What Degree Is Required For Systems Engineering?

A desk in a modern office with engineering tools and blueprints.

Deciding on the right degree for a career can be tough. A bachelor’s degree in systems engineering or a similar field is often needed to become a systems engineer.

This article will guide you through the educational path required to pursue a future in systems engineering, from obtaining your degree to gaining valuable certifications.

A bachelor’s degree in systems engineering or a related field, such as computer science or industrial engineering, is typically required for systems engineers. Some senior-level systems engineering positions may require a master’s degree in systems engineering.

Let’s dive in!

Key Takeaways

  • To become a systems engineer, you need a bachelor’s degree in systems engineering or a related field like computer science or industrial engineering. This degree helps you learn important skills and knowledge for the job.
  • After getting your bachelor’s degree, gaining work experience is crucial. Look for internships while studying and entry-level jobs after graduating to build your skills. You can also get professional licenses and certifications to show you are good at your job.
  • Some systems engineers go on to get a master’s degree in systems engineering. This advanced degree can help you learn even more about designing and managing complex systems, which could lead to higher-ranking jobs.
  • There are special tests called the FE (Fundamentals of Engineering) exam and the PE (Principles and Practice of Engineering) exam that engineers can take to get licensed. Passing these exams shows that an engineer has high skill levels.
  • Systems engineering offers good pay, with salaries going up as you gain more experience. Working in certain industries like aerospace or information technology might give even higher salaries.

What is Systems Engineering?

A team of engineers collaborating in a high-tech control room.

Systems engineering involves designing and managing complex systems. A systems engineer identifies problems, develops solutions, and ensures all components work together efficiently.


Systems engineering is a field that focuses on designing and managing complex systems throughout their life cycles. Engineers in this discipline work to ensure all parts of a system function together to meet objectives.

They use knowledge from both computer science and industrial engineering to solve problems. This approach helps them handle projects in various industries, from technology to manufacturing.

In their role, these professionals develop the technical know-how needed for planning, integration, and sustainability of systems. Their education often starts with a bachelor’s degree in systems or software engineering.

As they progress, some go on to earn master’s degrees in systems engineering or secure professional licenses. This diverse educational background equips them with the skills necessary for tackling challenges across different fields.


Systems engineering aims to create and manage complex systems. It ensures that all parts of a project work together smoothly. This field blends engineering, systems thinking, and management skills.

Engineers look at the big picture and the tiny details. They solve problems before they happen.

They design processes that are efficient and meet all requirements. Their work includes planning, testing, quality assurance, and handling risks. By doing this, they help build reliable products like computers, networks, and transportation systems.

Systems engineers make sure everything works well together from start to finish.

Roles and responsibilities

Systems engineers design, integrate, and manage complex systems over their life cycles. They ensure all parts of a system work together smoothly. This role requires understanding technical needs and making sure the final product meets those requirements.

They also plan for possible risks and find ways to avoid problems.

In addition, these engineers often lead project teams. They communicate between different groups to keep everyone on the same page. Keeping projects on time and within budget falls under their responsibilities too.

Systems engineers must be skilled in both engineering principles and project management to succeed in their roles.

Steps to Becoming a Systems Engineer

A network of interconnected circuit boards in a technology lab.

Earn a Bachelor’s Degree in Systems Engineering. Gain Professional Experience to progress in your career as a systems engineer.

Earn a Bachelor’s Degree

A Bachelor’s Degree in systems engineering or a related field, such as computer science or industrial engineering, serves as a typical requirement for aspiring systems engineers.

This degree equips you with the necessary technical background and skills essential for success in this role. It helps develop knowledge crucial to understanding and implementing systems engineering principles effectively.

Systems engineers may also hold degrees in fields like computer science or software engineering since these provide valuable insights into technology and software development that are integral to the practice of systems engineering.

Gain Professional Experience

After obtaining your bachelor’s degree, gaining professional experience is crucial for aspiring systems engineers. Many employers look for candidates with practical knowledge and hands-on skills in the field.

