California Occupational Guides

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Detailed Guide for

Computer Hardware Engineers in San Diego County

May also be called: Computer Engineers; Hardware Engineers; Network Engineers; Telecommunications Engineers

Specialties within this occupation include: Electrical Hardware Engineers

What Would I Do?

Computer Hardware Engineers research, design, develop, and test computer and computer-related equipment for commercial, industrial, military, or scientific use. They may supervise the manufacturing and installation of computer hardware. Computer hardware includes computer chips, circuit boards, computer systems, and related equipment, such as keyboards, hard drives, modems, and printers. Computer Hardware Engineers may design and test circuits and other electronic components as they relate to computers and computer-related equipment. The ongoing advances in computer technology are a result of the research, development, and design efforts of Computer Hardware Engineers. Some electrical and electronics engineers may also work with computers, designing and testing systems; however, they do not work exclusively with computers.

Some Engineers may consider going into the following specialty:

Electrical Hardware Engineers design, develop, modify, and evaluate electronic parts, components, or integrated circuitry for electronic equipment. They analyze equipment to establish operating data, conduct experimental tests, and evaluate results. Engineers investigate and solve computer hardware problems that may arise. They select components and equipment based on analysis of specifications and reliability. Engineers spend time meeting with customers to discuss business objectives. They also conduct product documentation and training.

Tools and Technology
Tools used by Engineers include circuit testers, electronic measuring probes, frequency calibrators or simulators, integrated circuit testers, network analyzers, oscilloscopes, power meters, protocol analyzers, and signal generators. Technology used in this occupation includes the following types of software: analytical or scientific, computer-aided design (CAD), database user interface and query, object- or component-oriented development, office suite, operating system, project management, and word processing.

Important Tasks and Related Skills

Each task below is matched to a sample skill required to carry out the task.

View the skill definitions
TaskSkill Used in this Task
Update knowledge and skills to keep up with rapid advancements in computer technology.Active Learning
Provide technical support to designers, marketing and sales departments, suppliers, engineers and other team members throughout the product development and implementation process.Deductive Reasoning
Test and verify hardware and support peripherals to ensure that they meet specifications and requirements, by recording and analyzing test data.Engineering and Technology
Monitor functioning of equipment and make necessary modifications to ensure system operates in conformance with specifications.Critical Thinking
Analyze information to determine, recommend, and plan layout, including type of computers and peripheral equipment modifications.Complex Problem Solving
Build, test, and modify product prototypes using working models or theoretical models constructed with computer simulation.Computers and Electronics
Analyze user needs and recommend appropriate hardware.Active Listening
Direct technicians, engineering designers or other technical support personnel as needed.Administration and Management
Confer with engineering staff and consult specifications to evaluate interface between hardware and software and operational and performance requirements of overall system.Inductive Reasoning
Select hardware and material, assuring compliance with specifications and product requirements.Judgment and Decision Making
Source: U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Information Network (O*NET)

Working Conditions

Computer Hardware Engineers work in offices, laboratories, or manufacturing firms. They conduct most of their work at computer workstations. Others may spend time overseeing the installation or testing of equipment. Engineers may also be required to work under sterile conditions. When working with computer systems, Engineers should be trained in proper safety procedures. Engineers typically work a standard 40-hour workweek; however, it may be necessary to work evenings or weekends to meet deadlines, which can lead to job pressure.

Unionization is not common in this occupation. However, government Engineers may belong to a union.

Will This Job Fit Me?

The job of Computer Hardware Engineer may appeal to those who enjoy working with ideas that require an extensive amount of thinking. Engineers search for facts using a variety of sources in order to solve complex problems. They may work independently or as part of a team.

What Wages and Benefits Can I Expect?


The median wage in 2016 for Computer Hardware Engineers in California is $131,874 annually, or $63.40 hourly. The median wage for Computer Hardware Engineers in San Diego County is $115,267 annually, or $55.42 hourly. The median is the point at which half of the workers earn more and half earn less.

Change to Hourly Wages
Annual Wages for 2016Low
(25th percentile)
(50th percentile)
(75th percentile)
San Diego County$93,719$115,267$141,025
Source: EDD/LMID Occupational Employment Statistics Survey, 2016 Wages do not reflect self-employment.
View Wages for All Areas


Most Engineers receive excellent benefits, including health and life insurance, vacation, sick leave, and a retirement plan.

What is the Job Outlook?

Computer Hardware Engineers should find a good job market over the next few years, which accounts for employment growth and job replacement needs. However, there may be some competition for jobs due to the high volume of engineering graduates. In addition, employment may be sensitive to the fluctuations of the economy.

Projections of Employment

In California, the number of Computer Hardware Engineers is expected to grow faster than average growth rate for all occupations. Jobs for Computer Hardware Engineers are expected to increase by 22.1 percent, or 5,900 jobs between 2014 and 2024.

In San Diego County, the number of Computer Hardware Engineers is expected to grow slower than average growth rate for all occupations. Jobs for Computer Hardware Engineers are expected to increase by 13.8 percent, or 540 jobs between 2012 and 2022.

Estimated Employment and Projected Growth
Computer Hardware Engineers
Geographic Area
(Estimated Year-Projected Year)
Additional Openings
Due to Net
San Diego County
Source: EDD/LMID Projections of Employment by Occupation
View Projected Growth for All Areas

Annual Job Openings

In California, an average of 600 new job openings per year is expected for Computer Hardware Engineers, plus an additional 550 job openings due to net replacement needs, resulting in a total of 1,140 job openings.

In San Diego County, an average of 54 new job openings per year is expected for Computer Hardware Engineers, plus an additional 84 job openings due to net replacement needs, resulting in a total of 138 job openings.

