what is a systems engineer?

A systems engineer is a professional who applies engineering principles to develop and maintain efficient systems. They play a crucial role in various industries by solving problems in systems. Unlike other engineers who solve issues in independent parts, a systems engineer takes a holistic approach by studying the interconnections of systems. When a systems engineer develops a system, they ensure it provides a positive user experience while considering the company objectives and operations.

what does a systems engineer do?

As a systems engineer, you are the interface between stakeholders in the systems development process. That means your primary role revolves around defining, developing, testing, maintaining and replacing systems. You incorporate the views of the management, end-users, speciality engineers and suppliers to create an efficient system for your employer.

Systems aren't strictly related to computers but rely on engineering advancements and the latest technology. As a systems engineer, you work in computer, mechanical, electrical and manufacturing systems to ensure all the components work together and meet the needs of the consumers. You also collaborate with various departments in a company to ensure a smooth production process and proper maintenance of the existing systems. 

systems engineer jobs

average systems engineer salary

A systems engineer earns a median salary of $80,000 annually. When starting in the role, you have minimal experience and skills. This reduces your starting remuneration package to $75,000 annually. When you gain experience working in the industry for a couple of years and improve your qualifications, your remuneration package can increase to over $115,000 yearly. Some employers pay overtime when you work extra hours, while others provide bonus packages at the end of the year.

how to increase the salary of a systems engineer

As a systems engineer, your earnings depend on the industry you work for and your qualifications. For instance, if you are a computer systems engineer, you will earn more than a product or transportation systems engineer. The complexity of the role and additional responsibilities in some industries like mining increases the remuneration.

Apart from the industry, your work experience and skills also determine your remuneration prospects. To increase your earnings, consider improving your qualifications and skills. For instance, a systems engineer with a degree is likely to earn more than someone with qualifications from vocational educational training institutions. The location also affects your remuneration since metro areas have higher salary prospects.


types of systems engineers

Some of the types of systems engineers include:

  • computer systems engineer: your job is to design computer systems that fit your clients' needs. Suppose a retail company requires a sales management system. In that case, you incorporate all the functions relevant to retail management, like invoicing and inventory management. You also advise on the best software and hardware tools for the computer system to function efficiently.
  • product development systems engineer: your job is to improve product development methods to help your company remain competitive. You develop systems that eliminate inefficiencies and troubleshoot problems affecting product quality standards.
  • biosystems engineer: as a biosystems engineer, you develop and maintain systems relating to the natural environment. Your duties may include analysing resource conservation or waste treatment systems. You can also create food processing systems for various industries.
Womale at her desk, behind her computer.
Womale at her desk, behind her computer.

working as a systems engineer

A systems engineer oversees all aspects of a project and ensures the smooth running of processes from the beginning to the end. Here are details on the duties and responsibilities of systems engineers:


education and skills

Becoming a systems engineer requires the following educational qualifications:

  • bachelor's degree: having an undergraduate degree is the minimal requirement for entry-level systems engineers. Pursue a bachelor's degree in systems engineering, industrial engineering, computer engineering or information systems. Due to the competitive nature of the role, consider pursuing a master's degree to improve your career prospects. A master's degree also improves your chances of promotion to leadership roles.
  • work experience: it is important to secure an internship programme before you complete your bachelor's. Internships provide you with the relevant expertise and mentorship to jumpstart your career. Joining a professional association also improves your employability.

systems engineer skills and competencies

Systems engineers require hard and soft skills, including:

  • technical skills: as a systems engineer, you require technical skills like using various software. Your job involves using modelling software, specialised equipment and computer programmes. Technical skills also help you accomplish your tasks faster.
  • analytical thinking: your role requires meticulous analysis of each task. For instance, you analyse a system as a whole or a sum of its parts before implementing changes. Analytical thinking and attention to detail help you factor in every aspect of the system before recommending alterations.
  • time management: a systems engineer prioritises tasks to meet deadlines. You are also responsible for determining project milestones and adjusting the timeline for changes. Your work will be easier if you have time management skills.
  • teamwork skills: as a systems designer, you collaborate with various professionals, from manufacturing employees to researchers, security experts and salespeople. You require teamwork skills to offer constructive feedback and direct teams to achieve a project's objectives.

FAQs about working as a systems engineer

Here are the most asked questions about working as a systems engineer:

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