There are two kinds of computer engineers. Hardware engineers deal with the physical components, such as the box and electronics. Software engineers, often called developers, create the programs that allow users to perform tasks. Their salaries depend on their job titles.
Computer hardware engineers averaged $101,360 per year, or $48.73 per hour, as of May 2011, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The lowest-earning 10 percent received less than $62,400, or $30, while the highest paid 10 percent made over $147,610, or $70.07. Most worked in computer systems design to make a mean $100,030, or $48.09, although their highest wages were in specialized design services, averaging $124,540, or $59.88. Hardware engineers research, design and test the physical components of a computer, including circuit boards, chips and keyboards. They ensure that their creations function more efficiently with the latest software technology.
System software engineers made a mean annual $94,520, or $45.44 hourly, in 2011. Salaries could fall to less than $57,810, or $27.80, or rise above $135,780, or $65.28. Computer systems design was the biggest employer and it paid average wages of $94,250, or $45.31. The highest paying employers were manufacturers of paper and paper products, with means at $111,480, or $53.59. System software engineers create the software that translates commands from applications into instructions that the hardware can understand. They create operating systems and computer interfaces not only for desktops, but for consumer electronics such as cell phones and vehicle navigation devices.
In 2011, the average salaries for applications software engineers were $92,080 yearly, or $44.27 per hour. The lowest-paid earned less than $54,980, or $26.43, and the best-paid made over $136,490, or $65.62. Computer systems design had the highest employment and average wages of $92,050, or $44.25. The best pay was in animal slaughtering and processing at a mean $150,470, or $72.34. Applications software engineers develop the programs that allow users to use computers. Examples of their creations include word processors for writing reports, databases for organizing customer information and multimedia players for watching the latest movies online.
The minimum requirement for a computer engineer is a bachelor’s degree in computer engineering for hardware engineers, or in computer science, for software engineers. For higher job levels or research positions, employers may require a master’s credential. Such programs concentrate on classroom learning, but can include an internship or co-op component to allow students to gain practical experience. All engineers need continuing education throughout their careers to keep up with the rapid changes in technology.