Systems Engineer

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Systems Engineer


Most offices could not run without personalized computer systems to suit their business needs. However, the majority of people do not know how to start up their computer databases and systems on their own. How could they without the proper training and education? That is why businesses hire systems engineers to install such programs. Systems engineers study the branch of engineering that deals with the analysis, development and operation of complete systems. They coordinate the construction and upkeep of a company's computer systems and plan the future growth of such systems. They organize each departments computer needs, including ordering, inventory, billing, and payroll record keeping and create suggestions about the technical direction. They also might set up the companys Intranet networks.

Systems engineers work for companies that configure, implement and install complete computer systems. They are closely involved in all phases of product sales and installation and maintain contact with their customers after the fact. During the presales phase, systems engineers act as computer consultants and visit the customer's office to evaluate and analyze daily operations. From these meetings, they advise managers on what information handling needs their company needs and recommend appropriate hardware, software and accessories to the customer. Once a system is installed, an engineer is responsible for following up on established accounts, regularly visiting and monitoring the system and offering their guidance when needed.

Some systems engineers may be members of the marketing or sales staff in a company and act as the primary technical resource for salespeople and customers. They also must work with members of all different departments in a company and pool their ideas together. For example, working with members of the accounting team, they develop written proposals and give product demonstrations. Then accountants will decide if their proposal is economically feasible.

Systems engineers use high tech tools such as computer-aided design (CAD) to create realistic geometric models of objects which can simulate and analyze the effects and potential problems of designs such as machine malfunctions and breakdowns. They research and evaluate each project to find the most cost-effective solutions to problems while still maintaining recognized engineering standards. They are required to constantly update their skills and knowledge in order to keep up with technological advancements in this quickly changing field.
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  Interests and Skills  
Systems engineers must have a combination of intellectual, practical, and interpersonal skills. They must be able to understand and analyze both technical and business problems and develop creative yet workable solutions. They should have a natural curiosity and affinity for mathematics and electronics. Their jobs are quite technical so they should be organized, logical and methodical in their working habits. They must be good problem solvers and be able to come up with innovative and creative solutions to potential problems and design work. Systems engineers will also have a good understand the high-tech market and be able to recognize the public and business demand for new products.

Systems engineers must be personable and have strong communication skills. They constantly deal with people from both sides of the professional spectrum therefore they must be able to communicate ideas and give orders in a clear, concise fashion. Finally, determination, patience and observance are three important characteristics all systems engineers should possess.

  Typical Tasks  
  • Plan, design and coordinate the development of computers and related systems within organizations
  • Analyze product and client requirements and develop design specifications, including performance expectations and materials to be used, based on findings
  • Build prototypes of a system, including the development of logic and digital circuit designs, and test and modify the prototype prior to large-scale manufacturing
  • Sell computer technology and other required software applications
  • Analyze operating problems and make necessary modifications within a database
  • Determine system performance standards and write product documentation
  • Modify existing hardware to meet specialized needs
  • Supervise and inspect the installation, modification and testing of computers systems
  • Supervise drafters, technicians, technologists and other engineers
  • Since the computer industry is highly competitive, there may be a great deal of stress and pressure involved in designing hardware and software systems because engineers are trying to be the first ones to sell a product on the marketplace. In other words, many other engineers are probably working on the same project, so it can sometimes be a race to see who produces faster and more efficiently. Therefore, there are usually long working hours involved in this career; anywhere from nine to thirteen hours a day, possibly including weekend work when deadlines are looming. A typical day is spent in an office in front of a computer or in the field meeting with customers. They must respond to any systems problems, often a various locations.
  • A new trend becoming very common amongst systems engineers is working from home, but on call in case of an emergency. If an engineer has the proper equipment, it is possible to telecommute to an office when they are needed or when they come to install software systems.

  Workplaces, Employers and Industries  
  • Systems engineers work in both the public and private sectors. They are employed in any industry in which computers are used and especially within companies that require complex computer networks. More particularly, they work for computer manufacturers, data processing consulting firms, telecommunications companies, consulting firms, hardware and software research firms, consumer electronics companies and process control agencies. In the public sector, systems engineers work for different government departments, educational institutions, hospitals and research facilities.

  Long Term Career Potential  
Depending on where they work, systems engineers may advance to the positions of field office team leader, division sales manager or manager of corporate data processing. Some choose to move into other corporate or staff functions, such as product planning or personnel. Some systems engineers may decide to go into business for themselves, as systems designers, consultants or vendors and open their own consulting firm.

Other advancement possibilities are computer programming and specific software applications. Finally, computer systems engineers with PhDs could also teach at the university or technical college level.

  Educational Paths  
While still in high school, if this is the career path you are interested in taking, make sure you take courses in mathematics and physics. Most university programs will require these subject areas as prerequisites.

Systems engineers require a bachelor's degree in computer engineering or in a related engineering field. Then, they must also become registered as a professional engineer (PEng) within an association of professional engineers to secure employment and practice in their field. Some engineers also get master's degrees in their specific area, or in related fields such as business (MBA). A doctoral degree is generally required for a career in research and development, or teaching.

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition,
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Employment Statistics, 2002,

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