Embedded C programmers write software for operating systems of many common electronic devices and associated peripherals for products, such as cars, appliances, cameras, mobile phones, and medical and industrial applications. This software instructs microcontrollers (MCU) how to control functionality in products with embedded systems and in many cases to help them communicate through the Internet of Things (IoT).
Embedded C programming utilizes a set of nonstandard extensions of the C programming language to develop code that, unlike C, is hardware dependent and offers only predefined inputs based on variables and their execution. These small processors face power-usage and memory constraints, and embedded C programming offers better control over memory management through memory addressing.
A microprocessor utilizing embedded software is the most common solution for embedded systems for its low cost and power usage, and, in many cases, superior portability. Field Programmable Gate Arrays (FPGA circuits) provide much greater processing power, but entail several drawbacks for many applications.
It’s important to have a detailed plan of your embedded software development project along with an estimated budget. With that information, your prospective embedded C programmer can assess their ability to complete your project and whether your goals fit within your budget.
Experience and expertise
Embedded C programmers generally have a bachelor’s or master’s degree in computer science or engineering, and might have gained knowledge of embedded systems and embedded C language from online courses.
These software engineers need strong communication and collaborative skills to work with teams or businesses. C code writing requires superior problem-solving skills for diagnostic testing, complex debugging, and optimization of software.
They need excellent computer programming skills in both the C language and C++, along with knowledge of compatible languages such as Python and Java. They typically have proficiency in development tools such as PyCharm, Arduino, or Qt Creator that assist in a range of tasks such as compilation or debugging.
Embedded C developers have knowledge of embedded system design, microprocessors and microcontrollers (such as STM32 by STMicroelectronics and the ATmega328 by Microchip Technology), hardware architecture, firmware, compilers, memory, algorithms, and data structures.
Full-time embedded C programmers earn on average about $90,000 to $100,000 per year, with annual salaries ranging from $60,000 ($30 per hour) to $120,000 ($60 per hour) depending on experience. Most embedded C programmers on Upwork charge from $30 to $80 per hour.
An entry-level embedded C programmer who is still developing a client base will likely price their services more competitively, roughly $25 to $30 per hour. Less-experienced programmers might be fine for adding programming to an existing embedded system or writing code for a simple system with just a few functions.
Intermediate-level embedded C programmers will usually have at least several years of experience and a greater breadth of skills that enable them to create software and better advise you on maximizing your project. They charge roughly $40 to $60 per hour.
An expert-level embedded C programmer probably has a mastery of many digital tools and brings a wide breadth of knowledge in embedded systems to take on sophisticated projects. They’ve seen approaches that work well and may have experience in your field. They will command anywhere from $70 to $100 per hour.
Scope of work
The complexity of your embedded C project and experience of your professional will drive the expense. An entry-level embedded C programmer might be suitable for adding to an existing system or trouble-shooting a problem that arises. If you’re developing new software, and especially more complex or real-time embedded systems, look for a more-experienced programmer.
Most independent embedded C programmers charge hourly rates. While more experienced programmers cost more, often their ability to work more efficiently, avoid potential pitfalls and offer guidance for superior results could be worth the higher rate. Consider your budget and the complexity of your project, and try to strike a balance between cost and experience as necessary.
Location will have a significant effect on the rate your embedded C programmer will charge. These software developers are most expensive in North American and Western European countries, while those in other countries often charge less. Consider the possible effects of communicating with offshore professionals, both in terms of time lag and language skills.
Popular Embedded C projects
Prices to develop embedded C software can vary widely by the complexity of the device from a coffee-maker to industrial production to medical devices. One software development firm quotes a rate of about $125 per hour over the course of a two-week to six-month project. Others put the cost of coding commercial firmware from planning to implementation at $20 to $40 per line.
Many appliances utilize stand-alone embedded systems with software or firmware that is never updated. These self-sufficient systems have limited functionality and are less expensive to write code for than interactive units.
Automotive safety system
Automobile safety is built into hard real-time embedded systems that depend on information fed by sensors to need to react quickly.
These are more expensive to develop because of their hard real-time systems and very low to no tolerance for instability.
Find talent at the world's work marketplace
Connect with embedded C programmers of all experience levels on Upwork. You can check their profiles which list their skills and contain customer reviews to help you find the right fit for your project.
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