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Embedded Developer Duties and Responsibilities

Embedded developers work in a wide variety of industries, but based on postings that we analyzed, most share several responsibilities:

Gather Functional Requirements Before beginning development work, embedded developers gather requirements and specifications from clients, hardware engineers, and manufacturing teams. These requirements typically provide details of expected software performance and use cases, along with expectations related to scalability and latency. After gathering these requirements, embedded developers translate them into specifications that guide development work.

Design and Write Code The central duty of an embedded developer is writing software that supports hardware functionality on a wide range of devices, from handheld devices like phones and tablets to complex machinery that is used in medical, transportation, and defense industries. This aspect of the role requires familiarity with a wide array of programming languages as well as the ability to understand how software supports hardware functionality.

Conduct Troubleshooting and Debugging Throughout the design and development process, embedded developers conduct regular troubleshooting and debugging activities to ensure that their code works as expected. This can include both examining large-scale software performance and working with smaller components of the software to resolve performance issues such as lag time and crashes. Additionally, the embedded developer participates in continuous deployment activities.

Maintain Project Documentation Embedded developers also maintain thorough, detailed documentation for any software that they work on. This can include explanations of specific codes and modules, details of errors and bug fixes, and documents related to specifications and requirements. Embedded developers ensure that their documents adhere to best practices to support future developers and provide clear information on steps taken during development and testing. They also follow precise version control guidelines to share code and eliminate errors.

Collaborate with Design and Development Teams While writing programs, embedded developers work closely with a number of teams, including user interface and user experience (UI/UX) designers, quality assurance (QA) teams, and hardware engineers, to ensure that devices' software and hardware work seamlessly together. This collaboration can frequently reveal new requirements that necessitate rewriting or configuring code to address and resolve errors that did not exist in previous versions.

Enhance System Efficiency and Reliability Embedded developers constantly work to enhance the reliability, efficiency, and scalability of their programs. This generally means incorporating more efficient solutions by simplifying codes and modules to achieve the same goals in a shorter amount of time, but can also mean making changes to how the software interacts with the hardware to increase reliability and reduce failure rates.


Embedded Developer Skills and Qualifications

Embedded developers design and develop software programs for a wide variety of applications and industries. Workers in this role typically have at least a bachelor's degree and the following skills:
  • Programming - embedded developers should have extensive software development experience and should be particularly skilled with the C and C++ programming languages
  • Troubleshooting - troubleshooting and debugging are central to this role, so embedded developers need a strong foundation in problem-solving and debugging tools
  • Familiarity with efficiency enhancement - embedded developers should have some familiarity with ensuring that programs run efficiently while maintaining a high level of stability
  • Documentation skills - throughout the development process, embedded developers need to reliably document technical issues and interpret error reports to resolve software bugs
  • Collaboration - because embedded software is so closely tied to hardware, embedded developers must work closely with hardware development personnel
  • Communication skills - effective written and verbal communication are both important in this role, since embedded developers tend to work with internal teams, clients, and manufacturers to gather requirements and provide progress reports

Embedded Developer Education and Training

Embedded developers typically have a degree in a related field, such as software development, computer science, or engineering. Additionally, most embedded developers have several years of programming experience and are familiar with a number of programming languages, including C. There are significant opportunities for on-the-job training in this role as embedded developers examine each project's specific requirements and develop expertise in designing and deploying solutions.

Embedded Developer Salary and Outlook

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), software developers of systems software earn a median annual wage of $107,600. The lowest-paid 10 percent of workers in this role earn less than $65,670, while the highest-paid 10 percent earn more than $164,150. The BLS expects employment of software developers to increase at a faster-than-average pace of 24 percent through 2026 as more and more devices rely on embedded and proprietary software to operate.

Helpful Resources

We searched the web and found a number of resources if you'd like to learn more about working as an embedded developer:

Embedded - this blog features articles and news related to designing and developing embedded software systems, as well as forums where developers can ask and answer software-related questions

Real-Time Software Design for Embedded Systems - read this book to learn about designing and developing real-time embedded systems to control a wide variety of devices

"Best Practices in Embedded Systems Programming" - read this thorough guide to learn detailed information and best practices for designing embedded software systems and control methodologies

Making Embedded Systems: Design Patterns for Great Software - Elecia White explores system architecture and focuses on developing efficient and reliable software that works directly with hardware

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