Hardware Engineer

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What Is a Hardware Engineer? How to Become One, Salary, Skills.

Hardware engineers create computer machines and technologies used to run software and store data on varying scales. Here’s what to know about a hardware engineer’s needed skills, salary and how to become one.


What Is a Hardware Engineer?

Hardware engineers develop the physical equipment required by a computer system, including computer peripherals, electronic devices and network systems. They tend to oversee the full lifecycle of a computer system from concept to installation and maintenance.


What Do Hardware Engineers Do?

Hardware engineers design, build and test all hardware components of computers and related devices. Manufactured hardware can include circuit boards and processors, computer routers, gaming consoles, mobile devices as well as Internet-of-Things (IoT) devices.

Hardware Engineer Responsibilities

  • Design computer hardware and determine machine requirements.
  • Build and modify computer systems and hardware components.
  • Test and analyze computer hardware to gauge necessary functionality.
  • Maintain and update hardware to ensure compatibility with software needs.

Day-to-Day Responsibilities of Hardware Engineers

  • Use electronic design automation (EDA) and printed circuit board (PCB) design tools like Fusion 360 to sketch schematics and visualize component placement.
  • Use programming languages like Python to automate simulation flows and test hardware features.
  • Troubleshoot hardware defects and conduct hands-on investigations.
  • Communicate hardware needs between clients, customers and other engineers.

Hardware Engineers Within a Company

Hardware engineers are usually part of a designated hardware team within a company. They often collaborate with IT professionals and software engineers to accomplish their work. They also may report to senior hardware engineers or hardware engineering project managers.

Importance of Hardware Engineers

Hardware engineers make necessary technology that is used by professionals almost every day. Computers, cell phones and smart devices may not be properly built or updated without hardware engineer expertise.

A Day in Life of a Microsoft Hardware Engineer. | Video: swang swang


What Skills Are Needed to Be a Hardware Engineer?

Qualifications to Be a Hardware Engineer

  • One or more years of experience in hardware, network, PCB and/or computer system design.
  • Ability to navigate and troubleshoot components of computer systems.
  • Proficiency in Bash, MATLAB, Perl, PHP, Python and/or operating system shell scripts.

Hardware Engineer Prerequisites

  • ABET-accredited bachelor’s degree in computer engineering, electrical engineering, IT or a similar field.

Hardware Engineer Hard Skills

  • Expertise in modern computer systems, network systems and technologies.
  • Expertise in EDA and PCB design and schematics tools (Altium Designer, EAGLE, Fusion 360, OrCAD).
  • Expertise in scripting languages and shell scripting programs (Bash, MATLAB, Perl, PHP, Python).
  • Experience with operating system software (Android, iOS, Linux, macOS, Microsoft Windows, UNIX). 
  • Familiarity with IT systems and architectures.
  • Familiarity with product development and life-cycle management.

Hardware Engineer Soft Skills

  • Analytical thinking skills.
  • Detail-oriented skills.
  • Design for manufacturing (DFM) and design for testing (DFT) processes.
  • Verbal and written communication skills.

Tools and Programs Hardware Engineers Use

  • Altium Designer
  • Ansys
  • Autodesk EAGLE
  • Bash
  • Fusion 360 
  • Github
  • Jama
  • Microsoft Excel
  • OrCAD
  • Perl
  • PHP
  • Python
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How to Become a Hardware Engineer

Hardware Engineer Education and Experience

Hardware engineer candidates are often expected to have a bachelor’s degree from an ABET-accredited institution in computer engineering, electrical engineering, IT or a similar field. 

Candidates will often need to obtain several years of experience in hardware, network, PCB and/or computer system design before entering a hardware engineer role. Knowledge in the areas of EDA and PCB tools, scripting languages (Bash, MATLAB, Perl, PHP, Python), IT systems, product development and effective communication are also recommended.

Hardware Engineer Certificates and Courses

Hardware Engineer Career Path

Professionals may begin their career as an IT support specialist, IT technician or a similar role before becoming a hardware engineer. After gaining experience as a hardware engineer, professionals can progress into engineering specialty roles or into management and leadership positions like senior hardware engineer, hardware engineering project manager or director of hardware engineering.


Hardware Engineer Salary and Job Outlook

Hardware engineer roles are expected to grow at an average pace, with employment set to increase five percent by 2031.

The full compensation package for a hardware engineer depends on a variety of factors, including but not limited to the candidate’s experience and geographic location. See below for detailed information on the average hardware engineer salary.


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