How to Become a Systems Engineer

Systems Engineer

Systems engineers create and operate blueprints for different kinds of systems across the industry spectrum. Many companies who are using technology require a systems engineer to keep systems functioning, updated and improving.

Every product has a system; the word literally means the inner workings of said product. In a system, things – from machine cogs to sophisticated algorithms – are working together to make the product function.

Even if the products don’t noticeably change on the outside, the systems in them are constantly being upgraded and refreshed to make them more user-friendly. This means products can have more competitive features and stay relevant in the modern world. 

While systems engineers can work in a range of industries, their job remains consistent; they are hired to look at the inner workings of a company’s systems, and try to constantly improve and upgrade these. 

Therefore, being a systems engineer is more than just looking over systems and ensuring that everything is working. A huge part of a system engineer’s role is to constantly modernise these internal workings. Systems engineers may also be hired to create brand new systems for new products. Becoming a systems engineer involves a mix of working with software and hardware to create the best process possible. 

Parts of a system engineer job description typically include: 

  • Studying and analysing existing systems to ensure that they are functioning optimally.
  • Screening them for potential issues and making steps to avoid these before they happen.
  • Writing custom scripts for various technologies.
  • Researching software, hardware and equipment and constantly updating knowledge of this topic.
  • Installing new software for systems. 

It is vital that systems engineers are highly trained, with a deep understanding of and enthusiasm about the inner workings of their company. They should also have statistical skills and be able to deal with probabilities. 

To become a systems engineer, many opt for a degree in a computer-related field, and then gain additional certifications or undertake a related internship and develop an interest for systems engineering through this role. It is possible to study systems engineering at tertiary level, however many people opt for a broader subject at this stage, and most systems engineers have other relevant degrees. Nearly all specialised systems engineering positions require a few years of relevant experience.

What degree is most commonly held by a Systems Engineer?


  • BA / M of Computer Science
  • BA / M of Information Technology
  • BA / M of Electrical and Electronics Engineering
  • BA / M of Mechanical Engineering
  • BA / M of Electrical Engineering
  • BA / M of Computer Engineering
  • BA / M of Electrical, Electronics and Communications Engineering
  • BA / M of Telecommunications Engineering
  • BA / M of Computer Systems Networking and Telecommunications
  • BA / M of Computer Software Engineering
  • BA / M of Business Administration and Management, General
  • BA / M of Engineering
  • BA / M of Physics

Career Transportability across Countries


Highly skilled systems engineers are in demand all over the world. Many companies need one, and there are currently not enough people who are fully trained in this role, so many companies will consider hiring expats. International companies have English-speaking headquarters in a range of global destinations, so a systems engineer who is right for the job could easily find a relevant position here. Any training and junior work, however, would likely need to be done in the person’s home country.

What is the Salary of a Systems Engineer?

ExperienceEducationAverage salary | year
AU$UK£US$
Systems Enginee (Junior)1-2 Years€52,000£42,413$77,500
Systems Engineer (Senior)3-5 Years€120,000£57,463$105,000
Systems Engineer (VP)5+ years€185,000£71,145$130,000

What skills are needed to become a Systems Engineer?


  • Windows Server
  • Microsoft Office
  • Active Directory
  • Troubleshooting
  • VMware
  • Networking
  • Project Management
  • Servers
  • Virtualization
  • System Administration
  • Technical Support
  • Linux
  • Microsoft Exchange
  • Management
  • Customer Service
  • Windows
  • SQL
  • Integration
  • ITIL
  • Disaster Recovery
  • Microsoft Excel
  • Data Center
  • Cloud Computing
  • Network Administration
  • Engineering

Systems Engineer Courses

Learning about computer systems is a great way to supplement learning how to become a systems engineer, and at FutureLearn, we have some great courses about understanding computer systems and designing and prototyping them. As systems engineering is such a broad topic, our courses on artificial intelligence and computing may also be of interest.
  • Design and Prototype Embedded Computer Systems

    Discover embedded system design and work your way through the product design lifecycle Supported by Google

  • Energy Systems Integration: An Introduction

    Discover innovative sustainable energy systems solutions and explore an integrated perspective on the energy market

  • Transport Systems: Global Issues and Future Innovations

    Discover how the transport sector can develop infrastructures that meet the needs of a 21st century population

  • Transforming Energy Systems: Why Governance Matters

    Tackling climate change demands profound and rapid energy system transformation Discover how effective governance enables this

  • Electrical Engineering: Sensing, Powering and Controlling

    Get a taste of an electrical engineering degree Build your confidence in communicating ideas and using technical vocabulary

  • Applications of AI Technology

    Learn how AI technology is influencing four key areas intelligent systems medtech deep learning and sustainable fishing

Systems Engineer Microcredentials

  • Cloud Computing Practitioner with AWS Academy Cloud Foundations

    Build the technical skills you need to work in the fastgrowing sector of cloud computing and prepare for an AWS Certification

Need even more evidence about why you should learn on FutureLearn?

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