What major to choose if you want to study embedded systems

In simple terms, an embedded system is a hardware device merged with software to perform a specific task. It can function as a single system, or it can be part of a larger network. Examples of embedded systems stretch far and wide, from digital watches to vending machines and airplanes.
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With this in mind, choosing the best major for a career in this field might seem like a daunting task. This article is here to give you a rundown of the majors recommended and which skills are needed to become an embedded systems engineer, also known as a computer architect. 

What does an embedded systems engineer do?

An embedded systems engineer is responsible for designing, testing, producing, and performing maintenance on an embedded system. Depending on the company, the hired personnel will either work with the software or they will be required to understand the entire system.

They will also be required to interface the hardware design, optimise performance, and improve efficiency of the application. Therefore, it’s important to understand both software programs and the hardware that will need to be programmed.

Average income for a professional with a Bachelor’s degree in this field is $85,000 per year. The higher the degree is, of course, the higher the pay. A professional with a Master’s degree in this field earns an average of $93,000, while a Doctorate holder earns $105,000 per year.

Which type of education is required?

A person who wants to become a computer architect should pick a major in IT. There are several degrees to choose from in this regard. The most common are computer science, electrical engineering, and computer engineering.

As far as the level of education needed in this field, a survey of over 700 embedded systems engineers showed that the majority of professionals only have a Bachelor’s degree. A quarter of the survey participants hold Master’s degrees. A large chunk of these degrees are theoretical and academic, but luckily students can save time and get help with dissertation writing from services like EssayPro to ensure a higher pay in the future. Now, which major should you choose?

Electrical Engineering

Out of the three options given, a major in electrical engineering is the one that’s most likely to help a student get a foot in the door. This is because the field is broad, and it teaches students about a variety of electronic devices. Once enrolled in the course, a student can choose an area of concentration, which will ultimately direct their career path.

Computer Engineering

Computer engineering is another course that can lead to a career in this field. It’s also the next preferred major after electrical engineering. The coursework for this major teaches students how to develop and test computer software and hardware.

It combines knowledge in computer science and electrical engineering. Therefore, it gives students an overview of how an embedded system works.

Computer Science

Lastly, a student looking to enter this field can pursue a degree in computer science. Like the major mentioned above, computer science studies both the software and hardware of a device. Where it deviates, however, is that the coursework for a computer science major concentrates more on software and software structures. 

Computer science also emphasizes problem-solving and software design.

Skills needed in systems engineering

A smaller percentage of people in the survey mentioned above work as computer architects without degrees. This is particularly important because it suggests that an individual needs skills outside of those taught in school to become an embedded systems engineer. 

Although there are several skills that would be helpful in this career, this article will highlight the three basics.

  1. Learn C-Programming

C-programming is a general-purpose programming language that can be used as a foundation for other programming languages. Because of this, it’s considered to be ‘the mother’ of programming languages. 

Learning c-programming also comes with a variety of benefits. For one, it’s able to create software, command-line interpreters, and kernels. Some of the most popularly known examples are Python and Java.

Lastly, most (if not all) job listings related to embedded systems require the candidate to know C or C++ languages.

  1. Get an 8-bit microcontroller 

A microcontroller is a compact integrated circuit, like a microchip, that’s inserted into a computer. Although it’s available in 32-bit, an 8-bit microcontroller is best for beginners. It’s easy to program and extremely affordable. 

Once a student has bought an 8-bit microcontroller, they should practice programming it with c-programming language. Once it’s been programmed, it can be embedded into hardware and monitored.

  1. Learn interfacing

The next skill to acquire after learning the two above is how to build an interface. This is important because an embedded systems engineer may be required to design interfaces. Multiple interfaces can be connected to solve complex problems.

Who is this career for?

When it comes down to it, this isn’t the best career path for everyone who’s interested in it. There are several alternative career paths a person can take, even if they are already enrolled in any of the majors mentioned above.

The ideal candidate for this job is someone who’s analytical, has strong problem-solving skills, can meet deadlines, and has the necessary technical know-how. As with any career, it’s also helpful if the person is curious and eager to learn more about their work.


To become an embedded systems engineer, a person must have the educational background and technical skills required to do the job. Students can choose from a variety of majors, including the ones discussed above.

Most professionals in the field have undergraduate degrees. But, it’s not unheard of for people to pursue graduate and postgraduate degrees. After all, a higher degree may lead to an increased salary.

However, technical skills also play a role in becoming successful. A student should learn how to code in popularly-used programming languages, build interfaces, and program microcontrollers, among other technical skills. Learning outside the classroom will go a long way in helping someone achieve their goal of being an embedded engineer.