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Hardware consists of the physical components of a computer. Software tells those parts what to do and how to do it. Simply put, without software, your hardware would not do anything. Without hardware, your software wouldn't have anything to do.
Hardware includes monitors, keyboards, speakers, printers, and any other tangible computer part. The operating system and programs installed on your computer are software.
Below, we've broken down hardware vs. software, plus jobs and skills related to each.
Hardware includes your computer's internal and external parts you can touch and see. Hardware lets you type into a computer, see images, hear sounds, and move your cursor. You also store data on hardware.
Internal computer hardware includes motherboards and CPUs. These are, essentially, your computer's heart and brain. Random access memory, or RAM, gets cleared when your computer shuts down, while hard drives and solid-state drives keep long-term data.
External hardware connects to your computer to control input and output. Think keyboards, mice, headphones, and flash drives. Monitors, speakers, webcams, and printers are common external computer hardware.
Examples of computer hardware jobs
Hardware jobs sit at the forefront of building, designing, and repairing internal and external computer hardware. Hardware roles include:
To enter a hardware role, a bachelor's computer and information technology or computer engineering degree provides foundational knowledge and skills. (Degrees in related fields also work.)
You should have a background in mathematics, science, and computer software systems.
Earning a degree from a program accredited by ABET demonstrates to future employers the quality of your education. Some advanced jobs may require a computer engineering master's degree.
What is software?
Computer software tells your computer how to function. System software directs your hardware, while application software carries out tasks for specific purposes.
System software includes operating systems like macOS and Microsoft Windows. System software controls your computer's speed, memory, security, and overall efficacy.
Word processing and spreadsheet programs, databases, multimedia and communication applications, and internet browsers are application software.
System software runs whenever your computer is on, while application software launches when you open it. System software functions independently of application software, but application software needs a software system to accomplish tasks.