The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that the field of computer and information technology will add more than 500,000 new jobs by 2026, an increase of 13%. In addition to strong job prospects, qualified IT professionals command median salaries of $85,000; computer hardware engineers topped $115,000.
The most specialized, lucrative positions in this industry require a master's degree in computer engineering or related area. These master's programs combine theoretical instruction in concepts like probability, wireless communication, and electromagnetism with practical skill development related to circuitry, optics, and digital signals. With a master's degree, you will have the requisite training to enter and advance in computer engineering and information technology.
Should I Get a Master's in Computer Engineering?
While you qualify for entry-level roles in computer engineering with a bachelor's degree, a master's can prepare you for management positions and high-paying jobs at larger firms. A master's degree can also serve as a first step to doctoral studies and careers in higher education as a teacher or researcher.
If you recently graduated college, you may want to consider on-campus programs, where the in-person classroom structure will feel familiar. Established professionals looking to change industries or advance their careers might instead prefer online programs; distance learning allows you the flexibility to keep your current job while continuing your education.
Most students in computer engineering master's programs already hold a bachelor's degree in computer science or a related field. As such, these programs often skip over foundational coursework and move directly to in-depth examination of more advanced subjects like next-generation telecommunication technologies, microprocessors for robotic systems, and the principles of microwave circuits.
In addition to coursework, many of these programs offer career services, which may place you in an internship to develop practical experience in computer engineering. Your program may also maintain connections with alumni to help create mentorship matches or facilitate job opportunities. Your classmates and instructors form the backbone of a professional network that can benefit you throughout your career.
What Can I Do with a Master's in Computer Engineering?
A computer engineering degree equips you with the skills and knowledge necessary to succeed in several professional roles, including as a computer hardware engineer, computer or information system manager, or academic researcher. All these roles demand strong analytical, problem-solving skills.
- Computer Hardware Engineer
Computer hardware engineers design computer systems and components, including circuit boards, processors, and routers. They often conduct their research and device-testing in laboratory settings, usually for private companies. While a bachelor's can qualify you for entry-level roles, specialized positions often require a computer engineering master's degree.
Median Annual Salary: $115,120 *
- Computer or Information Systems Manager
Computer and information systems managers oversee the computer-related activities of an organization. They may work as the chief information officer for a non-technology company or direct a specific facet of the work of a firm involved in research and production of hardware. Most managers hold a graduate degree.
Median Annual Salary: $139,220 *
- Computer Network Architect
Computer network architects design and build networks used to communicate and transfer data. Depending on the size and scope of their organization, architects may need to connect only a handful of computers or a much larger network of devices and cloud computing infrastructure. Employers may prefer to hire candidates with an engineering master's degree.
Median Annual Salary: $104,650 *
- Electrical or Electronics Engineer
Most experts consider computer engineering a subset of electrical and electronics engineering given the fundamental role electricity plays in the functioning of computers. With a master's degree for computer engineering, you can take on professional roles designing and testing navigation, communication, and broadcast systems.
Median Annual Salary: $97,970 *
- Computer and Information Research Scientist
Computer and information research scientists invent new computing technologies or find new uses for existing technologies. Some scientists specialize in working with technological hardware, such as the design of robots. Most of these jobs require a master's in a relevant field, such as a degree in computer engineering.
Median Annual Salary: $114,520 *
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics
How to Choose a Master's Program in Computer Engineering
Demand for computer engineering professionals means many schools offer master's degrees in the field, so determining which program best suits your needs can be challenging. First determine whether you prefer an online or on-campus program. Pursuing an online computer engineering master's degree lets you schedule your studies around other professional and personal obligations. However, some students may benefit from the structured learning environment of in-person programs.
A computer hardware engineer degree can unlock significantly higher earnings potential, but you need to pay for tuition and other educational expenses first. For a less expensive option, consider attending a public, in-state institution, which is generally more affordable than an out-of-state or private school. Investigate internship and employment opportunities in each school's area. Online students should confirm that their program does not feature any residential component before enrolling at a school across the country.
Programmatic Accreditation for Master's Programs in Computer Engineering
Accreditation enables students to determine if a school meets academic standards of excellence. Three types of accreditation exist: regional, national, and programmatic. Most nonprofit schools receive regional accreditation, while for-profit schools tend to receive national accreditation. Programmatic accreditors work within a particular subject area or discipline, such as medicine or the law.
