Online Computer Engineering Degree: An Overview
Computer engineers design and build the hardware and software for digital devices from cellphones to supercomputers. While computer science focuses more on understanding and solving problems within computation and programming, computer engineering is more concerned with building components.
Most computer engineers have earned a bachelor’s degree from an accredited computer engineering program. High school students can prepare for this field by honing their math and science skills. Although some positions may require a master’s degree, most computer hardware engineers can find work with a bachelor’s degree, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
An online computer engineering program offers flexibility for students who are also working professionals. Web-based programs typically follow the same rigorous curricula as brick-and-mortar options, leading to similar advancement opportunities for graduates. The online format is also ideal for students who must tackle additional commitments – such as child or family care – on top of their work and class schedules.
How long does it take to earn a bachelor’s in computer engineering online?
Most online computer engineering degree programs require 120 to 127 credits and can be completed in four years of full-time study.
How much does an online bachelor’s in computer engineering cost?
The cost of an online computer engineering degree depends on several factors. State residency is an important consideration, since many colleges and universities charge higher tuition for out-of-state students. However, some schools charge flat tuition for online students regardless of residency. Technology fees are another key factor; these fees often apply to online students but not their brick-and-mortar counterparts.
Per-credit costs for an online computer engineering bachelor’s degree typically range from $265 to $370. Students should expect to pay between $32,000 and $47,000 in total tuition.
Choosing an accredited online computer engineering degree program
Accreditation status is one of the most important considerations for prospective students. Colleges and universities in the U.S. receive accreditation from agencies recognized by the U.S. Department of Education; the accreditation process involves an extensive review of a school’s educational programs and student services.
A school’s accreditation impacts course credit transferability, as well as student eligibility for federal financial aid, so students should ensure the school offering the program has earned national or regional accreditation.
Online computer engineering programs typically include courses in circuits, covering the basics of electrical circuit analysis and theory. Students also study data structures, which are used in several programming languages. Common data structures covered include lists, stacks and queues.
Undergraduate students commonly learn about microprocessors, or central processing units, which control the functions of computers and digital devices.
Some online computer engineering bachelor’s degree programs may feature a capstone project. Students draw on the knowledge and skills they have gained through previous coursework to design and carry out a comprehensive project related to their field of study. The capstone project is normally completed during the latter stages of the program.
Professional Associations in Computer Engineering
Professional associations provide a wide range of valuable resources for students earning a computer engineering bachelor’s degree online, as well as for recent graduates. Benefits of membership typically include access to online journals and trade publications, professional development opportunities, job listings and in-person networking events. Three professional associations for computer engineering students are outlined below.
- IEEE Computer Society: IEEE Computer Society is an organization within the IEEE dedicated to advancing technology. Student members receive access to Computer Society publications, webinars and a digital library; discounts on conferences and events; and can apply for scholarships and awards. The society also has a board for job seekers to post resumes and find open positions.
- Association for Computing Machinery: ACM is a global educational and scientific computing society for groups in various computing fields, including software engineering, microarchitecture and programming languages. Student members have access to a digital library and learning center featuring online courses, online books and videos and webinars. Professional members have access to many of the same benefits in addition to a full year print subscription to Communications of the ACM and voting rights for ACM officers. They also receive a career news digest and other newsletters and magazines.
- Institution of Engineering and Technology: IET is a global organization for technological engineers, representing 168,000 members, 100 local networks and 22 professional networks. Student members can access IET’s dedicated student and apprentice zone, which offers study resources, guides for choosing college courses and information about postgraduate study. The organization also offers professional development training courses and a career zone with advice on job searching and interviews.
Job Outlook and Salaries for Graduates
According to the BLS, job growth for computer hardware engineers is expected to be 5 percent from 2016 to 2026, which is about as fast as the average among all occupations.
Software developers have a much stronger job outlook. The BLS projects employment for these developers will grow 24 percent from 2016 to 2026, thanks to a high demand for computer software. In particular, applications developers are expected to experience a 31 percent job growth rate due to the need for new applications on smartphones and tablets.
What can you do with a bachelor’s in computer engineering?
Graduates with an online bachelor’s in computer engineering are prepared to pursue a variety of positions in the computer engineering industry. Not only can they become computer hardware engineers, but they can also become software developers or computer programmers.
- Computer hardware engineer: Computer hardware engineers design computer hardware, such as processors, circuit boards, memory devices, networks and routers. They generally need a bachelor’s degree from an accredited program, though some jobs may require a master’s degree.
- Computer programmer: Computer programmers write and test code for computer applications and software programs. They write programs in computer languages like C++ and Java, update and expand existing programs, and troubleshoot programs for program and code errors. Most computer programmers have a bachelor’s in computer science or a related subject and specialize in a few programming languages.
- Network and computer systems administrator: Network and computer systems administrators are responsible for an organization’s computer networks. These professionals install, upgrade and repair network hardware and software. Most positions require a bachelor’s degree in a field related to computer or information science, though a degree in computer engineering or electrical engineering is usually accepted.
- Software developer: Some software developers create applications for devices that enable users to perform specific tasks, while others develop the internal systems that run the devices or control networks. Many developers have a bachelor’s degree in computer science, software engineering or a related field, though some employers prefer applicants who have a master’s degree.
Licensure and certification
According to the BLS, network and computer systems administrators are usually required by their employers to be certified in the products they use. These professionals can gain certification in specific programming languages or programming products from vendors such as Microsoft or Cisco.
How much are salaries for computer engineering graduates?
Network and computer systems administrator
Computer hardware engineer