Hardware Engineer Job Description
Hardware engineers deal with the research, design, development, analysis and testing of computer hardware systems and components, from computer chips, central processing units (CPUs), circuit boards, microprocessors, modems and routers to printers, disk drives, and keyboards. Their work typically includes testing, upgrading, and modifying computer components. They are also often responsible for overseeing the production and installation of computer systems and integration of components into hardware systems. Their work can sometimes include development of the software that controls the hardware systems, specifying configurations and power supply requirements for hardware systems, and devising different ways to make computers work better and consume less electricity.
Hardware engineers must be good at creative and analytical thinking as their work usually involves evaluation of the effectiveness of hardware, computer components, and designs, for the purpose of isolating defects, providing specifications for components, and recommending changes or replacement of parts.
The key skills for the profession include programming skills, hardware troubleshooting skills, operations analysis, technology design, quality control analysis, and an excellent knowledge of electronic circuitry, computer networking and related equipment, and various hardware systems. Hardware engineers must be good at technical writing, both as designers and as hardware testers, as they usually need to submit reports after performing tests.
Contractors who repair computers need excellent communication skills as they need to be able to explain to their clients what the problem is and how it can be fixed in terms the clients will understand.
Top IT skills for hardware engineers cited by IT Jobs Watch are related to application development, application platforms, business intelligence, communications and networking, operating systems, and development applications. The most popular business applications are STL, .NET, .NET Framework and POSIX, the SAS application platform, and LabWindows.
More than anything, hardware engineers need to have a keen interest in technology and the rapid changes and developments in the industry, and they must be exceptionally adaptable to the new tools, systems, and technologies.
Hardware engineers typically have at least a bachelor's degree in computer engineering, which is a requirement for most jobs in the industry. Some hardware engineers enter the field with a degree in electrical or electronic engineering, which are related branches. The main difference is that hardware engineers deal only with hardware and computer systems.
A master's degree can be required for hardware engineers if they are pursuing employment opportunities at major engineering companies and big consultancy firms.
Hardware engineers typically work at hardware manufacturing firms, industrial plants, and in research laboratories. They design and develop prototypes of advanced hardware systems and usually oversee the manufacturing process, integration and evaluation. Often they train and supervise technical staff and provide technical support on projects.
When they are not designing and testing new hardware systems, they analyze existing hardware to isolate inefficiencies and flaws, and then recommend improvements and integrate new components into the systems, and they perform new tests to ensure that they meet efficiency and quality standards and requirements.
If they opt for self-employment, hardware engineers usually make house calls and perform repair work on hardware. To work as independent hardware engineers and offer services directly to clients, they must be licensed by a professional body.