Computer engineering technology programs prepare people to help engineers design and build computer systems. Students learn to install and maintain equipment. They also learn to write and test software programs.
What does it mean to engineer a computer? You may imagine somebody tinkering with the chips and the connections inside a computer system to get it to run with maximum efficiency. And that's partly right. But in many computer engineering technology programs you spend much more time on software. That's because engineering is about applying the scientific method to solve practical problems, so it can be done to software as well as to hardware.
In this program, you start by studying math and physics. Physics helps you understand the workings of electronic circuits. Just as important, it teaches you how to solve problems by experimenting, gathering data, and testing theories. You take more specialized courses that teach you how circuits can represent logical operations. You learn what actually goes on inside those amazing chips. And you study how data is communicated over networks. You learn a few programming languages. You also study how popular kinds of software store and process data.
If your program focuses on engineering technology, you study the logical processes that go on before any code is written; that is, you study how to solve a problem by creating an algorithm. You learn skills you will use in research and development. With two or three years of full-time study beyond high school, you can earn an associate degree in a program of this kind. This will qualify you to work as a technician within an engineering team. A four-year program will earn you a bachelor's degree, and you can work as an engineering technologist. In some states, you may be able to work as an engineer. This program is available at about 80 colleges.
Much more common are programs that prepare you to work as a computer technician. You install and repair computer systems, networks, and peripherals. You troubleshoot, consult manuals and online help, run tests, and load software. You show workers how to use the computer equipment and software. About 300 colleges offer a two-year program of this kind, leading to an associate degree.