How to Learn Computer Engineering
The field of computer engineering produces essential everyday items society relies on everyday, from mobile phones to routers. Embarking on a journey in this field as a career can be challenging, but you can gain an introduction to this discipline to learn whether or not it is for you with some of the resources we provide.
This article dives into what the field of computer engineering is and the steps you can take to learn more about it, or even make it into a career.
What is Computer Engineering?
Computer engineering is the integration of computer science, physics, and electronic engineering in the development of software and hardware. Computer engineers primarily focus on the design of computing devices from personal computers to microcontrollers.
They not only write software, but also firmware. A simple example of this would be the remote control you use to operate your television.
Computer Engineering vs Computer Science
Computer engineering is used to build everyday objects society relies on, such as the personal computer, mouse and keyboard, camera, speedometer, wireless service networks and advanced medical equipment.
How Does It Differ From Computer Science?
Computer science focuses on computational theory where algorithms, data, and statistical models are extensively dwelled on. Computer engineering focuses on the building of devices like remote controls, smart phones, and integrated circuits. Computer engineers have more of a hands-on requirement in building the actual hardware that goes along with a software.
Computer Engineering vs Software Engineering
Software engineering deals with the websites you visit, the apps you download, and the games. Software engineering is the reason why we traded our flip phones for smartphones.
Computer engineering is different — this field focuses on the hardware required to power the software we love. Computer engineering works with hardware and software to ensure the two necessary components cooperate to deliver great innovations to society.
Types of Computer Engineering
There are several different types of computer engineering specializations, each with their own responsibilities and job titles.
Below you will find five common types along with a description.
Cryptography, also known as infosec, is the study of secure communication. Many computer engineers specialize in cryptography because of their hybrid skills in hardware software. Computer engineers can specialize in coding and cryptography just like computer scientists.
Computer Vision and Robotics
Computer vision refers to how computers can gain high-level understanding from digital images. This computer engineering specialization focuses on building technologies that give a sense of the environment to hardware through the gathering of three-dimensional data. An example of this is programming self-driving vehicles and robotics.
Process design is the steps engineers take to come up with a solution to solve a problem. This specialization focuses on the design engineering of building a computer processor, a key component in computer hardwares.
Compilers and Operating Systems
A compiler is defined as “a program that converts instructions into a machine-code or lower-level form so that they can be read and executed by a computer.” Although different from the functionality of operating systems, compilers still work with computer hardware.
Quantum computing is a type of non-classical computing based on principles of quantum theory. In quantum computing, bits are called qubits, which unlike classical computers, have the capability to be in a state of both 1 and 0 at the same time.
The most difficult type or subset of computer engineering is the specialization of quantum computing, which also has applications in other fields of computer engineering, like cryptography. You can experiment in building your own quantum structure on the IBM Cloud.
Learning Computer Engineering
The most common and popular route into computer engineering is through a four-year school for a degree in the field.
Unlike computer science, the field of computer engineering does not yet have the supply of bootcamps or trade schools which give students the hands on experience needed to land a job in the market. However, there are some certifications as it relates to certain types of computer engineering specializations which are obtainable without the need to go to a four-year school, like cyber security for example.
How Long Does It Take to Learn Computer Engineering?
If in pursuit of a bachelor’s degree in computer engineering, the length would be approximately four years. However, if in pursuit of a certification of a type of specialization there are trade schools that offer courses for as short as sixteen weeks of study.
Five Reasons to Learn Computer Engineering
According to the Bureau Labor of Statistics the job outlook for the hardware applications of this discipline is slower than average at 2%, however, because this field has flexibility with its area in software, applications for this discipline can be put towards software engineering which is projected to grow at 22%.
The medium salary for this field is currently $117,220 a year in the Computer Hardware Engineer profession and $107,510 for the Software Development profession.
In this field, you’ll consistently be at the cutting edge of technology, innovating and building tech for the future.
- Job Satisfaction
Hardware Engineers were ranked in Glassdoor’s 20 Best Jobs with the Highest Satisfaction alongside other adjacent roles as it relates to computer engineering.