Look for internship opportunities while still in school to gain real-world exposure and build a network of industry contacts. After graduation, consider entry-level positions or co-op programs that allow you to apply your academic knowledge in a professional setting.

Seek out roles that involve working on systems engineering projects to further develop your expertise.

As you strive to gain professional experience, remember to actively seek mentorship from experienced professionals in the field. This guidance can provide valuable insights and help shape your career path as a systems engineer.

Obtain Professional Licensure

To become a licensed professional engineer (PE), you usually need a bachelor’s degree from an accredited school and four years of relevant work experience. Obtaining PE licensure demonstrates your expertise and dedication in the field of systems engineering, allowing you to take on more advanced roles and responsibilities.

Acquiring this licensure typically involves passing the Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) exam, gaining substantial work experience, and then passing the Principles and Practice of Engineering (PE) exam.

Systems engineers may also consider pursuing certification in specific systems engineering methodologies or software tools to further enhance their skills and marketability. These certifications can demonstrate proficiency in specialized areas within systems engineering, opening up additional opportunities for career advancement and higher earning potential.

Earn a Graduate Degree

To advance your career in systems engineering, pursuing a graduate degree can enhance your knowledge and open up senior-level positions. Some employers may require a master’s degree for higher-ranking roles in systems engineering.

With a master’s degree, you can gain specialized skills and deeper insights into complex system design and management, strengthening your expertise in this field.

For admission to graduate programs in systems engineering or related fields, having a strong technical background from your bachelor’s studies is essential. Additionally, obtaining a master’s degree may provide opportunities for research projects and internships that can further develop your practical skills.

Consider Engineering Certifications

Explore systems engineering certifications that can enhance your career prospects. Some popular certifications for systems engineers include Certified Systems Engineering Professional (CSEP) and INCOSE Systems Engineering Professional (SEP).

These certifications validate your skills and knowledge in the field, demonstrating your commitment to excellence. Pursuing these credentials can open up new opportunities and increase your earning potential as a systems engineer.

Expand your expertise through renowned certifications like CSEP and SEP, showcasing your dedication to mastering the complexities of systems engineering. These industry-recognized qualifications will distinguish you in the job market, positioning you as a highly competent professional ready to tackle complex engineering challenges head-on.

Education Requirements for Systems Engineering

You need a Bachelor’s degree in Systems Engineering or a closely related field. Also, consider pursuing a Master’s degree for advanced roles in the field.

Bachelor’s degree in Systems Engineering

A bachelor’s degree in systems engineering or a related field, such as computer science or industrial engineering, is typically required for aspiring systems engineers. This degree equips students with the technical skills and knowledge to understand complex systems and processes, preparing them for the diverse roles and responsibilities within this profession.

Additionally, pursuing a relevant bachelor’s degree lays the foundation for obtaining professional experience and licensure, which are often vital steps towards establishing a successful career in systems engineering.

Master’s degree in Systems Engineering

To qualify for senior-level positions, a master’s degree in systems engineering may be required, offering advanced knowledge and specialized skills. Systems engineers often pursue this level of education to deepen their understanding of complex engineering systems and enhance problem-solving abilities.

With a master’s degree in systems engineering, you can position yourself for leadership roles and higher earning potential in the field. Consider exploring featured programs on Coursera to find suitable options that align with your career aspirations.

Gaining professional expertise at an advanced level will empower you to tackle intricate challenges and contribute significantly to the ever-evolving world of systems engineering.

