Computer engineers (except software engineers and designers) (NOC 2147)

High opportunity occupation

About this job

Computer engineers (excluding software engineers and designers) research, design, plan, develop, test and modify computer and telecommunications hardware and related equipment, such as computer processors.

People in this occupation:

  • work on information and communication system networks, including mainframe systems, local and wide area networks, fibre-optic networks, wireless communication networks, intranets, the internet and other data communications systems
  • are employed by computer and telecommunication hardware manufacturers, engineering, manufacturing and telecommunications firms, information technology consulting firms, governmental, educational and research institutions, information technology units and the health industry throughout both the public and private sectors
  • have good communication and teamwork skills
  • should be curious about how to make computers work better, and have an interest in logic design, microprocessor system design, computer architecture and interfacing, and system requirements and design
  • require good problem solving, advanced math and innovation skills
Common job titles
  • analyst, capacity planning
  • architect, computer systems / hardware
  • designer, hardware systems
  • designer, network - computer / fibre-optic
  • engineer, ASIC design
  • engineer, computer - hardware / systems


Computer hardware and telecommunications engineers:

  • analyze user requirements for computer hardware
  • design and develop system architecture and specifications, including current hardware, software and networking capabilities, along with long-range plans and priorities for upgrading or replacing dated equipment and software
  • research, design, develop and integrate computer and telecommunications hardware, such as microprocessors, integrated circuit boards and semiconductor lasers
  • develop and conduct tests to make sure their new designs and components function as expected
  • supervise, inspect and provide design support during the manufacturing, installation and implementation of computer and telecommunications hardware
  • establish and maintain relationships with suppliers and clients, and may lead and co-ordinate teams of engineers, technologists, technicians and drafters in the design and development of computer and telecommunications hardware

Network system and data communication engineers:

  • research, design and develop information and communication system network architecture
  • research, evaluate and integrate network system and data communication hardware and software
  • assess, document and optimize the capacity and performance of information and communication system networks
  • may also be required to lead and co-ordinate teams of design professionals in the development and integration of information and communication system architecture, hardware and software

Special duties

Computer engineers may specialize in a number of areas, including analog and digital signal processing, fibre optics, integrated circuits, lasers, microprocessors, microwaves and radio astronomy.

Duties of many computer engineers may require that they work with software and electrical systems, although the focus of these engineers is related to computer and telecommunications hardware or to network system and data communication.

Work environment

Computer engineers (excluding software engineers and designers) work mostly in Information technology (IT) laboratories and offices. These workers typically work 40 hours per week, however, solving some problems or working to deadlines may require working extra hours.

These engineers may also work with engineers and designers in other disciplines (i.e., computer engineers in B.C. may work with oceanographers to collect marine environmental data), or in a wide variety of industry cultures.

Some computer engineering tasks require the hands-on building of systems, installation and testing and close vision work. This work is team-oriented and cross-disciplinary, requiring close work with other IT professionals, managers and customers.

Insights from industry

The growing use of information technologies will drive the need for more workers in this profession, and demand for workers in this occupation is expected to steadily increase in the longer term. Job openings will also come from the need to replace those who retire.

Industry sources report there is currently an insufficient supply of new graduates in this occupation.

The demand for new information and communications technologies continues locally, nationally, and globally. Companies in the Lower Mainland of B.C. are involved in engineering motherboards, sound cards, and other computer peripherals. Many of these companies are also expanding their trading and manufacturing relationships with computer companies in Asia.

Companies in B.C. have been facing increased competition in hardware engineering from Asia and Europe, which has resulted in closures of B.C. facilities. As such, B.C.'s computer engineers will likely find themselves working in positions that do not have a complete focus on hardware, but also work with processes, electrical engineering, and software implementation.

Employment trends in this occupational group depend on the industries that purchase hardware products. Fluctuation in industries such as telecommunications will affect the demand for these products, which may in turn affect the demand for the professionals who develop them.

Computer engineering is a constantly changing field. As such, individuals in this occupation group should pursue continuing education to update their skills throughout their careers. Individuals tend to practice computer engineering in the context of a particular field such as hydroelectric power, finance, or health. Therefore, they may wish to learn about their own particular fields in order to have a framework for making decisions on the job. New programming languages, technologies and industry needs will require them to constantly update their skills.

Sources also indicate that computer engineers often change jobs to work for employers who offer higher wages. This movement creates more job openings, allowing new qualified graduates to enter the job market.

Career paths and resources

Career paths

Recent computer engineer graduates may obtain employment in programming positions or as junior testers, junior engineers in hardware development or as electrical engineers.

Computer engineers can go on to senior consulting engineer positions, senior management positions such as chief information officer or chief technology officer or the president or CEO of an IT company with additional education and experience.

Additional resources