A background in Computer Engineering can be used to obtain many job titles. Some of which include:
- AI and Robotics Engineer
- Hardware Engineer
- Microprocessor Designer
- Mechanical Engineer
- Electronics Architect
Job Demand for Computer Engineers
In November 2020 there were over 12,000 job postings on Linkedin for hardware engineers in the United States, over 5,000 of which were entry level. For cyber security there were over 55,000 job postings, and for firmware over 41,000. Other related computer engineering job postings were:
Robotics Engineer with over 51,000 job postings
Electrical Engineer with over 16,000 job postings
Computer Vision Engineer with over 41,000 job postings
Software Engineer with over 87,000 job postings
The Best Computer Engineering Courses and Training
There are several free, tuition based, or single payment courses and training available for computer engineering. All options are currently online during the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Cybersecurity Engineering – Manhattan, New York and Washington, D.C. (Online for COVID-19)
- 15 weeks
- Prerequisites: none
Flatiron School is a boot camp that offers several Cybersecurity programs both onsite and online. Their Cybersecurity Engineering program in New York can be completed in as little as fifteen weeks and their Online CyberSecurity Analytics program is a total of 480 hours and can be completed either fulltime or partime.
Computer Vision Bootcamp with Udemy
- Computer Vision Bootcamp with Python (OpenCV) – Online
- 10 hours or self paced
- Prerequisites: Basic Python programming skills
This Udemy course offers seven sections on computer vision covering the basics of computer vision concepts including face and object detection as well as deep learning and graphical processing units.
- Introduction to Information Security with HelmetJS Challenges – Online
- Self paced
- Prerequisites: none
freeCodeCamp offers an Introduction to Information Security with HelmetJS challenges. The course is a great introduction to the infosec world and offers practical lessons for real life application.
- Cyber security – Manhattan, New York (Online for COVID-19)
- 17 weeks (full time)
- Prerequisites: none
FullStack Academy offers fulltime and partime programs in cyber security which are currently hosted online during the COVID-19 pandemic. This program is meant to take you from cybersecurity novice to in-demand cybersecurity professional in just 17 weeks of full-time study. The school also has a scholarships section where qualified potential students can apply.
- Cyber security – Portland, OR and Salt Lake City, UT (Online for COVID-19)
- 20 weeks (full time)
- Prerequisites: none
The Tech Academy has campuses in both Portland and Utah and offers both a part-time and full-time curriculum. One of the perks of this boot camp is the ISA financing option the school offers its students.
Computer Engineering Books
Author James Lance published a wealth of books for beginners interested in the engineering field. His books, including this one, are geared towards high school students exploring the field of engineering, and for those with non technical backgrounds.
‘ACareer in Computer Engineering’, Stuart Kallen
Another book geared toward teens looking to make engineering a possible career path. This book includes interviews with professional engineers as well as an illustration of the future of the field.
‘Introduction to Discrete Structures’, Raymond Yeh and Franco Preparata
This book is an important and comprehensive theoretical and practical comprehension of mathematics and its connections in computer science. This book is also used in many university curriculums in their Introduction to Discrete Structures course.
‘Modern Operating Systems’, Andrew Tanenbaum
This book offers insights on processes, threads, memory management, and operating system designs. The author of this book is a professor of computer science and has written many books on OS.
Should You Study Computer Engineering?
Anyone with an interest in the field of computing, robotics, physics, or engineering, should take advantage of the opportunity to at least learn more about the discipline and evaluate whether it is or is not something for them.
The field of computer engineering produces essential everyday items society relies on everyday. Computer Engineering students and majors use computer science and electrical engineering together to build and innovate products like from the remote control to autonomous vehicles.
There are many ways to find out if this field is for you, from the books recommendations listed above, to the freeCodeCamp course related to the computer engineering subfield of infosec.
Even though obtaining a university degree is currently the most common route to enter this field, there are some courses and bootcamps which offer certifications in special sectors of computer engineering, like cyber security.
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