what is a systems engineer?

A systems engineer is a professional who applies engineering principles to develop and maintain efficient systems. They play a crucial role in various industries by solving multiple problems in systems. Unlike other engineers who solve issues in independent parts, a systems engineer takes a holistic approach by studying the interconnections of systems. When a systems engineer develops a system, they ensure it provides a positive user experience while considering the company objectives and operations.

what does a systems engineer do?

As a systems engineer, you are the interface between the stakeholders in the systems development process. That means your primary role revolves around defining, developing, testing, maintaining and replacing systems. You incorporate the views of the management, end-users, specialty engineers and suppliers to create an efficient system for your employer.

Systems aren't strictly related to computers, but they rely on engineering advancements and the latest technology. As a systems engineer, you can work in computer, mechanical, electrical and manufacturing systems to ensure all the components work together and meet the needs of the consumers. You also collaborate with various departments in a company to ensure a smooth production process and proper maintenance of the existing systems.

systems engineer jobs

average systems engineer salary

The salary of a systems engineer in Canada can vary depending on factors such as experience, location, specific industry, and the employer. On average, a systems engineer in Canada can expect to earn between CAD $70,000 to $130,000 per year. Entry-level positions may start at a lower salary range, while more experienced or senior-level professionals can earn salaries at the higher end or even beyond this range, particularly in major cities like Toronto, Vancouver, or Montreal.

what factors increase your salary as a systems engineer?

A systems engineer's salary depends on experience level and qualifications. At an entry-level position, you have minimal skills and work experience; hence, your pay will be low compared to experienced systems engineers. Your skill level is also based on educational qualifications or specialism. Systems engineers with a degree earn more compared to someone with an apprenticeship. If you focus on a specific study area, you are likely to make more than a general systems engineer. For instance, specializing in computer systems increases your compensation package due to the additional expertise in the area.

Your employer's location can also impact your pay. Companies in major cities pay more due to the high cost of living and increased demand for systems engineers. Smaller towns have a low cost of living and lower demand for engineers, limiting your salary prospects.

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types of systems engineers

  • computer systems engineer: your job is to design computer systems that fit your clients' needs. If a retail company requires a sales management system, you incorporate all the functions relevant to retail management like invoice and inventory management systems. You also advise on the best software and hardware tools for the computer system to function efficiently.
  • product development systems engineer: your job is to improve product development systems to help your company remain competitive. You develop systems that eliminate inefficiencies and troubleshoot problems that affect the product's quality standards.
  • biosystems engineer: as a biosystems engineer, you develop and maintain systems relating to the natural environment. Your duties may include analyzing resource conservation or waste treatment systems. You can also create food processing systems for various industries.
systems engineer
systems engineer

working as a systems engineer

Are you wondering what a systems engineer does daily? Read on to find out the work routine and duties of a systems engineer:


education and skills

  • bachelor’s degree: the first step in entering the field of systems engineering is earning a bachelor's degree in systems engineering or other related fields such as computer engineering or mechanical engineering. Those who pursue this career path typically study subjects such as mechanical design, computer software and hardware, and electronics. Alternatively, some professionals in this field may hold a bachelor's degree in technical fields such as computer science. Common coursework in a systems engineering bachelor's program includes physics, calculus, project management, statistics, and computer systems programming.
  • master's degree: after completing a bachelor's degree, choosing to pursue a master's degree may offer greater opportunities for advancement. It is often advisable to gain some practical experience in the field before pursuing a master's degree or while working towards it. Many systems engineers who pursue a master's degree are looking to expand their career opportunities within the engineering field. As such, applicants to these graduate programs often have a clearer vision of their desired industry and tailor their studies accordingly.
  • Certifications: obtaining a certification in systems engineering serves as another means to show your competence and expertise to potential employers. Several certification options in the industry include: 
    • Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer (MCSE)
    • Certified Systems Engineering Professional (CSEP)
    • Master Certified Electronics Technician (CETma)
    • Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA)
    • Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP)
    • CompTIA Network+

skills and competencies

Systems engineers require hard and soft skills, including:

  • technical skills: as a systems engineer, you need technical skills role like using various software. Your job involves using modelling software, specialized equipment and multiple computer programs. Technical skills will also help you accomplish your tasks faster.
  • analytical thinking: your role requires meticulous analysis of each task. For instance, you have to analyse a system as a whole or a sum of its parts before implementing changes. Analytical thinking and attention to detail help you factor in every aspect of the system before recommending alterations.
  • time management: a systems engineer prioritizes tasks to meet deadlines. You are also responsible for determining project milestones and adjusting the timeline when changes occur. Your work will be easy if you have time management skills.
  • teamwork skills: as a systems designer, you collaborate with various professionals, from manufacturing employees to researchers, security experts and salespeople. You need teamwork skills to offer constructive feedback and direct teams to achieve a project's objectives.


FAQs about working as a systems engineer


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