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Career Profile: System Engineer

Why Is Systems Engineering a Job of Tomorrow?
Technology has pervaded every aspect of modern life. It
has largely replaced cash with credit cards that can draw funds electronically from bank accounts, replaced beepers with handheld mobile phones that can not only instantly connect callers, but also act as a tiny web browser and gaming system, and pushed globalization into overdrive through the World Wide Web. The technological boom has not been confined to just personal gadgets. Advances have taken place in every sector of technology, including aerospace, biomedical, and the automotive industry. With so many different components of engineering involved in each sector, systems engineers are in demand to help manage all the different pieces that come together to make up a project. Employment opportunities for systems engineers are expected to remain relatively steady well into the next decade. The average salary of systems engineers depends heavily on the engineer’s level of education, experience, and the particular project he or she is working on. For example, an engineer who has less than a year’s worth of experience earns an average of $51,148 annually, while an engineer with at least five years of experience earns an average of $64,499 annually, according to PayScale, a company that specializes in compensation data.

What Does a Systems Engineer Do?
System engineers coordinate the efforts of other specialized engineers to bring together all the different parts that make up a particular project. For example, a systems engineer who is working on building a robot would manage the work of mechanical, electrical, computer, and software engineers to ensure cohesion of the final robot. Without the guidance of a systems engineer, other engineers may not be aware of how their works fit together. Most technical projects require the management of a systems engineer. Projects include everything, from airplanes to computer networks, to a space shuttle, giving prospective systems engineers a wide variety of fields to choose from. Systems engineers are well-versed in a wide range of engineering disciplines, and are trained to perform in leadership roles as well, according to the Department of Systems Engineering at the University of Arkansas in Little Rock. Systems engineers coordinate big projects by using models and diagrams to create a blueprint of how all the pieces will fit together.

What Kind of Training Do I Need to Become a Systems Engineer?
Systems engineers are typically engineering students who have decided to focus specifically on systems engineering. Prospective systems engineers should expect to earn a master’s or doctorate degree in systems engineering. A master’s degree typically takes two to three years to earn, and a doctorate degree four years to earn. Both can only be earned after the engineer completes a four-year bachelor’s degree program in engineering. Courses for systems engineering includes leadership skills, signal processing, cybernetic skills, and other related topics relevant to the particular field the student wishes to pursue. Most employers prefer those who also have substantial professional working experience.

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