What is an Embedded Software Engineer?

Everything you need to know about being an embedded software engineer! What is this job? How can you become one? What kinds of projects do embedded software engineers work on?
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Simply put, an embedded software engineer, is a software engineer who develops and works on embedded systems. But what is an embedded system?

An embedded system is a small-scale computer system that is embedded within a larger machine. These most often come into use for Iot devices. For example, a vacuum cleaner robot is a machine with many components including, the mechanical parts that make it move around and suck up dirt, the digital parts that allow it to light up and respond to buttons that the user presses, and the external parts that encase everything else. It also contains an embedded computer system, which gives it the ‘smart’ capabilities to decide where to go as it cleans.

If you’re interested in IoT and smart-devices, embedded software engineering could be a great career for you! We’ll dive into the responsibilities and skills involved in this role below!


Responsibilities of an Embedded Software Engineer

Embedded software engineers often work on a specific product and become an expert on the product’s uses and function. Sometimes they may work on a handful of different products that use similar systems. 

Most embedded software engineers work on a team of other software and hardware engineers, whom they collaborate and brainstorm with. 

Key responsibilities of an embedded software engineer include:

  • Designing, developing, and testing embedded systems
  • Designing and implementing algorithms
  • Developing automation features
  • Coding
  • Debugging
  • Identifying product risks and develop mitigation strategies
  • Working with both hardware and software


Skills for an Embedded Software Engineer to Have

An embedded software engineer must have many of the same skills as a regular software engineer plus a few extra ones that are used specifically for embedded systems. Key skills for embedded software engineers include:

  • C Programming
  • C++
  • Writing code for hardware
  • Assembler code
  • Software development lifecycle
  • Real-Time Operating Systems
  • Git
  • Hardware & Software Testing Environments
  • Reverse engineering


Parts of an Embedded System

While we’re on the topic of embedded software, let’s dive a bit deeper into the parts that make up an embedded system. Most embedded systems are made up of a microprocessor, a GPU, memory storage, input-output communication interfaces, and a power supply.

Together, these parts come together to accept input data, process it, and respond with the appropriate output. The examples below illustrate how this might work. 


Examples of Embedded Systems

Embedded systems are used in both commonplace devices and innovative new machines. These are a few examples of devices and machines that use embedded systems:

  • Fire Alarm
  • Digital Cameras
  • Central Heating Systems
  • ATMs
  • Smart Watches
  • Home Security Systems
  • Home Appliances (washing machines, microwaves, dishwashers)
  • Industrial Robots


Salary for an Embedded Software Engineer

On average, embedded software engineers in the United States earn $119,240 per year. However, this estimate varies depending on the specifics of your role, your experience level, the company you work for and your location.

The average salary for an embedded software engineer in San Francisco is $129,944 (higher than the national average) while the average salary for this role in Denver is about $115,000 (a bit lower than the national average).

Some of the biggest employers of embedded software engineers in the United States are Northrom Grumman, Lockheed Martin, Boeing, John Deere, Apple, and Hewlett-Packard. 


How to Become an Embedded Software Engineer

Ready to start working as an embedded software engineer? The first step is to skill up in all the right areas. If you don’t yet know C or C++ programming you’ll want to start learning those. It is also worth spending time investigating software development lifecycles and overall best practices of embedded engineering.

Software engineering bootcamps can be a great option for people who want to go into embedded software engineering and don’t have prior experience or a master’s degree in a related field.

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