Computer engineering encompasses several disciplines within computer science and electrical engineering and focuses on the skills and knowledge needed to develop hardware and software. Computer engineering is a growing, competitive field with plenty of room for career advancement and profitability. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), computer engineers receive one of the highest median annual wages among engineers and will continue to enjoy increased job growth.
Pursuing advanced education in the field helps working professionals capitalize on these conditions. This page offers useful resources for learners interested in pursuing an online computer engineering master's. The guide discusses the typical course requirements, looks at financial aid options and possible career paths, and lists several professional development resources for graduates.
What to Know About Online Master's in Computer Engineering Coursework
Online master's in computer engineering programs generally comprise 30-48 credits. These credits deliver high-level instruction across a variety of topics that develop core skills and knowledge specific to computer engineering.
Learners can expect to receive training in some of the fundamental aspects of the discipline, like hardware and software development, nanotechnology, and computer networking. Some programs also offer simulated laboratory experiences where degree-seekers apply their training in common computer engineering situations.
Most learners complete their online computer engineering master'sdegree in two years or less, depending on enrollment status and individual circumstances. Accelerated options and innovative distance learning technologies often expedite this process so learners can enter the workforce quickly.
Unlike traditional on-campus education, online programs in computer engineering do not demand geographical relocation or conventional classroom instruction. Learners can work at their own pace in their own local area, seamlessly integrating their professional lives with educational aspirations.
What Common Courses are Offered in a Master's in Computer Engineering Program?
Specific course offerings for an online computer engineering master'svary by school and program. However, most courses follow a similar trajectory and cover the fundamentals of the field while providing ample opportunity for exploration and specialization. Prospective learners can expect a curriculum that includes courses similar to those listed below.
- Introduction to Computer Engineering
A foundational component in most curricula, this course offers learners a working overview of the field, including basic computer engineering concepts, binary number representations, sequential circuiting, and assembly language programming. Students deploy these concepts in applied, interactive laboratory situations designed to mimic common computer systems and networking situations.
- Computer Organizations and Design
This course provides degree-seekers with a clear foundation in computer design. Instruction covers basic hardware and software concepts, focusing on their interaction in various communication systems and enterprise networking architectures. Topics include computer arithmetic, memory hierarchy, multicores and multiprocessors, CPU pipelining, and parallel programming modules.
- Computer Networking
Learners in this course examine the basic principles and practical applications of broad-based computer networks. Material covered includes sensor networking, emergent communication technologies, communication protocols such as TCP/IP and UDP, and traffic measuring tools. Students learn to create, maintain, and troubleshoot network systems in settings that mirror common enterprise scenarios.
- Systems Architecture
This course covers all aspects of computer and telecommunications systems architecture. Learners work with common structural maps and networking channels to develop the knowledge and skills necessary to manage robust systems in large business environments. Potential subjects include thread-level parallelism, interconnection networks and clusters, and storage systems.
- Hardware and Software Design
Degree seekers in this course explore basic elements of hardware and software design as they pertain to embedded systems and telecommunications networks. Instruction involves system-level modeling, high-level synthesis, design space exploration, and hardware-software partitioning. Near the end of the course, learners develop their own scalable models for peer testing and troubleshooting.
What Specializations are Available in a Master's in Computer Engineering Program?
Some online computer engineering master'sprograms offer areas of specialization as a part of their curriculum. These specializations allow students to pursue additional areas of interest or expertise that align with their professional goals. Possible areas of specialization vary, but learners can expect opportunities similar to those below.
- Hardware and Computer Architecture
This area focuses on computer design structures and their attendant hardware components. The specialization highlights the engineering aspects of the field and deals with the creation, design, repair, and maintenance of physical computer equipment and other relevant electronic components. Students learn to disassemble and build these components and develop the skills necessary for diagnosis and troubleshooting.
