Embedded Applications Engineer — Income and Opportunity

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Before we learn about the money, let’s get this question out of the way:

What is an Embedded Applications Engineer?

An embedded systems engineer applies software development and embedded systems knowledge to design, create, develop, debug, and maintain embedded applications and products.

Other terms with similar job descriptions are often used interchangeably:

  • Embedded systems engineer
  • Embedded applications engineer
  • Embedded software developer
  • Embedded hardware developer

However, they usually refer to the same general job description of a professional who works with embedded systems.

What is an Embedded System?

An embedded system is a computer system — consisting of a processor, memory, and I/O devices — that is created for a specific task. Two examples are a fire alarm designed specifically for smoke detection or a car break system designed specifically for halting a moving car.

This is in contrast to a general-purpose computer system such as a personal computer that is not designed for a specific task.

An embedded system is based on a microcontroller and an integrated circuit so that computations can be performed quickly and, sometimes, in real-time. This is often necessary because embedded systems are often used to control real-world physical hardware devices such as cars or industrial robots.

Before I show you the income potential of an embedded applications engineer, let’s quickly answer this question that may have popped into your head by reading this far already:

What is a Microcontroller?

A microcontroller is a compact integrated circuit (or chip) comprising one or more computing processors, memory, and input/output (I/O) devices. Think of it as a small computer with CPUs, RAM, and I/O on a single chip.

Thus, you can input data into a microcontroller, compute a program on that data input, and output the result to another processor.

The fact that all of this is placed on a single small unit means that it can be produced in a streamlined and automated manner, and shipped to customers more efficiently. The complexity largely remains abstracted away, which significantly simplifies the development of higher-level applications.

Annual Income

How much does an Embedded Applications Developer make per year?

Figure: Average Income of a Mobile App Developer in the US by Source. [1]

The average annual income of an Embedded Developer in the United States is between $83,000 and $124,000 with an average of $101,541 and a statistical median of $100,556 per year.

This data is based on our meta-study of six (6) salary aggregators sources such as Glassdoor, ZipRecruiter, and Comparably.

SourceAverage Income
Glassdoor.com$94,138
ZipRecruiter.com$107,515
Zippia.com$95,543
Talent.com$112,479
Salary.com$83,086
InterviewKickstart.com$124,000
Dice.com$90,000
Comparably.com$105,570
Table: Average Income of an Embedded Developer in the US by Source.

Let’s have a look at the hourly rate of Embedded Applications Developers next!

Hourly Rate

Embedded Applications Developers are well-paid on freelancing platforms such as Upwork or Fiverr.

If you decide to go the route as a freelance Embedded Applications Developer, you can expect to make between $20 and $80 per hour on Upwork (source). Assuming an annual workload of 2000 hours, you can expect to make between $40,000 and $160,000 per year.

Note: Do you want to create your own thriving coding business online? Feel free to check out our freelance developer course — the world’s #1 best-selling freelance developer course that specifically shows you how to succeed on Upwork and Fiverr!

What Are Application Areas of Embedded Systems?

In the following, I’ll provide you with a list of 18 common application areas and examples of embedded application systems:

  1. Car power window
  2. Car power steering
  3. Car fuel injection system
  4. Digital hearing aid
  5. Air conditioner
  6. Fire alarm
  7. Smartphone
  8. Patient monitoring system
  9. Flight controller
  10. Digital camera
  11. Digital wristwatche
  12. MP3 player
  13. Refrigerator
  14. Washing machine
  15. Microwave oven
  16. Temperature measurement system
  17. Calculator
  18. Data communication devices (e.g., network router)

I found the following video on the topic that nicely demonstrates some application areas:

Which Skills Does an Embedded Engineer Need?

An embedded applications engineer needs both hard technical skills such as programming experience in low-level programming languages such as C, as well as soft skills such as analytical thinking and communication skills (who doesn’t?).

Technical skills:

  • Computer science basics
  • Operating systems basics
  • Programming in C and C++
  • Experience in embedded systems development
  • Experience in debugging
  • Experience in real-time systems
  • Firmware development

Soft skills:

  • Analytical thinking
  • Passion for technology
  • Ability to solve problems
  • Communication skills (writing and verbal)
  • Quickly learn complicated subjects
  • Bias towards action and practical “hands on” mentality
  • Curiosity

Industry Demand

But is there enough demand? Let’s have a look at Google trends to find out how interest evolves over time (source):

Not a super trending field right now and during the last few decades. However, this doesn’t necessarily mean that demand for developers is low—just that not as many developers are interested in embedded systems as compared to earlier years.

Learning Path, Skills, and Education Requirements

Do you want to become a Embedded Applications Developer? Here’s a step-by-step learning path I’d propose to get started with Embedded Applications :

The following video also provides a great overview of the learning requirements:

You can find many additional computer science courses on the Finxter Computer Science Academy (flatrate model).

But don’t wait too long to acquire practical experience!

