Duties and Responsibilities for Hardware Engineers
By Indeed Editorial Team
Published November 15, 2022
The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.
Hardware engineers work with advanced computer components, requiring significant training and expertise. They have multiple duties they perform each day, depending on specific projects and their experience level. Understanding these duties and responsibilities can help you determine whether you want to pursue a career as a hardware engineer and if the daily duties sound appealing. In this article, we explain what these engineers are and what they do by covering twelve core duties and responsibilities for the position.
What are hardware engineers?
Hardware engineers are technology professionals that work directly with computer hardware. This includes components like circuit boards and wiring. Engineers are also qualified in design and testing and often serve as support professionals for companies using specific computer hardware. They perform various duties and, depending on their experience level, might also participate in project or personnel management. For example, a senior hardware engineer might lead a team of engineers.
What do they do?
These engineers have different duties depending on their specific project, employer, and experience level. Here are some of their core duties:
Design new hardware components
The primary duty of a hardware engineer is to design new hardware components for computers, computer systems, and other digital systems. The engineer uses design and blueprinting software to create initial designs for a component or system, which then goes to the product development team for approval. The engineer receives feedback from both the development team and the client before proceeding to any prototyping or building. They coordinate directly with project stakeholders and other engineers to also create project parameters, deadlines, and quality requirements. They often help plan project progression and budgets.
Ensure design quality
An engineer must also ensure the quality of the design they present to the client or the product development team. They might achieve this by working with other engineers who can provide feedback, such as a senior engineer. For example, an engineer might create an initial design for a new computer housing chassis, but before creating a prototype, they send the design to their senior engineer for review. The senior engineer reviews the design against specific parameters and helps the engineer adjust their design to meet quality specifications. More experienced engineers might spend most of their time reviewing designs.
Test new designs
With approval from development teams or the client, an engineer might proceed to the prototyping and testing phase. This phase allows an engineer to build a prototype for their design, which is essentially a mock-up of the final product that allows for direct testing. The engineer then uses the prototype to test the functionality, durability, and practicality of their designs. They might work closely with the client or a senior engineer to ensure they're meeting all project requirements. The results of the prototype influence the next steps, which can include either proceeding to full production or performing a re-design.
Provide product support to customers
Hardware engineers also provide direct technical and non-technical support to customers for the products they design and create. For example, if an engineer designs and creates a new cooling system for an industrial machinery computer, they might provide technical support on the phone or in person if there's a malfunction with the system. They can also provide non-technical support, such as explaining the user manual, guiding the customer through basic troubleshooting, or suggesting maintenance practices or repairs for the system or hardware. Sometimes, engineers travel to customer locations to perform installations, too.
Develop product testing strategies
Engineers also help develop testing strategies to test new designs for specific functionalities. They work closely with the development team to determine what kinds of tests to perform on new designs. For example, they might test a cooling system for its cooling efficiency, energy usage, fire risk, and cost-effectiveness. These testing parameters help the team determine whether the final product is an affordable, practical, and safe option for the company to produce and for the customer to use.
Prepare product deployment documents
Engineers are also responsible for preparing various documents during the design, testing, and implementation processes. They might prepare reports on their designs, complete with a digital or physical copy of the original blueprint, and prepare a report on their prototype testing. Engineers can also help write or completely write the user manual for the new hardware, which can require its own documentation. Depending on the scope of the project, the company's policies, and the needs of the client, engineers might complete more documents, like safety reports, troubleshooting reports, and expense reports for the process.
Collaborate with other engineers
Collaboration is often a requirement for engineers because they typically work as a team to complete their objectives. A hardware engineer might collaborate with other engineers, like software or electrical engineers, to ensure all the components of their design are compatible with other components. For example, a hardware engineer might consult the company's electrical engineer to ensure the material they use for a computer chassis isn't an electrical hazard or conductor. They also collaborate on designs, provide and receive feedback from other engineers, and accept advice and guidance from more experienced engineers.
Evaluate software and hardware compatibility
When engineers create computer hardware, the hardware typically requires software to function properly. For example, a graphic processing unit might require software drivers to render a complete picture on a screen. This can require collaboration with a software engineer, who works closely with the hardware specialist to ensure the final product accepts and functions properly with the new software. They provide feedback that helps other engineers make the necessary adjustments to hardware to ensure maximum compatibility for the final product, ensuring the customer receives a functional product of a higher quality.
Provide training and oversight for junior engineers
Senior engineers in this field typically work alongside junior engineers who have less experience and fewer expert-level skills. They provide leadership on projects and design processes, help train junior engineers, and often serve as project managers. Senior engineers can also lead company training programs to ensure that all engineers receive the same level and type of training, promoting consistency in engineering processes and work quality. They can also help junior engineers develop specific skills that can help them advance within the company.
Help with professional development
Engineers can help with professional development by leading courses, seminars, or other events that contribute to the professional development of other engineers in the field. For example, a senior hardware engineer might lead a seminar on emerging technologies or processes to familiarize a new generation of engineers with the changing industry. They can also write manuals or courses for entry-level engineers that want to expand their skill set and become more desirable hiring candidates.
Contribute to industry standards
Engineers also contribute to improving the standards for their industry, including safety, production, and quality standards. For example, an engineer might identify an unsafe practice that's a standard in hardware engineering, contributing to an industry-wide change that eliminates the practice or makes it safer. These contributions are important because engineers are the people who work in the same environment each day, so they understand the safety needs and risks that exist in the industry. They can also help identify the need to update outdated processes or improve working conditions, education requirements, or skills requirements.
Innovate old processes
Engineers also contribute to industry innovation by creating new processes, updating old ones, or adjusting processes to be more efficient. For example, a hardware engineer might create a new cabling system that minimizes connections and allows for greater heat transfer from the CPU to the chassis. Innovation is important to the industry because it helps companies create new and competitive products, can inspire employee confidence and morale, and often gives the company a unique advantage over its competitors, potentially boosting revenues or profits.
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