 3-4 years after the master's degree
Common Graduation Requirements - Approximately 30 units of coursework
- Master's thesis
- Oral and qualifying examinations
Approximately 40 units of course work beyond the master's level
- PhD qualifying exams
- Dissertation
Prerequisites Bachelor's degree in computer engineering, computer science or related field Master's degree in computer engineering
Online Availability Yes Yes (limited availability)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (May 2011 figures).

Master's in Computer Engineering

Master's degree programs in computer engineering are designed to help you advance within your field because they integrate the advanced software design and security skills training you may need to take your career to the next level. Computer engineering master's degree programs cover the research, design, construction, and analyzing of computer hardware and software. These programs give you the chance to gain a more profound understanding of advanced systems, primarily in the areas of digital signal processing, computer architecture, and software design.

Pros and Cons

Pros:

  • You will have the opportunity to influence computer technology, which has become a powerful tool of our everyday lives
  • As networks continue to expand, computer engineers are able to solve technical problems more conveniently and from their own offices by being able to remotely connect to a customer's computer
  • The computer software development industry is expected to experience rapid growth*

Cons:

  • The number of computer hardware engineers is expected to grow slower-than-average from 2010-2020*
  • You may have to work long hours to solve unexpected and urgent computer problems
  • A bachelor's degree is usually all that is needed to enter the field

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Common Coursework and Requirements

Master's degree programs in computer engineering emphasize ways to provide the effective optimization of computer systems. As a computer engineering graduate student, you will need to become proficient in the investigation, designing, testing, and development of computer hardware and software. You should also expect to receive education and training in the project management and leadership skills necessary for increased responsibility in the computer engineering field. Along with passing qualifying exams and completing a master's thesis, you may be required to complete courses in areas such as robotics, digital testing, digital architecture, networking, electronics, and machines.

Online Degree Options

Accredited online master's degree programs in computer engineering offer the same coursework, research projects, examinations, and training that traditional on-campus programs do. You may consider enrolling in an online program if you need more flexibility in your schedule. An online program may make it easier to work while in school.

Getting Ahead with this Degree

As technological advances continue at a rapid pace, computer engineers must be on the forefront of continually updating their training, knowledge, and skills in order to remain marketable in the computer engineering field. Students and professionals can take continuing education courses, attend professional development seminars offered by employers, collaborate with hardware and software vendors, and join professional computing societies to stay up-to-date and remain competitive in the job market. Taking part in these activities demonstrates a commitment to the field that may be attractive to employers.

PhD in Computer Engineering

Students hoping to earn a computer engineering doctorate must show proficiency in advanced levels of mathematics, engineering, physics, computer architecture, technology, and other related areas. You will also need exceptional investigative, creative, abstract, and problem-solving skills.

Though students in computer engineering programs must be competent in a wide variety of academic areas, they have the opportunity to choose from a number of electives to pursue their specific areas of interest. Furthermore, you are to complete central doctoral courses, pass written and oral qualifying examinations, and perform original research to earn your PhD.

Pros and Cons

Pros:

  • Postsecondary engineering teachers are more in demand than those who teach other fields
  • After earning your PhD, you'll qualify for research and postsecondary teaching positions
  • Companies that employ computer and information research scientists often have trouble finding PhD holders to fill positions, so earning a PhD will make you in demand

Cons

  • Funding for public school postsecondary teachers has been adversely affected by budget cuts
  • If you become a postsecondary teacher, you may get summers off
  • If you want to become a postsecondary teacher, tenure positions are extremely competitive because some universities are moving away from granting tenure

Common Coursework and Requirements

A computer engineering PhD prepares you for careers in research or academia. Computer engineering PhD programs require students to be proficient in a variety of areas, such as software engineering, algorithms, intelligent systems, machine learning, computer networks, and cyber security. These programs will also require you to pass qualifying examinations in order to demonstrate readiness for preliminary research. You'll need to submit a dissertation proposal and once that is approved, conduct original research in the field for your dissertation. You'll go on to defend your dissertation and publish your research in a peer-reviewed journal. As a PhD student, some courses you can expect to take include network organization, transaction processing, advanced database systems, and VLSI algorithms and architecture.

Online Degree Options

If you're an engineering professional or busy parent who wants to take your computer engineering knowledge and education to the next level, you may consider earning your PhD through a distance education program. Some universities offer computer engineering doctoral instruction through video streaming or other online formats. However, you will usually be required to come to campus for oral examinations and your dissertation process and defense.

Stand Out with this degree

An increasing number of engineers are employed as contract workers for various firms. Thus, if you want to stand out and strengthen your chances of being successful as an independent consultant, you should consider taking business classes, reading business-related articles, or collaborating with other self-employed consultants in computer engineering.

Robotics has emerged as a fast-growing computer engineering specialty. You may want to take courses, attend workshops and conferences, and seek extra training in this area to make yourself a more competitive job candidate.

Popular Schools

  • Online Programs Available
    1. Northcentral University

    Program Options

    Doctorate
      • PhD in Business Admin - Management of Engineering and Technology
      • Doctor of Business Admin - Management of Engineering and Technology
      • PhD-TIM - Engineering Management
  • Saint Louis, MO

    Washington University in St Louis

  • Lafayette, LA

    University of Louisiana at Lafayette

  • Bridgeport, CT

    University of Bridgeport

  • Huntsville, AL

    University of Alabama in Huntsville

  • Birmingham, AL

    University of Alabama at Birmingham

  • Akron, OH

    University of Akron Main Campus

  • Birmingham, AL

    University of Alabama

  • El Paso, TX

    The University of Texas at El Paso

  • Richardson, TX

    The University of Texas at Dallas

Featured Schools

Northcentral University

  • PhD in Business Admin - Management of Engineering and Technology
  • Doctor of Business Admin - Management of Engineering and Technology
  • PhD-TIM - Engineering Management

What is your highest level of education?

Washington University in St Louis

University of Louisiana at Lafayette

University of Bridgeport

University of Alabama in Huntsville

University of Alabama at Birmingham

University of Akron Main Campus