What is a Computer Hardware Engineering Degree?

A Computer Hardware Engineering degree is a specialized program focused on the design, development, and optimization of computer hardware components and systems. This interdisciplinary field combines principles of electrical engineering, computer science, and computer engineering to provide students with the knowledge and skills needed to design and analyze digital circuits, microprocessors, memory systems, and other hardware components. The curriculum typically covers topics such as digital logic, computer architecture, embedded systems, and VLSI (Very Large Scale Integration) design, preparing students for careers in hardware development, research, and innovation.

Students in a Computer Hardware Engineering program learn to apply theoretical concepts to practical problems through hands-on laboratory experiences, design projects, and internships. They gain proficiency in hardware description languages, such as Verilog or VHDL, and learn to use computer-aided design (CAD) tools and simulation software to design and prototype hardware systems. Additionally, they study topics such as semiconductor technology, signal processing, hardware-software co-design, and low-power design techniques, enabling them to develop cutting-edge hardware solutions for a wide range of applications.

Program Options

The following program options cater to students with diverse educational backgrounds, career objectives, and scheduling needs, providing opportunities to pursue their interests and aspirations in the dynamic and rapidly evolving field of Computer Hardware Engineering.

  • Bachelor’s Degree: A Bachelor of Science in Computer Hardware Engineering (BS CHE) is the most common undergraduate program option. This four-year program provides students with a comprehensive education in digital electronics, computer architecture, embedded systems, and hardware design. Students learn to design and analyze digital circuits, microprocessors, and memory systems, gaining hands-on experience through laboratory projects, design competitions, and internships.
  • Master’s Degree: A Master of Science in Computer Hardware Engineering (MS CHE) is a graduate-level program that offers advanced study and specialization in computer hardware design and engineering. This one to two-year program is designed for students who want to deepen their knowledge and expertise in areas such as VLSI design, computer architecture optimization, or hardware-software co-design. Master’s programs may include coursework, research projects, and a thesis or capstone project, allowing students to develop advanced skills and pursue leadership roles in computer hardware engineering.
  • Ph.D. Degree: A Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Computer Hardware Engineering is a research-focused doctoral program that prepares students for careers in academia, industry research, or advanced technical roles. Ph.D. programs typically take four to six years to complete and involve conducting original research in computer hardware design, contributing to the scholarly literature, and defending a doctoral dissertation. Students work closely with faculty advisors and research mentors to explore specialized topics, advance the state of the art in computer hardware engineering, and make significant contributions to the field.
  • Certificate Programs: Certificate programs in Computer Hardware Engineering offer specialized training in specific areas of hardware design or emerging technologies. These programs are shorter in duration and provide focused coursework to enhance skills and knowledge in targeted areas such as FPGA design, ASIC design, or hardware verification. Certificate options may be available at the undergraduate or graduate level and can supplement existing credentials or provide a pathway to career advancement or specialization in computer hardware engineering.
  • Online and Hybrid Programs: Many universities offer online or hybrid programs in Computer Hardware Engineering, allowing students to pursue their degrees remotely while balancing work, family, or other commitments. Online programs provide flexibility and convenience, with asynchronous or synchronous learning formats and virtual collaboration tools. These programs often include interactive coursework, virtual labs, and opportunities for hands-on projects, enabling students to gain practical experience in computer hardware engineering without attending traditional on-campus classes.

Skills You’ll Learn

In a Computer Hardware Engineering degree program, students acquire a diverse set of skills essential for success in the hardware industry. Some of the key skills learned include:

