Computer Hardware Engineer
Computer hardware engineers work on the design, development and manufacture of computer hardware. They may specialise in areas such as communications, control systems, robotics, microprocessors or semi-conductor devices. They take into account efficiency, safety and environmental factors.
Also known as
- Engineer, Computer Hardware
Computer hardware engineers research, design and develop the latest computer hardware technology.
They work on the computer itself, as well as related equipment such as disc drives, printers and monitors.
Some computer hardware engineers specialise in the research and design stages. They think carefully about the types and cost of materials that'll be used to make the hardware. Many hardware engineers deal with a specific area of the hardware rather than the whole system.
They may also work with marketing teams to identify trends and requirements for new or improved technology.
In other cases, the process may begin with a computer analyst providing a specification for a computer system to meet a particular need.
A team of designers may work on the initial design and produce detailed specifications. They translate the ideas into detailed drawings and circuit diagrams. Computer-aided design (CAD) and computer-aided manufacturing (CAM) are used in this type of work.
A team of computer hardware engineers takes the design, then builds a prototype. They put together the hardware parts and build the necessary interfacing equipment.
They test the prototype to make sure it meets the specification requirements; they carry out any necessary changes to the design.
They might also write technical support materials and provide expert technical support for product users.
Computer hardware engineers are likely to work in teams, for example, alongside materials scientists, electronics engineers, systems analysts and software engineers.
Being able to read, write and speak Welsh may be an advantage when you’re looking for work in Wales.
Personal Qualities and Skills
As a computer hardware engineer, you need:
- Strong technical knowledge of computers and electronic systems.
- To keep up to date with new technical developments.
- A flair for turning system requirements into detailed designs.
- Accuracy and attention to detail.
- To be able to work to deadlines and budgets; you may also need to consider the cost and availability of parts.
- To be able to work as part of multi-disciplinary teams.
- To use your initiative.
- Strong communication skills, particularly when explaining technical information to people from non-technical backgrounds.
Good eyesight and normal colour vision are usually required for this job.
Pay and Opportunities
Salaries for computer hardware engineers vary, depending on employer, role and responsibilities.
The pay rates given below are approximate.
Computer hardware engineers earn in the range of £22,500 - £28,000 a year, rising to £35,500 - £44,000. Higher earners can make around £55,000 a year.
Hours of work
Computer hardware engineers usually work up to 37 hours a week, Monday to Friday.
Where could I work?
Employers are computer manufacturers, electronics companies, retailers and distributors of computers, information technology consultants and software or systems houses.
Opportunities for computer hardware engineers occur with employers in towns and cities throughout the UK.
Where are vacancies advertised?
Vacancies are advertised in local/national newspapers, trade industry publications, at Jobcentre Plus and on the Universal Jobmatch website.
Vacancies can also be found through specialist engineering/computing recruitment agencies, internet job boards and the websites of professional engineering bodies.
Entry Routes and Training
Computer hardware engineers usually complete a relevant degree, foundation degree or HND, such as computer engineering, electronic engineering, electrical engineering or electronic and computer engineering.
It's essential to check prospectuses carefully to make sure the course you choose is appropriate to the branch of engineering you want to follow.
Some graduates join graduate training schemes, which offer structured training and experience.
Depending on their level of entry, computer hardware engineers can gain Chartered Engineer (CEng) or Incorporated Engineer (IEng) professional status. Both are highly regarded by employers throughout industry.
To register as a CEng or an IEng, you must join a relevant, professional engineering institution licensed by the Engineering Council, such as the BCS, The Chartered Institute for IT.
To become a CEng or an IEng, you need to demonstrate the appropriate competence and commitment. The standards for this are set out in the Engineering Council's UK-SPEC document, which can be downloaded from their website.
UK-SPEC and the engineering institution you've joined can tell you which qualifications are accredited or approved towards CEng or IEng status. Your engineering institution will also advise you on, and process, your application.
Routes to CEng status include completing:
- An accredited honours degree in engineering or technology, plus either an appropriate Masters degree or Engineering Doctorate (EngD) accredited by a professional engineering institution, or appropriate further learning to Masters level.
