Computer Hardware Engineers
17-2061.00

Research, design, develop, or test computer or computer-related equipment for commercial, industrial, military, or scientific use. May supervise the manufacturing and installation of computer or computer-related equipment and components.

Sample of reported job titles: Design Engineer, Engineer, Field Service Engineer, Hardware Design Engineer, Hardware Engineer, Physical Design Engineer, Project Engineer, Staff Engineer, Systems Integration Engineer

Occupation-Specific Information

Tasks

  • Update knowledge and skills to keep up with rapid advancements in computer technology.
  • Design and develop computer hardware and support peripherals, including central processing units (CPUs), support logic, microprocessors, custom integrated circuits, and printers and disk drives.
  • Confer with engineering staff and consult specifications to evaluate interface between hardware and software and operational and performance requirements of overall system.
  • Build, test, and modify product prototypes, using working models or theoretical models constructed with computer simulation.
  • Write detailed functional specifications that document the hardware development process and support hardware introduction.
  • Test and verify hardware and support peripherals to ensure that they meet specifications and requirements, by recording and analyzing test data.
  • Direct technicians, engineering designers or other technical support personnel as needed.
  • Provide technical support to designers, marketing and sales departments, suppliers, engineers and other team members throughout the product development and implementation process.
  • Select hardware and material, assuring compliance with specifications and product requirements.
  • Store, retrieve, and manipulate data for analysis of system capabilities and requirements.
  • Analyze user needs and recommend appropriate hardware.
  • Evaluate factors such as reporting formats required, cost constraints, and need for security restrictions to determine hardware configuration.
  • Provide training and support to system designers and users.
  • Monitor functioning of equipment and make necessary modifications to ensure system operates in conformance with specifications.
  • Specify power supply requirements and configuration, drawing on system performance expectations and design specifications.
  • Assemble and modify existing pieces of equipment to meet special needs.
  • Analyze information to determine, recommend, and plan layout, including type of computers and peripheral equipment modifications.
  • Recommend purchase of equipment to control dust, temperature, and humidity in area of system installation.

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Technology Skills

Hot technology Hot Technologies are requirements frequently included in employer job postings.

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Occupational Requirements

Work Activities

  • Working with Computers — Using computers and computer systems (including hardware and software) to program, write software, set up functions, enter data, or process information.
  • Making Decisions and Solving Problems — Analyzing information and evaluating results to choose the best solution and solve problems.
  • Updating and Using Relevant Knowledge — Keeping up-to-date technically and applying new knowledge to your job.
  • Analyzing Data or Information — Identifying the underlying principles, reasons, or facts of information by breaking down information or data into separate parts.
  • Getting Information — Observing, receiving, and otherwise obtaining information from all relevant sources.
  • Thinking Creatively — Developing, designing, or creating new applications, ideas, relationships, systems, or products, including artistic contributions.
  • Processing Information — Compiling, coding, categorizing, calculating, tabulating, auditing, or verifying information or data.
  • Communicating with Supervisors, Peers, or Subordinates — Providing information to supervisors, co-workers, and subordinates by telephone, in written form, e-mail, or in person.
  • Evaluating Information to Determine Compliance with Standards — Using relevant information and individual judgment to determine whether events or processes comply with laws, regulations, or standards.
  • Estimating the Quantifiable Characteristics of Products, Events, or Information — Estimating sizes, distances, and quantities; or determining time, costs, resources, or materials needed to perform a work activity.
  • Documenting/Recording Information — Entering, transcribing, recording, storing, or maintaining information in written or electronic/magnetic form.
  • Identifying Objects, Actions, and Events — Identifying information by categorizing, estimating, recognizing differences or similarities, and detecting changes in circumstances or events.
  • Organizing, Planning, and Prioritizing Work — Developing specific goals and plans to prioritize, organize, and accomplish your work.
  • Drafting, Laying Out, and Specifying Technical Devices, Parts, and Equipment — Providing documentation, detailed instructions, drawings, or specifications to tell others about how devices, parts, equipment, or structures are to be fabricated, constructed, assembled, modified, maintained, or used.
  • Developing Objectives and Strategies — Establishing long-range objectives and specifying the strategies and actions to achieve them.
  • Interpreting the Meaning of Information for Others — Translating or explaining what information means and how it can be used.
  • Providing Consultation and Advice to Others — Providing guidance and expert advice to management or other groups on technical, systems-, or process-related topics.
  • Developing and Building Teams — Encouraging and building mutual trust, respect, and cooperation among team members.
  • Monitoring Processes, Materials, or Surroundings — Monitoring and reviewing information from materials, events, or the environment, to detect or assess problems.
  • Repairing and Maintaining Electronic Equipment — Servicing, repairing, calibrating, regulating, fine-tuning, or testing machines, devices, and equipment that operate primarily on the basis of electrical or electronic (not mechanical) principles.
  • Scheduling Work and Activities — Scheduling events, programs, and activities, as well as the work of others.
  • Coordinating the Work and Activities of Others — Getting members of a group to work together to accomplish tasks.
  • Establishing and Maintaining Interpersonal Relationships — Developing constructive and cooperative working relationships with others, and maintaining them over time.
  • Judging the Qualities of Objects, Services, or People — Assessing the value, importance, or quality of things or people.
  • Training and Teaching Others — Identifying the educational needs of others, developing formal educational or training programs or classes, and teaching or instructing others.
  • Guiding, Directing, and Motivating Subordinates — Providing guidance and direction to subordinates, including setting performance standards and monitoring performance.
  • Inspecting Equipment, Structures, or Materials — Inspecting equipment, structures, or materials to identify the cause of errors or other problems or defects.
  • Communicating with People Outside the Organization — Communicating with people outside the organization, representing the organization to customers, the public, government, and other external sources. This information can be exchanged in person, in writing, or by telephone or e-mail.

