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How to Become a Hardware Engineer

Hardware Engineer


It's a great time to become a hardware engineer.


Technology has taken the front seat in the world today. And hardware engineers are seating right in the center.

Thanks to them, we can boast of our smartphones, laptops, television sets, and many other life-saving tools.

Hence, we can't deny it. Life won't be complete without hardware engineers.

Their relevance in every industry is undisputed.

The US Bureau of Labor Statics (BLS) reported that hardware engineers would experience at least a 6 percent increase in job growth from 2018 – 2028.

That's great news for anyone who plans to venture into the hardware engineering industry.

The BIG question is how!

And that's what this post is about—to comprehensively put you through the journey of becoming a (successful) hardware engineer.
Are you ready? Let's dive in.


1. What Does a Computer Hardware Engineer do?


engineer technician designing drawings


Another title for a computer hardware engineer is a hardware engineer.

They are professionals that plan, build, and test new computing devices like processors, memory devices, and routers.

But that's not all.

They are also responsible for building peripherals like printers, keyboards, and routers.

So, in this section, we're going to list the job description of computer hardware engineers.

That way, you'd know what you're up for—as you enter the industry.
Hardware Engineer Job Description


Hardware Engineer


Here are the primary duties of a computer hardware engineer:

● Refine processes and test work

● Recognize and insulate defects

● Design and build the software components that control computers

● Multiple testing of devices to ensure they are working properly

● Produce, test, and amend product prototypes

● Recover data for analysis of system capabilities

● Oversee and design the creation of computer hardware equipment

● Create specifications for computing parts

● Regulate the efficiency of processes

● Analyze and prescribe the right hardware to users

● Infuse components into the final design

● Review the effectiveness of the design and modify if necessary

● Design and test electronic components and circuits

● Leverage computers expansively to create and evaluate designs.

● Design and build central processing units, support peripherals, microprocessors, support logic, custom integrated circuits, disk drives, and printers

● Recommend power supply configurations and requirements

● Manage other engineers and technicians during the manufacturing phase

● Evaluate cost, safety factors, and reliability of new hardware devices


2. Computer Hardware Engineer Salary


Computer Hardware Engineer Salary


According to, a reputable job board, a computer hardware engineer's average salary in the US is $89 641 per annum.

But the truth is your salary depends on four main factors: your level of experience, popular skills, location, and company.


Hardware Engineer



1. By Level of Experience


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An entry-level computer hardware engineer with a few months' experience can earn an average of $71,786 per annum (including bonuses, overtime pay, and tips).

With about 1 – 4 years of experience on the job, a computer hardware engineer can earn an average of $78,439 per annum.

With 5 – 9 years of experience as a computer hardware engineer, you can earn about $91,943 per annum.

Computer hardware engineers with 10 – 19 years of experience can average $114 126 per annum.

And computer hardware engineers with 20 years of experience and higher (in their late-career) can earn an average of $116,859 every year.


2. Increased Pay Based On Popular Skills


Did you know that you can get a higher salary as an entry-level computer hardware engineer than a regular hardware engineer?
Yes, of course! It's possible.

But you must be willing to get new popular skills for computer hardware engineers to boost your value—and pay eventually.

Here are the popular key skills you need:

● Board design/debug - $83,565 per annum

● Computer hardware technician - $80,602 per annum

● C Programming language - $77,369 per annum

● C++ Programing language - $83,467 per annum

● Engineering design - $87,206


hardware engineer



3. Pay by Location


The salary of computer hardware engineers varies based on their location.

The US has the highest-paid computer hardware engineers in the world—closely followed by Switzerland.

Here's an extensive list of the average pay computer hardware engineers around the world earn:

● Australia- $90,376 USD

● Brazil - $30,484 USD

● Canada - $80,255 USD

● China - $38,228 USD

● Denmark - $84,480 USD

● Estonia - $28,899 USD

● Finland - $77,717 USD

● Germany - $82,486 USD

● Israel - $59,049 USD

● India - $892 USD

● Italy - $62,431 USD

● Japan - $99,842 USD

● Netherlands - $71,072 USD

● New Zealand - $76,293 USD

● Norway - $89,641 USD

● Singapore - $76,097 USD

● Switzerland - $102,335 USD

● Ukraine - $21,198 USD

● The United Arab Emirates - $79,330

● The United Kingdom - $73,238

● United States of America - $105,760

In the US, computer hardware engineers in the District of Columbia earn the most money. They receive an average of $116,660.