In the field of computer engineering, the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology and the Association of Technology, Management, and Applied Engineering serve as the primary programmatic accreditors. Their seal of approval guarantees that attending an accredited program will prepare students for careers in computer engineering.
Master's in Computer Engineering Program Admissions
In order to earn a computer engineering master's degree, you must first hold a bachelor's in a computer-related field. Some programs admit students with other degrees if they have completed prerequisite coursework or have prior professional experience.
As part of your application, schools typically require that you submit undergraduate transcripts and a professional resume. Some schools may also require a personal statement, letters of recommendation, and scores from a standardized test like the Graduate Record Examination (GRE). Most schools also charge an application fee. After submitting your application, your school may request an interview. Some online programs eliminated the admissions interview altogether, choosing instead to rely exclusively on your application materials.
- Bachelor's Degree: You need a bachelor's degree to apply for these programs. Most schools allow students with an undergraduate degree in any major as long as they have completed preqrequisite coursework or can demonstrate computer proficiency.
- Professional Experience: Generally speaking, you do not need professional experience to apply to these programs. However, a strong resume can help your case, especially if you struggled academically.
- Minimum GPA: Because of the intensive nature of curricula in these programs, some schools require a 3.0 undergraduate GPA. Applicants with lower GPAs may qualify for provisional admission.
- Application: Make sure to begin your application well in advance of your school's deadline. This allows you time to gather application materials. Graduate schools do not use Common App, so prepare to submit multiple applications.
- Transcripts: To submit an official copy of your undergraduate transcript as part of your application, contact your college or university's registrar. They may charge you a small fee for this service, and they may need several weeks to fulfill your request.
- Letters of Recommendation: When required, schools usually ask for one to three letters of recommendation. Ask undergraduate professors and former employers. Give them at least a month to write a letter on your behalf.
- Test Scores: Most schools offering computer software engineering degrees do not require GRE scores.
- Application Fee: To apply to graduate school, you usually must pay a fee, typically $50-$100. If you demonstrate financial need, you may qualify for an application fee waiver.
What Else Can I Expect from a Master's Program in Computer Engineering?
While computer engineering master's programs share characteristics, the exact nature of your graduate studies depends on the school and courses you select. For example, some schools allow students to choose a formal concentration, while others give students the opportunity to personalize their learning through elective classes.
|Optics and Photonics||Optics and photonics involve the study of light and play an integral role in telecommunications, information processing, and photonic computing. Students in this concentration take courses covering subjects like Fourier techniques in optics, the fundamentals of lasers, fiber-optic communication systems, and optical propagation.||Photonics engineer, senior optics research scientist|
|Communications and Networking||In the communications and networking concentration, students prepare to take on roles designing, testing, and maintaining various systems related to the transfer of data. They typically take coursework in areas like probability and stochastic processes for engineers, antenna systems, satellite communication systems, speech processing, and wireless communication circuits.||Network engineer, wireless communications specialist|
|Electronics and the Solid State||To prepare to work with solid-state technology, students in this concentration take classes in analog electronic circuit design, power electronics, RF and microwave circuits, digital VLSI system design, and mixed-mode VLSI circuit design.||Computer hardware engineer, solid state development engineer|
|Signal Processing||The fundamentals of signal processing apply to many subfields, including audio signal processing, digital signal processing, and wireless communication. In this concentration, students explore subjects such as real-time computer vision, detection and estimation theory, and speech processing.||Embedded systems engineer, radar signal processing engineer|
|Systems and Control||Students concentrating in this area receive in-depth instruction on topics like applied Kalman filtering, intelligent algorithms, and time series analysis.||Senior control systems engineer, assistant chief engineer|
Courses in a Master's in Computer Engineering Program
Depending on your concentration or specialization, the course of study you follow while pursuing your computer engineering master's degree might differ from other students. Detailed below are five examples of courses commonly taken by students preparing for careers in computer engineering and information technology.
- Communication Systems Engineering
This course provides an overview of the principles and applications of communication systems. Through readings, discussions, and laboratory work, students explore topics such as sampling, quantization, and the comparison of coherent and noncoherent detection techniques.
