Want to Become a Systems Engineer? Here are the Skills Required

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Do you want to be part of software development but also have a desire to work with hardware? If so, a job as a systems engineer may be the ideal hybrid position for you.

A systems engineer helps design and implement software. But what separates this IT professional from a software engineer is that a systems engineer also plays a large role in the infrastructure side of the solution.

Here’s a run-down of what systems engineers do, what they earn and what qualifications are needed to be hired for this position.

Duties and responsibilities

A systems engineer designs, implements and maintains the infrastructure necessary to run traditional client/server platforms, mainframes and/or web applications. This role includes installing and supporting software, debugging multiple systems and supporting an enterprise’s users. This specialist also performs high-level root cause analysis for service interruption recovery and implements preventive measures.

On any given day, the system engineer’s duties may overlap with those of a software engineer, systems administrator or network engineer.

Find out more about a software engineer's job and compensation.

Skills and expertise

The best systems engineers are flexible employees who thrive in complex and rapidly changing work environments, and have a solid mix of technical and nontechnical skills.

On the technical side, a systems engineer must be able to perform analysis, troubleshooting and systems design. Some employers seek candidates with experience in software development, including specification, documentation and quality assurance. Most hiring managers require at least three years of direct experience in the software or hardware the company uses.

On the nontechnical front, systems engineers spend much of their time working with others to determine requirements and solve problems, so soft skills are an absolute must. They need top-notch abilities in communication, customer service, time management and teamwork.

Project management skills can be valuable in this job, as well, given the central role the systems engineer has in large projects that involve many different aspects of the enterprise.

Check out these tips to build great communication skills.

Getting the job

To be hired as a systems engineer, you will need software development experience and the ability to design, implement and maintain hardware and network infrastructure.

If you’re currently a software engineer, systems administrator or network engineer, you already have many of the qualifications for a systems engineer position. To enhance your credentials, consider adding one or more of these certifications to your resume:


The systems engineer is an IT specialist in high demand. If you have the skills and interpersonal attributes needed to succeed in this fast-paced and multidisciplinary role, becoming a systems engineer could be a good career move — especially considering current compensation trends.

The most recent Robert Half Technology Salary Guide shows that starting salaries for a systems engineer will range from $85,000 to $124,000 next year — a 5.7 percent increase from 2015.

This significant hike in compensation reflects the strong demand for IT professionals, in general, and the need for software development expertise, in particular. If you have additional skills in basic administration, Cisco networking, Linux/Unix, virtualization and Windows, you could be offered an even higher starting salary, according to the guide.

If your professional goal is to go into systems engineering or another well-paying IT role, ongoing training is your key to getting — and stating — there. Robert Half Technology offers some IT training for our job candidates. Sign up with your local office for more information:

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