Computer engineering is a well-rounded degree for computer lovers who want to do it all. The degree balances electrical engineering with computer science to yield professionals who can both install hardware systems and write the code that makes them operate. Computer engineers might be found installing and maintaining large servers for the likes of banks or other commercial institutions while their peers are hard at work installing and maintaining cell phone networks.
An associate degree in computer engineering is the lowest full academic degree available in the field, but that understates its power. A two-year degree in computer engineering helps students form a solid foundation on which they can build with professional certifications and other credentials. After all, many businesses are more interested in talent and proven ability than academic credentials.
Requirements of an Associate Degree?
A computer engineering associate degree is a type of undergraduate degree that is two years short of a full bachelor’s degree. These degrees are typically offered through two-year, public community colleges, but there are also some private two-year institutions that offer an associate degree. This degree is often a good choice for students who wish to enter the job market in as few as two years, though students have a variety of reasons to choose an associate degree.
One of the chief reasons is that community colleges have easier admissions standards and lower tuition costs. They can also be a good choice for students who don't yet know whether they want a full, four-year education but who still see the value of holding a postsecondary diploma. Another reason is that the requirements of an associate degree are enormously helpful later on.
This is because the requirements of an associate degree include the core curriculum requirements of a typical bachelor’s degree. This means that associate degree students take courses such as English 101, college algebra, and their science courses. These days, many public community colleges are working with their state's university system to ensure that all core college credits, as well as all computer engineering courses, transfer to their associated four-year institution. This way, an associate degree is a terrific way to prepare for a four-year college or university and save some money while you’re at it.
What are the Best Online Associates in Computer Engineering College Programs?
Seminole State College of Florida
- In-State: $3,131
- Out-of-State: $11,456
- Net Price: $7,861
- Retention Rate: 72%
- Graduation Rate: 47%
- Total Enrollment: 16,298
- Undergrad Students: 16,298
- Graduate Students: 0
- Diplomas Awarded: 5
- Grads Salary: $31,800
- Student-to-faculty: 27:1
Miami Dade College
- In-State: $2,838
- Out-of-State: $9,661
- Net Price: $4,998
- Retention Rate: 65%
- Graduation Rate: 33%
- Total Enrollment: 46,523
- Undergrad Students: 46,523
- Graduate Students: 0
- Diplomas Awarded: NA
- Grads Salary: $31,100
- Student-to-faculty: 19:1
Minnesota State College Southeast
- In-State: $5,835
- Out-of-State: $5,835
- Net Price: $12,941
- Retention Rate: 56%
- Graduation Rate: 38%
- Total Enrollment: 1,912
- Undergrad Students: 1,912
- Graduate Students: 0
- Diplomas Awarded: 2
- Grads Salary: $35,400
- Student-to-faculty: 19:1
Nashua Community College
- In-State: $7,140
- Out-of-State: $15,390
- Net Price: $13,444
- Retention Rate: 61%
- Graduation Rate: 34%
- Total Enrollment: 1,352
- Undergrad Students: 1,352
- Graduate Students: 0
- Diplomas Awarded: 7
- Grads Salary: $36,600
- Student-to-faculty: 8:1
Stark State College
- In-State: 4,310
- Out-of-State: $7,406
- Net Price: $6,243
- Retention Rate: 51%
- Graduation Rate: 18%
- Total Enrollment: 10,772
- Undergrad Students: 10,772
- Graduate Students: 0
- Diplomas Awarded: 30
- Grads Salary: $32,500
- Student-to-faculty: 21:1
Where Do You Earn a AS Degree in Computer Engineering?
Though associate degrees are often associated with community college campuses, there are many options for this degree. It's a little-known fact that many four-year, bachelor's degree granting colleges and universities will grant students an associate degree in some fields. While some offer this option for specific degrees, students who find that they are incapable of completing a full four-year degree may ask their academic advisers or the academic dean whether they qualify for an associate degree. After all, it’s better to walk away with a degree of some sort if a full bachelor's degree isn't currently possible.
There are also loads of terrific online computer engineering associate degrees available. These may be offered through a state-run community college or a private, online college or university. As online education gains popularity, more and more community colleges are likely to offer degrees through their online portals. Large, four-year universities will also be adding more and more degree options as time goes on. Since so many students were forced online during the COVID pandemic, schools are continuing that trend when they find it viable and true to their mission.
Online Vs. Traditional Education in Computer Engineering
Students are often torn between pursuing an online associate degree in computer engineering versus a traditional education in computer engineering. Since online education is still somewhat new, and often a dramatic shift away from what most students encounter in high school, it may seem advantageous to stick with classroom work for their associate degree. On the other hand, an online associate degree in computer engineering offers many terrific advantages that traditional coursework cannot match.
One of the chief advantages of an online education is the convenience. Many online degree programs don't require that students log on at any specific time. These programs are called asynchronous, and they allow students to work or pursue other interests and fit their schoolwork in around that schedule. Students can thus work overnight shifts, early morning hours, or second shift jobs without missing a beat.