- Computer Networks and Communications
This specialization deals with the design, monitoring, installation, and administration of all of the hardware and software components that undergird common network and telecommunications systems. Ideal for prospective network administrators and database managers, this area develops the knowledge and skills required to maintain a robust, high-level network system in both the private and enterprise sectors.
Learners specializing in software focus on design, development, implementation, and user interface. They develop proficiency in common programming and coding languages and learn to manage the entire life of a software project, from its inception and design to beta testing and market availability.
What Exams or Projects Should I Expect?
While by no means a universal requirement, some schools do require a thesis or oral exam. Specific details vary, so learners interested in pursuing an online computer engineering master'sshould consult potential schools before making a final decision. Theses typically entail original research or other engineering projects that refine core skills in the field. Oral exams assess learners' knowledge and aptitudes in computer engineering prior to graduation.
Many computer engineering career paths require professional certification above and beyond obtaining a graduate degree. Professional organizations like CompTIA typically grant these credentials. Schools offering an online computer engineering master'sdo not confer these certifications directly, but they do provide intensive preparation as part of their curricula.
How Can I Choose a Quality Online Master's in Computer Engineering
Several factors contribute to assessing the overall quality of an online computer engineering master'sprogram. These include accreditation, faculty and program focus, and students' professional goals.
Accreditation is the most important factor for any program. Prospective learners should always ensure that potential schools retain regional or national accreditation. Beyond that, the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET) administers specialized accreditation to programs in computing and engineering. A programmatic credential, ABET accreditation is no substitute for academic accreditation, but it does lend additional support to a program's quality.
Prospective learners should also weigh each potential program's focus alongside their professional aims. Areas of specialization, faculty expertise, and course offerings all contribute to a program's overall fit. Degree seekers interested in software development, for example, would do well to consider programs with faculty experts and specialty offerings in that subfield.
Career Opportunities With a Master's in Computer Engineering Degree
The list below includes some of the common career paths available to professionals with an online computer engineering master'sdegree. Earning this degree does not automatically guarantee eligibility or employment for these occupations. Jobs may require additional certification and training, for example. However, formal education in the field encourages a broad set of skills many employers desire in potential job candidates. A master's also tends to increase earning power and professional development.
- Network and Computer Systems Administrator
Network and computer systems administrators work at nearly every industry level. Responsible for the day-to-day operations of large-scale telecommunications networks and enterprise technologies, these professionals organize and maintain an organization's data systems and determine its computing needs. They also oversee and develop network segments and intranets, local area networks, wide area networks, and other data communication systems.
- Median Salary: $82,050 per year
- Currently Employed: 391,300
- Expected Job Growth in Next 10 years: +6%
- Computer and Information Research Scientist
These professionals research, study, and solve complex computing problems. They create and design innovative approaches to computer technologies and develop new applications for existing technologies. Working with both hardware and software components, they assess intricate algorithms and coding matrices to improve system efficiency and user interaction. They often work in conjunction with network administrators, hardware engineers, and other specialists to develop multidisciplinary projects.
- Median Salary: $118,370 per year
- Currently Employed: 27,900
- Expected Job Growth in Next 10 years: +19%
- Computer Network Architect
Network architects design, build, and evaluate data communication networks. These networks include small-scale office systems and sophisticated, global connections based on cloud infrastructures. Typical responsibilities include developing plans and layouts for data communication networks, offering plans to management executives, integrating information security measures, upgrading networking related hardware components, and researching new information technologies that support their employer's future goals.
- Median Salary: $109,020 per year
- Currently Employed: 162,700
- Expected Job Growth in Next 10 years: +6%
- Software Developer
Software developers work as the creative and intellectual talent behind popular computer programs. Using various programming languages and coding methods, they develop applications that allow users to perform specific tasks on computers and mobile devices. Developers work to analyze user needs and then design, test, and implement measures that meet those needs while disseminating products specific to their organization. They ensure that software applications continue to run smoothly and develop upgrades.