Admissions requirements

To qualify for a Bachelor’s degree program in Systems Engineering, you need to meet certain admissions requirements. Here are the typical admission criteria:

  1. High school diploma or GED equivalent
  2. Minimum GPA requirement, usually ranging from 2.5 to 3.0
  3. SAT or ACT scores
  4. Letter of recommendation
  5. Personal statement or essay outlining interest in systems engineering
  6. In some cases, completion of specific math and science courses

Featured programs on Coursera

Explore these featured programs on Coursera to kickstart your journey in systems engineering:

  1. “Systems Engineering: Research and Development” – Gain insights into the latest research and development trends in systems engineering, equipping you with cutting-edge knowledge.
  2. “Introduction to Systems Engineering” – Master the fundamental concepts of systems engineering and understand its crucial role in various industries.
  3. “Model-Based Systems Engineering” – Learn how to effectively apply model-based systems engineering principles to optimize complex system designs and operations.
  4. “Systems Engineering and Integration” – Acquire practical skills in integrating diverse components within a system, ensuring seamless functionality and performance.
  5. “Software System Design and Implementation” – Dive into the intricacies of designing and implementing software systems, a pivotal aspect of modern systems engineering practices.
  6. “Systems Thinking & Analysis” – Develop a holistic approach to problem-solving within complex systems, enhancing your analytical capabilities for real-world applications.

Gaining Experience as a Systems Engineer

Gain experience in systems engineering by seeking internships or co-op opportunities during your undergraduate studies. Look for entry-level positions that allow you to apply your classroom knowledge to real-world projects and gain hands-on experience working with experienced engineers.

Additionally, consider participating in extracurricular activities, such as robotics clubs or engineering competitions, to further develop your practical skills and enhance your resume.

Seek mentorship from seasoned professionals in the field who can provide guidance and insights as you navigate the early stages of your career. This will help you gain a better understanding of the industry and refine your technical expertise.

Remember to leverage any relevant part-time jobs or volunteer work that demonstrates problem-solving skills and teamwork. By proactively pursuing these experiences, you’ll position yourself for success as a future systems engineer.

Moving on to “6. Professional Licensure and Certifications”..

Professional Licensure and Certifications

Professional Licensure and Certifications pave the way for advancement in your career. These credentials demonstrate your expertise and commitment to the field.

PE license

To become a licensed Professional Engineer (PE), you typically need to hold a bachelor’s degree from an accredited program and gain four years of professional experience. This license demonstrates your competence and commitment to the engineering field, allowing you to take on leadership roles in systems engineering projects.

As a student aspiring to pursue a career in systems engineering, knowing the requirements for obtaining a PE license can help set clear goals for your academic and professional journey.

After gaining practical experience, you will need to pass the Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) exam, which is followed by the Principles and Practice of Engineering (PE) exam. These exams assess your knowledge and skills in applying engineering principles within various disciplines, including systems engineering.

FE and PE exams

To become a licensed Professional Engineer (PE), you need to pass the Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) exam and gain four years of experience. Here’s what you should know about these exams:

  1. The Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) exam is the first step in acquiring a PE license.
  2. It covers topics such as mathematics, ethics, and engineering principles.
  3. Passing the FE exam demonstrates your understanding of fundamental engineering concepts.
  4. Once you pass the FE exam and gain the required experience, you can take the Principles and Practice of Engineering (PE) exam.
  5. The PE exam tests your ability to apply engineering principles to real – world problems.
  6. Successfully passing the PE exam allows you to legally practice as a Professional Engineer.

Systems engineering certifications

To become a certified systems engineer, you can pursue the following certifications:

  1. INCOSE Systems Engineering Professional (SEP) certification, which demonstrates expertise in systems engineering principles and practices.
  2. Certified Systems Engineering Professional (CSEP) credential offered by the International Council on Systems Engineering (INCOSE), showcasing proficiency in systems engineering.
  3. CompTIA’s IT Fundamentals+ certification to gain foundational knowledge of information technology that is crucial for systems engineering.
  4. Project Management Professional (PMP) certification to develop project management skills relevant to systems engineering roles.
  5. Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP) certification for understanding cybersecurity principles within systems engineering.
  6. AWS Certified SysOps Administrator certification demonstrating expertise in deploying, managing, and operating scalable systems on the Amazon Web Services platform.
  7. Microsoft Certified: Azure Solutions Architect Expert certification for advanced skills in designing solutions on Microsoft Azure cloud platform.
  8. VMware Certified Professional – Data Center Virtualization (VCP-DCV) validating skills in virtualization technologies essential for modern system engineering practices.

