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Computer Engineering Major Guide for 2009-2010

What is Computer Engineering

Computer Engineering deals with the electronic hardware side of electrical engineering and the programming side of computer science.  Often, a student can study electrical engineering to cultivate a background in computer engineering.  However, with the increasing needs of both industry and technology that drive our future, computer engineering has now become a discipline by itself.  Typically, a computer engineering curriculum provides a background in three broad areas—hardware, software and hardware-software integration.  Students will also have the opportunity to explore fundamental topics such as microprocessors, computer architecture, digital signal processing, operating systems, data communications and other related material.  In addition, the program includes core engineering subjects that are common to all engineering disciplines.
The program educational objectives of the computer engineering program include:

  • An understanding of the engineering sciences necessary to analyze and design complex devices and systems containing hardware and software components
  • A progression of design projects and tasks throughout the program
  • An understanding of probability and statistics, including applications and discrete math
  • An understanding of mathematics through differential and integral calculus
  • An understanding of the basic sciences including chemistry and physics
  • An understanding of advanced mathematics in the areas of differential equations, numerical analysis, linear algebra, and advanced calculus
  • An orderly student progression through the program
  • Achievement of the objectives of the 13 outcomes.
    The university’s engineering programs are fully accredited by the ABET Engineering Accreditation Program.

Career Opportunities in Computer Engineering

Computer hardware engineers are expected to have favorable job opportunities.  Employment of computer hardware engineers is projected to increase faster than the average for all occupations through 2010, reflecting rapid employment growth in the computer and office equipment industry, which employs the greatest number of computer engineers.  Consulting opportunities for computer hardware engineers should grow as businesses need help managing, upgrading and customizing increasingly complex systems.  Growth in embedded systems, a technology that uses computers to control other devices such as appliances or cell phones, also will increase the demand for computer hardware engineers.

Salary Trends in Computer Engineering

In the field of computer engineering, according to the U.S. Department of Labor’s 2007 Occupational Outlook Handbook, the median annual earnings of computer hardware engineers were $88,400 in 2006.  The middle 50 percent earned between $69,500 and $111,030.  The lowest 10 percent earned less than $53,910, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $135,260.  Median annual earnings in the industries employing the largest numbers of computer hardware engineers in 2007 were:

  • Semiconductor and other electronic component manufacturing-$99,800
  • Computer and peripheral equipment manufacturing-$99,360
  • Computer systems designs and related services-$91,040

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, starting salary offers in 2007 for bachelor’s degree candidates in computer engineering averaged $56,201 a year; master’s degree candidates averaged $68,000.

High School Preparation

Core academic subjects required for admission:

  • 4 units of English
  • 2 units of algebra
  • 1 unit of geometry, trigonometry, advanced math or calculus
  • 2 units of natural science, including at least 1 unit of biology, chemistry or physics
  • 1 unit of American history
  • 1 unit of European history, world history or world geography
  • 2 units of a single foreign language
  • 1 unit of visual or performing arts

Computer courses prior to the freshman year in engineering are also highly recommended.
Prospective students who want to enter the engineering program are also required to meet the criteria of the “Success Prediction Index” (SPI).  The formula math ACT score.  The college is gradually increasing the required SPI score.  Check the UT Admissions or College of Engineering web sites to determine the current SPE required.  Students who are unable to meet this requirement may register as "university undecided” students and complete appropriate mathematics, science and other courses before applying for admission to the COE.

How to Major in Computer Engineering

The computer engineering degree program is administered by the UT Min H. Kao Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science (EECS).  Students applying to the university should specify computer engineering as their chosen major when completing the admission form.  Students transferring from other departments within UT or from other educational institutions should contact the department for more information regarding the appropriate entry level and any additional required courses.  For more information on the admissions process, visit

Requirements for Computer Engineering

The EECS department currently does not have any special requirements for admission to the electrical or computer engineering program, other than the general admission requirements for the university and the college.  College of Engineering students at the sophomore level and above are required to own laptop computers for class work.  For more information, please visit

