By Stephanie Stevens
Over the last two decades, there's been an explosion of products that rely on embedded engineers to bridge the gap between hardware and software development. Now is a great time to work in the field, with the global embedded systems market estimated to reach more than $137 billion yearly by 2027.
So, what exactly does an embedded engineer do? They help design, develop and maintain embedded systems in products ranging from mobile phones and home appliances to building fire safety and NASA guidance systems. They must be proficient with software development and coding while also fully understanding the hardware needs of their projects.
There are a few crucial steps to becoming a proficient embedded engineer, not the least of which is education (both formal and informal). Start by earning a Bachelor's degree in Electrical Engineering, Computer Engineering or Computer Science and learning to code using C.
Next, gain some experience through training on the job. We suggest you choose an industry to specialize in, such as consumer electronics, robotics, artificial intelligence (AI), Internet of Things (IoT), medical or telecommunications. As you progress in your career, consider seeking out certifications in areas of particular interest to you, such as certificates in embedded engineering, autonomous vehicle engineering or working in renewable energy.
Skills & Responsibilities
Embedded engineers must exhibit a broad range of essential skills including, but not limited to:
- The ability to problem-solve and logically think through issues
- A strong understanding of entire embedded systems
- Comfort working with microprocessors (MCUs)
- Proficiency with coding using C
- Operating as part of a team
- Regularly communicating their progress.
- Basic project management skills
- Creativity and patience
It's also crucial that embedded engineers be detail-oriented. Coding can be tedious and time-intensive. One small mistake in hundreds of lines of code can have catastrophic consequences on the final product. So, while looking at long lines of code and finding a single mistake can be onerous, the ability to catch those mistakes can make or break a project.
According to Glassdoor.com, the average embedded engineer makes about $120,030 a year, with the highest-paid 10% earning $168,000 a year. The more experience you have, the higher your salary potential.
Additional Embedded Engineering Facts
- California ranks #1 as the best state for people to work in embedded engineering, followed by Oregon, Washington, and New York. (Zippia)
- Apple, Starkey Laboratories, Sony, Qualcomm and Motorola are the top five embedded engineering employers. (Zippia)
- The top three languages spoken by embedded engineers are Chinese (including Mandarin), Korean, Japanese and Spanish. (Zippia)
- Only 13.7% of embedded engineers are women. (Zippia)
- UC San Diego's Department of Computer Science and Engineering ranks 8th in computer systems and 11th in the nation overall in 2022 (US News & World Report).