Difference Between Systems Engineer vs. Software Engineer

There are two engineer roles in the tech industry that are often confused: systems engineer vs. software engineer. They both work with technology but have very different responsibilities. Even though they may seem similar, their jobs are vastly different at the core.

So if you want to learn more about systems and software engineering, keep reading!

Key Points

  • What Is a Systems Engineer?
  • What Is a Software Engineer?
  • Systems Engineer vs. Software Engineer: Similarities and Differences
  • Related careers
  • Conclusion

What Is a Systems Engineer?

There is not just one system engineer definition, but it can include an engineering professional responsible for designing, developing, testing, maintaining, and evaluating complex computer systems and networks. A systems engineer can be involved in a wide range of industries, from aerospace and defense to telecommunications. 

The role of a systems engineer is to ensure that all the different elements of a system work together seamlessly. Systems engineering is a highly interdisciplinary field, and systems engineers must have a strong understanding of both engineering and business principles. Due to the ever-growing complexity of modern systems, the demand for talented systems engineers is higher than ever before.

What Is a Software Engineer?

A software engineer is a professional who applies the principles of software engineering to the design, development, maintenance, testing, and evaluation of computer software. These principles can be divided into two categories: technical principles, which deal with the software’s functionality, and management principles, which deal with the process of developing and maintaining software.

Software engineer jobs typically require a strong background in computer science, and many also have degrees in electrical engineering or other related fields. In addition to their technical chops, software engineers must effectively communicate with other members of a development team and customers or clients who may be using the software they’ve developed.

Systems Engineer vs. Software Engineer: Similarities and Differences

Both systems and software engineers work with technology, but they have different responsibilities. While both roles are important, there are some differences and similarities between the two.

Education and Training

Systems engineers and software engineers typically need at least a bachelor’s degree in computer science or a related field. They may also need experience with specific tools and systems. Some employers may prefer candidates who have a master’s degree or certification.

Duties, Responsibilities, and Skills

Systems engineers typically have more experience working with hardware and networks, while software engineers focus on coding and developing applications. Both software and system engineer roles are important in the development of software systems, and their skills range from problem-solving and programming to even customer service.

Salaries and Job Outlooks

Both systems and software engineers have a relatively similar base salary, with the average annual salary for software engineers being $120,000 and for system engineers $121,000. In addition, both systems and software engineer job outlook is strong, with an expected growth of 22% from 2020 to 2030.

Career Paths

Systems engineers and software engineers often start their careers in entry-level positions and then move into higher-level roles as they gain experience. They may also specialize in a specific area, such as systems security or software development. Systems engineers may eventually become managers, while software engineers may become senior developers or project managers.

Our Takeaway

Software vs. system engineering may sound similar, but they are very different professions. Systems and software engineers are responsible for various aspects of technology. As their name suggests, software engineers are closely connected to developing code and maintaining the applications they develop. In contrast, system engineers are responsible for building and maintaining computer networks.

Frequently Asked Questions

Does a system engineer do coding?

System engineers may do some coding, but they typically have more experience working with hardware and networks. Therefore, it’s good that system engineers learn to perform some level of coding for the systems they are building.

Which is better, system engineer or developer?

This is a difficult question to answer, as both roles are important in developing software systems. Systems engineers typically have more experience working with hardware and networks, while software engineers focus on coding and developing applications.

Is a system engineer a good career?

System engineering can be a rewarding career choice with plenty of growth opportunities. All types of system engineers are in high demand in many industries, and those with experience can negotiate high salaries.

Is software engineering part of system engineering?

The debate of systems engineer vs. software engineer has been ongoing since the fields emerged. Some argue that they are the same, and some say they are entirely different. But, for the most part, it’s clear that both system and software engineering are interconnected.