What Is Embedded Development? 6 Jobs and How to Get Them

When manufacturers add software to everyday consumer products, it is known as embedded development. This field offers a variety of career paths for IT pros.
IT Pro working on web development on laptop.

As technologies advance and become more complex, manufacturers are placing software into vehicles, houses, appliances and other products customers use daily. These embedded systems can be used to control something as simple as a digital calculator or as complex as an industrial robot or a guided missile. As an embedded developer or embedded engineer, you can find your calling in sectors like consumer electronics, aerospace, medical science and the automotive industry.

There are a variety of career paths for embedded development. To help you narrow your focus, you should first brush up on the required skills, degrees and IT certifications, as well as career options for embedded development.

Developer vs. Engineer: What’s the Difference?

Before we dive in, let’s level set. You may think the words developer and engineer are interchangeable, but they actually play different roles.

  • A developer focuses on creating functional programs – writing and tweaking the code and getting the software or application to work.
  • An engineer applies engineering concepts to embedded development, looking at the big picture of how the software and hardware work together. This includes design, development, maintenance, testing and evaluation.

What Skills Do I Need to Work in Embedded Development?

Embedded development is a highly paid and competitive field. To get an entry-level or junior-level job in embedded systems, you will need to have some fundamental skills to set you apart from the competition.

To land an entry-level embedded development job, you should be able to do the following: 

  • Design and implement embedded software using C and C++ (or another programming language)
  • Understand interfacing peripherals, compilers, vision control and text editors for writing code
  • Understand assemblers to convert code, libraries, debuggers and simulators
  • Understand embedded hardware systems and electronics schematics
  • Communicate and problem solve

An embedded engineer must also be able to work efficiently in a team environment, collaborate with other stakeholders and work independently without supervision while making decisions for the company. 

Here’s a real-life example of the type of skills required to land an embedded software engineer position at Facebook, as posted on Indeed.

 Screenshot of an Embedded Software Engineer Job Posting

What Are the Roles and Responsibilities of Embedded Development?

The main task of embedded development is to develop an optimized code for specific hardware platforms.

The day-to-day responsibilities and roles include the following:

  • Defining specifications
  • Implementing software architecture
  • Developing software bricks or products
  • Ensuring maintenance of the code
  • Running test units of modules and taking care of debugging
  • Working in collaboration with other team members to ensure the best results
  • Reporting on your activity

How Much Money Can I Make in Embedded Development?

According to Hired.com, embedded software engineers make an average annual salary of $121,000. But remember, there are a lot of factors at play when it comes to average salaries, including location, industry, organization size and more.

Screenshot of a graph of Salary Range for Embedded Software Engineers

Salary Range for Embedded Engineers

How Can I Get an Embedded Development Job?

Getting experience in other areas of IT first provides a well-rounded background for embedded development. Careers in tech support and computer networking can help you better understand embedded hardware systems and interfacing peripherals. Likewise, helping end users resolve technology issues is a great way to improve your communication and problem-solving skills.

Cybersecurity skills and knowledge also play a role in embedded development. Embedded developers need to make sure the software and applications they’re making are secure and don’t introduce vulnerabilities.

What Degree or IT Certifications Do I Need?

To land an embedded development position, it’s helpful to have certain degrees and/or IT certifications to your name. Entry- and junior-level embedded developers may need a bachelor’s degree in computer engineering, software engineering, electronics engineering or computer science. Usually a master’s degree is not required for entry- or junior-level applicants, but may be expected of senior-level professionals.

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Some employers may consider experience – both on-the-job and on your own time – as well as IT certifications as a supplement to, or even in lieu of, a college degree. Developers from Essay Tigers suggest that in the world of embedded systems, personal projects and experiences communicate your expertise to employers’ even better than acquired education.

These CompTIA certifications cover the skills needed for embedded developer job roles:

6 Career Opportunities in Embedded Development

Now that you know what it means to work in embedded development, let’s take a look at what jobs you could get. All of these positions are responsible for maintaining code and regularly reporting on their activities, but here are descriptions of what makes the jobs different.

1. Microcontroller firmware engineer

In general, an embedded software engineer is a person who is proficient in microcontrollers and writes firmware for microcontrollers.

Microcontroller firmware engineers are often responsible for the following tasks:

  • Design and implement embedded software using C and C++
  • Design devices, including label printers, medical devices, automobile control parts and game controllers

2. Embedded Linux engineer

An embedded Linux engineer takes care of low-level development activities.

Embedded Linux engineers are often responsible for the following tasks:

  • Develop low-layer activities with strong embedded constraints
  • Test developed modules
  • Run unit tests

3. Embedded applications engineer

Managing applications is a big part of what embedded developers do.

Embedded applications engineers are often responsible for the following tasks:

  • Manage embedded software frameworks
  • Work on open source stacks and applications
  • Work with different programming languages, including Embedded C and Python

4. Embedded network engineer

Embedded network engineers take care of various network devices like routers, access points, firewalls, network back end infra, bridges and switches.

Embedded networking engineers are often responsible for the following tasks:

  • Work on optimization of packet data transfer within a network
  • Work on network layers L3, L4-bridging and muxing
  • Manage network processors

5. Embedded IoT application developer

With the growth of the internet of things (IoT), embedded IoT application professionals are more relevant and in demand than ever.

Embedded IoT application developers are often responsible for the following tasks:

  • Design and implement embedded software using C and C++
  • Validate new product solutions compliance to standards
  • Use version control, test-driven development, mobbing and other best practices

6. Cybersecurity embedded developer

A cybersecurity embedded developer uses their technical expertise to ensure the safety of embedded software.

Cybersecurity embedded developers are often responsible for the following tasks:

  • Design APIs
  • Understand hardware security modules, PKI, transport layer security and common application security vulnerabilities
  • Test and debug

What Embedded Development Career Path Will You Take?

The embedded development career path offers numerous opportunities to take you from entry level to retirement. For example, starting your career as a junior embedded developer allows you the opportunity to move on to become a senior embedded engineer. But you must put in the work. Just like a doctor or a lawyer, an embedded engineer must remain up to date with their specialization to stay savvy when it comes to the latest technologies in the industry.

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