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What are the main differences in careers between a hardware engineer vs. software engineer? The fundamental difference is a hardware engineer deals with the physical entity, which means something you can touch or handle. A software engineer works on the program that makes the device run which is usually a set of instructions written in computer language. Let’s look a little closer at the types of careers falling under these two umbrellas and the study of computer engineering.

Hardware Engineer vs. Software Engineer: What Are The Main Differences In These Careers

Computer Engineers

This career is split between two camps and computer engineers deal mainly with either hardware or software. An engineer will be employed on building computer applications, testing and designing. An engineer can work in a number of settings ranging from a big cooperation to home and office. Engineers can be employed in either private or public sectors.

Engineers who specialize in software must be conversant in high level programming languages like C++, COBOL or Java. Engineers also need to be familiar with the Internet and able to maintain and develop a website.

Hardware Engineer vs. Software Engineer: What Are The Main Differences In These Careers

Hardware engineers who specialize in computer hardware usually work in research, testing, development and supervision of installations. The hardware components of the average computer consist of: printers, modems, keyboards, systems, circuit boards, and chips. Many computer hardware engineers have a previous background in electronics as the two skills are related.

Computer hardware engineers are employed almost everywhere in a modern society. There is no end of career choices and an engineer will be able to work in fields such as: health care, government, telecommunications and business.

Computer Software Architect

Computer software architects are employed on improving overall system performance to meet the needs of organizations and businesses. A computer architect’s responsibilities might range from: weather forecasting models, computer gaming software, and design. Computer architects also put together components to make new systems able to meet changing demands. They also test computers, develop, design and research.

Chip Architect

This is a career that deals with micro chip hardware development. Responsibilities may include: designing high level performance models for the chip and testing it to see if it matches performance specifications expected from the chip.

Network Engineer

Network engineers install, maintain and provide support for communication networks, such as: schools, government buildings and hospitals. A network engineer’s aim is to ensure the smooth running of the operation of communication networks. Network engineers are often a part of the IT support team. Responsibilities include: maintaining new server hardware, software infrastructure and support.

Software Engineer

Software engineers deal with the computer science aspect of computer engineering. This involves software development and planning. A software engineer needs to be fully conversant with C++ and Java etc. Responsibilities include: debugging, coding and designing applications in several software languages. Other duties may include: Object-orientated design, software modeling and software testing.


There are many career choices with a good degree in computer engineering. This is a growing and developing area of industry and for the foreseeable future there will always be work for a student with a first class degree in computer engineering. Salaries are competitive and there is always room for advancement.

All of the careers above require the writing skills to be able to describe projects, write technical reports and craft memorandums to fellow workers. For the computer engineering field, computer architecture, and chip architecture field, instruction manuals will be essential in order for the product created to be usable to fellow engineers and the general public.