How Do I Become a Systems Engineer

If you have an interest in engineering and understand big-picture concepts and the logistics of achieving them, you might wonder how to become a systems engineer. As the job title implies, systems engineers develop the organizational systems that companies use to accomplish tasks. The term “systems engineer” often refers to computer programs specifically, but the opportunities for these professionals are rapidly expanding to include responsibilities such as transportation, electrical power, military defense and communication systems.

From computers and communication devices to utilities and transportation, the networks that companies use to accomplish their goals are systems organized from smaller parts. A systems engineer is the professional who designs these systems. They determine how one such network will operate and what steps and resources are required to build the components of the system. Though systems engineers are often considered part of the field of information technology, the profession requires interdisciplinary knowledge of the many disciplines within the engineering field as well as the industry in which candidates wish to work.

To begin preparing for a career as a systems engineer, candidates should earn a bachelor’s degree in a discipline of engineering. Nearly any branch of engineering will provide students with a solid background with which to begin cultivating the experience they will need to become a systems engineer, but the most common programs of study include electrical, mechanical, civil and software engineering. During their academic careers, students should gain as much hands-on experience as possible by working on different lab research projects and internship experiences. While an undergraduate degree may be suitable for securing a junior-level position if the candidate possesses the right experience, candidates may pursue advanced degrees in systems engineering to improve their opportunities. Prior to entering the occupation, candidates may have to obtain certification as a systems engineering professional from the International Council on Systems Engineering.

Systems engineer is typically not an entry-level position. Upon completing their educational careers, aspiring systems engineers usually begin working in a field of engineering that interests them. While they gain experience in the field, they must also develop an understanding of how systems are organized and the logistics of managing the people, transportation and resources involved in a system. Aspiring systems engineers must prepare themselves to become sound decision-makers, as these professionals may have to make tough decisions on complicated matters when choosing how to best design or alter a system.

CNN Money ranked systems engineer first on the publication’s top 50 “Best Jobs in America” list in 2009, citing an extremely high expected job growth of 45 percent over a ten-year period. The ranking also praised the median annual salary of $87,100 for experienced systems engineers and a six-figure top pay. If you make good decisions, can plan out the small steps necessary to achieve larger goals and want to develop in-depth knowledge of engineering principles that transcend disciplines, knowing how to become a systems engineer could be the start of a lucrative new career.

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