Systems Engineer Job Description
Whether the goal is to create and implement a complex computer system or build a spacecraft that will push the limits of exploration, Systems Engineers play a crucial role in guiding complex projects from conception to completion. Part engineer and part project manager, a Systems Engineer oversees the development of a system that addresses a defined need, managing the many disciplines and specialty groups required to make it a reality.
There is demand for Systems Engineers across many sectors, including aerospace, automotive, defense, healthcare, information technology and transportation. In general, jobs in the engineering field are projected to increase 4 percent through 2022, creating about 3,000 new openings annually, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports. The average salary for a Systems Engineer is about $86,000 a year, according to the BLS and other online sources.
Systems Engineer Duties and Responsibilities
To accomplish their primary goal of building or improving systems, Systems Engineers perform many tasks. We analyzed several job listings to identify these core Systems Engineer duties and responsibilities.
As a Systems Engineer, your first task is communicating with stakeholders to identify what they want a system to accomplish. Depending on the industry, you may work on anything from complex power grids that supply energy to thousands of people to factory assembly lines that incorporate machines and computers. Systems Engineers develop system designs, and then use modeling techniques to evaluate how they might perform in the real world.
When a system is developed, Systems Engineers test it to ensure that it accomplishes what it is supposed to. Often testing involves attempts to intentionally break the system to identify any problem areas. Existing systems also are tested regularly.
Once a system is launched, a Systems Engineer is responsible for monitoring its operation, troubleshooting problems that arise and keeping the system running smoothly. This includes creating reports and other documentation outlining your findings and solutions. As a Systems Engineer, you also provide support to users of a system.
Systems Engineer Skills
Systems Engineers are analytical problem solvers who think in a systems perspective. They are able to manage small details while keeping an eye on the big picture. In addition to these general skills and personality traits, employers are seeking Systems Engineer candidates with the following skills.
Core skills: Based on job listings we looked at, employers want Systems Engineers with these core skills. If you want to work as a Systems Engineer, focus on the following.
- Understanding engineering disciplines, such as mechanical, electrical and computer engineering
- Managing projects that include inter-disciplinary teams
- Understanding complex system development methods
- Understanding of system testing practices
Advanced skills: While most employers did not require the following skills, multiple job listings included them as preferred. Add these to your Systems Engineer toolbox and broaden your career options.
- Proficiency with databases and SQL
- Relevant specialized engineering experience
- Advanced certifications, such as CCNA, MCSE and MCITP
- Architecture modeling skills
- Relevant security clearance for working on government contracts
Systems Engineer Resources
We searched the Web to find the best industry resources to help you continue exploring a career as a Systems Engineer. From thought leaders to industry groups, this list is packed with opportunities to learn, connect and engage.
On the Web
Engineering.com – This informative site is packed with information, inspiration and entertainment for engineers of all disciplines. Come here for news, white papers, webinars and much more.
Eng-Tips – Whatever engineering discipline you’re interested in, you can find a topic-specific forum full of likeminded professionals here.
Young Engineers Blog – This blog focuses on the challenges young engineers face as they begin their careers.
INCOSE – The International Council on Systems Engineering bills itself as the world’s authority on systems engineering. The group is dedicated disseminating systems engineering knowledge and establishing professional standards in the field.
NSPE – The National Society of Professional Engineers welcomes engineers of all disciplines. Membership benefits include webinars, networking events, professional development opportunities and more.
Systems Engineering Books
Systems Engineering Principles and Practice by Alexander Kossiakoff, et al – This interdisciplinary guide to systems engineering is the foundational textbook on the subject at colleges and universities across the globe.
Modern Methods of Systems Engineering by Joe Jenney – Systems engineering fundamentals are covered in this self-training guide that also introduces modern systems engineering methods.
Systems Engineering Fundamentals by U.S. Army – Covering basic, conceptual-level systems engineering, this book is aimed at engineers and non-engineers alike.
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