How to Become a System Engineer?

Are you thinking of becoming a System Engineer or already started your career and planning the next step? Learn how to become a System Engineer, what skills you need to succeed, how to advance your career and get promoted, and what levels of pay to expect at each step on your career path. Explore new System Engineer job openings and options for career transitions into related roles.
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Steps to Become a Systems Engineer

A systems engineer oversees the engineering, business, and management aspects of a system or project. If you have strong decision-making and analytical skills, you might consider a career as a systems engineer. In this article, we discuss the five steps required to become a systems engineer.

Earn a bachelor's degree.

If you're considering a career as a systems engineer, you should at least have a bachelor's degree in a type of engineering concentration such as systems or industrial. Try to enroll in a program that's part of the Accrediting Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET). Coursework typically covers statistics, project management, engineering quality, and physics.

What type of degree should you pursue to become a Systems Engineer?

77% of people working as a Systems Engineer earned a Bachelor's Degree

What skills do you need to be a Systems Engineer?

  • Security Clearance
  • Microsoft Windows
  • Written Communication
  • Configuration
  • Windows Server
  • Linux
  • Scripting
  • Active Directory
Based on resume data from Glassdoor users who reported working as a Systems Engineer in the United States.

Gain experience.

While you're enrolled in undergraduate courses, try to secure as much hands-on experience as possible. Certain schools might offer internship opportunities, which can help you learn more about the profession. You should try to obtain experience in areas that focus on information technology, systems architecture, and integration. You can also count this experience preparing for licensure since you need at least four years. It's also during this time that you can learn what kind of systems you want to manage, with possible areas of concentration including civil engineering, aerospace engineering, and biomedical engineering.


Obtain licensure from the NCEES.

Earning a professional engineer license from the National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying (NCEES) is voluntary, but it can make you stand out when compared to other candidates. Having this licensure states that you are ready to take on more responsibility and pursue high-level management positions, and it can possibly increase your earnings. Each state's licensing board has its own set of requirements before you can sit for the exam, but most require you to have at least a bachelor's degree as well as years of work experience.


Consider professional engineering certification.

Voluntary credentials can validate your knowledge and skill set as a systems engineer. Some of the more common certifications, which are all offered by the International Council on Systems Engineering (INCOSE), include the following:

  • Associate Systems Engineering Professional (ASEP): This certificate recognizes individuals who have knowledge but not necessarily experience. It's generally awarded to those who haven't entered the workforce or are junior systems engineers.
  • Certified Systems Engineering Professional (CSEP): This certification states that individuals have demonstrated knowledge through education and experience. You need at least five years of experience for this certification.
  • Expert Systems Engineering Professional (ESEP): This designation is awarded to those who have at least 20 years of experience.

Enroll in a master's degree program.

Although some employers prefer candidates who have a master's degree in systems engineering, a bachelor's degree is usually enough to get a systems engineer job. However, you should pursue a master's degree if you're seeking managerial positions. You can either opt for a general program if you're already working in a specific discipline or one in a highly specialized concentration. It depends on what field you plan to work in and what type of job you wish to pursue.

System Engineer Career Path

Systems Engineer

2 - 4Years of Experience
$84K - $125K /yrMost Likely Range
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78% advanced to

Senior Systems Engineer

2 - 4Years of Experience
$125K - $186K /yrMost Likely Range
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Systems Engineer IV

5 - 7Years of Experience
$128K - $183K /yrMost Likely Range
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Total Pay Trajectory

System Engineer Career Path

New Grad Systems Engineer
Systems Engineer
Senior Systems Engineer
Systems Engineer Manager
Systems Engineer IV
Senior Manager of Systems Engineering
Principal Systems Engineer
Assistant Director of Systems Engineering
Senior Principal Systems Engineer
Vice President of Systems Engineering
Executive Systems Engineer
Chief Systems Engineer
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Related Careers in the Information Technology Industry

Interested in other Information Technology careers? Below are occupations that have high affinity with System Engineer skills. Discover some of the most common System Engineer career transitions, along with skills overlap.

Network Administrator
13% skills overlap
23% transitioned to Network Administrator