Engineers in Delaware earn the least salary—with an average of $66,270.


4. Salary by Companies


The company you choose to work for determines the salary you'll receive.

However, don't get carried away by companies with big names. Some of them don't pay high but give great benefits and opportunities.

On the other hand, some companies that aren't so big pay their computer hardware engineers high.

So, everything depends on your needs.

Here's an image showing different companies with their average salary packages.


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3. How to Become a Hardware Engineer?


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“For you to become a hardware engineer, you need to be a BORN GENIUS.”

Have you heard that before?

Well, there IS no such thing!


You need a lot of dedication.

Yeah! A lot of it.

Passion is another crucial ingredient you need.

You need to decide, beforehand, on the class of hardware engineering you'll be choosing.

There are two classes of hardware engineers.

One class of engineers spend long hours using microscopes to produce nanotechnology that enhances microscopic computing and storage components.

The other class of engineers focuses on creating larger items like handheld gaming devices or circuit boards.
For both types of engineers, one thing is common.

They fuse the demands of software with hardware—while considering its pros and cons.


Computer Hardware Engineer Requirements


In this section, we shall briefly discuss the requirements to become a hardware engineer.

But first off, let’s see this.

Answering the Big Question

Before you venture into the hardware engineering profession, you need to answer the BIG question.

Is hardware engineering for you?

Will you find happiness as a hardware engineer? Or are you drawn to the enormous paychecks that hardware engineers make? If the latter is the case, you may wear out over time.


It's not the right motivation for such a demanding career.
It would help if you had a strong passion for finding new solutions for old challenges. And it would be best if you enjoyed working with your hands.

Also, you've got to be best friends with Mathematics and calculus.
But that's not enough.

Another requirement is to have a deep scientific aptitude. After all, it's a science-related field.
If you can't stand handling any of these requirements, it's okay.
Move on, while it's STILL early, to something more enjoyable for you.

Don't bother getting the necessary education for it.


Computer Hardware Engineering Education & Certification Requirements


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Now, you've made up your mind to become a hardware engineer. The next thing to do is to find out the necessary education and certification required to start practicing.

In this section, we're going to take you through the four levels of education you need to become a professional and successful computer hardware engineer.

Entry-Level Hardware Engineer (Bachelor's Degree)


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Yeah! You guessed, right.

The first step is to secure a bachelor's degree.

Some employers accept an associate degree for entry-level positions.
But most employers choose candidates with a bachelor's degree in computer science or computer engineering.

So, is computer science and computer engineering the only degree option in this field?

No! You can also opt for electrical engineering. In the major, you'll take many classes related to computer science and computer engineering.

While studying, what should you expect?

You'll learn how to design and develop different computer hardware like hard drives, processors, memory, and peripheral equipment (keyboard).

So, you should expect to take a lot of classes related to computer science, mathematics, and physics through your studies.

You should also consider an internship.


Asides from the fact that your collegiate program may require it, an internship helps you achieve a vital goal.

You’ll get the direct experience to work with various computer hardware.

Plus, you'll learn more about developing computer hardware in a monitored setting.

There's more.

Internship helps you build essential industry contacts—which you can use to land a full-time position later. Plus, you can do it during your undergraduate studies or immediately after graduation.

Now, let’s talk about the top engineering schools to earn a bachelor’s degree.

Here’s a list that will help your decision:

1. Massachusetts Institute of Technology

The School of Engineering at Massachusetts Institute has about 388 full-time faculty on staff. And the application fee is $75 for U.S. residents and international students.

Tuition per year: $53,450

Enrollment: Full-time

Application deadline: Not applicable

2. Stanford University

Stanford University’s School of Engineering at about 278 full-time faculty on staff. And the application fee is $125 for international students and U.S residents.

Tuition per year: $55,905

Enrollment: Full-time

Application deadline: December 3rd

3. University of California, Berkeley

At the University of California, the School of Engineering has about 260 full-time faculty on staff. The application fee is $140 and $120 for international students and U.S. residents, respectively.

Tuition per year: $26,544 (out-of-state) and $11,442 (in-state)

Enrollment: Full-time

Application deadline: January 6th

4. Carnegie Mellon University

The Engineering school at Carnegie Mellon University has about 297 full-time faculty on staff. The application fee for U.S residents and international students is $75.