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Detailed Work Activities

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Work Context

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Experience Requirements

Job Zone

Title
Job Zone Four: Considerable Preparation Needed
Education
Most of these occupations require a four-year bachelor's degree, but some do not.
Related Experience
A considerable amount of work-related skill, knowledge, or experience is needed for these occupations. For example, an accountant must complete four years of college and work for several years in accounting to be considered qualified.
Job Training
Employees in these occupations usually need several years of work-related experience, on-the-job training, and/or vocational training.
Job Zone Examples
Many of these occupations involve coordinating, supervising, managing, or training others. Examples include real estate brokers, sales managers, database administrators, graphic designers, chemists, art directors, and cost estimators.
SVP Range
2-4 years of preparation (7.0 to < 8.0)

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Training & Credentials

State training
Local training
Certifications
State licenses
Apprenticeships
Have a career path or location in mind? Visit Apprenticeship.gov external site to find apprenticeship opportunities near you.

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Worker Requirements

Skills

  • Critical Thinking — Using logic and reasoning to identify the strengths and weaknesses of alternative solutions, conclusions, or approaches to problems.
  • Reading Comprehension — Understanding written sentences and paragraphs in work-related documents.
  • Active Listening — Giving full attention to what other people are saying, taking time to understand the points being made, asking questions as appropriate, and not interrupting at inappropriate times.
  • Complex Problem Solving — Identifying complex problems and reviewing related information to develop and evaluate options and implement solutions.
  • Speaking — Talking to others to convey information effectively.
  • Writing — Communicating effectively in writing as appropriate for the needs of the audience.
  • Active Learning — Understanding the implications of new information for both current and future problem-solving and decision-making.
  • Judgment and Decision Making — Considering the relative costs and benefits of potential actions to choose the most appropriate one.
  • Operations Analysis — Analyzing needs and product requirements to create a design.
  • Systems Analysis — Determining how a system should work and how changes in conditions, operations, and the environment will affect outcomes.
  • Systems Evaluation — Identifying measures or indicators of system performance and the actions needed to improve or correct performance, relative to the goals of the system.
  • Mathematics — Using mathematics to solve problems.
  • Coordination — Adjusting actions in relation to others' actions.
  • Monitoring — Monitoring/Assessing performance of yourself, other individuals, or organizations to make improvements or take corrective action.
  • Time Management — Managing one's own time and the time of others.
  • Instructing — Teaching others how to do something.
  • Operations Monitoring — Watching gauges, dials, or other indicators to make sure a machine is working properly.

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Knowledge

  • Computers and Electronics — Knowledge of circuit boards, processors, chips, electronic equipment, and computer hardware and software, including applications and programming.
  • Engineering and Technology — Knowledge of the practical application of engineering science and technology. This includes applying principles, techniques, procedures, and equipment to the design and production of various goods and services.
  • Design — Knowledge of design techniques, tools, and principles involved in production of precision technical plans, blueprints, drawings, and models.
  • Mathematics — Knowledge of arithmetic, algebra, geometry, calculus, statistics, and their applications.
  • English Language — Knowledge of the structure and content of the English language including the meaning and spelling of words, rules of composition, and grammar.
  • Physics — Knowledge and prediction of physical principles, laws, their interrelationships, and applications to understanding fluid, material, and atmospheric dynamics, and mechanical, electrical, atomic and sub-atomic structures and processes.
  • Telecommunications — Knowledge of transmission, broadcasting, switching, control, and operation of telecommunications systems.

