Job profile: Become a systems engineer
Posted on
September 8, 2020
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Systems engineering is a rapidly evolving multidisciplinary career. It's a good fit for tech professionals who have developed a solid combination of software and hardware capabilities, as well as superior communication, analytical, project management, and other non-technical skills.

A systems engineer plays an integral role in enabling business success in an enterprise. He or she is responsible for designing, implementing, and maintaining user-friendly, robust, scalable, and secure systems. These systems are essential for efficient business operations and optimum customer experience, helping to enhance productivity and achieve business objectives.

It's a challenging and interesting profession for an IT professional with the right aptitude, education, and experience — someone who has knowledge of computer science, analytics, and engineering, as well as soft skills. A systems engineer applies his or her expertise in software and hardware to design and develop systems that are best suited to meet the business requirements of an enterprise.

As you'd expect, systems engineers who are good at their jobs, especially those who have a high degree of cloud computing fluency, command high salaries. Glassdoor reports an average annual salary in the United States of $77,768, with six-figure salaries available to top practitioners.

Typical job responsibilities

Systems engineers normally have experience in software development, as well as infrastructure design, implementation, and management. A skilled systems engineer is a versatile IT professional whose skill set combines both technical and non-technical capabilities, and who is adept at functioning in fast-changing and complex situations.

Systems engineers' duties vary from organization to organization, depending on the employer needs, business sector, and infrastructure deployed. The day-to-day responsibilities of a systems engineer may include some of the standard job functions of a system administrator, a network engineer, or a software engineer.

Time to get growing

A systems engineer's typical duties could include any (or all) of the following:

  • Interacting with the software development team, project managers, and engineers in order to understand design, implementation, and operational requirements for any given system relating to hardware, software, and data
  • Creating, maintaining, and updating documentation of system design, set-up, and operations
  • Designing, implementing, and supporting information systems infrastructure required for mainframe computers, server platforms, and applications, including software installation, testing, quality assurance, maintenance, user support, and system servicing
  • Writing and implementing test strategies and processes
  • Maintaining system architecture, which includes making sure that systems are stable, secure, available, scalable, and portable
  • Performing audits of systems and software
  • Improving system efficiency
  • System monitoring in order to identify faults and prevent potential bottlenecks
  • Monitoring application performance
  • System development support
  • Troubleshooting systems
  • Planning infrastructure and system upgrades, and identify hardware that needs to be replaced
  • Advising stakeholders about system planning, design, project costs, and changes
  • Determining guidelines relating to system design in order to ensure system compatibility and implementation of systems in a secure state
  • Implementing and managing backup and redundancy policies
  • Analysing and recording root causes of system unavailability in order to enable and improve system recovery

Systems engineers must also be aware of current technological developments and trends, and economic changes that affect the businesses where they work.

Systems engineers work in fast-paced environments and need to keep abreast of developments in infrastructure technologies, system management tools, software platforms, and best practices, as well as security tools and processes.

Education and work experience

A systems engineer is an experience IT professional with a broad and diverse skill set.

A systems engineer's job is not an entry-level role. Typically, systems engineers have more than a few years of experience in software development, as well as hardware and network infrastructure design, implementation, and maintenance.

A systems engineer also needs to have at least some degree of expertise with the hardware and software deployed by the organization. Many recruiters are looking for engineers who have at least a few years of professional experience with the software their company already uses.

Generally, a systems engineer is required to have at least a bachelor's degree in systems engineering, computer science, or a related subject. Some have master's degrees. However, candidates without relevant degrees, but who do have solid experience in software design and development, as well as knowledge of infrastructure planning, design, deployment, and implementation, may sometimes be recruited as systems engineers.

Good communication and interpersonal skills are necessary to be successful in a systems engineering role. This is because systems engineers interact with software developers, engineering teams, project managers, and clients in order to ascertain system requirements, solve problems, and address system-related issues. An aptitude for teamwork and good time management skills are also required. Experience in customer service is helpful.

Depending on the job responsibilities, some companies might require a systems engineer to have skills in project management.


Relevant industry certifications can add value to your resume and demonstrate current knowledge and expertise in a particular technology, specialization, or product.

Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert (MCSE)

Microsoft formerly used "systems engineer" to describe an entire class of certifications before evolving its MCSE acronym from "Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer" to "Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert."

The MCSE designation itself is in danger of being evolved out of existence, but four MCSE certifications remain and any of them could be helpful to aspiring systems engineers: Business Applications, Core Infrastructure, Data Management and Analytics, and Productivity Solutions Expert.

For additional information, click here.

Caltech Advanced Systems Engineering Certificate Program

The Caltech Advanced Systems Engineering Certificate Program is designed for systems engineers, hardware and software engineers, technical support professionals, and project managers. Candidates are taught how to design and develop as well as support complex systems.

The program covers four courses:

System Architecture Development and Evaluation
Model-Based Systems Engineering and SysML
Software Systems Engineering
Systems Integration

For additional information, click here.

Cisco Certified Network Professional (CCNP)

A systems engineer is an experience IT professional with a broad and diverse skill set.

The CCNP is a professional-level certification suitable for those who have a few years of relevant professional experience and seek validation of their skills in infrastructure solutions in a given technology. CCNP is available in five technology tracks: Enterprise, Data Center, Security, Service Provider, and Collaboration.

Candidates need to pass a core exam and a concentration exam to earn a CCNP certification in a particular track. While the core exam covers knowledge of the technology, the concentration exam focuses on emerging and industry-relevant topics.

For additional information, click here.

CompTIA Server+

CompTIA Server+ is a vendor-neutral credential that demonstrates knowledge of core server technologies, such as network-attached storage, virtualization, and security. CompTIA Server+ is suitable for IT professionals looking to develop expertise in server architecture and administration, security, networking, and troubleshooting.

For additional information, click here.

Other credentials include certifications from the International Council on Systems Engineering (INCOSE), and relevant certifications from Red Hat. Systems engineers can apply for jobs across a wide range of organizations, including government agencies, and a variety of industries.

About the Author

Reena Ghosh is an independent ghostwriter who writes promotional, developmental and explanatory content for individuals and businesses. She came to professional writing with work experience in financial services operations and corporate communication. Reena speaks three languages and hopes to learn Sanskrit. She is a wanderer who spends time in West Bengal, Goa and any place that pulls.

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