Even if you have little skills, it’s best to get started as a freelance developer and learn as you work on real projects for clients — earning income as you learn and gaining motivation through real-world feedback.

🚀 Tip: An excellent start to turbo-charge your freelancing career (earning more in less time) is our Finxter Freelancer Course. The goal of the course is to pay for itself!

You can find more job descriptions for coders, programmers, and computer scientists in our detailed overview guide:

The following statistic shows the self-reported income from 9,649 US-based professional developers (source).

💡 The average annual income of professional developers in the US is between $70,000 and $177,500 for various programming languages.

Question: What is your current total compensation (salary, bonuses, and perks, before taxes and deductions)? Please enter a whole number in the box below, without any punctuation. If you are paid hourly, please estimate an equivalent weekly, monthly, or yearly salary. (source)

The following statistic compares the self-reported income from 46,693 professional programmers as conducted by StackOverflow.

💡 The average annual income of professional developers worldwide (US and non-US) is between $33,000 and $95,000 for various programming languages.

Here’s a screenshot of a more detailed overview of each programming language considered in the report:

Here’s what different database professionals earn:

Here’s an overview of different cloud solutions experts:

Here’s what professionals in web frameworks earn:

There are many other interesting frameworks—that pay well!

Look at those tools:

Okay, but what do you need to do to get there? What are the skill requirements and qualifications to make you become a professional developer in the area you desire?

Let’s find out next!

General Qualifications of Professionals

StackOverflow performs an annual survey asking professionals, coders, developers, researchers, and engineers various questions about their background and job satisfaction on their website.

Interestingly, when aggregating the data of the developers’ educational background, a good three quarters have an academic background.

Here’s the question asked by StackOverflow (source):

Which of the following best describes the highest level of formal education that you’ve completed?

However, if you don’t have a formal degree, don’t fear! Many of the respondents with degrees don’t have a degree in their field—so it may not be of much value for their coding careers anyways.

Also, about one out of four don’t have a formal degree and still succeeds in their field! You certainly don’t need a degree if you’re committed to your own success!

Freelancing vs Employment Status

The percentage of freelance developers increases steadily. The fraction of freelance developers has already reached 11.21%!

This indicates that more and more work will be done in a more flexible work environment—and fewer and fewer companies and clients want to hire inflexible talent.

Here are the stats from the StackOverflow developer survey (source):

Do you want to become a professional freelance developer and earn some money on the side or as your primary source of income?

Resource: Check out our freelance developer course—it’s the best freelance developer course in the world with the highest student success rate in the industry!

Other Programming Languages Used by Professional Developers

The StackOverflow developer survey collected 58000 responses about the following question (source):

Which programming, scripting, and markup languages have you done extensive development work in over the past year, and which do you want to work in over the next year?

These are the languages you want to focus on when starting out as a coder:

And don’t worry—if you feel stuck or struggle with a nasty bug. We all go through it. Here’s what SO survey respondents and professional developers do when they’re stuck:

What do you do when you get stuck on a problem? Select all that apply. (source)

To get started with some of the fundamentals and industry concepts, feel free to check out these articles:

Where to Go From Here?

Enough theory. Let’s get some practice!

Coders get paid six figures and more because they can solve problems more effectively using machine intelligence and automation.

To become more successful in coding, solve more real problems for real people. That’s how you polish the skills you really need in practice. After all, what’s the use of learning theory that nobody ever needs?

You build high-value coding skills by working on practical coding projects!

Do you want to stop learning with toy projects and focus on practical code projects that earn you money and solve real problems for people?

🚀 If your answer is YES!, consider becoming a Python freelance developer! It’s the best way of approaching the task of improving your Python skills—even if you are a complete beginner.

If you just want to learn about the freelancing opportunity, feel free to watch my free webinar “How to Build Your High-Income Skill Python” and learn how I grew my coding business online and how you can, too—from the comfort of your own home.

Join the free webinar now!

References and Further Reading

[1] The code to generate the income figure is as follows:

import matplotlib.pyplot as plt
import numpy as np
import math

data = [94138,
        107515,
        95543,
        112479,
        83086,
        124000,
        90000,
        105570]

labels = ['Glassdoor.com',
          'ZipRecruiter.com',
          'Zippia.com',
          'Talent.com',
          'Salary.com',
          'InterviewKickstart',
          'Dice.com',
          'Comparably.com']

median = np.median(data)
average = np.average(data)
print(median, average)
n = len(data)

plt.plot(range(n), [median] * n, color='black', label='Median: $' + str(int(median)))
plt.plot(range(n), [average] * n, '--', color='red', label='Average: $' + str(int(average)))
plt.bar(range(len(data)), data)
plt.xticks(range(len(data)), labels, rotation='vertical', position = (0,0.45), color='white', weight='bold')
plt.ylabel('Average Income ($)')
plt.title('Embedded Developer Annual Income - by Finxter')
plt.legend()
plt.show()