I have worked as a software
engineer for many years but never studied engineering. I came up when the "PC Revolution" occurred during the 1980s and 1990s, when people from all walks of life started using computers to do all kinds of work. I have a master's degree in medicinal chemistry, in which I used computerized methods to design new drug molecules. Please bear that in mind when you examine my answers to your questions.
1. BA in Biochemistry, then MS in Pharmacology (specializing in medicinal chemistry)
2. You either have to get more academic training, or keep yourself trained and in practice on current technologies relevant to your field.
3. At the moment it is one of the most secure careers
4. As long as we use more computing in everyday products and services, it will remain a robust and relatively secure career. It can easily be outsourced and off-shored, though.
5. The area around San Francisco and San Jose, California (otherwise known as Silicon Valley), is a modern day version of renaissance Florence, Italy. All major cities in the world have lots of computer industry jobs, though.
6. It is interesting, creative, challenging, and ever-changing. If you like solving strange puzzles, you'll enjoy it immensely.
7. You will have to sit in a cubicle all day in front of a computer screen and learn to thrive in corporate culture.
8 This is common:
a) get a bachelor's degree in engineering or computer science; have relevant summer jobs, internships, or outside projects that are good enough to put on your resume. Collaborating in an open-source software project is good (see http://sourceforge.net/
b) get a master's degree in some relevant specialty that you are very interested in. This is optional but highly recommended. A PhD is not really necessary.
c) During your graduate studies, get summer internship jobs at high-tech companies where your growing skills can be put directly to use.
d) Get a job where your skills are highly valued. At first, change jobs every three to five years so you don't get in too much of a rut. When you find a place you really like, stay as long as you are still happy there.
Things will be very similar for hardware engineers, except your studies, projects, internships, and other activities will be geared more towards hardware than software (keep in mind that both will be intertwined). There are open source hardware projects as well:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_op ... e_projectshttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Open-source_hardware
Don't do anything just for the money, do it because you love to do it. If you are not passionate and happy about your work, it almost certainly will turn out badly.
Please let me know if you have more questions.