Special Programs, Co-ops, and Internships

All UT freshman engineering students are automatically enrolled in the innovative Engage Engineering Fundamentals Program, designed to help students learn basic engineering concepts and teamwork skills through a series of hands-on projects and activities: 
The College of Engineering’s Office of Professional Practice (OPP) provides income-generating opportunities for engineering students to experience real-world engineering challenges through cooperative education (co-op) and internship programs.  Both programs offer structured learning environments where students develop increasing responsibilities by holding full-time paid positions in a professional environment related to their academic and career goals:
 In addition to financial and scholarship programs available to all students, the college also provides special scholarships and support programs to minority students, including:

The College of Engineering also participates in the University Honors Program, which is designed to give academically outstanding students a unique undergraduate experience consisting of special courses, seminars, mentoring and research projects:
The UT Center for International Education collaborates with the COE to create opportunities for engineering students to study in other countries:

Highlights of Computer Engineering

The EECS department is currently constructing a new 150,000 square foot facility, projected for completion in 2010, which will provide students and faculty with state-of-the-art classrooms, laboratories and research facilities.  The department also recently received a $5 million gift, which will be used to match additional donations to generate a $10 million endowment that will fund scholarships, named professorships and fellowships.  Dr. Min Kao, Chairman and CEO of Garmin International Inc. and an alumnus of the UT-ECE program, provided this transformational gift, and both the new building and the department will bear Dr. Kao, name in honor of his generosity. 
EECS students also have valuable opportunities to participate in student chapters of many engineering professional societies, including the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) student branch; the electrical and computer engineering honor society Eta Kappa Nu; and Tau Beta Pi, the engineering honor society.  These groups afford members the opportunity to gain valuable experience in time management, public speaking and team work.

Ready for the World logoReady for the World

Engineering students can take part in UT Study Abroad programs throughout the world. There are programs in Asia, Europe, Africa, Australia, South America, and North America. You can take classes during one semester, mini-term, summer, or the whole academic year.  There are also opportunities for international internships and other work experiences.  See the websites at the Engineering Outreach Office and Programs Abroad Office for more information.

Learn more about UT's Ready for the World initiative to help students gain the international and intercultural knowledge they need to succeed in today's world.

Sample Curriculum

Freshman Year Credit Hours
English 101* or 118*, 102* 6
Chemistry 120* 4
Mathematics 141* or 147*, 142 or 148* 8
Engineering Fundamentals 151 or 157, 152 or 158, 105 9
ECE 206 or COSC 102 4
Sophomore Year Credit Hours
Mathematics 231, 241, 251 10
Physics 231*, 232* 7
ECE 255, 313 7
ECE 300 5
Computer Science 140 4
Junior Year Credit Hours
ECE 315, 335 7
Computer Science 302, 360 8
Mathematics 300 3
ECE 316, 342, 355, 395 10
2 Philosophy 241*, 243*, or 244* 3
2 Cultures and Civilizations Electives* 6
Senior Year Credit Hours
ECE 451-453 or 451-455 6
ECE 400* 5
3 Computer Engineering Senior Electives 6
2 Social Sciences Electives* 6
2 Arts and Humanities Electives* 3
1 Engineering Fundamentals 402 1

*Meets University General Education Requirement
1 Engineering Fundamentals 157 and 158 are Honors versions of Engineering Fundamentals and students in the Honors Program are not required to take Engineering Fundamentals 402
2 Can be taken at any time
3 The Computer Engineering Senior Electives must be in Electrical and Computer Engineering courses. At most, one Computer Engineering Senior Elective can be from any 300-level Electrical and Computer Engineering courses.  Approved Senior Electives are: Electrical and Computer Engineering 325, 336, 341, 415, 416, 421, 422, 423, 431, 432, 441, 442, 443, 446, 453, 471, 472, 481 and 482.

For More Information

 Min H. Kao Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science
 414 Ferris Hall
 Knoxville, TN 37996-2100
 Phone: (865)974-3461
 Fax: (865)974-5483



The information on this page should be considered general information only. For more specific information on this and other programs refer to the UT catalog or contact the department and/or college directly.