Computer Engineering is a discipline that integrates several fields of electrical engineering and computer science required to develop computer hardware and software. Computer engineers usually have training in electronic engineering (or electrical engineering), software design, and hardware-software integration instead of only software engineering or electronic engineering. Computer engineers are involved in many hardware and software aspects of computing, from the design of individual microcontrollers, microprocessors, personal computers, and supercomputers, to circuit design. This field of engineering not only focuses on how computer systems themselves work, but also how they integrate into the larger picture.
Computer engineers work with hardware and software, ensuring that the two are seamlessly integrated and functioning properly. Computer engineers focus on innovation—making computing systems safer, faster and more powerful. Usual tasks involving computer engineers include writing software and firmware for embedded microcontrollers, designing VLSI chips, designing analog sensors, designing mixed signal circuit boards, and designing operating systems. Computer engineers are also suited for robotics research, which relies heavily on using digital systems to control and monitor electrical systems like motors, communications, and sensors.
Inside Computer Engineering
Computer engineers create and maintain computer systems and may specialize in one aspect of computer engineering, such as hardware or software engineering. Hardware engineers design computer circuitry, disks, chips, printers and other computer devices, while computer software engineers develop computer applications and programs. Good math and analytical skills are necessary for students interested in a career in computer engineering.Computer engineers embed computers in other machines and systems, build networks to transfer data, and develop ways to make computers, faster, smaller, and more capable. Computer engineers are improving the ability of computers to “see” and “think.” They are making computers more mobile, and even incorporating computers into fabrics, clothes, and building materials.
Broadly, there are two main branches of computer engineering namely hardware and software engineering.
Computer Software Engineering
Computer software engineers create, test and debug programs and applications that run on computers, mobile devices and more. They develop, design, and test software. Some software engineers design, construct, and maintain computer programs for companies. Some set up networks such as “intranets” for companies. Others make or install new software or upgrade computer systems. Computer software engineers can also work in application design. This involves designing or coding new programs and applications to meet the needs of a business or individual. Computer software engineers can also work as freelancers and sell their software products/applications to an enterprise/individual.
Computer Hardware Engineering
Hardware engineers focus their skills on computer systems and components, designing microprocessors, circuit boards, routers and other embedded devices. Most computer hardware engineers research, develop, design, and test various computer equipment. This can range from circuit boards and microprocessors to routers. Some update existing computer equipment to be more efficient and work with newer software. Most computer hardware engineers work in research laboratories and high-tech manufacturing firms.
Just as there are countless apps, software programs and computers that function for specific tasks, there are just as many career options for those who wish to enter the computer engineering profession. From robotics to wireless networks, and operating systems to aircraft design, there is a specialization for any interest.
There are many specialty areas in the field of computer engineering.
Coding, Cryptography, and Information Protection
Communications and Wireless Networks
Those focusing on communications and wireless networks, work advancements in telecommunications systems and networks (especially wireless networks), modulation and error-control coding, and information theory. High-speed network design, interference suppression and modulation, design and analysis of fault-tolerant system, and storage and transmission schemes are all a part of this specialty.
Compilers and Operating Systems
This specialty focuses on compilers and operating systems design and development. Engineers in this field develop new operating system architecture, program analysis techniques, and new techniques to assure quality. Examples of work in this field includes post-link-time code transformation algorithm development and new operating system development.
Computational Science and Engineering
Computational Science and Engineering is a relatively new discipline. According to the Sloan Career Cornerstone Center, individuals working in this area, “computational methods are applied to formulate and solve complex mathematical problems in engineering and the physical and the social sciences. Examples include aircraft design, the plasma processing of nanometer features on semiconductor wafers, VLSI circuit design, radar detection systems, ion transport through biological channels, and much more”.
Computer Networks, Mobile Computing, and Distributed Systems
Computer Systems: Architecture, Parallel Processing, and Dependability
Computer Vision and Robotics
In this specialty, computer engineers focus on developing visual sensing technology to sense an environment, representation of an environment, and manipulation of the environment. The gathered three-dimensional information is then implemented to perform a variety of tasks. These include, improved human modeling, image communication, and human-computer interfaces, as well as devices such as special-purpose cameras with versatile vision sensors.
Integrated Circuits, VLSI Design, Testing and CAD
This specialty of computer engineering requires adequate knowledge of electronics and electrical systems. Engineers working in this area work on enhancing the speed, reliability, and energy efficiency of next-generation very-large-scale integrated (VLSI) circuits and microsystems. An example of this specialty is work done on reducing the power consumption of VLSI algorithms and architecture.
Signal, Image and Speech Processing
Computer engineers in this area develop improvements in human–computer interaction, including speech recognition and synthesis, medical and scientific imaging, or communications systems. Other work in this area includes computer vision development such as recognition of human facial features.
Computer Engineering is the key that will open the door to a professional careers in the continuously changing technology sector. With the development of faster hardware components, new communication software and systems, there is a demand for Engineers who study the design of digital hardware and software systems. Graduates of this program are grounded in scientific, mathematical, and technical knowledge through a syllabus that is updated with current technological advancements; they develop the ability to analyze, synthesize and design both core parts of modern computing systems and integrated application systems centered around computers. The course encompasses a wide range of topics including computer architecture, operating systems, computer networks, security, robotics and artificial intelligence.
Undergraduate computer engineering degree programs introduce students to computer science, including the theory and design of data storage, and computer engineering, including the design of microelectronics, circuitry, operating systems and wireless technology. In bachelor’s degree programs, students learn to optimize the interaction between hardware and software systems. Graduate programs in computer engineering are often focused on a particular sub-discipline, such as network engineering or software engineering. Graduate computer engineering programs may be combined electrical/computer engineering degree programs. There are a number of online degree options in computer engineering and related fields. However many programs are hybrid in nature and include on-campus requirements.
Most entry-level computer engineering jobs require at least a bachelor’s degree in computer engineering. Sometimes a degree in electronic engineering is accepted, due to the similarity of the two fields. Because hardware engineers commonly work with computer software systems, a background in computer programming usually is needed. Some large firms or specialized jobs require a master’s degree.
Graduates of computer engineering degree programs may find work writing software or developing new forms of computer hardware. Computer engineers must keep up with evolving technology and continually acquire new skills. Professional certification for computer engineers demonstrates competency in the field. Computer engineering graduates typically have some of the highest starting salaries in engineering. Computer engineers have the option of moving into hardware or software positions, or blending the two.
Typical industries hiring computer engineers, include financial services, computer manufacturers, chemical companies, defense contractors, consulting, transportation, manufacturing, and consumer goods. Computer engineers are equally successful in large multinational firms and small startups.
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