Computer engineering job description

Computer engineer job duties:

Computer engineers typically do some or all of the following:
- Analyze user’s requirements and make schemes of new computer hardware, creating blueprints of computer equipment to be made
- Conduct research on and develop computer and telecommunications hardware
- Analyze the finished models of the computer hardware they design
- Evaluate results of the tests and make changes in design if it is necessary
- Update equipment of the computer so it could work with new software
- Supervise, inspect and provide design support for the process of making computer hardware
- Co-ordinate teams made of drafters, technologists, technicians and engineers while designing and developing computer and telecommunications hardware
- Take care of relationships with clients and users

Examples of Occupational Titles

• application specific integrated circuit (ASIC) design engineer
• computer engineer
• computer hardware engineer
• engineer, computer hardware
• engineer, telecommunications hardware
• fibre - optic network designer
• hardware circuit board designer
• hardware design engineer
• hardware development engineer
• hardware engineer
• network systems engineer
• network test engineer
• systems designer õ hardware
• technical architect õ hardware
• wireless communications network engineer

Career overview of computer engineering:

Computer engineers jobs are: to conduct research on, make schemes, develop and analyze computer systems and components, just as telecommunications hardware and related equipment. For example, there are circuit boards, networks, processors, memory devices and routers, mainframe systems, fibre-optic networks, local and wide area networks, intranets, the internet, wireless communication networks and other data communication systems. They create new directions in computer hardware and rapid advances in computer technology.


In this computer engineering description, you are going to know some tasks:
- Design new computer hardware according to user’s requirements and make blueprints of computer equipment to be build
- Research and develop telecommunications and computer hardware
- Do the tests for completed models of designed computer hardware
- Evaluate tests results and change the design if there is need for it
- Update computer equipment in order to enable work with new software
- Oversee the process of making computer hardware and evaluate work of engineers, technologists, technicians and drafters
- Gain new knowledge of computer engineering trends and technology
- Maintain relationships with users and clients

Some of the hardware engineers make schemes of noncomputer devices. These devices go into processors and other computer components and help connecting to the Internet. An example could be a car parts with little computer system in it. Some medical devices are also enabled to connect to the Internet and they are made by computer engineers. These professionals have to be sure their components will work with modern software developments without problems. That is why computer hardware engineers often work together with software developers.
Computer hardware engineers may do basic computer programming and test computer code, too.

Work environment of computer engineer:

According to National Household Survey data, those are industries that employed the most computer engineers in 2011:
1. Professional, scientific and technical services 44%
1.a. Computer system design 24%
1.b. Scientific research and development services 11%
1.c. Offices of engineers 5%
2. Telecommunications 14%
3. Manufacturing sector 11%
3.a. Computer and electronic product manufacturing 5%
4. Wholesale trade 7%
5. Public administration 6%

Computer engineers often work in multidisciplinary environment, which make them acquire multiple skills and knowledge. They are often employed by computer and telecommunication hardware manufacturers, in information technology consulting firms, by governmental and research and educational institutions. Computer engineers can work in information technology units throughout the public and private sectors and by engineering, manufacturing and telecommunications firms, too.

Work schedules:

According to the National Household Survey data, about 97.3% of computer engineers work full time and 2.7% of them work part time.

Education and training:

Usually, in order to be employed it is required to have a university degree in computer engineering, in software engineering or electronics engineering. A professional can be employed if has university degree in engineering physics, computer science or in electrical engineering with an option in computers also. A university degree in computer science may be required for some positions. It is always an asset to have participation in co-op program internships.


According to the National Household Survey data for 2011, about 75.4% of computer engineers have bachelor’s degree. About 20.1% of them were post-secondary and 4.5% were with high school education. There was no computer engineer in Canada with less than high school education.
Recently, there is relatively high number of computer engineering degrees granted by universities in Ontario. But, the total number of graduates fell and the proportion of female graduates had also decreased in recent years.

Important qualities:

Creativity – Computer engineers must be creative in order to design completely new and original types of information technology devices. They have to imagine scheme of the device before they create it.

Interpersonal skills and team work - Computer engineers must collaborate successfully with many professionals from other similar areas. They shouldn’t have conflicts because they have to deliver high quality devices.

Analytical skills – These skills are necessary because computer engineers have to analyze complex equipment if they want to find a way to make it better. Analyzing is one of the biggest parts of computer engineer’s work.

Problem solving skills – In this occupation it is necessary to test devices, evaluate results, make a list of possible solutions for the problem and choose the most appropriate one. Computer engineer must be calm, brave and effective.

Speaking skills – This kind of engineers must communicate easily with other engineers from their team. Also, they must talk about project’s requirements with professionals from other, similar areas they are working with and explain all the tasks successfully. Good communication is needed in order to achieve planned goals.

Critical thinking skills – Computer engineers have to define goals, evaluate current situation and make a list of good and bad sides of every possible solution. They use logic and reasoning every day in their work. Critical thinking is very helpful in real work environment.

Planning and organizing. Computer engineers must work on multiple projects at same time and keep track of every one of them. That means they must have good organization in order not to make any crucial mistake.

