How Much Does A Computer Engineer Make?

"I love computers and everything about them, and I am really hoping that I can work with computers for a living after college. I’m trying to figure out what to major in though. My college offers computer science, but also offers a computer hardware engineering major. I’m not sure which one I should major in. Do computer engineers make good money, or should I stick with software development? Are there still a lot of jobs in computer engineering?"

asked by Alan from Houston, TX

It is great you already know you want to work with computers for a living. In general, the salaries in computing are quite high and there is a lot of opportunity. First off, one great thing about computer engineering is that your degree choice is helpful, but not necessarily critical. Even if you major in computer science (and not computer hardware engineering), you could probably still land a job in computer hardware engineering. But you would also be well placed to begin a career in software development.

Secondly, “computer engineering” can technically refer either to computer hardware engineering or computer software engineering. I am guessing from the way you phrased your question that it is computer hardware engineering that interests you the most. Computer hardware engineers develop the actual chips, circuit boards, and other equipment used for computing, while computer software engineers are the developers who build programs to function alongside these physical devices.

Computer Engineer Hourly Wage And Salary By State

State Hourly Wage Annual Wage
Alabama $47.85 $99,530
Alaska $39.96 $83,120
Arizona $45.33 $94,290
Arkansas $40.04 $83,290
California $55.08 $114,560
Colorado $51.74 $107,620
Connecticut $43.52 $90,520
District of Columbia $52.05 $108,260
Florida $46.62 $96,960
Georgia $42.15 $87,660
Hawaii $43.82 $91,150
Idaho $35.77 $74,400
Illinois $41.99 $87,350
Indiana $40.87 $85,010
Iowa $50.66 $105,380
Kansas $36.64 $76,210
Kentucky $40.24 $83,700
Louisiana $38.61 $80,310
Maryland $50.60 $105,250
Massachusetts $53.43 $111,140
Michigan $55.95 $116,380
Minnesota $48.51 $100,900
Mississippi $46.88 $97,510
Missouri $39.00 $81,110
Montana $45.05 $93,700
Nebraska $39.47 $82,090
Nevada $45.85 $95,370
New Hampshire $44.82 $93,230
New Jersey $50.50 $105,050
New Mexico $47.47 $98,740
New York $49.88 $103,760
North Carolina $51.89 $107,940
Ohio $41.00 $85,270
Oklahoma $36.00 $74,870
Pennsylvania $39.18 $81,500
Puerto Rico $36.98 $76,920
Rhode Island $48.27 $100,390
South Carolina $44.00 $91,520
South Dakota $38.38 $79,820
Tennessee $39.69 $82,550
Texas $47.22 $98,210
Utah $38.33 $79,730
Vermont $46.32 $96,340
Virginia $51.45 $107,010
Washington $51.86 $107,860
West Virginia $41.35 $86,010
Wisconsin DNP DNP
Source: US Bureau Of Labor Statistics
DNP – Did Not Participate

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median annual salary for computer hardware engineers in 2010 was $98,810 per year, or $47.50 per hour. I think you will agree that is a pretty nice wage, particularly for a job that only requires a bachelor’s degree. The average wage reported for computer applications software engineers in 2008 was $87,900, and the average annual wage for computer systems software engineers was $94,520. So the salary you could expect if you became a computer software engineer would be comparable.

The biggest difference is in demand. The job growth rate for computer programmers reported in 2010 was 12%, which is about as fast as average. The rate of increase for computer hardware engineers was 9%, which is slower than average. Also note that represents fewer than 7,000 new job openings for hardware engineers, but more than 40,000 new jobs for computer programmers.

What this should tell you is that there is a lot more opportunity and security in software development than hardware development these days. That is where most of the cutting edge innovation is taking place.

That alone should not decide what you want to do with your life, but it is something to factor in. You will make a great salary whether you go into hardware engineering or computer programming, but you will have a lot more opportunity in computer engineering.

Then again, you probably will also be up against more competition. Talk to an advisor and consider what you enjoy doing the most. These are very different careers, even though there is an overlap in job skills.

Career Spotlight: Computer Engineer

Join The Discussion - 1 Comment

  1. isaac lakica says:

    i hope to work harder and become a hardware engineer

Leave A Comment