Embedded Systems Engineers
Education and Training Requirements
Recommended high school classes include mathematics, computer science (especially programming), shop, physics, and statistics. English and speech classes will help you develop your public speaking and presentation skills and learn how to write effective reports.
Embedded systems engineers often have bachelor’s degrees in electrical or computer engineering, physics, computer science, or robotics. A small, but growing, number of colleges and universities in the United States offer bachelor’s and graduate degrees in embedded systems engineering technology (ESET), including:
- Lawrence Technological University: https://www.ltu.edu/engineering/electricalandcomputer/embedded-software-engineering-undergrad.asp
- Oregon Institute of Technology: http://www.oit.edu/academics/degrees/embedded-systems-engineering-technology
- University of Advancing Technology: http://www.uat.edu/robotics-and-embedded-systems-degree
- University of Colorado at Boulder: http://www.colorado.edu/ecee/graduate-program/degrees-programs/embedded-systems/embedded-systems-courses
Courses in an ESET program might include Embedded System Design, Real-Time Embedded Systems, Mastering Embedded Systems Architecture, Programmable Systems on a Chip, Mobile Computing and Internet of Things Security, Embedding Sensors and Actuators, Low-Power Design Techniques, Advanced Computer Architecture, Computer and Machine Vision Systems, Real-Time Digital Media, Embedded Software Essentials, Developing Industrial Internet of Things, and Embedded Interface Design.
Some companies prefer job applicants to have a master’s degree in one of the aforementioned areas. Engineers who are interested in advancing into careers in management often earn master’s degrees in business administration.
Many students earn undergraduate and graduate certificates in embedded systems engineering to expand their skill-sets. Completing a certificate program is an especially good idea if you major in computer science or electrical engineering, but would like to also complete more specialized training in embedded systems engineering. In Iowa State University’s graduate certificate program, students learn about embedded hardware, embedded software, real-time systems, real-time operating systems, design methodology, and hardware-software co-design. Other schools that offer certificate programs include Colorado State University, Lawrence Technological University, and the University of California at Irvine.
Other Education or Training
Industry conferences provide many continuing education (CE) and networking opportunities. For example, attendees at the annual Embedded Systems Conference can participate in educational sessions such as Common Mistakes by Embedded System Designers: What They Are and How to Fix Them, How to Build Products Using Open Platform Software, and Mr. X: A Journey in Embedded System Design for Space Science.
Professional associations such as the American Society for Engineering Education, ASME International, Association for Computing Machinery, IEEE, National Society of Professional Engineers, IEEE Computer Society, and the Society of Women Engineers also provide CE classes, webinars, seminars, and workshops. Contact these organizations for more information.
Certification, Licensing, and Special Requirements
Certification or Licensing
The IEEE Computer Society offers the certified software development associate credential (for graduating software engineers and entry-level software professionals) and the certified software development professional credential (for experienced software designers and engineers) to individuals who meet education and experience requirements and pass an examination. The Institute for Certification of Computing Professionals and CompTIA also offer certification to computer professionals. Information technology companies such as Cisco provide software- or product-specific certification.
Embedded systems engineers who do work that may affect the lives, health, or safety of the public must be registered according to regulations in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. Licensing requirements vary by state. In general, however, they involve graduating from an accredited college, having four years of work experience, and passing the six-hour Fundamentals of Engineering exam and the eight-hour Principles and Practice of Engineering exam. Depending on your state, you can take the Fundamentals exam shortly before your graduation from college or after you have received your bachelor’s degree. At that point you will be an engineer-in-training. Once you have fulfilled all the licensure requirements, you receive the designation of professional engineer. Visit the National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying’s Web site, http://www.ncees.org, for more information on licensure.
Experience, Skills, and Personality Traits
Any embedded systems–related experience you can obtain via internships or co-operative education programs during college will improve your chances of landing a job in the field.
Successful embedded systems engineers are excellent troubleshooters who are able to solve complex problems. They have strong communication, presentation, creative-thinking, time-management, leadership, organizational, and team-building skills. Other important traits include self-motivation, creativity and imagination, and the ability to work both independently and as a member of a team. Embedded systems engineers also need knowledge of (or must be willing to learn):
- embedded development tools such as emulators, protocol analyzers, and logic analyzers
- real-time operating systems such as FreeRTOS, OpenRTOS, and Linux
- microelectromechanical sensors such as accelerometers, compasses, and gyroscopes
- computer-aided design software (e.g., Autodesk AutoCAD, Dassault SolidWorks, LinkCAD, Synopsys Optical Solutions Group LightTools)
- object- or component-oriented development programming languages (e.g., C, C+, C++, Visual Basic, Perl, Python, Java)
- spreadsheet software (e.g., Microsoft Excel)