When Money Magazine listed systems engineering as the best job in America in 2009, the article described these professionals as "big think" managers for complex projects in wide-ranging industries. In today's world where computer scientists, engineers, scientists and mathematicians need to collaborate, bachelor's degrees in systems engineering are an academic stepping stone to engineering leadership.
Are you a good fit for this career? Imagine that you have the technical skills to bring a vision from a draft to production. You can document how the power supply is connected to the motherboard. You can put your zeroes and ones in order, and you understand the development process. Now, imagine you can communicate all this information so that your team, managers, potential venture capitalists and customers can understand it easily.
Skills for bachelor's degrees in systems engineering
Systems engineers consider the business and technical needs of customers in order to provide a quality product, according to the International Council on Systems Engineering. Students must first master mathematics and science before launching into various engineering specialties. Studies are often interdisciplinary, encompassing engineering, computer science, operations research, economics and even psychology. Advanced studies could cover topics like these:
- Managerial decision-making
- Project planning and techniques for schedule and cost control
- Quantitative analysis for systems
- System dynamics, modeling and simulation
Systems engineering education may involve a master's degree in the field or specialized training in industries ranging from transportation to aeronautics.
Career outlook for systems engineering
The Bureau of Labor Statistics provides salary data for computer professionals but not for systems engineers specifically. In a related occupation, application and system software developers earned a 2010 median salary of $90,530 per year. For these developers, the BLS expects a 30 percent increase in employment between 2010 and 2020, which is much faster than the U.S. average.
With extensive experience and interpersonal skills, you can seek information technology management roles. Computer and software information managers, including IT project managers, saw a median yearly salary of $115,780 in 2010. For these professionals, the BLS projects job growth of 18 percent, 2010-2020.
If you've got a head for numbers as well as leadership strengths, systems engineering may be your calling. On-campus and online degree programs offer many options to help you realize your potential in this in-demand field.