Career Outlook for Systems Engineering

Systems engineering offers competitive salaries, with high-paying opportunities in industries such as aerospace and defense. To discover more about the exciting career outlook for systems engineering, read the full blog.

Salary expectations

Exploring the salary expectations for systems engineers reveals an attractive financial outlook. Below is a detailed breakdown of what you might expect.

Experience LevelAverage Salary

Keep in mind, salaries can vary greatly depending on factors such as location, industry, and the specific employer. Holding a bachelor’s degree in systems engineering or a related field significantly contributes to your initial earning potential. Further, gaining professional experience and pursuing advanced degrees or certifications can increase your salary prospects over time. The demand for skilled systems engineers in various sectors underscores the potential for financial growth and stability in this career path.

Next, we’ll delve into the top-paying industries and states for systems engineers, highlighting where the most lucrative opportunities can be found.

Top-paying industries and states

Considering the rewarding career of systems engineering, it’s important to know which industries and states offer the highest salaries. Below is a detailed breakdown in table format to help guide your decisions.

IndustryTop-Paying StatesAnnual Average Salary
Information TechnologyCalifornia, Massachusetts$120,000 – $140,000
Aerospace and DefenseVirginia, Texas$115,000 – $130,000
TelecommunicationsNew York, New Jersey$110,000 – $125,000
HealthcareWashington, Colorado$108,000 – $122,000
AutomotiveMichigan, Ohio$105,000 – $120,000

This table showcases lucrative opportunities across various industries and states. Systems engineers can leverage this information to target their job search and career advancements effectively. Pursuing a career in states like California, Massachusetts, or Virginia could result in higher salary potentials, especially in leading industries like Information Technology and Aerospace. Remember, achieving a combination of relevant education, experience, and certifications can significantly enhance your career prospects in systems engineering.

Career growth and advancement opportunities

With experience and expertise, systems engineers can advance to senior and leadership roles, such as lead systems engineer or systems engineering manager. These positions often involve overseeing larger projects, leading teams of engineers, and making high-level decisions about system design and implementation.

Additionally, pursuing advanced certifications or further education can open up opportunities for career growth in specialized areas of systems engineering, such as cybersecurity or healthcare informatics.

As the demand for skilled systems engineers continues to grow across various industries, there are abundant prospects for upward mobility and professional development in this field.

Systems engineers who demonstrate strong leadership skills and a deep understanding of complex technical systems may find opportunities to advance into executive roles within organizations.


In summary, a bachelor’s degree in systems engineering or a related field is commonly required for systems engineers. Pursuing professional licensure and certifications can enhance your qualifications as a systems engineer.

The practical strategies discussed here emphasize the importance of gaining relevant education and hands-on experience in this field. Applying these approaches can lead to significant career growth and success as a systems engineer.

Explore featured programs on Coursera to further your knowledge in systems engineering. Remember, continuous learning and dedication are key to excelling in the dynamic field of systems engineering.


1. What kind of degree do I need for a career in systems engineering?

You typically need at least a bachelor’s degree in systems engineering or a related field.

2. Can I become a systems engineer if I have an engineering degree in another field?

Yes, you can become a systems engineer with an engineering degree in another discipline and some additional training or experience.

3. Do I need advanced degrees to work as a senior systems engineer?

For senior positions, many employers prefer candidates with master’s degrees in systems engineering or related areas.

4. Are there specific courses that are important for future systems engineers?

Courses in mathematics, computer science, and the basics of electrical and mechanical engineering are important for future systems engineers.

5. Is it possible to enter the field of systems engineering without a four-year college degree?

It is challenging but some positions might be available with relevant certifications and extensive experience instead of a four-year college degree.

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