Tuition per year: $48,500 and $2,022 (per credit for part-time)

Enrollment: Full-time and part-time

Application deadline: January 31st

5. University of Michigan, Ann Arbor

This University's College of Engineering has 388 full-time faculty on staff. The application fee is $90 and $75 for international students and U.S residents, respectively.

Tuition per year: $51,126 (out-of-state); $27,202 (in-state); $2,798 (per credit part-time out-of-state); $1,469 (per credit part-time in-state)

Enrollment: Full-time and part-time

Application deadline: Rolling

6. University of Illinois, Urbana Champaign

There are about 453 full-time faculty on staff in the College of Engineering at the University of Illinois. The application fee is $90 for international students and $70 for U.S residents.

Tuition per year: $35,458 (out-of-state) and $18,622 (in-state)
Enrollment: Full-time

Application deadline: Not applicable

7. California Institute of Technology

California Institute of Technology has about 100 full-time faculty members at its Division of Engineering and Applied Science. The application fee is $100 for international students and U.S residents.

Tuition per year: $54,600

Enrollment: Full-time

Application deadline: December 15th

8. Georgia Institute of Technology

Georgia Tech College of Engineering has about 574 full-time faculty on staff. And the application fee is $85 for international students and $75 for U.S residents.

Tuition per year: $29,140 (out-of-state); $14,064 (in-state); $1,215 (per credit part-time out-of-state); $586 (per credit part-time in-state)

Enrollment: Full-time and Part-time

Application deadline: Not applicable

9. Purdue University, West Lafayette

Purdue University's College of Engineering has about 391 full-time faculty on staff. The application fee is $75 for international students and $60 for U.S residents.

Tuition per year: $29,132 (out-of-state); $10,330 (in-state); $929 (per credit part-time out-of-state); $329 (per credit part-time in-state)
Enrollment: Full-time and part-time

Application deadline: Rolling

10. Cornell University

There are about 235 full-time faculty on staff in Cornell University’s college of engineering. The supplication fee is $105 for international students and U.S residents.

Tuition per year: $29,500 and $2,356 (per credit part-time)

Enrollment: Full-time and part-time

Application deadline: Rolling

11. University of Texas, Austin

The University of Texas has 310 full-time faculty on staff in its School of Engineering. The application fee is $90 for international students and $65 for U.S residents.

Tuition per year: $19,320 (out-of-state); $10,554 (in-state)
Enrollment: Full-time

Application deadline: Rolling

12. Princeton University

Princeton University's School of Engineering & Applied Science has 150 full-time faculty on staff. The application fee is $90 for international students and U.S residents.

Tuition per year: $52,800

Enrollment: Full-time

Application deadline: December 1st

13. University of Washington

There are 274 full-time faculty on staff in the College of Engineering at the University of Washington. The application fee is $85 for international students and U.S residents.

Tuition per year: $32,439 (out-of-state); $18,198 (in-state); $1,547 (per credit part-time out-of-state); $867 (per credit part-time in-state)
Enrollment: Full-time and part-time

Application deadline: Not applicable

Join an Accredited Engineering Program


hardware engineer


It's crucial to find an accredited engineering program that supports your long-term goals.

The reason is simple.

The gold standard for engineering education is certification from the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET).
Can you get a regionally accredited undergraduate program?

Yes, you can. But you should note that most employers consider applicants with ABET credentials.

Interestingly, there are ABET programs in every state. And they have accredited about 776 academic institutions in over 31 countries.

Other things you should check out for are:

1. Programs that are best suited to your career goals. For instance, you should look for programs that put more emphasis on hardware integration over software.

2. You need programs that have the necessary facilities required to carry out research. So, you should choose schools that support your preferred interests.

Get Industry Certifications


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One thing is sure in the field of hardware engineering.

The learning NEVER stops.

Things evolve at a rapid pace, and you don't want to be left out.
You need to keep your learning game sharp to remain competitive and productive. So, getting a professional certification IS inevitable.


If a recognized engineering association certifies your knowledge and skills, it automatically boosts your status.

You can also consider sitting for the National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying's P.E. Electrical and Computer (NCEES) exam. But, you can only write the 8-hour exam after you've gained at least four years of experience in the field.

Enroll in Graduate School


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A bachelor's degree in Computer Engineering is a good move. It's even better when you add industry certifications. It’s best with graduate school.

Yes! You can get a Master of Business Administration or a Master of Science in Engineering, focusing on Computer Engineering.

What if you decide to start your entrepreneurial enterprise or move up into management with your firm?