  • Digital Circuit Design: Students gain proficiency in designing and analyzing digital circuits, including combinational and sequential logic circuits. They learn about logic gates, flip-flops, registers, counters, and other digital components, as well as techniques for circuit optimization and synthesis.
  • Computer Architecture: Students learn about computer architecture principles, including instruction set architecture (ISA), processor organization, memory hierarchy, and input/output (I/O) systems. They study different CPU architectures, such as RISC (Reduced Instruction Set Computer) and CISC (Complex Instruction Set Computer), and analyze performance metrics such as latency, throughput, and energy efficiency.
  • VLSI Design: Students learn about Very Large Scale Integration (VLSI) design techniques for designing complex integrated circuits (ICs) with millions of transistors. They gain experience in using electronic design automation (EDA) tools and CAD software for VLSI layout, simulation, verification, and testing.
  • Embedded Systems: Students learn about embedded systems design, including microcontroller architectures, real-time operating systems (RTOS), and firmware development. They gain skills in programming embedded systems using assembly language and high-level languages such as C/C++, as well as interfacing with peripherals and sensors.
  • Hardware Description Languages (HDLs): Students learn hardware description languages such as Verilog and VHDL for modeling and simulating digital systems. They gain proficiency in writing RTL (Register Transfer Level) code to describe the behavior and structure of digital circuits, and use HDLs for synthesis, verification, and debugging.
  • FPGA and ASIC Design: Students learn about field-programmable gate arrays (FPGAs) and application-specific integrated circuits (ASICs) for implementing digital designs in hardware. They gain experience in FPGA/ASIC design flow, including synthesis, place-and-route, timing analysis, and design verification.
  • Signal Processing: Students learn about signal processing techniques for analyzing and manipulating analog and digital signals. They study topics such as Fourier analysis, filtering, modulation, and noise reduction, and apply signal processing algorithms to design hardware systems for audio, video, communication, and sensor applications.
  • Low-Power Design: Students learn about low-power design techniques for reducing power consumption in hardware systems. They study power optimization methods such as clock gating, voltage scaling, and power gating, and apply these techniques to design energy-efficient chips for mobile devices, IoT (Internet of Things) devices, and other battery-powered applications.
  • Hardware Testing and Verification: Students learn about hardware testing and verification methodologies for ensuring the correctness and reliability of hardware designs. They gain skills in designing test benches, writing test cases, performing functional and timing simulations, and using formal verification methods to validate hardware designs.
  • Project Management and Collaboration: Students develop project management skills and learn to work effectively in multidisciplinary teams. They gain experience in planning, organizing, and executing hardware projects, as well as communicating and collaborating with colleagues, stakeholders, and clients to achieve project goals and deliverables.

What Can You Do with a Computer Hardware Engineering Degree?

With a Computer Hardware Engineering degree, individuals have numerous career options in the hardware industry, semiconductor manufacturing, embedded systems development, and related fields. Here are some potential career paths:

  • Computer Hardware Engineer: Hardware engineers design, develop, and test computer hardware components and systems, including CPUs, GPUs, memory modules, and peripheral devices. They work on tasks such as circuit design, PCB layout, FPGA/ASIC design, and hardware validation, collaborating with cross-functional teams to develop cutting-edge hardware solutions.
  • Embedded Systems Developer: Embedded systems developers design and develop embedded hardware and software solutions for a wide range of applications, including IoT devices, automotive systems, medical devices, and industrial control systems. They work on tasks such as microcontroller programming, firmware development, sensor integration, and real-time operating system (RTOS) design, ensuring the reliability, security, and performance of embedded systems.
  • Systems Architect: Systems architects design and define the overall architecture and configuration of hardware systems, including servers, networking equipment, and embedded systems. They work on tasks such as system design, component selection, interface definition, and system integration, ensuring interoperability, scalability, and performance of hardware systems.
  • Semiconductor Design Engineer: Semiconductor design engineers specialize in designing and optimizing integrated circuits (ICs) for various applications, including microprocessors, memory chips, and analog circuits. They work on tasks such as transistor-level design, logic synthesis, physical design, and timing closure, using CAD tools and simulation software to create high-performance and low-power ICs.
  • FPGA/ASIC Design Engineer: FPGA/ASIC design engineers specialize in designing and implementing digital designs using field-programmable gate arrays (FPGAs) and application-specific integrated circuits (ASICs). They work on tasks such as RTL design, synthesis, place-and-route, and timing analysis, optimizing designs for performance, power, and area constraints.
  • Hardware Verification Engineer: Hardware verification engineers focus on validating and verifying the correctness and functionality of hardware designs. They work on tasks such as developing test benches, writing test cases, performing simulations, and using formal verification methods to ensure the reliability and quality of hardware products.
  • Product Development Engineer: Product development engineers oversee the development and introduction of new hardware products and technologies to the market. They work on tasks such as product planning, requirements analysis, prototype development, and product testing, collaborating with marketing, sales, and manufacturing teams to bring innovative hardware solutions to customers.
  • Technical Sales Engineer: Technical sales engineers provide technical expertise and support to customers and sales teams, helping to identify and address customer needs and requirements. They work on tasks such as product demonstrations, technical presentations, and solution proposals, serving as liaisons between customers and engineering teams to ensure successful product adoption and deployment.


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