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Learn embedded systems from online courses 

Embedded systems run many of the devices and machines we use each day. Learn about embedded systems design, how to program these systems, and how to become an embedded systems engineer.

What are embedded systems?

An embedded system is a combination of hardware and software that has a dedicated, specific purpose inside devices. They function as application-specific computing systems.Footnote 1 Some examples include digital cameras, MP3 players, and kitchen appliances.

Sometimes, an embedded systems program works on its own with a set of functions and limited user controls. This can be seen in some appliances, cars, or certain types of medical equipment where users simply need to turn on the device. Other embedded systems are designed with a user interface (UI) or graphical user interface (GUI), such as on phones, digital watches, or airplanes. A UI or GUI allows the user to control or program the device as needed. The user interface may include simple physical buttons or light-emitting diodes (LEDs). Whether you work on stand-alone or real-time embedded systems, the benefits of embedded systems can be leveraged by several industries including the medical and industrial fields.Footnote 2

To understand embedded systems design, you may focus on learning key serial communication protocols used in embedded environments, in order to perfect the end-user experience. When looking for an embedded systems course, find one that gives you practical experience and training in programming devices.

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Embedded systems course curriculum

An embedded systems engineer must learn a specific set of skills for applications found commonly across embedded devices. An embedded systems course is designed to expose learners to the core concepts of the field while providing an array of embedded systems examples. Subjects you may encounter in an embedded systems course or related classes include: 

  • Arm programming: Arm-based devices are the industry standard for devices like mobile phones using 64-bit computing. You may work with both hardware and software.Footnote 3

  • Mbed: Using Arm requires the Mbed API (application programming interface), a platform and operating system for internet-connected devices.Footnote 4

  • The Internet of Things (IoT) design: The Internet of Things refers to all the devices that connect to the Internet, a number that grows as more and more of our devices and machines use cloud data and analytics to share information about their users. To learn how to ideate IoT concepts and design solutions, you’ll map out the IoT solution, identify all the devices and sensors required, and create a network to support your idea. You’ll also learn about big data and how it fits into your designs.Footnote 5

  • C Programming with Linux: You’ll develop and debug code in the C programming language, discovering the foundations of computer programming, and the Linux operating system.

  • TinyML: Learn about the language of Tiny Machine Learning (TinyML), including how to gather data, ethical AI design, deploying and training ML models, and the fundamentals of Deep Learning.

You may also learn how to use C++ for embedded systems and practice ways to improve security in embedded systems. Courses that teach about embedded systems may be built into a bachelor’s degree or even a master’s degree program in computer science or a related field. Professionals can also enroll in boot camps to brush up on specific skills that may be relevant to the field.

Engineering jobs that use embedded systems 

Being skilled at programming embedded systems may open up the door to a variety of professional opportunities. Some related roles include:Footnote 6

  • Software developers

  • Electrical engineers

  • Mechanical engineers

  • Quality assurance analysts and testers

  • Aerospace engineers

  • Data scientists/data engineers

While the responsibilities and day-to-day tasks for these roles vary, embedded systems jobs are rooted in a firm understanding of programming and software systems. Analytical and problem-solving skills may also come in handy in this profession.  

How to become an embedded systems engineer online 

Embedded systems engineers design and develop programs or systems that enable the internal software of a device to function. These systems can range from simple hardware that carries out one task, to software that instructs the hardware, to complex systems that can be programmed by the manufacturer or the user.

Pursuing jobs that work with embedded systems can require extensive technical knowledge. To build your knowledge base, explore the variety of educational pathways that edX offers. Focus on building specific skills with specialized boot camps, such as coding boot camps. Or enroll in more comprehensive degree programs. edX offers bachelor’s programs that allow learners to earn a bachelor’s degree in computer science, as well as master’s programs, where learners can pursue a master’s degree in engineering or master’s degree in data science. Start your learning journey today with edX.