Computer Engineer

Introduction

As a Computer Engineer, you will work with either hardware or software, depending on your speciality. Computer Hardware Engineers research, develop, design and test computer equipment. Computer Software Engineers develop, design and test software, which can be used in any number of areas of life.

Also known as

  • Hardware Engineer
  • Computer Systems Engineer

Video: - Malcolm: Junior Software Engineer

Work Activities

As a Computer Engineer, you will either be working with hardware or software.

Hardware Engineer

If you become a Hardware Engineer then you will be responsible for making computers faster, smaller, cheaper and smarter.

You will be researching, developing, designing and, importantly, testing computer equipment. This might mean working on existing, older systems, or maybe working with the very latest up-to-date hardware.

Your day-to-day role could include:

  • designing new computer hardware and creating blueprints (technical plans and instructions)
  • testing the completed models of the computer hardware you have designed
  • analysing the test results and modifying the design, if needed
  • updating existing computer equipment so that it will work with the latest, new software
  • overseeing the manufacturing process (how it is built)

Software Engineer

Computer Software Engineers develop, design and test software and systems. You will be working with a client, developing and designing the software according to their needs.The software you design could be used in any area of life, including:

  • car Sat Nav systems
  • video game characters
  • assembly line machines
  • phone apps
  • school whiteboards

Your day-to-day duties could include:

  • working with programming (coding) languages
  • writing new software programs, according to your client's needs
  • testing your software
  • investigating new technologies
  • writing technical specifications (instructions) and plans
  • working as part of a project team with people such as Project Managers, Graphic Designers and marketing and sales teams

Personal Qualities and Skills

To become a Computer Engineer you will need:

  • to have great technical skills - to be great with computers
  • analytical skills
  • to be able to focus on many different tasks
  • to be interested in learning about new technology
  • great teamworking skills
  • to be able to explain technical computer processes, in a simple easy-to-understand manner
  • to enjoy solving problems
  • to work well under pressure, as sometimes important deadlines must be met

Pay and Opportunities

Pay

The pay rates given below are approximate.

  • Starting: £21,000 - £24,000
  • With experience: £25,500 - £31,000
  • Senior Computer Engineers earn £34,500

Where could I work?

As a Computer Engineer, you could be employed by any organisation that uses IT - so the world is your oyster!

This career could include working for an agency.

Where are vacancies advertised?

Vacancies are advertised in local/national newspapers, on recruitment and employers' websites, and on Find a Job (www.gov.uk/jobsearch).

Social media websites, such as LinkedIn, Twitter or Facebook, are a great way to network, find vacancies and get in contact with possible employers. Make sure that your profile presents you in a professional manner that will appeal to potential employers.

Take a look at our General Information Article 'Finding Work Online'.

GreenJobs is a job board aimed at people interested in green careers:

www.greenjobs.co.uk/browse-jobs/engineering/

Entry Routes and Training

Entry routes

Many employers require you to have a degree before you become a Computer Engineer. Degrees in relevant subjects are available at many universities. In order to get onto a degree course you will usually need at least two A levels.

An A level in an IT based subject would be a great help.

Another option is to get onto a Degree Apprenticeship.

So now is a great time to start planning your route through to university. IT based subjects at GCSE and A level would help you to stand out from the crowd.

A great way to get into this career is through an internship. Take a look at our information article 'Internships', for more details.

Training

If you would like some more training, then BTEC offer a level 3 qualification in professional competence for IT and telecoms professionals. Some of the units you could be studying include:

  • health and safety in ICT
  • developing own effectiveness and professionalism
  • testing ICT systems
  • data modelling
  • customer care in ICT
  • working with ICT hardware and equipment
  • software installation and upgrade
  • managing software development
  • system management

This course is also offered at level 2 and level 4.

Other courses could be available in your area.

Work Experience

Previous experience working with computers will be really useful for this career.

Qualifications

The usual entry requirements for a relevant degree are:

  • 2/3 A levels
  • GCSEs in your A level subjects at grade C/4 or above
  • a further 2/3 GCSEs at grade C/4 or above
  • maths, science or IT subjects could be needed at A level
  • English, maths and a science subject would be great at GCSE at grade C/4 or above

To get onto an Intermediate or Advanced Level Apprenticeship, you’ll usually need five GCSEs at grade C/4 or above, possibly including English and maths.

To get onto a Degree Apprenticeship, you will usually need at least 2 A levels.

Other qualifications, such as a relevant BTEC level 3 qualification or the International Baccalaureate Diploma are often accepted.

Some universities accept the Welsh Baccalaureate as equivalent to 1 A level.

Adult Opportunities

Age limits

It is illegal for any organisation to set age limits for entry to employment, education or training, unless they can show there is a real need to have these limits.

Courses

If you are a graduate with a non-relevant degree, taking a one-year IT postgraduate conversion course will improve your chances.

If you don't have the qualifications needed to enter your chosen degree or HND course, a college or university Access course, for example, Access to IT/Computing, could be the way in. These courses are designed for people who have not followed the usual routes into higher education. No formal qualifications are usually needed, but you should check this with individual colleges.

Another option would be an HNC in computing on a part-time basis, either evening and/or daytime.

Alternatively, taking short intensive courses in specific computing languages with private accredited IT training providers can help you to develop the portfolio of technical skills needed by employers. Such courses can be taken on a flexible, evening, weekend or day part-time basis.

Distance learning

Distance learning opportunities include the Open University, which offers a number of degrees and diplomas in computing, including the degree in Computing and IT. Many educational institutions offer specific qualifications on a distance/online learning basis.

Further Information

Apprenticeships: Get In. Go Far

National Apprenticeship Service (NAS)

Tel: 0800 015 0400

Email: nationalhelpdesk@findapprenticeship.service.gov.uk

Website: www.apprenticeships.org.uk

The Tech Partnership

Skills for business and information technology

Address: 1 Castle Lane, London SW1E 6DR

Tel: 020 7963 8920

Email: info@e-skills.com

Website: www.e-skills.com

BCS: The Chartered Institute for IT

Address: First Floor, Block D, North Star House, North Star Avenue, Swindon SN2 1FA

Tel: 0845 3004417

Email: custsupport@bcs.uk

Website: www.bcs.org

Engineering Council

Address: 246 High Holborn, London WC1V 7EX

Tel: 020 3206 0500

Website: www.engc.org.uk

Careers Wales - Welsh Apprenticeships

Tel: 0800 028 4844

Website: ams.careerswales.com/

People Exchange Cymru (PEC)

Public sector recruitment portal for Wales

Email: peopleexchangecymru@gov.wales

Website: www.peopleexchangecymru.org.uk/home

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