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Education

How much education does a new hire need to perform a job in this occupation? Respondents said:

  • 48%
     
    responded: Bachelor’s degree required
  • 34%
     
    responded: Master’s degree requiredmore info
  • 7%
     
    responded: Some college, no degree requiredmore info

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Worker Characteristics

Abilities

  • Deductive Reasoning — The ability to apply general rules to specific problems to produce answers that make sense.
  • Inductive Reasoning — The ability to combine pieces of information to form general rules or conclusions (includes finding a relationship among seemingly unrelated events).
  • Information Ordering — The ability to arrange things or actions in a certain order or pattern according to a specific rule or set of rules (e.g., patterns of numbers, letters, words, pictures, mathematical operations).
  • Oral Comprehension — The ability to listen to and understand information and ideas presented through spoken words and sentences.
  • Oral Expression — The ability to communicate information and ideas in speaking so others will understand.
  • Written Comprehension — The ability to read and understand information and ideas presented in writing.
  • Problem Sensitivity — The ability to tell when something is wrong or is likely to go wrong. It does not involve solving the problem, only recognizing that there is a problem.
  • Written Expression — The ability to communicate information and ideas in writing so others will understand.
  • Near Vision — The ability to see details at close range (within a few feet of the observer).
  • Category Flexibility — The ability to generate or use different sets of rules for combining or grouping things in different ways.
  • Originality — The ability to come up with unusual or clever ideas about a given topic or situation, or to develop creative ways to solve a problem.
  • Speech Clarity — The ability to speak clearly so others can understand you.
  • Fluency of Ideas — The ability to come up with a number of ideas about a topic (the number of ideas is important, not their quality, correctness, or creativity).
  • Speech Recognition — The ability to identify and understand the speech of another person.
  • Visualization — The ability to imagine how something will look after it is moved around or when its parts are moved or rearranged.
  • Flexibility of Closure — The ability to identify or detect a known pattern (a figure, object, word, or sound) that is hidden in other distracting material.
  • Mathematical Reasoning — The ability to choose the right mathematical methods or formulas to solve a problem.
  • Number Facility — The ability to add, subtract, multiply, or divide quickly and correctly.

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Interests

Interest code: IRC
Want to discover your interests? Take the O*NET Interest Profiler at My Next Move.
  • Investigative — Investigative occupations frequently involve working with ideas, and require an extensive amount of thinking. These occupations can involve searching for facts and figuring out problems mentally.
  • Realistic — Realistic occupations frequently involve work activities that include practical, hands-on problems and solutions. They often deal with plants, animals, and real-world materials like wood, tools, and machinery. Many of the occupations require working outside, and do not involve a lot of paperwork or working closely with others.
  • Conventional — Conventional occupations frequently involve following set procedures and routines. These occupations can include working with data and details more than with ideas. Usually there is a clear line of authority to follow.

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Work Values

  • Working Conditions — Occupations that satisfy this work value offer job security and good working conditions. Corresponding needs are Activity, Compensation, Independence, Security, Variety and Working Conditions.
  • Achievement — Occupations that satisfy this work value are results oriented and allow employees to use their strongest abilities, giving them a feeling of accomplishment. Corresponding needs are Ability Utilization and Achievement.
  • Independence — Occupations that satisfy this work value allow employees to work on their own and make decisions. Corresponding needs are Creativity, Responsibility and Autonomy.

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Work Styles

  • Attention to Detail — Job requires being careful about detail and thorough in completing work tasks.
  • Analytical Thinking — Job requires analyzing information and using logic to address work-related issues and problems.
  • Innovation — Job requires creativity and alternative thinking to develop new ideas for and answers to work-related problems.
  • Initiative — Job requires a willingness to take on responsibilities and challenges.
  • Cooperation — Job requires being pleasant with others on the job and displaying a good-natured, cooperative attitude.
  • Achievement/Effort — Job requires establishing and maintaining personally challenging achievement goals and exerting effort toward mastering tasks.
  • Integrity — Job requires being honest and ethical.
  • Persistence — Job requires persistence in the face of obstacles.
  • Dependability — Job requires being reliable, responsible, and dependable, and fulfilling obligations.
  • Stress Tolerance — Job requires accepting criticism and dealing calmly and effectively with high-stress situations.
  • Adaptability/Flexibility — Job requires being open to change (positive or negative) and to considerable variety in the workplace.
  • Independence — Job requires developing one's own ways of doing things, guiding oneself with little or no supervision, and depending on oneself to get things done.
  • Self-Control — Job requires maintaining composure, keeping emotions in check, controlling anger, and avoiding aggressive behavior, even in very difficult situations.
  • Leadership — Job requires a willingness to lead, take charge, and offer opinions and direction.

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Workforce Characteristics

Wages & Employment Trends

Median wages (2021)
$61.62 hourly, $128,170 annual
State wages
Local wages
Employment (2020)
66,200 employees
Projected growth (2020-2030)
Slower than average (1% to 5%)
Projected job openings (2020-2030)
4,500
State trends
Top industries (2020)

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics 2021 wage data external site and 2020-2030 employment projections external site . “Projected growth” represents the estimated change in total employment over the projections period (2020-2030). “Projected job openings” represent openings due to growth and replacement.

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Job Openings on the Web

State job openings
Local job openings

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More Information

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Sources of Additional Information

Disclaimer: Sources are listed to provide additional information on related jobs, specialties, and/or industries. Links to non-DOL Internet sites are provided for your convenience and do not constitute an endorsement.

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