Computer Hardware Engineer

Computer Hardware Engineers (commonly refered to as Computer 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.

How to Enter

Schooling & School Subjects

  • National Senior Certificate meeting degree requirements for a degree course
  • National Senior Certificate meeting diploma requirements for a diploma course
Each institution has its own entry requirements.

Note: The Engineering Faculties of some universities offer a support programme to help students to become self-sufficient and capable of completing the very demanding engineering courses. The programme is aimed at students from communities which lack proper education facilities.

What to Study

Degree: BEng Computer Engineering - UP, NWU, or Electronic Engineering - most universities, e.g. NWU, UP, UJ, US, UKZN.

A person who has obtained a recognised BSc (Eng) or BEng degree is eligible for registration as Engineer in Training. After gaining at least 3 years of appropriate practical experience, a computer engineer may register as a Professional Engineer under the auspices of the Engineering Council of South Africa.

For Computer Scientists, Bachelor of Information Technology degrees are offered at some universities - RU, UCT, UWC, NMMU, UFS, Wits, US, UP, UNISA, UKZN, UJ. UZ, UFH, NWU, Monash.

The more theoretical majors lead to specialised work in computer science and programming.


  • companies that supply and service computers
  • government departments
  • provincial administrations
  • computer bureaus
  • such companies as: Spoornet, Telkom, Denel
  • universities and universities of technology
  • any company or business using computer systems and networks
  • self-employment, a registered engineer with the necessary experience and initiative, as consultant

Further Information

Computer Society of SA
P O Box 1714
Halfway House, 1685
ICT House
546 16th Road
Constantia Park [Unit No.3]
Tel: (011) 315-1319 Fax: (011) 315-2276

Engineering Council of South Africa (ECSA)
Private Bag X 691
Bruma, 2026
Tel: (011) 607-9500 Fax: (011) 622-9295

Society for Professional Engineers
P O Box 78433
Sandton, 2146
Tel: (011) 783-0765

The Director
Computer Users’ Council of South Africa
P O Box 1688
Halfway House, 1685
Tel: (011) 805-3151/2

Engineering News Magazine

Project Management South Africa (PMSA)
P O Box 1714
Halfway House 1685
Tel: (011) 257-8003 Fax: (011) 662-2961

Getting Started

  • develop your mathematical, communication and computer skills
  • arrange to take an aptitude test, to determine whether you have the necessary ability for this type of work
  • speak to people in this field of work
  • try to obtain vacation work in this field

Programmes by Study Institutions