System Engineer Job Description: Top Duties and Qualifications

Last updated: June 22, 2022

A System Engineer, or Systems Engineer, is responsible for developing the appropriate infrastructure to manage the entire life cycle of a complex computer system or network. Their duties include evaluating current systems to identify inefficiencies and unmet needs, installing new application tools and updating hardware requirements for computer networks.

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System Engineer duties and responsibilities

System Engineers have an array of responsibilities that revolve around designing, developing and maintaining systems in order to keep them running satisfactorily. They do this by examining systems, troubleshooting their issues, developing solutions to problems that arise and brainstorming possible upgrades that could be made. Here are a few of their other duties:

  • Using cost-benefit analyses in order to develop cost-efficient systems for specific projects
  • Examining the processes and systems within an organization, from manufacturing to distribution
  • Performing quality control procedures to make sure that all systems are operational and efficient
  • Developing system control features that set and maintain quality standards for an organization
  • Interacting and working with a wide range of people, like management, vendors, clients and IT staff 
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What does a System Engineer do?

Systems Engineers work in a range of industries to determine the best system processes to accomplish organizational goals, usually focusing on IT and computing. Systems Engineers set the standard operating procedure for new clients by assessing their development needs, determining ongoing support requirements and reviewing available resources. Systems Engineers are in charge of automating business processes using customized operating systems and IT databases. 

They design a company’s systems architecture, which determines how each part of a system functions independently and in relation to other processes. Systems Engineers work with a team to optimize IT support practices, improve system scalability and adapt existing systems architecture to serve new functions. They act as a liaison between company leadership and support staff who directly oversee product design and software development.

System Engineer Skills and Qualifications

Aside from the necessary education and training, individuals will need to have a wide range of skills in order to thrive in this position.

  • System Engineers will need to be familiar with concepts in advanced mathematics, such as trigonometry and calculus.
  • Candidates will need to multitask in order to manage problems and come up with innovative solutions.
  • In this field, innovation is key. Candidates need to be able to analyze situations and come up with creative solutions and designs.
  • System Engineers must use reasoning and logic when troubleshooting issues within a system.
  • In this position, feedback is integral to development. Candidates will need to receive and respond to constructive criticism appropriately.
  • System Engineers must excel at both written and verbal communication.

System Engineer salary expectations

A System Engineer makes an average of $101,791 per year. Salary may depend on level of experience, education and the geographical location. 

System Engineer education and training requirements

Generally speaking, System Engineers must earn a post-secondary degree in engineering before entering the field. Depending on the position, a bachelor’s degree or a Master’s degree could be required. More specifically, there are specialties within System Engineering that could have particular educational requirements. For example, computer systems engineering or mechanical systems engineering are degrees that could be required in specialized, related fields.

Though on-the-job training can be beneficial, it is usually only required when individuals are looking to advance their careers.

System Engineer experience requirements

It is typically unnecessary for aspiring System Engineers to have previous experience before applying to entry-level positions. However, there are opportunities to attend engineering summer camps that would provide beneficial training and experience. 

System Engineers usually begin working under the supervision of a trained System Engineer in order to learn the requirements and functions of the job. After earning a master’s degree in a related field and developing skills through experience, System Engineers can advance into a role as a technical specialist.

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Frequently asked questions about System Engineers


What is the difference between a System Engineer and a DevOps Engineer?

DevOps Engineers and System Engineers are both high-level tech professionals who work to improve system life cycles, but DevOps Engineers focus on boosting system efficiency while System Engineers build and adjust systems to satisfy company requirements. System Engineers often work with the internal infrastructure of an organization, while DevOps Engineers specialize in making software accessible to users by automating software development processes. 

A System Engineer will work closely with company leaders and stakeholders to determine their computing needs and adjust systems to fill those requirements. A DevOps Engineer on the same team will focus on integrating new functions into user interfaces and deploying software updates by writing code. They manage product updates, document new features and respond to user bugs by directly adjusting code.


What are the daily duties of a System Engineer?

System Engineers begin a project by using data modeling tools to identify potential issues with a current system such as workflow delays or storage issues. They collaborate with company executives to determine the core requirements for a system’s functions, including bare minimum operational needs and additional features for future development. System Engineers create documents that summarize each client’s requirements for their network’s user interface.

When designing the architecture for a computing network, System Engineers protect system information by developing verification processes and setting password protections. They develop prototypes and oversee complex tests that confirm the system’s ability to handle different stressors at once. Systems Engineers delegate installation and configuration tasks, overseeing the integration of new system designs with existing processes.


What are the qualities of a good System Engineer?

Good Systems Engineers are intelligent, confident, motivated people who take the initiative to make all aspects of their work as efficient as possible. They have a visionary mindset that allows them to consider creative solutions to complex business problems, then create the technical designs to realize their vision. They’re able to consider problems from multiple perspectives and think about how system changes could impact each person involved with a company. 

Good Systems Engineers enjoy experimenting and testing new ideas, allowing them to use evidence-based methods to create functional systems. Successful Systems Engineers are also highly practical and consider the realistic limitations of a project before allocating resources. They collect data to prove that their system architecture functions properly and research the source of any unexpected problems.


What should you look for on a System Engineer's resume?

When reviewing applications for a System Engineer position, look for resumes that demonstrate technical experience in a range of IT and networking environments. System Engineers need to be able to understand the entire scope of an organization’s computing needs, so experience in multiple IT, software development and engineering roles can help prepare them to act as a manager. Look for candidates that are skilled in a range of operating systems, software tools and project management methodologies.

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