Studying Embedded Systems


OK, so. I want to learn how to program micros, and I’m looking for a micro and associated training material that will:

  • If possible lead to some kind of qualification that I can wave at a future employer
  • Allow home study
  • Use readily available hardware and software
  • Focus on programming in C (employers seem to want this)

Back in the day, pretty much the only way to earn paper qualifications (at least in the UK) was to attend  a college or university in person for a period of several years and hopefully come away with a recognised qualification at the end of it. The one notable exception was the venerable Open University, which was founded in the late 1960s specifically to allow students to follow a non-traditional, distance-learning route to higher education.

Pre-internet, the OU’s material was delivered using a combination of written material, television programs and occasional short residential schools. More recently, delivery methods have also included electronic media such as DVD and delivery over the internet. It’s a great system which has allowed access to higher education for countless thousands of people around the world who otherwise would not have had the opportunity. I studied a single OU module myself in the 1990s (on thermodynamics) and the standard was exceptionally high.

In recent years, more institutions have started offering courses which can be studied by distance-learning. In engineering these range from BTEC HNC level all the way up to MSc and PhD. A couple of examples here and here. Some also allow students to study individual modules from a course as part of a process of Continued Professional Development (CPD).

For my purposes I’m not looking for another full degree or masters course as I don’t want to commit to a likely three or four years of study. Instead I’m after something shorter which still offers some kind of recognised qualification at the end. This does “narrow the field” somewhat, but after a lot of searching I finally hit gold with PGCert option of this course. The University of Leicester’s  Postgraduate Certificate (PGCert) in  Reliable Embedded Systems takes four modules from the MSc program of the same name and lasts for a single year. Study is distance-learning with four one-week residentials and the cost is definitely affordable. Start date is September 2017 and I’ve already confirmed that the course will run this year. Perfect – exactly what I’m looking for! So unless things change significantly between now and September, that’s what I’m going to do.

Of course, that does leave me with eight months or so before September. I already have plans as to what I’m going to do with that time, and yes it does involve micros. More on that next time…


Author: Chris Hill

Electronic Engineer living on the edge of the English Peak District. Enjoys maths, fell running and gin.

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