How to Become a Firmware Design Engineer: Career Roadmap

Find out how to become a firmware design engineer. Research the education requirements and learn about the experience you need to advance your career in firmware design engineering.

Should I Become a Firmware Design Engineer?

Firmware is a type of software embedded within an electronic device. Examples of electronics that require firmware include cell phones, digital cameras, and automobiles.

Most computer programmers and software developers, such as firmware design engineers, work full-time, though overtime is possible. Such programming specialists generally work alone in an office setting; some collaboration on particular projects may be required. There is little to no physical activity associated with this job. Firmware design engineers usually have a bachelor's degree in computer science or electrical engineering. They are also required to know a variety of programming languages.

Career Requirements

Degree Level Bachelor's degree
Degree Field Computer engineering or electrical engineering
Experience 5+ years of experience in the field
Key Skills Analytical skills, project management skills, programming skills
Salary (2014) $102,880 (median for systems software engineers)

Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Step 1 - Earn a Bachelor's Degree

Firmware designers combine electrical engineering skills with their knowledge of computer science, so an undergraduate degree in computer engineering or electrical engineering will suffice. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the coursework is similar, except that computer engineering programs include more computer courses. A bachelor's degree in computer engineering includes math and science courses as well as courses relating to solid-state devices, electromagnetic devices, electric circuits, systems design and software engineering.

Success Tips

  • Develop communication skills. It's likely that firmware design engineers will have to communicate within teams as well as communicate with those who don't understand technical terms. Undergraduates can build their communication skills by taking public speaking and writing courses.
  • Participate in an internship. Many employers prefer at least five years of experience. Firmware design engineers can begin getting that experience early on by completing an internship, co-op or summer job that gives them hands-on experience in the area of computer engineering. These opportunities are available at a number of locations, including software development companies and IT consulting firms.

Step 2 - Gain Experience

Upon graduation, students can find entry-level positions as computer engineers or hardware engineers. Over time, engineers should build their project management skills, learn coding languages such as C++ and learn debugging and testing techniques and best practices. Other job duties in these entry-level positions can include system requirements analysis, systems integration and tech support.

Step 3 - Continue Education

Technology changes at a rapid rate, and it is imperative for firmware design engineers to stay abreast of any changes to remain competitive in their field. They can do that by joining professional organizations or earning graduate certificates in a related field. Some schools offer certificate programs related to certain areas of the field such as digital signal processing or sensors.

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