While specialists predict it will take at least a decade before quantum computers become commercially useful, colleges already are starting the process of educating future engineers in topics such as how their hardware components work and how to write relevant software.
The effort parallels the way computer science has evolved, as many universities established and expanded their computer science undergraduate programs in the 1970s in anticipation of its exponential growth.
In response to the expected need for a quantum-educated workforce, schools such as the University of New South Wales (UNSW) in Australia, Germany's Saarland University, and the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University have rolled out both undergraduate and graduate-level quantum engineering programs.
“I have to do a lot of explaining to my parents [about] what I study,” says UNSW student William Papantoniou. “At this point, nobody really knows what a quantum engineer is. But in 10 years’ time, they will."
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