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Key Differences Between a Software Engineer vs. Systems Engineer

With similar job titles and skill sets, there is often confusion between a software engineer and a systems engineer. Both are highly skilled, technical roles in the IT industry, with systems engineers expecting to see a 9.3% job market growth over the next few years. However, software engineering is expected to grow at more than double that rate, with a 22% expected job growth rate over the next few years, making it one of the most in-demand tech positions.

In this article, we'll share the basic job descriptions of both software and systems engineers, along with some key differences between these two roles.

Table of Contents
What Is a Software Engineer?
What Is a Systems Engineer?
What Are the Key Differences Between a Software Engineer and a Systems Engineer?
Apply for Systems Engineer and Software Engineer Positions

What Is a Software Engineer?

A software engineer is a professional who designs and develops software applications and products. This overarching engineering role follows a step-by-step approach for the entire software development lifecycle and is involved in every aspect from design to development to deployment and maintenance.

Software Engineer infographic with job description and salary.

A software engineer uses methods like process modeling, incremental verification and validation, process improvement, agile methods, and continuous integration. A software engineer can expect an average salary of $94,032 annually, and it’s estimated there are 4.4 million software engineering jobs in the U.S.

What Is a Systems Engineer?

In an equally important role, a systems engineer deals with the overall management of engineering projects during their life cycle, particularly regarding physical aspects. This role is focused on all aspects of computer-based system development. It might use methods like stakeholder analysis, interface specifications, design trade-offs, configuration management, systematic verification and validation, and requirements engineering.

Systems Engineer infographic with job description and salary.

There are approximately 305,949 systems engineers currently employed in the U.S., with an average base salary of $93,824 per year.

What Are the Key Differences Between a Software Engineer and a Systems Engineer?

Now that you know the basic job descriptions, it's important to understand some significant nuances in these two roles. From actual day-to-day tasks to educational background, these two complementary positions have some key differences.

1. Daily Tasks & Job Description

Software Engineer vs. Systems Engineer chart comparing job descriptions.

Most importantly, the day-to-day life and tasks of a software engineer and a systems engineer are very different. A software engineer spends a large part of their day coding, attending meetings, and collaborating with peers. They typically work on several development projects at once and spend most of their day designing software solutions.

A systems engineer does not perform coding and web application development like a software engineer. Instead, they manage and monitor all installed systems and infrastructure, ensuring everything is consistently up and running.

2. Education

While these two job roles are often connected, their educational background is usually different. Systems engineers typically have a broader education background in engineering, mathematics, or computer science. Software engineers require a more targeted technical background in a field like computer science or computer engineering.

3. End Project Goal

Software Engineer vs. Systems Engineer chart comparing end project goals.

Systems engineers mainly focus on users and domains, while software engineers are mostly focused on developing powerful, intuitive software for the end user, concerned with usability, timelines, and delivering an application at the end of a project. Systems engineers deal with the entire project engineering lifecycle while software engineers focus on the design and development of individual products.

4. Skill Sets Required

Software Engineer vs. Systems Engineer chart comparing skill sets.

A major difference in these two job positions boils down to skill sets. System engineers need problem-solving skills, proficiency in data architecture, programming skills, cloud computing knowledge, network experience, communication skills, and customer service skills. They should be well-versed in troubleshooting, analysis, networks, and system designs.

Software engineers require a wide skill set in computer programming and coding. Different types of developer roles require different programming languages. Still, all software engineers need to be knowledgeable about the development process, testing, and debugging. They need to have strong written and verbal communication skills as they work in large teams.

Apply for Systems Engineer and Software Engineer Positions

Advantis Global hires for the top 1% of tech companies, ensuring you have access to some of the best tech jobs in the industry. Work with a recruiter for interview coaching and resume guidance, and apply to open, full-time, and contract software engineer and systems engineer positions.

Now that you understand these similarities and differences between systems and software engineering, if you’re ready to launch your career in one of those areas, reach out to Advantis Global today.

Group of diverse engineers working in an office together on their computers.
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