Systems Engineer Job Description: Top Duties and Qualifications

A Systems Engineer, or System Engineer, is in charge of designing, implementing and maintaining the information technology systems for an organization. Their duties include designing the basic computing infrastructure to accomplish key tasks, establishing networking rules for cybersecurity and troubleshooting network errors or other technical issues.

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Systems Engineer duties and responsibilities

Systems Engineers are responsible for assessing systems, determining problems, providing solutions to issues that arise, designing systems, upgrading systems, maintaining systems and brainstorming possible improvements that can be made to a system in the future. Some of their other primary responsibilities include:

  • Speaking to and collaborating with a variety of people, such as clients, vendors, management and information technology (IT) staff during the creation and maintenance of a system
  • Creating control features to ensure systems effectively meet the organization’s quality standards
  • Engaging in quality control procedures to ensure that systems are efficient and operational
  • Developing a cost-efficient system for projects by performing a cost-benefit analysis
  • Ensuring that an organization is operating at maximum efficiency, from manufacturing to distribution

What does a Systems Engineer do?

Systems Engineers hold senior positions at IT departments and software development companies where they guide the creation, installation and support for computing systems. They meet with clients to determine their computing and information management needs, then use their technical knowledge to design functional applications, databases and networks to fulfill those expectations. Systems Engineers determine the hardware essential to support an organization’s software and computing functions. 

Systems Engineers lead a team of programmers and IT support staff to install and configure new systems, testing for bugs and errors before launching each new feature. They train their team on data security, troubleshooting processes and reporting expectations to ensure consistent support for clients and users. Systems Engineers create automated scripts to improve system efficiency and make it easier for their team to communicate about technical developments.

Systems Engineer skills and qualifications

A Systems Engineer candidate will require a number of prerequisite skills and qualifications in order to be effective in this position, such as:

  • Candidates need creativity to imagine innovative, effective new solutions and designs.
  • Logic and reasoning are important when troubleshooting difficult issues.
  • Candidates must be able to develop solutions to problems, as well as manage multiple issues at the same time.
  • Understanding and appropriately responding to feedback is an important aspect of this position.
  • Calculus, trigonometry and other advanced math skills are commonly used in analysis and design.
  • Both oral and written communication skills are vital to relaying important information, training new staff members and communicating about solutions to complex problems.

Systems Engineer salary expectations

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

Systems Engineer education and training requirements

The typical education and training for a Systems Engineer career includes post-secondary education such as a bachelor’s degree or a master’s degree in engineering. However, there are specialty roles within systems engineering that have specific educational requirements. For example, mechanical systems engineering or computer systems engineering are specific degrees leading to a specialization in related fields. On-the-job training is generally not required unless the individual is attempting to transition into a higher or managerial position.

Systems Engineer experience requirements

There may be opportunities for a young person interested in a career as a Systems Engineer to attend summer camps geared toward engineering training. These camps prepare candidates for their future careers. A bachelor’s degree in engineering or a related science is usually required for candidates hoping to begin working in the field. However, it is generally unnecessary for Systems Engineers that are seeking entry-level positions to have specific experience before applying.

In many cases, entry-level Systems Engineers start off working under the supervision of trained Systems Engineers and thus learn the functions and requirements of the job hands-on. Independence during projects occurs as learning is mastered on the job over time. After obtaining enough related experience in this field as well as earning a master’s degree in a related field, a Systems Engineer may become a technical specialist.

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Frequently asked questions about Systems Engineers

 

What is the difference between a Systems Engineer and a Software Engineer?

Systems Engineers and Software Engineers are both instrumental in providing clients with the tech resources they need to complete business operations, but Software Engineers focus on designing software components while Systems Engineers create the systems that support features. Systems Engineers consider the overall impact of technical infrastructure on a company. They specify the interface requirements for clients, manage long-term configuration plans, create verification procedures to give users access to IT systems and analyze the viability of networks over time. 

Systems Engineers are the people who determine system requirements, which Software Engineers then use as guidelines when developing software products. Software Engineers use process modeling and other technical strategies to develop the internal structure of an application, while Systems Engineers consider the external interactions and requirements related to that application.

 

What are the daily duties of a Systems Engineer?

Systems Engineers spend their time meeting with clients, training their team and working at their computer. When working on a new project, they analyze how users will interact with the system, considering accessibility needs, server requirements and other details. They determine what technology tools can help them achieve their goals, including both physical computer processors and digital resources. They develop guidelines for installing and updating a system, communicating with their team and clients about limitations and potential problems. 

Systems Engineers run tests at all phases of project development and implementation to make sure the system can handle a full workload. Once the system is fully operational, they provide ongoing maintenance support and make changes to adapt the infrastructure to meet developing client needs. They analyze the efficiency of existing systems, schedule physical maintenance repairs and track system performance over time.

 

What are the characteristics of a good Systems Engineer?

Good Systems Engineers have a strategic mindset that they use to balance all of the variables involved with running a computer networking system. They’re able to think logically and methodically to identify the best possible solution based on a client’s resources and needs. Top Systems Engineers enjoy learning about technology, allowing them to stay up-to-date on best practices in the industry and implement cutting-edge tech tools for their clients.

Systems Engineers should also be creative and innovative, considering unique solutions to complex issues. A successful Systems Engineer is an excellent communicator who can share their ideas with clients, explaining complex technical concepts with ease.

 

Do Systems Engineers have different responsibilities in different industries?

While the type of systems a Systems Engineer creates varies depending on their field, all Systems Engineers have the same core functions and responsibilities. They oversee the development of a system, communicating with clients and shareholders about their progress. A Systems Engineer that works in logistics will have different priorities than a Systems Engineer working in telecommunications, but both professionals will design and oversee the architecture used to complete core tasks.

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