Online degrees also bring the classroom to the student rather than requiring students to move or even commute across town. This can be helpful when students have a long-range plans that include an eventual move for a four-year degree. A student can complete their online associate degree and then make just one move for their final undergraduate academic destination. However, many students choose to find an online bachelor's computer engineering degree.
As for the quality of an online degree versus a traditional education, the differences are few. Studies even show that online degree holders have the same outcomes as those who graduate from traditional degree programs. Online students may even have an easier time accessing their instructors via email. However, online students must have great self-discipline and time management skills to complete their degrees. This can be a boon later if it pushes them to improve their time management skills.
What are the Admission Requirements?
Associate degree programs often have lower standards for admission than their four-year peers. Community colleges often have an open admissions standard that allows anyone to enroll who has a high school diploma or the equivalent. However, this does not mean that the coursework is easy from that point. Most associate degree granting institutions will test all incoming students to determine whether they need to complete remedial courses prior to diving into college level work.
Once admitted to full college courses, students may still find that some courses have prerequisites. This should be intuitive, since one cannot dive into Calculus without first completing algebra, for instance. However, provided that they work hard, students should be able to take any course they choose.
Depending on the program, students may find that they need to fulfill requirements for their major degree program. Though this is more common for bachelor's degree programs, associate degree programs may also require a certain GPA or set of courses prior to allowing a student to declare a major in their department.
Why Earn an Associate Degree?
Many students may question the wisdom of stopping short of a bachelor's degree and entering the job market with an associate computer engineering degree. However, this is a strategy that can yield great long-term benefits. One of the chief advantages of an associate computer engineering degree is the very fact that it takes only two years of full-time study to earn the diploma.
An associate computer engineering degree will definitely help a student land an entry-level position. Once they are working and gaining experience, students can build on their associate degree with additional certifications in the field. These certifications can hone skills and build new ones. Thus, a professional with only a two-year degree can build a robust resume during the two years their bachelor's degree peers are still in school.
Additionally, if a computer engineering professional decides to return to school later on, they will likely have a very clear idea of what direction to take. They may be passionate about computers and so continue that path, or they may find that they would rather transition into management. Thus, they can take their computer engineering experience and certifications and then add on a bachelor's business degree to move them further forward along their career path.
Why a Degree in Computer Engineering?
A degree in computer engineering is a terrific idea for those who have a strong aptitude with computers or mathematics. The job market is clamoring for computer engineering students and degree holders at all levels. While many still forgo a formal education and prefer to be self-taught or to only earn certifications, a degree in computer engineering proves to employers that you are dedicated to the field. Plus, even an associate computer engineering degree can be used as a foundation for later degrees, starting with a bachelor's and then a master’s degree.
The field of computer engineering is also broad and offers students a number of avenues to pursue. Since the degree spans both computer science and electrical engineering, a degree holder in this field can dive deeper into either avenue and find a fulfilling career. Some may even take this degree to the full bachelor's level and then proceed to earn an MBA. This route builds a terrific resume proving that the candidate not only has a mastery of computer software and hardware but is a master of business, as well. Students who pursue this route could rise to the position of CIO or CTO later in their career.
What’s Involved in a Computer Engineering Associates?
An associate computer engineering degree offers students the opportunity to gain a solid foundation in mathematics and other courses specific to their major field. As an associate degree, these programs are also designed to help students complete their core college coursework. Thus, many associate degree programs are designed to guide students through required courses such as English Comp I & II, humanities courses, and even the arts.
Computer engineering students will also take courses that are specific to their major field, but only at a lower level. Nevertheless, students will complete coursework that covers operating systems such as Unix or Linux, software issues such as algorithms and software engineering, and focused mathematics courses including statistics for engineers. Depending on the program, students may complete mathematics courses as high as Calculus III while also completing Physics II and more.
Indeed, after an associate degree curriculum, students will have a strong and well-rounded education, though there is more to come when they progress into a bachelor's.
- English Comp I & II
- Linux Operating System
- Analytical Geometry
- Linear Algebra
- Calculus III
- Introduction to Computer Engineering
- Chemistry I
- Physics I & II
- Introduction to Philosophy
- Creative Writing
- Statics for Engineers
- College Trigonometry
What to Consider When Choosing an Associate Program for Computer Engineering
Accreditation is one of the top things to investigate when seeking out an associate program in computer engineering. This is because accreditation indicates the overall strength of the degree program, as well as how a student may fare later in their academic career. Associate degree programs should at least hold a regional accreditation from a CHEA-approved agency. CHEA approval has been conferred upon agencies such as: Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges (ACCJC) Western Association of Schools and Colleges, Higher Learning Commission (HLC), Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE), New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE), Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU), Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC), and WASC Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC). Students who graduate from such a program should be able to transfer their credits to a four-year institution for their bachelor's degree.
On the other hand, computer engineering students can seek out degrees that hold ABET accreditation. This accrediting agency confers its credentials on STEM departments that are of the highest quality. This means that a student with an associate computer engineering degree from an ABET accredited program should have no problem applying to any bachelor's computer engineering program anywhere in their state or across the nation.
Further Computer Engineering Education
A bachelor's degree in computer engineering is often considered to be the optimal launching point for computer engineering professionals. This is because students who spend four years studying their subject graduate with deep, broad knowledge. Bachelor’s degree programs also offer a variety of experiential learning opportunities including robust laboratories, study abroad programs, and internships.