In that case, an MBA would come in handy.


Simple! It will help you round out your skills. It will also serve as an excellent counterbalance to the quantitative analytical approach, which is typical of an engineer.

Plus, it will teach you how to integrate and motivate a team better.


What Are the Relevant Skills You Need to Become a Successful Hardware Engineer?


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Asides from all the diplomas and certificates that a hardware engineer needs, it's crucial to possess the right combination of technical and transferable skills like:



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Majorly, a hardware engineer does two things: create and maintain.
And creativity plays a huge role in this aspect. It's an essential component that allows you to solve problems with ease.

It also allows you to create blueprints for new and innovative technology. So, find hobbies that will help you unleash your creative power.

Problem-Solving Skills


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It's almost impossible to avoid problems—especially when you're handling sophisticated equipment and systems. It's part of the job.

So, with excellent problem-solving skills, you'll identify issues quickly, weigh your options, and get the best possible solution.

Critical Thinking (Analytical skills)


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One of the critical skills you should have as a hardware engineer is critical thinking.

It will help you analyze sophisticated equipment and even consumer’s needs. Afterward, you can use the best method to improve and refine the issue.

Stress Management


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Hardware engineering is quite demanding. Now, imagine handling multiple projects at once—you may get frustrated.

But, with excellent stress management skills, you'll handle pressure effectively.

Technological Awareness


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It's a must for all hardware engineers to keep up with emerging technologies. That way, all your devices will be up-to-date. Also, you'll fulfill your role better and become an invaluable asset to your company.

Communication Skills (Interpersonal Skills)


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At some point in your field, you may need to work with teams comprising of non-technical and technical peers.
How do you pull it off?

Of course, with excellent communication skills.

Building this skill will help you in two ways: being an active listener and a remarkable communicator.

Reading Comprehension


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Reading is a fundamental part of the job. Start by reading difficult handouts—without taking breaks. Then, you can quiz yourself on what you just read.

What kind of books can you read?

White papers on computer hardware engineering and non-fiction books are excellent options. You can start with them.


4.Hardware Engineer Common Learning Routes


To know your onions more as a hardware engineer, you need to get familiarized with common learning routes. By doing that, you’ll be staying updated with the latest news. You’ll also get first-hand information about fresh discoveries in the field.

For instance, you can subscribe to top computer hardware engineering blogs like Tom’s hardware, PureOc, etc. Or you can subscribe to top computer hardware engineering YouTube channels, like GreatScott! You can also join top hardware engineering forums on Reddit—where you can post questions and connect with other senior engineers. Taking online courses from sites like Udacity, Coursera, etc. can also help.


5. How Do You Choose the First Development Board?


Choosing the first development board for your project—as a newbie hardware engineer—can be overwhelming.


There's a ton of development boards to choose from—and making a decision could be difficult.

But before we dive into knowing how to choose the first development board, let's look at the definition of a development board—for the sake of newbies.

A development board is a small circuit board with a microprocessor, microcontroller, or both that supplies the required software and components for programming and design.

The most popular boards used by makers and hobbyists are BeagleBone, Raspberry Pi, and Arduino.

There are lesser-known brands like Texas Instrument's TI LaunchPad and Intel's Galileo.

Generally, there are over 74 various development boards available in the market today.

You can still use stand-alone microcontrollers—even though they are more difficult to use than development boards. But that's a different topic we'll address another time. The goal of this section is to know how to choose a development board.

When it comes to choosing a development board, you need to stick to one with all the components and power you require.

Hence, be cautious not to go for an overkill. It could be wasteful and eventually as bad as picking a development board that lacks your required specifications.


What are the Factors You Should Consider Before Choosing a Development Board?


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The factors include:

1. The Type of Development Board


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The type of board you choose is usually the first factor to consider.
There are three major types of development boards—based on its strengths and specifications.

Microcontroller Boards: they include Mega and Arduino Uno. You can find microcontroller boards on boards made by SparkFun and Adafruit.

Single Board Computers: they include BeagleBone Black and RPi. Vendors like Qualcomm, Samsung, Realtek, and Nvidia use these boards.


Field-programmable Gate Array (FPGA): they are pretty versatile and powerful—but less popular than the first two board types.

It's your project type that determines which development board is right for you. In some cases, you can combine either two or three of the board types—to get your desired result.

2. Programming Language and Community of the Development Board


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The programming language or OS you choose is crucial to consider before selecting the perfect development board for your needs.