- Or, an accredited integrated MEng degree.
Routes to IEng status include completing:
- An accredited Bachelors or honours degree in engineering or technology.
- Or, an HNC, HND or foundation degree in engineering or technology, plus appropriate further learning to degree level.
- Or, an NVQ level 4, which has been approved by a licensed engineering institution.
However, you can still become a CEng or an IEng if you don't have these academic qualifications. Further information about the assessment process can be found in UK-SPEC.
Depending on their qualification, computer hardware engineers can progress by taking on more responsibility for the management of engineering projects and teams of engineers.
Some engineers choose to become self-employed or take contract work on a freelance basis.
To enter a degree course in computer systems engineering, the usual requirement is:
- 2/3 A levels, usually in Maths and a science or technology subject, eg, Physics, Computing, Electronics
- GCSEs in your A level subjects at grade C or above
- A further 2/3 GCSEs at grade C or above
- English, Maths and a science subject are usually required at GCSE at grade C or above.
Other qualifications, such as a relevant Edexcel (BTEC) level 3 National or the International Baccalaureate Diploma are often accepted. Check prospectuses carefully.
Some universities accept the Welsh Baccalaureate as equivalent to 1 A-level.
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.
Candidates with relevant technical qualifications and skills have an advantage.
Most colleges will consider applications from older candidates who don't have the usual entry requirements. You should check the admissions policy of individual colleges.
The University of Central Lancashire offers a degree in Computer Engineering, by part-time study.
London South Bank University offers an HNC and HND in Electrical and Electronic Engineering, via part-time evening study.
London College UCK offers an HNC and HND in Electronic/Electrical Engineering, via distance learning.
The University of Portsmouth offers a degree in Electronic Systems Engineering, via distance learning.
Information on pathways to registration as a Chartered (CEng) or Incorporated (IEng) Engineer can be found on the Engineering Council's website.
Sponsorship for higher education study in computer engineering is available from the larger engineering and manufacturing companies. Funding for postgraduate study is available through universities from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC).
- 10% of people in occupations such as computer hardware engineer are self-employed.
- 2% work part-time.
- 23% have flexible hours.
- 4% of employees work on a temporary basis.
Professional institutionsProfessional institutions have the following roles:
- To support their members.
- To protect the public by keeping standards high in their professions.
For more information on the institution(s) relevant to this career, check out the contacts below.
Skills for science, engineering and manufacturing technologies
Address: 14 Upton Road, Watford, Hertfordshire WD18 0JT
Tel: 0845 6439001
Engineering technology news
Publisher: EngineeringUK and Royal Academy of Engineering
Queen's University Belfast
The Tech Partnership
Skills for business and information technology
Address: 1 Castle Lane, London SW1E 6DR
Tel: 020 7963 8920
Specialists in graduate careers
Address: Unit 6, The Quad, 49 Atalanta Street, Fulham, London SW6 6TU
Tel: 020 7565 7900
BCS: The Chartered Institute for IT
Address: First Floor, Block D, North Star House, North Star Avenue, Swindon SN2 1FA
Tel: 0845 3004417
Bring IT On
Address: Kings Place, 90 York Way, London N1 9GU
Tel: 020 3353 2000
Publisher: Venture Marketing Group
Getting into Engineering Courses
Author: James Burnett Publisher: Trotman
Address: 105 West George Street, Glasgow G2 1QL
Tel: 0141 2213181
Address: 246 High Holborn, London WC1V 7EX
Tel: 020 3206 0500
Engineering Training Council Northern Ireland (ETC NI)
Northern Ireland Enquiries
Address: Sketrick House, Ards Business Park, Jubilee Road, Newtownards BT23 4YH
Tel: 028 9182 2377
Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET)
Address: Michael Faraday House, Six Hills Way, Stevenage, Hertfordshire SG1 2AY
Tel: 01438 313311
Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC)
Address: Polaris House, North Star Avenue, Swindon SN2 1ET
Tel: 01793 444000