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What Does a Computer Hardware Engineer Do?

A computer hardware engineer works on computer components and hardware.
Computer hardware engineers are responsible for designing and testing components like computer chips.
A computer chip.
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  • Written By: P.M. Willers
  • Edited By: Allegra J. Lingo
  • Last Modified Date: 08 October 2014
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A computer hardware engineer works in various areas of computer hardware development. Areas could include working in development and research, production, or installation and support. He or she works on computer components and hardware at virtually every step, from the initial brainstorming to the improvement and modification of later secondary models of a previous product. Positions can be found in research institutes, private companies, or the military. Due to the extensiveness of technology throughout many fields, engineers may work on assorted computer components including computer systems, computer chips, modems, circuit boards, and innumerable other parts.

The various tasks of a computer hardware engineer are widespread and diverse. Since they take part in and oversee nearly every aspect of the life of a piece of hardware, these engineers work both independently and with many other positions in their daily tasks. Depending on the specific position and size of the institution or business, computer hardware engineers could work in a single area or many areas.

Computer hardware engineers working in development come up with new ideas and technology. Development engineers help to design and test new computer hardware components. Research and development may be done at many levels and in various manners, including working with actual hardware or working with computer generated models. Engineers may also do studies and analysis to estimate feasibility and viability of new hardware.

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Once the initial development phase is complete, computer hardware engineers work to test all aspects of the hardware. Engineers will continue to modify and improve the hardware until it is ready for manufacture. Before production, the hardware engineer is also responsible for making sure the computer component is compliant with all applicable standards and regulations.

Following the completion of a new product or piece of hardware, it is primed for widespread sales and marketing. Throughout this process, a computer hardware engineer assists in planning and orchestrating many aspects of the manufacturing process. If the hardware is part of a larger product, a computer hardware engineer also works on the installation process. This may occur either before or after it has been purchased by a consumer.

A Bachelor’s or Master’s degree is normally required for a career in computer hardware engineering. Educational requirements include a strong background in both math and computer programming, as well as numerous courses in the field of engineering. Courses in development, production, logic, and problem solving will also be necessary.

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David09
Post 3

@hamje32 - I think testing is the most important part of any engineering process, whether you’re talking about hardware engineering or software engineering.

Intel has had its share of fiascos with computer chips that had faults in them; millions of dollars worth of computers and components had to be recalled as a result.

Of course testing the CPU is something that involves a team of engineers I would suppose, not simply one individual. I am sure that they have advanced software testing tools, and strangely enough, there is very little room for error too.

Sometimes a chip will produce an error if it encounters a rare equation that, statistically, it may stumble upon once every 200 years. So you’d think it wouldn’t be a big deal; but even then, the chip manufacturer will issue a recall.

hamje32
Post 2

@NathanG - The computer hardware engineer job description given here seems to allow for less technical specializations in that field.

For example, I imagine that if you were a hardware designer, you wouldn’t actually be building components yourself. You might use something similar to CAD drawing tools to design components.

It’s still very technical work, but you would be working more at an architectural level and I think the software would assist in you coming up with circuit designs and testing those circuits.

When I was in college we had a circuit simulator. We didn’t have to design the circuit by hand. We could just design it in the simulator and it would display the results, whether the circuit worked or not.

NathanG
Post 1

You’ll find that Information Technology is a very big umbrella, encompassing a diversity of specializations. Of these, I believe the computer hardware engineer is the most difficult, with the systems analyst being the easiest in my opinion and the computer software engineer being in the middle.

The hardware engineer is an engineer in every sense of the term; he must understand electrical engineering, computer technology and computer software. It’s a high level profession and it’s ideal for people who are very good at engineering in general, enjoy hands on work and have a command of high level math concepts.

I’ve worked as a software engineer, and that’s not as hard as you think. Software engineering is “soft engineering” where you basically use existing computer tools, usually with graphical user interfaces, to build new programs and components.

I think a good hardware engineer would make a lot of money however because it’s more demanding.

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