What Is Computer Engineering?
It would be difficult to imagine the world today without computers. From the time Blaise Pascal invented the mechanical calculator and the analytical engine was made by Charles Babbage, computers have improved by leaps and bounds. The use of these nifty devices that are powerful enough to hold massive amounts of data and perform complex operations with just the click of a mouse and a few taps on the keyboard or screen have made them indispensable in running businesses, governments, schools and even our personal lives. All these technological advancements are made possible because of computer engineering.
The realm of computer engineering is actually a fusion of the fields of electrical engineering and computer sciences. The discipline is concerned with the development of both the hardware and software used to make computers function and perform specific tasks. Thus, a computer engineer is expected to be knowledgeable about personal computers, software programs, microprocessors and circuit design, among others. They are also expected to understand not only how computers work but how they can be embedded in different technological devices.
Computer engineering is generally divided into two specialties—that of computer hardware engineering and computer software engineering. Computer hardware engineering refers to computer equipment like microprocessors, circuit boards and routers. They are also concerned with the design, development and testing of data storage devices like hard disks, input devices like keyboards and joysticks and memory chips. Computer software engineering, on the other hand, relates to the design and development of software programs and applications. The latter involves the design, coding and debugging of computer programs and the setting up of internal networks of companies and organizations.
Computer engineers can take their expertise further and concentrate in one of the different areas in computer engineering. If they are interested to use their knowledge of computers to improve telecommunications, they can work in the field of communications and wireless networks. For those whose interests like in safeguarding digital information, they can work in the area of cryptography, coding and information protection. Other specialties of computer engineering include robotics, embedded systems, computational science and engineering and computer architecture and integrated circuits, among others.
The educational training and preparation needed to become a computer engineer is typically a four-year bachelor’s degree in computer engineering. In the first two years, the student typically takes computer science engineering, physics, math and electrical engineering courses. Many colleges and universities offering computer engineering programs allow students to select a particular area of study in their third and fourth years which they can focus on. This preparation is important because it enables students to learn more about the field that they eventually want to work in.
Computer engineers can expect to work in companies involved in computer manufacturing, software development, defense contracting, transportation and consulting, among others. It is also a lucrative profession as computer engineers are typically paid very well. As the use of computers continues to become more widespread, there will also continue to be more opportunities for computer engineers, whether they specialize in hardware, software or combine both.