Pursuing a computer engineering bachelor's degree online can prove a great idea for students who need more flexibility in their schedules, such as working professionals or those with familial commitments.
Students interested in earning their online computer engineering degree should review potential programs in detail before finalizing their choice for enrollment. This page provides an overview of important program components, including the application process for a computer engineering bachelor's program, potential courses, skills students typically develop, available careers for graduates, and the importance of accreditation.
Overview of Computer Engineering Bachelor's Degrees
Earning a bachelor's degree in computer engineering can unlock a variety of career opportunities for graduates; computer engineering covers a wide range of job functions, including working with computer hardware and software, maintaining computer systems, and staying up to date on the latest technologies in the field. In these bachelor's programs, students learn the skills and knowledge they need to thrive in the computer engineering field and across industries, since virtually every business needs employees who can maintain their computer networks, systems, software, and hardware.
Graduates of these programs often pursue careers as software developers. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that jobs for these professionals will grow by 24% from 2016 to 2026, a rate that is significantly above average.
Most online programs provide students with the flexibility they need to earn their degree without committing themselves to in-person requirements. These programs prove ideal for students who want to continue working full time as they earn their degree, professionals who want to go back to school to expand their career opportunities, or students who just need more flexibility within their education.
Each individual college or university hosts its own unique set of application requirements, and many schools feature specific application processes for individual programs. Because of these variances, computer engineering students can not expect the same application process for every program; however, they can expect to see some common themes and trends.
All programs require prospective students to complete an application before they can be eligible for consideration. Applicants may also need to submit supplemental materials, such as an essay. Generally, programs that ask students to submit an essay with their application outline their essay requirements, noting things like subject matter, theme, tone, format, and the required length.
Other supplemental materials may include letters of recommendation and a current resume. Letters of recommendation should come from a professional or educational connection and outline the candidate's abilities and qualifications for their program of interest. Resumes should reflect any professional experience the student holds, whether or not it remains relevant to their area of study.
With their application, prospective students often have to pay an application fee (typically between $50-$75). Students must also provide their transcripts, outlining their previous educational experiences along with their GPA. Many programs feature minimum GPA requirements.
What Will I Learn?
Students enrolled in an online computer engineering degree program must complete both general and major-specific requirements in order to graduate. Courses cover a broad range of field-specific material and prepare students for their professional lives after graduation.
While every college and university holds its own program requirements, computer engineering students typically complete around 128 credit hours of coursework to graduate; in a standard curriculum, general education requirements make up around 53 credits, engineering courses around 58, and technical electives around 17 credits.
Students can choose their electives to match their career goals and personal interests, specializing their degree according to what things intrigue them most within that particular area of study. These credits can often carry over into master's programs, serving as the groundwork for an advanced degree.
Electrical and Computer Engineering
In an electrical and computer engineering course, topics and concepts covered include electromagnetics, circuit analysis, electronic devices, digital logic, communication, sensors, and how to apply these topics in practical application.
Students in a computer architecture course learn how to design and analyze high-performance uniprocessors. They focus on a range of relevant topics including virtual machines, modules, caches, instruction sets, memory, shifting, division, multiplication, and arithmetic.
Course topics include network theorems, the method of Laplace transforms, Ohm's law, Kirchhoff's laws, and transient and steady state analysis of circuits.
Computer Communication Networks
This course introduces internet protocols from a theoretical standpoint and requires students to put their skills to use to complete projects demonstrating the lessons they learn.
Probability and Random Processes for Engineers
Students learn about random variables, the transformation of those random variables, expectation, generating functions, probability, continuous and discrete distributions, generating functions, hypothesis testing, estimation, applications, statistical inference, and stationarity.
Students in a data structures course learn about the usage, design, and analysis of data structures while reviewing lists, queues, and stacks. They complete coursework to help them understand how to manipulate search trees, analyze hash tables and graphs, and use searching and sorting techniques to complete lab exercises and programming projects.
What Can I Do With an Online Bachelor's Degree in Computer Engineering?
In the following sections, students can review some of the core skills they will develop in a computer engineering program, potential careers they can pursue after earning their degree, the importance of accreditation, whether they should pursue graduate studies after earning their bachelor's, and what professional organizations they might consider joining.
Throughout their courses, students learn how to use computer programming languages and manipulate various types of software and hardware. They also develop strong communication skills, which will be necessary when working with other professionals to make changes and suggestions and come up with strategies to keep an organization's computer systems operating efficiently and effectively.
