What Does a Systems Engineer Do? (With Career Advice)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 27 September 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Systems engineering entails the creation and improvement of systems and processes. A systems engineer can work in various disciplines, developing and implementing new systems that increase business efficiency and safety. Knowing more about this profession can help you decide whether you want to pursue this career path. In this article, we answer, "What does a systems engineer do?", explore their skills and qualifications and outline the steps for starting a career in this domain.

What is a systems engineer?

A system engineer is a professional who develops a system that creates a product from the beginning to the end. In many sectors, systems engineers play a critical role in the success of companies. They establish the groundwork or blueprint for systems to start conceiving, manufacturing and executing operations. Systems engineers recognise a problem based on customer demands. They design and implement a solution by continuous re-evaluation. Systems engineers keep track of system performance and evaluate all phases of operations to guarantee success.

What does a systems engineer do?

Systems engineers design, manage and optimise complex systems. They use a single module or a complete application system for carrying out the processes. When it comes to designing systems or goods, system engineers manage the entire process from conception through manufacturing, operation and recycling. They examine requirement profiles, run simulations ahead of time and calculate a cost depending on the risks involved.

The responsibilities of a systems engineer include everything from project management to analysis to quality assurance. They keep project goals in mind when making a decision about operations, deadlines, testing, budget and training. System engineers are often responsible for developing, implementing and constructing IT systems in business. They are a crucial success element for businesses since they are vital for a smooth workflow. When systems engineers see the need for new or enhanced systems, they strive to address or meet those needs for the business.

Stages of systems engineering

Systems engineering often takes place in four stages:

1. Task defining

The engineer explains the purpose of a system in the first step. They may research particular sector demands, identify where the present system needs improvement and engage with the management, clients or stakeholders to better understand the system requirements.

2. Conception

This stage is more like a planning phase. During this phase, the engineer begins to create a model for the system that they have to build. During this step, engineers may also examine alternative systems.

3. Design

The engineer is in charge of designing blueprints, models and plans. They maintain documentation of the engineering process, which describes the requirements for the design and purchase of systems and system parts. This documentation includes a list of all planned components so that it is possible to see which changes are impacting the system.

4. Implementation

The engineer fabricates and tests the new system at this stage. They assess the performance of the system and provide recommendations for improvements. At this stage, the engineer may also demonstrate to the client how their newly-built system fulfils the original criteria set out in the first stage.

Responsibilities of a systems engineer

Some of the important responsibilities of a systems engineer include:

  • examining and monitoring current systems to verify structural integrity and recommending improvements

  • examining software, hardware and equipment with a goal to improve production

  • installing new software, operating systems and equipment

  • designing and implementing security systems

  • ensuring that all necessary safety measures are in place

  • providing support and technical help to people participating in the process

  • troubleshooting and discovering ideal solutions, collaborating with experts in various disciplines, such as marketing and management

Average salary of a systems engineer

The average salary of a systems engineer in India is ₹5,05,463 per year. The salary of a systems engineer may vary depending on their qualification, experience, skills and location. For instance, the average salary of a senior system engineer is ₹6,13,911 per year. Given their salary and work environment, many in the industry consider systems engineering to be a good career.

Skills required to become a systems engineer

Systems engineers need several soft and hard skills to help them do their job well. Here are some examples:

Technical skills

This varies depending on the sector in which the systems engineer works. Systems engineering usually necessitates proficiency with planning and modelling software and specialised equipment. Systems engineers often use a variety of software applications.

Organisational skills

To handle the quantity of information that a systems engineer interacts with daily, they need strong organising abilities. It is critical to organise the information to accurately track progress and history and provide intelligent papers and reports. Even though a tool may considerably help in enhancing the organisation requirements, systems engineers may still need to grasp the basic organisation ideas.

Related: Organisational Skills: Definition and Examples

Analytical thinking

The systems engineering profession necessitates a careful and detail-oriented study of each task they accomplish. They see a system as both a whole and a collection of components. They also pay attention to minor aspects and make adjustments.

Related: Analytical Skills: Definition, Tips and Examples

Time management

System engineers prioritise projects, set and stick to deadlines and develop job completion timeframes. They also adjust to changes that happen in real-time, as well as foresee and plan for them. All of this necessitates the capacity to not only manage time but also to plan well.

Communication

Systems engineers collaborate with a wide range of experts. They may engage with a marketing expert, a software developer, a senior financial executive, a manufacturing plant member or a driver throughout the day. They are required to establish clear and open communication strategies to make sure that they can explain technical information in simple terms to those outside of the engineering field.

Related: Communication Skills: Definitions and Examples

Interpersonal skills

Systems engineers work in teams with security specialists, marketing employees, designers, researchers, manufacturing plant personnel and salespeople for launching a product. They assign duties, monitor progress, do quality assurance checks and provide constructive comments. All these tasks require the engineer to have very good interpersonal skills so that they can interact with multiple stakeholders effectively.

Related: Interpersonal Skills: Definitions and Examples

Systems engineer work environment

Systems engineers can work in a variety of industries. Some aspects of a system engineer's work environment are consistent:

  • Systems engineers use technology constantly, including specialised software, security systems, modelling systems and other plant equipment. Some equipment they use requires special safety gear.

  • As with all technical fields, products, requirements and standards are constantly evolving. Systems engineers stay updated with new technology and update their knowledge to stay relevant.

  • System engineers work in person or remotely with people from many other fields, including other engineers and technology experts, clients, financial experts, public relations personnel and plant employees.

  • Systems engineers may work out of an office part or all of the time, though they may need to inspect manufacturing lines or server storage areas, depending on their industry.

  • Many systems engineers work full time during normal business hours, though some overtime may be necessary to meet deadlines.

Some of the places where systems engineers may find work include:

  • government organisations

  • corporations

  • nonprofit organisations

  • educational institutions

How to become a systems engineer

Here are some steps that you can follow to become a systems engineer:

1. Earn a bachelor's degree in engineering

For entry-level systems engineering positions, a bachelor's degree is often a prerequisite. You can pursue a bachelor's degree in systems engineering, industrial engineering, computer engineering or a related field. Even though some positions may need a master's degree, a bachelor's degree is generally sufficient to start a career in this field.

2. Earn a master's degree

Many businesses prefer to hire people with a master's degree in systems engineering or a related field. Having a master's degree can be quite useful particularly for management roles. After completing a bachelor's degree programme, you can also pursue a master's degree in computer science with relevant specialisation.

3. Consider doing an internship

Candidates with prior work experience are preferred in the field of systems engineering. Even working as an intern can give you a competitive edge during your job search. You can pursue an internship during your academic programme or after you have completed one. Through an internship, you gain real-world experience in business and understand how companies operate.

4. Earn certifications

Depending on the field, you can earn several certifications to potentially expand your job opportunities and increase your earnings. You can search for several certifications online or offline which can help you in getting entry in this field. Renew your certifications or license as required by the issuing institution.

Systems engineer job description example

Seeking a systems engineer to oversee the informational systems at a cell phone provider company. The job requires:

  • Monitoring existing systems

  • Overseeing the installation of new software; configuring operating systems

  • Testing for security issues

  • Designing and implementing security systems

  • Training other staff in data safety

The candidate must at least have a bachelor's degree in information technology or computer science engineering, but a master's degree in systems engineering is preferred. The ideal candidate has a minimum of seven years of experience in systems engineering with at least five years in an IT support capacity.

Salary figures reflect data listed on Indeed Salaries at time of writing. Salaries may vary depending on the hiring organisation and a candidate's experience, academic background and location.

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