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What is Computer Engineering?

Undergraduate Programs

"Computer engineers continually push the capability and applicability of computers in every industry and every facet of modern life."

Boosting Capability & Usability

Computer engineers embed computers in other machines and systems, build networks to transfer data, and develop ways to make computers, faster, smaller, and more capable. Computer engineers are improving the ability of computers to "see" and "think." They are making computers more mobile, and even incorporating computers into fabrics, clothes, and building materials.

The Body and the Mind

Computer engineers are concerned with analyzing and solving computer-oriented problems. CPEs understand both the hardware and the software of computers. This enables them to choose the solution that is best, not just the one they know. Sometimes the answer to making a program more efficient is a change in the computer itself. Sometimes it's cheaper and faster to change the software than the hardware. The knowledge of both the "body" and the "mind" of a computer helps computer engineers work at the microscopic level and on a large, system-wide scale.

A Field of its Own

Computer engineers use many of the principles and techniques of electrical engineering and many of computer science. Computer engineering, however, is more than a blend of two other fields.

The major technical areas of CPE:

  • Cybersecurity
  • Networking
  • Design automation
  • Machine intelligence
  • Computer software
  • Biomedical
  • Embedded Systems


Computer engineering graduates typically have some of the highest starting salaries in engineering. Computer engineers have the option of moving into hardware or software positions, or blending the two.

Typical industries hiring computer engineers, include financial services, computer manufacturers, chemical companies, defense contractors, consulting, transportation, manufacturing, and consumer goods. Computer engineers are equally successful in large multinational firms and small startups.

See Also:

The CPE Course of Study

Find out more about the CPE curriculum -- read the curriculum planning sheet for CPE majors.

Want more career info on computer engineering?

Visit the electrical engineering and computer science career pages hosted by the Sloan Foundation, with data provided by the IEEE, The Institute of Electrical & Electronics Engineers.

See the U.S. Dept. of Labor information on computer hardware jobs and careers and computer software engineering.

Visit the career resource center of the ACM, the professional society for computer science and engineering.

Women in ECE

Engineer Your Life has information about women in electrical and computer engineering. If you're a young woman considering the study of EE or CPE, you might be interested in reading a profile of NASA engineer Ayanna Howard.

Interested in other stories of other female engineers? Find out about Tara Teich, who is currently working on Star Wars video games for LucasArts, and Shaundra Daily, an EE who is developing emotion-reading software at MIT's Media Lab.