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Become A Hardware/Firmware Engineer

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Working As A Hardware/Firmware Engineer

  • Interacting With Computers
  • Getting Information
  • Making Decisions and Solving Problems
  • Processing Information
  • Thinking Creatively
  • Mostly Sitting

  • $100,000

    Average Salary

What Does A Hardware/Firmware Engineer Do

Computer hardware engineers research, design, develop, and test computer systems and components such as processors, circuit boards, memory devices, networks, and routers. These engineers discover new directions in computer hardware, which generate rapid advances in computer technology.

Duties

Computer hardware engineers typically do the following:

  • Design new computer hardware, creating schematics of computer equipment to be built
  • Test the completed models of the computer hardware they design
  • Analyze the test results and modify the design as needed
  • Update existing computer equipment so that it will work with new software
  • Oversee the manufacturing process for computer hardware
  • Maintain knowledge of computer engineering trends and new technology

Many hardware engineers design noncomputer devices that incorporate processors and other computer components and connect to the Internet. For example, many car parts have computer systems embedded in them. Computer hardware engineers also are designing a growing number of medical devices with a computer system and the ability to connect to the Internet.

Computer hardware engineers ensure that computer hardware components work together with the latest software. Therefore, hardware engineers often work with software developers. For example, the hardware and software for a mobile phone frequently are developed jointly. Hardware engineers also may perform some computer programming in a hardware description language (HDL), which describes the digital circuits in hardware. Using this language, computer hardware engineers can simulate how the hardware design would work, test for errors, and then fix the design.

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How To Become A Hardware/Firmware Engineer

Most computer hardware engineers need a bachelor’s degree from an accredited computer engineering program.

Education

Most entry-level computer hardware engineers have a bachelor’s degree in computer engineering, although a degree in electrical engineering or computer science also is generally acceptable. A computer engineering major is similar to a major in electrical engineering but with a heavy emphasis on computer science.

Many engineering programs are accredited by ABET (formerly the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology). Employers may prefer students from an accredited program. To prepare for a major in computer or electrical engineering, students should have a solid background in math and science.

Because hardware engineers commonly work with computer software systems, a familiarity with computer programming usually is expected. This background may be obtained through computer science courses.

Some large firms or specialized jobs may require a master’s degree in computer engineering. Some experienced engineers obtain a master’s degree in business administration (MBA). All engineers must continue their learning over the course of their careers in order to keep up with rapid advances in technology.

Other Experience

Some students participate in internships while in school so that they can gain practical experience.

Advancement

Some computer hardware engineers can advance to become computer and information systems managers.

Important Qualities

Analytical skills. Computer hardware engineers use computer programming tools to analyze the digital circuits in hardware to determine the best design.

Creativity. Computer hardware engineers design new types of information technology devices.

Critical-thinking skills. These engineers use logic and reasoning to clarify goals, examine assumptions, and identify the strengths and weaknesses of alternative solutions to problems.

Problem-solving skills. Computer hardware engineers identify complex problems in computer hardware, develop and evaluate possible solutions, and figure out the best way to implement them.

Speaking skills. Engineers often work on teams and must be able to communicate with other types of engineers as well as with nontechnical team members.

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Average Length of Employment
Firmware Engineer 3.3 years
Hardware Engineer 3.3 years
Top Careers Before Hardware/Firmware Engineer
Engineer 5.7%
Lecturer 3.6%
Top Careers After Hardware/Firmware Engineer
Consultant 4.7%

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Top Skills for A Hardware/Firmware Engineer

  1. Firmware
  2. Hardware Design
  3. Circuit Boards
You can check out examples of real life uses of top skills on resumes here:
  • Created hardware/firmware specifications and requirements, safety analysis, assembly, and other project documents.
  • Designed circuit boards and schematics for the above hardware.
  • Project focused on development of Audio-Video Telephone Communication Monitoring System by using various DSP chip, FPGA.
  • Complete product delivered as per the schedule with replacement of new components and PCB modifications.
  • Design of permanent magnet DC motor controller with position sensing feedback for precise positioning of the load.

Hardware/Firmware Engineer Demographics

Gender

Male

82.7%

Unknown

10.9%

Female

6.4%
Ethnicity

White

55.0%

Asian

22.5%

Hispanic or Latino

11.6%

Black or African American

7.0%

Unknown

3.9%
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Foreign Languages Spoken

Spanish

60.0%

German

20.0%

French

20.0%

Hardware/Firmware Engineer Education

Schools

University of Washington

9.1%

California Polytechnic State University-San Luis Obispo

9.1%

Purdue University

6.8%

San Jose State University

6.8%

Brigham Young University

6.8%

California State University - Long Beach

6.8%

Syracuse University

4.5%

University of Nevada - Reno

4.5%

University of Massachusetts - Lowell

4.5%

Santa Clara University

4.5%

University of Texas at Dallas

4.5%

University of Texas at Austin

4.5%

Worcester Polytechnic Institute

4.5%

Stevens Institute of Technology

4.5%

Missouri University of Science and Technology

4.5%

New England Institute of Technology

4.5%

University of Illinois at Chicago

2.3%

University of Houston

2.3%

Michigan Technological University

2.3%

University of Connecticut

2.3%
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Majors

Electrical Engineering

49.2%

Computer Engineering

12.7%

Computer Science

6.8%

Engineering

5.9%

Business

3.4%

Mathematics

3.4%

Computer Networking

2.5%

Electrical Engineering Technology

2.5%

Physics

2.5%

Mechanical Engineering

1.7%

Music

1.7%

Systems Engineering

0.8%

Computer Programming

0.8%

Biology

0.8%

Statistics

0.8%

Heating And Air Conditioning

0.8%

Electrical/Electronics Maintenance And Repair Technology

0.8%

Engineering Technology

0.8%

Mechatronics And Robotics

0.8%

Chemistry

0.8%
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Degrees

Bachelors

50.4%

Masters

32.8%

Other

9.2%

Associate

3.4%

Doctorate

3.4%

Certificate

0.8%
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