Estimated Average Annual Job Openings
Computer Hardware Engineers
Geographic Area
(Estimated Year-
Projected Year)
Jobs From GrowthJobs Due to
Net Replacements
Total Annual
Job Openings
San Diego County
Source: EDD/LMID Projections of Employment by Occupation
View Data for All Areas

How Do I Qualify?

Education, Training, and Other Requirements

A bachelor's degree in computer science, electronics engineering, or a related field is the minimum requirement for most entry-level positions. Most engineering programs involve a concentration of study in an engineering specialty, along with courses in design, mathematics, physical and life sciences, and hands-on laboratory classes. Additional coursework may include computer hardware and software, microprocessors and applications, data and algorithms, AC (alternate current) and DC (direct current) currents, and signals in systems. Computer Hardware Engineers who plan on a career in research and development, or engineering faculty positions earn a master's or doctorate degree.


Most employers prefer to hire Computer Hardware Engineers with at least two years of experience. However, some companies may offer entry-level engineering positions to college graduates. These entry-level positions usually work under the supervision of experienced Engineers and, in large companies, also may receive formal classroom or seminar-type training. As new Engineers gain knowledge and experience, they are assigned more difficult projects with greater independence to develop designs, solve problems, and make decisions.

Early Career Planning

High school students planning to become Computer Hardware Engineers should take courses in computer science, English, mathematics, and physical and life sciences.

Continuing Education

While continuing education is not required for Computer Hardware Engineers, most Engineers keep current with the advancements in computer technology.

Licensing and Certification

Licensing is not required for Computer Hardware Engineers. However, a number of Engineers may possess a Professional Engineer (PE) license in electrical engineering, which some employers may recommend. The license must be renewed every two years.

To become licensed, Engineers must first pass the Engineer-in-Training or Fundamentals of Engineering examination, which requires at least three years of coursework from a college or university offering an engineering program accredited by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET), or three years of engineering-related experience. The next step in the process is to pass the professional examination which requires a bachelor’s degree in engineering from an ABET-accredited institution, along with two years of eligible engineering experience. Engineers without a bachelor's degree in engineering must possess six years of eligible experience.

Several professional certifications for Computer Hardware Engineers exist, such as Quality Engineer and Reliability Engineer Certifications. These may be beneficial for advancement to senior technical or managerial positions. Many certification programs are offered by professional organizations.

For more information, go to the U.S. Department of Labor's Career InfoNet Web site and scroll down to "Career Tools." Click on "Certification Finder" and follow the instructions to locate certification programs.

Where Can I Find Training?

There are two ways to search for training information:

  • Search by Field of Study to find what programs are available and what schools offer those programs. You may use keywords such as: Computer, Computer Hardware, and Engineering.
  • Search by Training Provider to find schools by name, type of school, or location.

Contact the schools you are interested in to learn about the classes available, tuition and fees, and any prerequisite course work.

Where Would I Work?

The largest industries employing Computer Hardware Engineers are as follows:

Industry TitlePercent of Total Employment for Occupation in California
Computer Systems Design and Rel Services 24.8%
Computers and Peripheral Equipment 22.5%
Scientific Research and Development Svc 12.2%
Semiconductor and Electronic Components 8.5%
Electronic Instrument Manufacturing 4.3%
Source: EDD/LMID Staffing Patterns

Finding a Job

Direct contact with employers is a traditional means to finding a job as a Computer Hardware Engineer. College placement offices, company recruiting events, job fairs, networking, and online job search sites are also good places to look. Career associations sometimes offer job openings on their Web sites. Additionally, some Computer Hardware Engineers may place resumes on job boards. Online job opening systems include JobCentral at and CalJOBSSM at

To find your nearest One-Stop Career Center, go to Service Locator. View the helpful job search tips for more resources. (requires Adobe Reader).

Yellow Page Headings

You can focus your local job search by checking employers listed online or in your local telephone directory. Below are some suggested headings where you might find employers of Computer Hardware Engineers.

  • Computer Engineers
  • Computer Manufacturing
  • Computer Systems Design
  • Computer System Designers and Consultants
  • Computer Wholesale

Find Possible Employers

To locate a list of employers in your area, go to "Find Employers" on the Labor Market Information Web site:

  • Select one of the top industries that employ the occupation. This will give you a list of employers in that industry in your area.
  • Click on "View Filter Selections" to limit your list to specific cities or employer size.
  • Click on an employer for the street address, telephone number, size of business, Web site, etc.
  • Contact the employer for possible employment.

Where Could This Job Lead?

As Computer Hardware Engineers gain experience they may advance to become technical specialists or supervise a staff or team of Engineers and technicians. Some may eventually become engineering managers or enter into other managerial positions. A master's degree or doctorate degree may lead to teaching opportunities or executive careers.

Related Occupations

Below is a list of occupations related to Computer Hardware Engineers with links to more information.

Aerospace EngineersGuide
Electrical and Electronics DraftersProfile
Electrical and Electronics Repairers, Commercial and Industrial EquipmentProfile
Electrical EngineersGuide
Electronics Engineers, Except ComputerGuide
Numerical Tool and Process Control ProgrammersGuide

Other Sources

  • California Board for Professional Engineers and Land Surveyors
  • California Department of Consumer Affairs
  • Accreditation Board for Engineering Technology Inc.
  • Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Computer Society

These links are provided for your convenience and do not constitute an endorsement by EDD.

For the Career Professional

The following codes are provided to assist counselors, job placement workers, or other career professionals.

SOC - Standard Occupational Classification17-2061
O*NET - Occupational Information Network
   Computer Hardware Engineers17-2061.00
   Interest Codes (RIASEC)IRC