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System Engineer Job Description: What Does a Systems Engineer Do?

October 3, 2021

To deliver high-quality products and services, every organization must put in place systems and processes that work together. Each organization, therefore, needs a systems engineer to oversee these tasks, and to ensure that everything integrates efficiently and adheres to safety and security policies. 

A systems engineer also runs routine checks on current systems and equipment, and suggests ways to improve the current procedures and tools. 

In this article, we will discuss what systems engineering is, what a systems engineer does, how much money they make and how to become one. 


What Is Systems Engineering?

Before we dive deeper into a system engineers' job description, their duties and responsibilities, let us look at what the term "systems engineering" means. 

The International Council on Systems Engineering (INCOSE) gives the following definition: 

"Systems Engineering is a transdisciplinary and integrative approach to enable the successful realization, use, and retirement of engineered systems, using systems principles and concepts, and scientific, technological, and management methods. We use the terms "engineering" and "engineered" in their widest sense: "the action of working artfully to bring something about." "Engineered systems" may be composed of any or all of people, products, services, information, processes, and natural elements." 

In other words, it is an approach to understanding the system design and realization, as well as maintaining any system, be it electrical, mechanical, chemical, or involving business processes. In this approach, individuals working in this role look at the organization as a whole rather than a number of independent parts. 

Think about a car... In order to drive a car, everything — mechanical parts, design, electrical components, software — must work together. The same goes for any complex project. In order to be successful, all the efforts across all the different teams must be coordinated, business processes must run like well-oiled machines, and hardware and software solutions must meet the organization's needs. 

And this is where a systems engineer may come in. During the systems engineering process these professionals design, integrate, and manage complex systems over their life cycle. 

Now, let's move onto what system engineers do.


Job Description of A Systems Engineer

Simply put, systems engineers oversee organizational systems and find more efficient ways of doing things. To do so, they define stakeholder's needs and determine essential functionality in the early stages of a product’s development cycle. 

They then collaborate with different departments — engineering, security, testing, IT operations, etc. — to ensure a smooth production process. They monitor software, hardware, network, storage, and cloud systems to optimize all the processes and to improve productivity while maintaining quality.  

System engineers work in various industries. And as the requirements of software development companies differ, so do their day-to-day duties and tasks. 

However, a system engineer is usually expected to perform the following tasks: 

  • Collect information regarding a product’s functionality, manufacturing, installation and operating environment.
  • Participate in the development of engineering templates, processes and best practices.
  • Monitor existing systems and look out for potential system upgrades. 
  • Research available software, hardware, and equipment to improve teams' performance. 
  • Install and configure new software, hardware and equipment.
  • Manage integrations with multiple platforms and applications.
  • Plan and implement automated systems as required for better efficiency.
  • Ensure safety procedures are in place.
  • Maintain detailed documentation and change records when needed.
  • Oversee the constant availability of technical resources.
  • Troubleshoot issues with computer systems.
  • Provide training to customers and colleagues as required.

If a project is big and complicated, there may be several system engineers working together. However, if the project is small, the project manager might take on some of the responsibilities listed above. 

Now that you know the core duties of a systems engineer, let's discuss what skills you need to work in this role. 


Systems Engineer's Education, Certificates and Skills

Education

Most system engineers have a bachelor's degree in Software Engineering, Computer Science, Math, or any other related field. Some senior-level positions may require a master's degree. And many universities offer master's programs in Systems Engineering, thus focusing on a specific domain: biomedical systems, cybersecurity systems and software systems. 

Certificates

There are many professionals who want to advance their careers, and they do so by gaining  additional certificates to show their expertise in the area. 

For example, the International Council on Systems Engineering (INCOSE) provides a multi-level certification program: 

  • ASEP (Associate Systems Engineering Professional) for those who just recently started practicing systems engineering.
  • CSEP (Certified Systems Engineering Professional) for individuals with a minimum of five years of experience working in systems engineering.
  • ESEP (Expert Systems Engineering Professional) for experts with 20 years of experience working in systems engineering. 


Skills

Undoubtedly, when looking at system engineering jobs, relevant education and certificates are important. However, employers also value skills too. Because the job of a system engineer combines knowledge of engineering, computer science, and management, successful candidates must have a broad set of hard and soft skills. 

A systems engineer's job duties vary depending on their industry and the technology used in a particular company. Therefore, the required technical skills can be different. But here are some skills that are often sought after by recruiters:

  • Knowledge of Linux’s system administration.
  • Experience with user and group management.
  • Understanding of file system hierarchy standards. 
  • Awareness of security principles.
  • Knowledge of network tools.
  • Experience with configuration management tools.
  • Understanding of hardware/software concepts and interfaces.
  • Experience with cloud-based technologies.
  • Proficiency in documenting processes.

As for non-technical skills, these are the most important ones:

  • Excellent communication skills.
  • Conflict management.
  • Strong analytical skills.
  • Problem-solving.
  • Creative thinking.
  • Attention to detail.
  • Teamwork.
  • Time management skills.

In addition to all of the above, recruiters usually look for candidates with several years of experience in areas like programming, information security, IT support, integration or quality assurance. 


System Engineer's Salary and Common Employers  

Systems engineers are in high demand, so much so, that there are thousands of job vacancies in different states across the US. So, this in demand job is a great choice for those of you looking at getting into an exciting new role, plus, the current salary trends are great too.  

According to Glassdoor, the average salary of a Systems Engineer in the United States is $92,346 per year (ranging from $64K to $134k). Of course, how much a system engineer makes depends on location, experience, skills, the sector and several other factors. 

Besides, there are many open system engineers' positions in different fields. That is because businesses need to eliminate ineffective processes and develop successful systems. Professionals with the right skillset can work in various industries: software development, telecommunication, healthcare, transportation, aerospace and defense.  

Conclusion

If you think that a career in system engineering is the right choice for you, and you are ready to take the next step, check out our intense Systems Engineering training

During this six-week program you will learn everything you need to know to start working as a system engineer. You will also have an opportunity to get real-world experience if you complete our internship program. 

We will even help you to craft the perfect CV, and we will help you to prepare for interviews - you will be ready to apply for your dream job in no time at all with our help. 


Further reading: 

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