Computer hardware engineers design, develop, implement, evaluate and maintain computer systems, and equipment that forms part of that system. In addition to design and development, computer hardware engineers may supervise the manufacturing and installation of all computer-related equipment.
The term hardware refers to all physical aspects of the computer, such as central processing units (CPU’s) computer chips, microprocessors, custom integrated circuits, and peripherals such as printers, disc drives scanners, keyboards, modems and related equipment. In some cases, they develop special purpose “embedded” products that use computer technology, for example, embedded computers are used in applications ranging from refrigeration equipment to car engines and aeroplanes.
Computer hardware engineering is a specialised field very closely linked to the field of electronics engineering. In South Africa most computer hardware engineers study electronics at university or a university of technology, with specialisation subjects in computers and computer-related equipment.
The rapid integration of mechanical and electronic systems means that all fields of engineering require some aspects of computer hardware knowledge. Computer hardware engineers are also required to have a strong all-round computer knowledge including some knowledge of support logic and programming. The rapid advances in computer technology are largely as a result of the research, development and design efforts of computer hardware engineers.
Consulting opportunities for computer hardware engineers tend to grow as businesses need help managing, upgrading and customising increasingly complex systems. Growth in embedded systems, a technology that uses computers to control other devices such as appliances or cell phones, will also increase the demand for computer hardware engineers.
Computer hardware engineers must have a 4-year degree in computer engineering or a related discipline such as electrical engineering. Some employers hire only computer hardware engineers who have a Master of Science (MSc) degree in electronic / electrical engineering. A doctoral degree in engineering is generally required for a career in research and development, or as a professor of engineering.
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