Field of Study: Computer Engineering Technology
Computer engineering technology programs prepare people to help engineers design and build computer systems. Students learn to install and maintain equipment. They also learn to write and test software programs.
What does it mean to engineer a computer? You may imagine somebody tinkering with the chips and the connections inside a computer system to get it to run with maximum efficiency. And that's partly right. But in many computer engineering technology programs you spend much more time on software. That's because engineering is about applying the scientific method to solve practical problems, so it can be done to software as well as to hardware.
In this program, you start by studying math and physics. Physics helps you understand the workings of electronic circuits. Just as important, it teaches you how to solve problems by experimenting, gathering data, and testing theories. You take more specialized courses that teach you how circuits can represent logical operations. You learn what actually goes on inside those amazing chips. And you study how data is communicated over networks. You learn a few programming languages. You also study how popular kinds of software store and process data.
If your program focuses on engineering technology, you study the logical processes that go on before any code is written; that is, you study how to solve a problem by creating an algorithm. You learn skills you will use in research and development. With two or three years of full-time study beyond high school, you can earn an associate degree in a program of this kind. This will qualify you to work as a technician within an engineering team. A four-year program will earn you a bachelor's degree, and you can work as an engineering technologist. In some states, you may be able to work as an engineer. This program is available at about 80 colleges.
Much more common are programs that prepare you to work as a computer technician. You install and repair computer systems, networks, and peripherals. You troubleshoot, consult manuals and online help, run tests, and load software. You show workers how to use the computer equipment and software. About 300 colleges offer a two-year program of this kind, leading to an associate degree.
You can prepare for this program by taking courses in high school that prepare you for college. This typically includes four years of English, three years of math, three years of social studies, and two years of science. Some colleges also require two years of a second language.
- Computer Science and Programming
- English Composition
Typical course work
An associate degree program in this field typically includes courses in the following subjects:
- College Algebra
- College Trigonometry
- English Composition
- Engineering Physics
- Electronic Circuits
- Digital Logic
- Introduction to Computer Science
- Programming in C++ and/or Visual Basic
A program that emphasizes software also includes courses such as the following:
- Algorithm Design and Analysis
- Data Communications
- Machine and Assembly Language
- Networking and Internet Technologies
A program that emphasizes hardware also includes courses such as the following:
- Computer-Assisted Circuit Design
- Microprocessor Technology
- Solid State Devices
A bachelor's degree program in this field usually emphasizes engineering technology. It often assumes that you have taken the math courses listed above while in high school. It typically includes the other core courses listed above. It also includes those listed for the software emphasis, plus the following:
- Applied Differential Calculus
- Data and File Structures
- Operating System Design
- Microcomputer-Based System Design
- Software Engineering
- Senior Design Project
Things to know
You need good communications skills to succeed in this field. A writing course, and probably a public speaking course, should be part of your program even if they are not required.
Consider taking some business courses. Engineering technologists often work closely with management. In addition, the skills you learn in these courses may later help you make a career shift into management. This can be a logical and fulfilling career path, especially if you are uninterested in becoming a licensed engineer (or if your state does not allow it).
A lot of people are unclear about the difference among an engineer, an engineering technologist, and an engineering technician. All work as part of an engineering team. Together, they solve practical problems by applying principles of science and math. The engineer tends to work more in theoretical terms and is more concerned with design. The engineering technologist tends to work more in practical terms and is more concerned with putting the design into practice. The technician gathers data and works with equipment to make the implementation work.
With a bachelor's degree in an engineering technology, you may be able to work either as an engineer or as a technologist. Your options depend on where you live. About one-third of the states do not allow engineering technology graduates to be licensed as engineers. Other states allow the license but restrict what you can do. Without a license, you still can have a rewarding job as part of the engineering team.
If you want a license and you are allowed by your state to seek one, you usually must have a bachelor's degree from an engineering technology program recognized by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. (In this field, there are fewer than 20.) Then, you need several years of work experience and must pass an exam. Often you can take the exam in two stages. Your best bet is to take the first exam when you graduate or soon afterward.
Similar fields of study
- Applied Mathematics
- Artificial Intelligence and Robotics
- Computational Mathematics
- Computer Engineering
- Computer Installation and Repair
- Computer Programming
- Computer Science
- Computer Systems Analysis
- Computer Systems Networking and Administration
- Computer Systems Technology
- Drafting and Design Technology
- Electrical & Electronics Engineering Technology
- Electrical, Electronics, and Communications Engineering
- Electromechanical Engineering Technology
- Engineering Technology, General
- Instrumentation Technology
- Laser and Optical Technology
- Manufacturing Technology
- Robotics Technology
- Surveying Technology
- Telecommunications Technology
Careers you may qualify for
Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology
American Society for Engineering Education
IEEE Computer Society
The National Action Council for Minorities in Engineering
National Institute for Certification in Engineering Technologies
The Society of Women Engineers
Technology Student Association
Schools that offer program
Click on the school name to see a list of their programs related to this field of study.
, Located in Metro
Anoka Technical College , Located in Metro
Globe University - Woodbury , Located in Metro
ITT Technical Institute - Eden Prairie , Located in Metro
MRC-Minnesota Resource Center - Minneapolis , Located in Metro
Minnesota State University, Mankato , Located in Southeast
Minnesota West Community and Technical College - Canby , Located in Southwest
Minnesota West Community and Technical College - Granite Falls , Located in Southwest
Minnesota West Community and Technical College - Jackson , Located in Southwest
Minnesota West Community and Technical College - Pipestone , Located in Southwest
Minnesota West Community and Technical College - Worthington , Located in Southwest
South Central College - Faribault - Fairbault , Located in Southeast
South Central College - North Mankato , Located in Southeast