Licenses, certifications and registrations:

Computer engineers are eligible for registration only after graduation from an accredited educational program. They must also have three or four years of supervised work. This work must be supervised by someone who already have Professional Engineer license and it must be in field of computer engineering. After they gain this experience, they can pass professional practice examination.

This kind of engineers must be licensed by a provincial or territorial association of professional engineers if they want to approve reports or drawings or practice as a Professional Engineers. If someone want to work in this occupation and use the title of engineer, it is required to have membership in the Ordre des ingénieurs du Québec (OIQ).


Supervisory and senior positions are open for those who are ambitious enough and want further success in this occupation. Ambitious computer engineers can gain experience in other areas too. They can improve knowledge and skills in areas of sales, marketing, management, science and engineering. Some of the professionals from computer engineering area may advance to computer and information system managers. Computer engineers who pursue a doctoral degree can contribute to the field through research and teaching at the post-secondary level. They can also be employed in a larger firm in their specialty. Computer engineers may specialize in numerous areas. There are areas of fibre optics, analog and digital signal processing, lasers, integrated circuits, microprocessors, microwaves and radio astronomy and many others.

Pay or computer engineer salary:

According to the official statistics for 2015, the highest median annual wage for computer engineers in Canada was in Alberta. The annual salary in this province was about 93 700 $. Computer engineers in Newfoundland and Labrador were also high paid. Median annual wage there was about 91 800$. The lowest wage was in New Brunswick – only about 73 900$.
National median weekly salary for natural and applied science in Canada, which includes computer engineers, is about 1500$.

Earnings are not stable. They depend on numerous factors like specialization, employer, level of education and experience. Different kinds of benefits are reserved for the highest paid computer engineers. Among these benefits are holiday time, paid sick leave, health and dental insurance. Some of them can get even more benefits, in addition to their salaries. Use of a company car, performance-based bonuses and pension plan contributions are among them.

According to the National Household Survey data for 2011, about 97.3% of computer engineers worked full time and even some extra hours when they have to meet deadline. Part time work is an option for 2.7% of them.

Job outlook:

The business investment in computer sector (machinery and equipment) is high and should remain like that. Because of it, the number of computer engineers is expected to increase in following years. That means labor market situation will remain good for this profession in years to come. Demand for computer services comes in part from households, but mainly from businesses.

According to the official forecast, in next ten year Canadian computer engineers will work mostly in Computer System Design and Related Service, Telecommunications and Computer and Electronic Product Manufacturing services. They will also work in Wholesale Trade sector, Other Professional, Scientific and Technical Services and Finance. Most of these jobs will be in Ontario. Actually, the vast majority of computer engineering positions will be in Ontario and Quebec. They will together account for over 75% of the average annual job openings forecasted for Canada in the next five years. More than half of these job openings will be due to replacement demand – there will be low level of expansion. A lot of computer engineers will also work in British Columbia and Alberta.
Computer engineers in Ontario, Alberta, Newfoundland and Labrador and Manitoba have average age of 43. This is little bit higher than in other provinces. The lowest average age is in Nova Scotia and British Columbia (it is 40 in both provinces). According to the forecast, average age in all provinces will slightly increase in years to come because of lack of new, young workforce.

In next ten years, the highest median annual wage for computer engineers will be in Alberta and Newfoundland and Labrador. The expected wage for 2025 in these provinces is around 122 000$ per year. The lowest median annual salary in 2025 will be in New Brunswick. Expected salary there is about 102 000$.
The highest number of job openings in next five years will be in Ontario. There will be around 408 job openings per year. Relatively high number of new jobs for computer engineers will be in Quebec too – 185 per year. In next few years, replacement demand will be significant in those two provinces. In years to come, demand by replacement will be significantly higher than demand by expansion in all Canadian provinces and territories.
The number of female computer engineers in Canada is quite low. About 13% of job positions in 2011 were held by women. According to the forecast, this number will remain stable in following years.

According to the National Household Survey data for 2011, nearly 40% of computer engineering positions in Canada were held by immigrants. This number is significantly higher than in other occupations. It is expected that it will increase in following years because of plans of the Ordre des ingénieurs du Québec. This association is working on changing the system for applying. It is expected of these changes to allow foreigners to apply to Ordre before they even come to Canada. This will allow more foreigners to enter this occupation quickly.
Job prospects: For this occupation, it is important to gain some practical experience while in college. This could be helpful later in first real work after the graduation. Employers always want and appreciate someone who has good mix of theory and practice. Following latest trends in computer technology will be an asset when searching a job in this occupation. Constant improvement is needed in order to succeed while working as a computer engineer. A professional should have knowledge and/or experience in area of computer software engineering in order to get a job with competitive salary.

For more information:

Ordre des ingénieurs du Québec
Réseau des ingénieurs Du Québec
Engineers Canada
Centre for Research on Information Technologies (CRIM)

Similar job titles:

Aerospace Engineer
Computer or Information Research Scientist
Computer and IS Manager
Computer Programmer
Electrical or Electronics Engineer
Mechanical Engineer

Interesting links:
Electrical Engineering job description
Civil Engineering job description
Construction Engineering job description
Mechanical Engineering job description