- Median Salary: $105,590 per year
- Currently Employed: 1,256,200
- Expected Job Growth in Next 10 years: +24%
- Computer Systems Analyst
These analysts study and evaluate an organization's computer systems and work to implement solutions designed to help systems operate more effectively and efficiently. They work with network architects and systems administrators and often function as a liaison between IT professionals and business executives. Common duties include working with personnel to determine the role of computer systems within the organization, preparing and disseminating cost-benefit analyses, and conducting testing and training programs.
- Median Salary: $88,740 per year
- Currently Employed: 600,500
- Expected Job Growth in Next 10 years: +9%
Source: BLS, 2019
What's the Expected Job Growth for Computer Engineering Careers?
Working professionals with an online computer engineering master's stand to benefit from a strong, thriving job outlook. The BLS projects each of the career paths mentioned above to experience positive growth by 2026, increasing by a combined average of 12.8%. Earning an advanced degree in this field can broaden career opportunities and increase earning potential. An advanced degree gives working professionals an edge over the competition by promoting expert-level skills.
Professional Organizations for Careers in Computer Engineering
Many professional organizations like those listed below are available to learners and recent graduates with an online computer engineering master's. These organizations offer a variety of important resources that facilitate professional development and career advancement. They promote networking and peer collaboration, host job boards and local events, and offer training and certification tools that keep professionals in the industry up to date.
One of the world's leading tech associations, CompTIA conducts original research in computer science and promotes programs designed to support industry standards. CompTIA also offers several certifications specific to computer engineering and other related disciplines. The association sponsors regular events and provides professionals with innovative tools and resources to support their work.
Initially founded in 1972, CRA advances its mission of uniting industry, academia, and governance in computing research by advocating policy, supporting research, and educating the public. CRA hosts job boards specific to the industry, facilitates a variety of professional development events, and confers awards recognizing excellence.
Since 1947, ACM has functioned as the world's largest computing society, strengthening the profession's global standing through strong leadership and forward thinking. ACM supports local chapters that connect professionals in the industry, hosts regular events, and offers grants and awards. The association also promotes public policy, supports special interest groups, and disseminates several publications related to computing and computer science endeavors.
The IISE supports professionals in a variety of engineering-related fields by offering training and career development programs. The institute hosts an annual conference, maintains a robust career center, and provides several publications for members.
Based in New York, the IEEE acts as the world's largest technical professional organization dedicated to the advancement of technology. The IEEE achieves its mission of fostering innovation and excellence by promoting industry standards and best practices, hosting education opportunities, and providing publications that facilitate the exchange of technical information. The institute also sponsors conferences and hosts regular events.
How to Pay for a Master's in Computer Engineering Degree
Graduate-level education can prove costly. Fortunately, there are financial aid options available to degree-seekers at every stage, including those pursuing a master's in computer engineering online.These options come in the form of federal opportunities, scholarships from specific schools and professional organizations, and applied grants and fellowships.
Federal Financial Aid
All prospective students should complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) as part of their enrollment process. This application determines individual eligibility for a variety of federal financial aid opportunities. The U.S. Department of Education also maintains a repository of financial aid resources for learners in STEM disciplines, including computer engineering.
Scholarships From Professional Organizations
Many professional organizations like those listed above also offer scholarships and grants to learners pursuing an online computer engineering master's. Specific opportunities vary by organization, so prospective students should do their research and apply for scholarships that meet their needs and align with their professional goals.
School and Program Scholarships
Schools and programs may offer departmental financial aid opportunities to support graduate learners in computer engineering. Requirements and eligibility criteria vary. Prospective students may want to weigh available opportunities against other deciding factors as they work to find a school and program with the best fit.
Fellowships and Grants
Beyond scholarships and federal aid, a variety of fellowships and grants are available to learners in computer engineering. Some opportunities come from specific schools and programs, while others are sponsored by professional organizations and other entities with a vested interested in the field. These opportunities often entail a research or service component.