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Computer engineers look after computer systems for businesses, government agencies and other organizations. They often specialize in hardware or software engineering. To become a computer engineer, a college education typically is required, with a bachelor's degree being the minimum level. A more advanced degree might translate into a more challenging job or faster advancement. Depending on your area of interest, you might pursue a degree in software engineering, computer science, electrical engineering, systems engineering or another related area.
To be accepted into an engineering school, it is important while in high school to get a solid grounding in math, including algebra, geometry, trigonometry, calculus and basic sciences such as physics, biology and chemistry. Taking as many of the computer classes that your high school offers as possible also is important. Joining an organization such as Future Scientists and Engineers of America or its equivalent if you live outside the United States can be helpful if you want to become a computer engineer.
Four-year college computer engineering programs typically focus during the first two years on math, basic sciences and introductory engineering and computer programming courses as well as general education courses such as social studies, humanities and others. The final two or three years of college usually delve more deeply into computer software and hardware engineering studies. Many engineering programs for bachelor's degrees can take five rather than four years to complete, so that is something to think about when looking at college programs.
When you are considering colleges, ask about what kinds of work experience programs the schools provide. Find out about part-time or summer internship opportunities with businesses and organizations. Working in an internship will help provide you with on-the-job experience and can provide contacts for future employment. Another area to ask about is whether a school you are considering takes part in any partnerships with companies, such as research studies or development programs, which also can supply real-world experience in the engineering of computer hardware or software.
It also is helpful to join student chapters of professional hardware and software engineering organizations if you want to become a computer engineer. These organizations will help prepare you for the profession as well as providing networking opportunities. Many professional organizations also provide their members with listings of job openings.
Qualities that are important if you want to become a computer engineer include analytical ability, creativity and a detail orientation. The ability to work as part of a team toward a common goal is important, and having good oral communication skills will be helpful. Strong writing skills to prepare computer specifications, software documentation and other written material will help you after you become a computer engineer.
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