STEM Career Spotlight: The In-Demand World of Embedded Systems
According to recruiting experts, some candidates have an easier time searching for a job than others. Those qualified in high-demand STEM fields such as embedded systems — people who build the “Internet of Things” or make sure new touch-screen gadgets are easy to use — haven’t had much trouble finding work. It’s a skill set that all but guarantees employment, making the job search process much easier to handle.
That’s the enviable position embedded systems engineers are now in. To learn more we spoke with Senior Professional Recruiter Alyssa Kaczor.
Although their job search is relatively easy, STEM candidates have definitely done their fair share of hard work and most of them have put a lot of time into getting highly educated in some of the toughest programs.
Alyssa Kaczor says, “Even entry-level roles usually require a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering, computer science or computer engineering. And many of the candidates we place in embedded systems have master’s degrees. I recommend any degree program that has a lab environment, and hands-on projects where you’re working with a device.”
Before you balk at the money and time investment represented by such educational milestones, remember how strong the payoff could be. Kaczor says, “It’s very rare to find somebody out of work in this field. The unemployment rate among software engineers in the area I work in is less than 1 percent. And it’s definitely a well-paying field to be involved in.”
Getting a Foot in the Door
The employment market in embedded systems might be better than most, but there is one job that can be difficult to get for even qualified engineers: the first one.
The field is all about experience. Alyssa Kaczor explains, “Beyond the basic educational and technical requirements, what’s most important is applicable experience. Between two relatively equal candidates, somebody with the more relevant experience is definitely going to have the advantage.”
Sounds like that old catch-22 of “entry-level position, experience required.” So how do you get that first job?
Working with a staffing expert like Kaczor is one solution. She says, “A recruiter will have a relationship with hiring managers and access to a lot of contract positions where they really just need somebody to come in and program this micro-controller for nine months and get it out the door.” Even if your first embedded systems job is on a contract basis, your staffing partner will be proactive about your future. Kaczor adds, “My goal is always to present further opportunities even before a contract is finished.”
One area where a recruiter can make a big difference for candidates is their knowledge of the employment market. “I often convince managers to take a chance on candidates that don’t necessarily check off every box but have a proven track record of being able to learn and grow on the job,” says Kaczor. “Another big thing I do to help the candidate in such cases is preparing them for behavioral interview questions”
Choosing the Best Field and Specialty
With relevant experience being so prized in embedded systems hiring, it’s important to choose the field you’re most passionate about as early as possible. Transferring technical skills from one industry to another can be an uphill battle.
Alyssa Kaczor recommends following your passions when considering opportunities. “Decide based on your long-term goals,” she advises. “If you care about helping people, medical devices could be right for you. If you’re more passionate about automotive and working on cars, look at machinery.”
In terms of software and technical skills, Kaczor sees a big demand for candidates with mobile development experience. “Anything involved in programming mobile-ready apps for Android and iOS, is one of the most well paying positions. And candidates with experience with more senior level C++, and GUI (graphical user interface) in specific QT frameworks have been very difficult for companies to find.”
Training and Growth
Once your foot is in the door with a start in an embedded systems career, it’s usually off to the races. But if you’re looking to plan for the long-term — always a good idea — some positions might be better than others in terms of the skills they help you develop.
“If you have the skills to get the first job, employers in STEM fields like embedded systems are generally going to do whatever they can to keep you there and train you up,” says Kaczor. “Some roles have shadowing programs and mentorship programs. There are also companies that are willing to pay for further schooling and to go get your masters.”
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