Getting the perfect programming language, integrated development environment, and operating systems can form a more attractive board—with a richer experience.

Like the sport custom IDEs and ubiquitous Arduino, popular boards usually come with a ton of features and libraries, which makes their platform easy to use.

But here's the kicker:

Arduino IDE enables you to use multiple programming languages.
It's okay—if you're not familiar with Arduino IDE. You can still go for other microcontroller boards that use the IDE.

We recommend you go for universal languages like C and C++. They support most boards.

If you run single board computers, you can choose from Android, Windows 10 IoT, or Linux OS.

When it comes to community support, it's ideal to consider Arduino and Raspberry Pi—because they have larger communities.

Here's the thing:

A community can provide invaluable resources like source code, tutorials, solutions to problems, and schematics.

So, go for popular boards if you're looking for large communities with over 100,000 people. But if you prefer communities with a smaller populace, opt for the lesser-known boards.

3. Memory (RAM)


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The higher the memory (RAM) size, the faster your board will run. If you're going to run a ton of tasks simultaneously, you should use a large RAM size.

Plus, a large RAM will enhance the way your board processes data.

4. CPU Clock Speed


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Like the RAM, your CPU clock speed will affect the overall speed and performance of your board.

Moreover, this function has a significant impact on your micro processor's performance.

5. General Purpose I/O (GPIO) Pins


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GPIO pins are responsible for connecting external devices or components to your development board.

More pins on your board mean you'll have more simultaneous connections. With the pins, you can connect LCDs, LEDs, and more.
So, if you're going to be connecting many things to your board, go for more GPIO.

6. Graphic Processing Unit (GPU)


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Choosing a board with a high GPU means you'll be getting quality graphics. And with quality graphics, processing videos won't be an issue.

It may also be ideal to look for boards that come with video outputs like VGA or HDMI.

If you handle heavy-duty tasks like gaming, facial recognition, machine vision, or complex display—opt for a board with a high GPU.

7. Analog Pins


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You need analog pins to retrieve data from analog sources—like humidity, temperature, etc. Everything in life has analog values.
Hence, you need to check if your board comes with a high-resolution ADC—if you need to get precise measurements.

8. Storage Space


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You need a development board with enough storage—if you want to store programs, more data, and operating systems.

Eventually, it all depends on your level of usage.

9. Power Consumption


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Most engineers, especially newbies, tend to overlook this factor—although it's quite essential.

This factor plays a significant role—if you plan to run most of your experiments or projects with batteries.

You should also consider the frequency of charging the battery. It's always easier to work with one that lasts long after one charge.

10. Pulse Width Modulation (PWM)


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If you're going to be driving servo motors, you should consider the Pulse Width Modulation (PWM). It's responsible for differentiating the duty cycle of a square wave.

Like Analog inputs, PWM inputs help to determine the resolution and sampling rate of a development board.


11. Price


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Price is one of the essential factors—especially if you're on a tight budget. And the price range of most development boards ranges from $95 - $270.

But it's ideal for you to buy a development board that suits your project first—before price. So, everything depends on your project because you may even go for a less expensive board.


6. How to Choose Engineering Tools?


Getting the right engineering tools for your project could go a long way to enhance your work efficiency.

But, before you choose any engineering tool for your project needs, you should consider the following factors:


1. Your Tools Should Match Your Existing Process


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You must avoid this when choosing a tool:

Changing your process to adapt to how your new tool works. It's simpler to learn how to use a new tool than trying to change your method.

You're most likely to have a bigger problem when you're trying to change your process for the sake of a new tool.

So, the best option is to stick to what you know.


2. Test the Tools Before Committing to Them


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Before choosing a tool, it's always ideal for you to test it—to see how it works.

That way, you can decide if it's good enough to handle your projects.
If you don't want to get stuck with a tool that will frustrate your efforts—DON'T ignore this factor.


3. Find Tools that have Familiar Features


You don't have to be familiar with a particular tool, especially if you're working with a team.

The general rule of thumb is to confirm that at least one member of your team is familiar with the supposed tool's features.
By choosing a familiar tool for your team or organization, you'll ease the tool implementation.


It's Up to You Now


You've got all it takes to fulfill your dreams of becoming a hardware engineer.

It's not as hard as it seems.

The first crucial step to take now is to get the necessary education and acquire the right skills to perfect your trade.

As you grow, you'd learn on the job and gain more experience.
So, it's up to you—take action now!