Computer Engineering: What Does a Computer Engineer Do?

By Jordan Fabel •  Updated: July 31, 2021  •  7 min read  •  Engineer
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Do you like solving complex puzzles and finding creative ways to tackle problems? Want to stay up to date on the latest developments in computing and be involved in ushering in the next wave of technology? Do you enjoy taking apart computers and figuring out how they work so you can make them better?

If any of this sounds familiar, you could do very well in the field of computer engineering. Read on to learn more about this career field and what a computer engineer does every day.

What Does a Computer Engineer Do?

What Is Computer Engineering?

Before we dive into everything a computer engineer does, let’s talk about what computer engineering is. Computer engineering deals with both the hardware and software sides of computing, which we’ll dive deeper into in a moment. This field researches, develops, tests, and manages all manner of computer systems.

Computer engineering has become one of the most cutting-edge industries in the world today. Computers impact nearly every part of our lives – our healthcare, finances, education, even socializing. Computer engineers help to make the discoveries that advance our technology and give us amazing new tools.

Hardware vs. Software

As we mentioned, computer engineering deals with both the hardware and software sides of computing. Hardware refers to the physical machines that house computing systems. This can include everything from monitors and phones to motherboards, hard drives, batteries, and so on.

Software is an umbrella term covering all the programs and systems that drive our computers. This may include everything from the apps on your phone to the browser you’re reading this article on. It also includes networks, cloud computing, operating systems, and even malware.

Conduct Research

One of the most important things a computer engineer does is conduct research. Computer engineers are on the cutting edge of one of the most advanced industries in the world. They’re responsible for developing the next new generation of technology, so they need to be up to date on the latest developments in computing.

As a computer engineer, you’ll need to do regular research on the latest software and hardware technology developments. This should include both recent inventions as well as theories that are still being explored. You’ll use this information to keep your systems up to date and develop any new ideas of your own.

Develop Computer Hardware

Aside from conducting research, computer engineers also help to develop new computer hardware. As software gets more advanced, we need hardware that can keep up and facilitate new developments. Previous hardware advances have included solid-state drives, i7 processors, and high-performance batteries.

Part of your duties as a computer engineer will be to contribute to these hardware developments. In addition, you’ll need to use the research you conduct to bring new ideas to the table and experiment to make them work. This will require a high level of problem-solving, creativity, and teamwork, as you’ll need to brainstorm solutions.

Write Software Programs

In addition to developing new computer hardware, computer engineers also develop software programs. As a result, software developments are some of the most exciting new technologies hitting the industry today. In particular, artificial intelligence promises to revolutionize nearly every aspect of our lives.

Computer engineers are responsible for pushing these software developments forward. This may include something as simple as developing an app to help people keep up with what they should plant in their gardens at which times of the year. It may also be as advanced as creating a new artificial intelligence program to help doctors diagnose patients.

Create Software Solutions

Sometimes, computer engineers will need to use their skills to tackle specific problems rather than developing open-ended solutions. For example, you may be in a job that requires you to develop code to meet certain needs for your company or customers. Your job may even be to provide custom solutions for clients with specialized project needs.

As a computer engineer, you’ll need to use your skills to create specific solutions and meet client needs. You may need to work within design, hardware, and timeline constraints. Your code will have to be error-free, clean, and will need to meet all client or project specifications.

Set Up Networks

Networks are one of the most central parts of our computer systems today. They are also one of the biggest responsibilities of computer engineers.

Networks connect multiple different computers. They may use either internal systems or through the wider world of the internet. They transform computers from isolated machines to powerful webs of information.

Computer engineers may need to design, set up, and help to maintain networks. You’ll need to know which network style will be most appropriate for the application you’re using. And you’ll have to design networks so they’re efficient, easy to use, and fast, ensuring that all parties who need to be able to connect can do so.

Manage Operating Systems

Operating systems are the interfaces through which we interact with our computers. They provide the bridge between our computers’ raw code and the icons and programs we use to perform different tasks. The three most popular operating systems in use today are Windows, iOS, and Linux.

Part of the role of a computer engineer is to help manage operating systems at your workplace. They may involve getting these operating systems installed and setting up and running necessary updates on the more basic end of things. Or you may need to navigate multiple operating systems on a single machine or help build custom solutions for an operating system.

Develop Robots

Robotics is one of the most exciting fields in computer science today.

Robots have become commonplace in our world. They deliver our food, assist in complex surgeries, assemble the products we use every day, and even sweep our floors. In addition, scientists are in the process of developing robots that can jump, dance, communicate more naturally with humans, and learn.

Computer engineers are at the forefront of this research. In addition, robotics engineers create innovations in both software and hardware.

You could be responsible for developing the programs that allow robots to behave more like humans or tackle new tasks in the right job. You could also design the hardware that gives those programs the tools they need to interact with our physical world.

What Technology You’ll Use

As a computer engineer, you’ll work with various types of technology, and you may even be involved in developing new technology. For example, you’ll have to work with mobile devices, such as phones, tablets, e-readers, and so on. You’ll also need to work on desktop computers, computer-controlled machines, and potentially even robots.

From a software perspective, you’ll be working with – and developing – the latest programs. You’ll work with artificial intelligence, cloud computing systems, neural networks, and the latest security protocols. You’ll also have to stay up to date on new programming languages and the latest approaches to coding.

Where You’ll Work

Work setups for computer engineers can vary a lot, depending on the industry you work in and your specific job. For example, you may need to work in an office with a variety of other engineers with who you’ll collaborate on projects. You might also need to be prepared to meet with clients to discuss project specifications and updates.

More and more these days, however, computer engineers are working from home. Much of the software side of computer engineering can be done from anywhere.

In any case, you can expect to spend most of your days sitting in front of a computer working on code or designing hardware models.

Learn More About Computer Engineering

Computer engineering is an exciting job in one of the most advanced fields on the market today. You’ll get to be on the cutting edge of developing new technology, whether apps or robotics. In addition, there are a wide variety of industries you can work in, depending on your opportunities and area of interest.

Jordan Fabel

Jordan Fabel

Covering different 'paths' that people's lives can take. Creative, foster parent, ticket dismissal, you get the idea. Exploring the requirements, certifications, exams, and obviously, approved courses along each path.