What Does a Certified Systems Engineer Do?

Systems engineering is the design and management of engineering projects, and certified systems engineers are credentialed professionals in this field. Continue reading to learn more about the job of a systems engineer and how to become certified in the field. Schools offering Engineering & Technology Management degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Career Overview

As a systems engineer, you'll oversee every phase of an engineering project from its inception throughout its life cycle. This discipline applies to a variety of products and industries, such as aerospace, electronics, software development, and civil engineering. You might, for example, design and integrate corporate software, help construct major transportation networks, or develop military helicopters. Systems engineers are typically allotted a budget and time limit, and they must devise a project plan that works within these constraints.

Along with planning the project as a whole, you will be responsible for fulfilling the technical specifications of complex design projects. You'll coordinate and oversee the efforts of a team of engineers and other professionals working on the project in order to create an efficient and reliable end product. You'll take part in every aspect of the engineering process, which is generally comprised of initial research, design, development, and evaluation.

Important Facts About This Occupation

Similar Occupations IT systems engineer, senior electrical engineer, technical project manager
Key Skills Knowledge of C++, UNIX, Matlab, and Linux
Required Education Technical bachelor's degree; Master of Science in Systems Engineering and Master of Science in Engineering in Systems Engineering programs are available, in addition to graduate certificates
On-the-Job Training Internships are available

Initial Research

To begin a project, you must first define the client's needs. You will work closely with the client to determine what they want the project to accomplish. They might, for example, want you to create more efficient payroll software or construct a dam that controls water flow. You may have to conduct additional research to identify existing conditions on a project site or other technical limitations. You'll also need to work out a reasonable budget and time limit.

Design and Development

Once the client's specifications are identified, you'll collaborate with other engineers to coordinate a plan to create the product. You and your team may devise models and components of the product, testing them along the way to make sure they work properly. Depending on the nature of the project, you may then assemble these components into one final product. This involves further testing and, in the case of errors, troubleshooting.


After a project is complete, you'll analyze the final product to determine that it meets the client's needs. You'll assess its efficiency and dependability, as well as ensure that it meets all safety regulations. This may involve compiling the information in an official report for presentation to the client. In the case of malfunction, you might have to return to the project for maintenance and replacement.


The International Council on Systems Engineering offers several levels of certification for systems engineers. The Associate Systems Engineering Professional designation is the lowest-level credential offered and simply requires passage of a certification exam (www.incose.org). You might also become a Certified Systems Engineering Professional (CSEP), which entails a technical degree, five years of systems engineering experience and passage of the certification exam. When CSEPs reach 25 years of experience, they may be upgraded to an Expert Systems Engineering Professional.

Salary Info and Job Outlook

According to PayScale.com, the majority of senior systems engineers earn between $78,000 and $140,000 a year, as of May 2019. Although the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS, www.bls.gov) does not provide information specific to the field of systems engineering, the BLS did project that employment within the architecture and engineering field will likely grow by about 7% between 2016 and 2026, which as fast as the national average for all job sectors.

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