Since computer engineering is a degree that straddles computer science and electrical engineering, a bachelor's degree program may offer students the opportunity to focus on one side more than the other. This way, students can graduate with a resume that may focus more on, say, software engineering while also gaining strong knowledge of hardware issues.
A master’s degree in computer engineering is the goal of many undergraduate students after they gain a little experience. As the name implies, students who complete their graduate coursework in this field are indeed masters of computer engineering. This intense level of focus on one's field proves to all potential employers that the candidate has world-class knowledge and skill in their field. A master’s degree may also allow the student to focus on a specialty within their field. For instance, a computer engineering student might focus on a topic such as information security (also known as cyber security) which may help them land the job of their dreams.
Students who love technology but who also desire a move into upper management may opt for a master of business administration. The MBA route is increasingly popular, especially since students can choose a technology focus for their second-year concentration. For instance, many MBA programs provide a concentration in information technology, electrical and computer engineering, or computer science, among other options.
There is yet another option for students who can take three years away from work. The dual MBA allows students to complete a full master’s degree in computer engineering while also earning an MBA, all within three years.
Doctorate or PhD
High tech fields are increasingly being filled by PhDs. That fact can be attributed to the continued development of computing. At this level, computer engineering students are surely seeking a career either in academia or some sort of research position. However, there are many PhD candidates who hit upon a brilliant entrepreneurial idea and then decide to develop that as their own start-up. Some even forgo writing a dissertation in order to take a stab at becoming the next Bill Gates.
Computer Engineering Certification
No matter the degree level, computer engineering professionals can seek out a certification to add to their resume. In fact, students with an associate degree in computer engineering may choose to pursue all future credentials by following this path. Since their associate degree provides a strong and broad foundation it may be easy to jump into a certification program. Options for certification include Amazon Web Services, Adobe, Microsoft (MCSE,) Oracle, Red Hat, and many more. While these certifications focus one's career in somewhat narrow ways, this level of specialization can be very valuable for the long haul.
One chief advantage to a certification is that they don't necessarily require students to take any courses. Many certifications can be earned by studying a book or other study materials and then passing a test. While the book and exam may come with a significant cost, they often cost less than college courses. This way is rather difficult, however, and most students are encouraged to find a preparation course. In fact, some community colleges and online education portals offer courses that train students to pass the examinations. Students may even be able to land an entry-level position merely by virtue of successful completion of these courses.
Professionals who prefer this certification route may also earn their credentials incrementally. For instance, Cisco certifications start with a certified technician credential and then peak with their Cisco Certified Architect accreditation for those who are passionate about designing networks.
Potential Computer Engineering Careers for Graduates
- Technical Support Associate:
In this position, professionals will help others to solve their computing issues. Tech support associates may also work on an IT team where they install and test system-wide software solutions. They may also help install hardware including servers networking cables.
- Computer Programmer:
Though this job description seems to be somewhat out of favor, programmers are still in high demand. This position is for computer engineering students who prefer the computer science side of their degree. Programmers should have one or two primary languages they know well and familiarity with other, complimentary languages.
- Network Administration:
These computing professionals focus their work on the computer network that drives their employer's operations. Since computer engineers are skilled with both hardware and software, network administrators may install software and also assist with building the hardware aspect of the network.
- Web Developer:
- Application Developer:
Computer engineers who have strong coding skills may find work with software development teams. Some may even branch out on their own as freelance developers who create mobile apps or server-side applications, among other possible specializations.
According to the job search site Indeed.com, salaries for computer engineers can range from the mid $20,000 range all the way up to $90,000 or more. Since the field focuses so strongly on one's ability to perform, a highly talented engineer with an associate degree might earn as much or more than someone with a master’s degree. However, those with a lower degree level may want to bolster their resume with either a series of certifications or a portfolio of work that proves their worth.
Meanwhile, the job search site, Payscale.com reports that an associate of applied science in computer engineering can yield an average base salary of $61,000. At the low end of the scale are the support specialists, who have a low-end base pay of $38,000. The upper reaches of pay for this degree goes to software engineers, who may make as much as $104,000.
Keep in mind that many tech professionals earn far more than what their base pay might indicate. Bonuses are often in the mix at higher levels and they can sometimes double what someone earns as a base salary. This naturally will vary from year to year and employer to employer, but the potential is very real. Further, many who join high-tech start-ups may receive compensation in the form of stock equity, options, or even cryptocurrency.
The outlook for computer engineers is looking brighter all the time. The ubiquity of computers and the constant need for systems to be updated and improved means that there is a steady stream of work available for who are talented. Even a self-taught computer engineer can make a terrific salary, provided that they find and exploit the right opportunities at the right time.
These days, one of the hottest areas to be in is cyber security, which can demand high-level coding, database, cryptography, or hardware skills. Thus, it's a fantastic field for a computer engineering student to investigate. There are also terrific opportunities for computer and information research scientists. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) shows that, while the typical entry level degree for this field is a master’s degree, the BLS expects it to grow by 22% through 2030.