- Computer Architecture
In this course, students learn about the major components of a modern computer. Topics include control circuitry, cache memory systems, and analog to digital converters.
- Electronic Materials
Computer hardware engineers must have a thorough understanding of electronic materials. This course offers an introduction to basic solid material types and their thermal, electrical, mechanical, and optical properties.
- Laser Fundamentals
Designed for students preparing to take more advanced coursework in optics engineering, this course teaches the fundamentals of laser theory and the interaction of light and matter. Topics covered include total power law, Maxwell's equations, the classic oscillator model, laser pumping and population inversion, and Gaussian beam propagation.
- Intermediate Electromagnetics
Using practical examples to help bring theory to light, this course lays the conceptual groundwork for a concentration in electromagnetic engineering. Students learn about subjects like vector calculus, magnetic and dielectric materials, and waveguides.
How Long Does It Take to Get a Master's in Computer Engineering?
For a computer engineering master's degree, you must earn roughly 30 graduate-level credits. For full-time students, this usually takes about two years; part-time students may require up to four years to graduate.
Some students can potentially earn their degree in fewer than two years. Those with prior graduate-level coursework can apply these credits toward their master's or test out of subjects in which they can demonstrate expertise. Some schools even allow students to apply relevant professional experience towards certain graduation requirements.
In addition, some online programs offer asynchronous and accelerated tracks, which allow students to advance through material at their own pace and take exams at prescribed checkpoints to indicate they can apply key concepts.
How Much Is a Master's in Computer Engineering?
The cost of your computer engineering master's degree may vary depending on several factors. For example, public universities often charge less tuition than private institutions. Generally speaking, computer engineering graduate programs charge $700-$1,500 per credit hour. For a 30-credit master's degree, expect to pay $21,000-$45,000 in total tuition. Remember to factor in costs like books, course materials, and fee.
Certifications and Licenses a Master's in Computer Engineering Prepares For
- Cisco Networking Certification
As a leading provider of networking hardware and telecommunications equipment, Cisco's certification signals expertise in professional settings. Each of Cisco's two dozen credentials has different requirements, though generally you must complete a self-directed training course and pass an exam.
- VMware Certification
VMware provides cloud computing and platform visualization services. Coupled with a computer engineering master's degree, this professional certification affords new professional opportunities to network engineers and architects. Initial certification requires a training course and exam. Higher levels of certification require professional experience and additional exams.
- Project Management Institute Certification
Computer engineers can complete credentials from PMI to demonstrate their understanding of management methodology as it applies to information technology projects. To become certified, you must submit an application detailing your education and experience to PMI. After approval of your application, you must also pass an online exam.
Resources for Graduate Computer Engineering Students
MIT allows online access to nearly all of its course content. Learn about computer programming, artificial intelligence, and electronics engineering from some of the leading scholars in the field of technology.
Similar to MIT's online offerings, Khan Academy hosts free tutorials on a variety of computer science topics. Use this site to learn new skills or brush up on topics you previously studied.
IEEE student members can apply for conference travel grants, summer research grants, and a number of other scholarships and fellowships. Many of the IEEE's financial aid programs specifically serve graduate students.
Professional Organizations in Computer Engineering
After earning your computer engineering master's degree, consider joining a professional organization. Membership in these groups comes with a host of benefits, including the opportunity to network with other technology professionals at national conferences and local events, free or reduced price access to continuing education resources, and forums to discuss the latest research and best practices from the field. Some organizations also specifically cater to the needs of underrepresented groups, such as women and African-Americans.
As part of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, the Computer Society boasts more than 60,000 professional members working in computer science and technology. The organization hosts networking conferences, offers professional development resources, and curates scholarly research.
ACM represents 100,000 computing educators, researchers, and practitioners around the globe. In addition to national conferences and local chapters, the group organizes online special interest groups to connect professionals.
AWC works to advance the interests of women in computing. Beyond professional networking, the association offers professional development opportunities and makes awards to recognize outstanding scientific achievement and community service by women in the field.
ITSMF aims to increase the representation of African Americans in senior leadership positions across technology-related industries. ITSMF offers scholarships to young students of color pursuing degrees in STEM fields.
ASIS&T helps lead the search for new technologies and techniques to improve access to information. Its website features a job board as well as resources for individuals looking to enter the information technology profession.