System Engineering

System engineering takes an interdisciplinary approach to managing customer claims and feedback throughout a system's performance cycle. Read on to learn more about methodologies, employment, education and certifications for systems engineers.

Is System Engineering Right for Me?

Career Overview

According to the International Council on Systems Engineering (INCOSE), system engineering can be summed up by the acronym SIMILAR: state the problem, investigate alternatives, model the system, integrate, launch the system, assess performance and re-evaluate ( This method is commonly applied to electrical, computational and industrial engineering scenarios, as well as other areas, such as gaming, robotics and communications. Qualified system engineers who have completed formal education programs can find employment in government, business and academic venues.

Employment and Salary Information

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) in May 2013, the median annual salary for electrical engineers was $89,180, while industrial engineers earned $80,300. At that same time, the median annual salary for computer software systems developers was $101,410. The BLS also noted that employment opportunities for electrical and industrial engineers were expected to increase by a slower-than-average rate from 2012-2022 ( Additional salary information provided by in August 2014 indicates that most systems engineers working with computers and information technology earn between $43,296 and $94,538 a year.

How Can I Work in System Engineering?

Undergraduate Programs

Due to the broad nature of the field, undergraduate system engineering programs may be intertwined with studies in computer systems engineering and computer science. Coursework can include topics in elementary circuits and systems, transportation and stochastic systems, optimization and modeling. You may also study robotic and biological systems.

Graduate Programs

Most aspiring system engineers pursue master's and doctoral programs, which often coexist within industrial and electrical engineering, computer engineering, informatics and other interdisciplinary units. Graduate-level topics can include the study of information security, mobile computing and networks. Coursework in anomaly detection, machine learning and data mining may also be found in a graduate program. In a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) program, you'll learn how to design and analyze algorithms while pursuing advanced coursework in linear and nonlinear systems or theoretical statistics. You'll also be required to complete a comprehensive exam and defend your research thesis.

Certification and Licensing

If you will be offering public services as a system engineer, specifically in industrial and electrical engineering, you must be licensed and certified. Licensing requirements include completion of an undergraduate program that has been approved by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET) and a passing score on a 2-part exam.

Required Skills

Advanced proficiency in mathematics, electronics and computer technology is usually required to work as a systems engineer. The ability to integrate and document large chunks of information, derive data, build prototypes and mitigate the risk associated with various systems are also key to working in this field.

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