Embedded Systems Engineers


Exploring this Job

Talk to embedded systems engineers about their careers. Ask the following questions:

  • What classes did you take in high school and college to prepare for this career?
  • Do I need to earn a degree in embedded systems engineering, or will a degree in electrical engineering, physics, or another field suffice?
  • What are some of the pros and cons of your job?
  • What are the most important personal and professional qualities for people in your career?
  • What’s the best way to break into the field?

Joining the Technology Student Association will provide you with an opportunity to explore career opportunities in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, as well as to compete in academic competitions. Visit http://www.tsaweb.org for more information.

Learn C and C++—languages that are the basis of embedded systems programming. Many free Web sites provide an introduction to these languages (including https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.sololearn.cplusplus&hl=en and https://www.udemy.com/course/free-learn-c-tutorial-beginners). Learn how to build microcontrollers, which are used in embedded applications. One useful site that will provide step-by-step instructions is http://www.build-electronic-circuits.com/microcontroller-tutorial-part1.  

Finally, check out the following resources to learn more about the field:

  • International Journal of Embedded Systems: https://www.inderscience.com/jhome.php?jcode=ijes
  • Embedded: http://www.embedded.com
  • International Journal of Embedded Systems and Applications: http://airccse.org/journal/ijesa/Home.html
  • IEEE Embedded Systems Letters: https://ieee-ceda.org/publication/ieee-embedded-systems-letters-esl 
  • IEEE Spectrum-Embedded Systems: http://spectrum.ieee.org/computing/embedded-systems

The Job

By lunchtime on a typical day, you might encounter dozens of embedded systems (which are sometimes called cyber-physical systems)—without even knowing it. They’re in our homes (appliances, televisions, DVD players, home automation systems, smart meters, etc.), on our roadways (microcontrollers in cars, traffic lights, etc.), and in our workplaces (printers, security systems, etc.). They also are key components of cell phones, trains, airplanes, digital musical instruments, and medical equipment. Embedded systems engineers research, design, develop, test, and troubleshoot these systems. Job duties vary by employer, but most engineers have the following responsibilities:

  • design and configure the hardware components (processor, controller, memory, timer, serial communication port, output/output circuit, system application specific circuits, power supply, keypad/keyboard, real-time clock, etc.) of embedded systems
  • design, develop, debug, and unit test the software in embedded systems, ranging from device drivers and real-time systems, to application programming interfaces and touch-screen interfaces
  • participate in requirements, design, and source code reviews
  • identify and implement opportunities for software process and development cycle time improvements
  • develop customer documentation, such as training manuals, performance specifications, and operating instructions
  • provide oral and written project status updates to managers and executives, as well as clients
  • troubleshoot malfunctioning embedded systems by creating documentation, flowcharts, and diagrams to support problem analysis
  • supervise technicians and technologists engaged in embedded systems research or production
  • conduct engineering studies and product evaluations to support new products