In addition, students hone analytical and critical thinking skills that will become invaluable when evaluating an organization's unique needs in order to make the best suggestions for their computer systems, hardware, and software. Computer engineering professionals must know how to analyze an organization's systems in detail in order to ensure they are making appropriate changes that will benefit the company.
Potential Careers and Salaries
Graduates of computer engineering programs can explore a variety of careers, as every company typically needs someone who understands how to maintain computers, software, and hardware.
Computer engineering professionals should be able to maintain their organization's systems, noting any areas for improvement and suggesting changes to executives. These individuals might find work as computer hardware engineers, computer and information systems managers, computer programmers, software developers, and network and computer systems administrators.
Computer Hardware Engineer
Annual Median Salary: $81,354
These professionals are responsible for developing computer systems and hardware as well as designing products, including computer chips, modems, printers, and circuit boards. They also evaluate the needs of their organization to determine useful recommendations and ensure that systems meet all of the necessary specifications.
Computer and Information Systems Manager
Annual Median Salary: $139,220
In charge of planning and directing the maintenance and installation of computer software and hardware, computer and information systems managers analyze the needs of their company to recommend upgrades for top executives to consider. They also determine short- and long-term personnel needs for their department and stay up to date on the latest technologies.
Annual Median Salary: $61,129
Computer programmers work in a variety of industries, coding and writing computer software and debugging, designing, and troubleshooting source code written in programming languages. They work with computer algorithms and application domains and collaborate with vendors to test and approve their products.
Network and Computer Systems Administrator
Annual Median Salary: $81,100
Network and computer systems administrators determine their organization's system needs and install the necessary software and hardware. They optimize and evaluate network and system performance and train users on how to properly maneuver computer hardware and software.
Annual Median Salary: $103,560
Software developers work with other computer specialists to create optimum software. These professionals actively ensure that programs continue to function effectively and efficiently by performing software testing and maintenance.
Will I Need a Graduate Degree for a Career in Computer Engineering?
Students pursuing an online computer engineering degree do not necessarily need to pursue an advanced degree after obtaining their bachelor's. Most careers in the field hold a minimum requirement of a bachelor's degree, so holding that degree qualifies professionals for a variety of jobs in the field. Some employers, however, prefer candidates to hold a master's degree in computer engineering rather than a bachelor's.
Choosing not to earn a graduate degree does not exclude professionals from moving up in their career. Individuals can still advance in the computer engineering field if they continue to put time and effort into their job and their company. While many candidates with more advanced degrees can often enjoy higher pay brackets and more specialized job opportunities, individuals without these credentials can still make impressive salaries and enjoy varied job possibilities.
Accreditation for Computer Engineering Bachelor's Programs
Before choosing an online computer engineering degree program, students should review the accreditation for their desired college or university. Two main types of accreditation exist: regional and national.
Nationally accredited institutions generally feature coursework geared primarily toward career and technical topics. At these institutions, students can expect lower tuition rates than their regionally accredited counterparts, although they often get excluded from tuition reimbursement plans. Additionally, many higher learning institutions do not accept credits from nationally accredited programs, so students planning to continue their education should take that into consideration as they review accreditation for potential schools.
Regionally accredited institutions focus primarily on liberal arts coursework and often feature higher tuition rates than nationally accredited institutions. However, they typically feature in most tuition reimbursement plans and offer credits that easily transfer to other programs. Regionally accredited programs garner a more prestigious reputation than nationally accredited colleges and universities.
Computer Engineering Professional Organizations
Graduates with their online computer engineering degree can consider joining a variety of professional organizations. These organizations lead to many benefits, including career opportunities, potential for professional development, and networking opportunities.
IEEE Computer Society
Functioning as a professional body within the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, the IEEE Computer Society is committed to advancing the theory, application, and practice of computer and information processing technology and science. The society sponsors more than 200 technical events and conferences every year and features 30 different publications for members to access.
Association for Computing Machinery
An international society for computing founded in 1947, ACM operates as the world's largest educational and scientific computing society. A nonprofit organization, the professional membership group boasts nearly 100,000 members and features 171 local chapters, 500 college and university chapters, and 37 special interest groups.
Computing Research Association
CRA functions as a nonprofit organization of North American academic departments in computer engineering, computer science, and related fields. The organization offers professional development opportunities and career services resources.