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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Yes, a systems engineer can also work as a software engineer as they possess the skills required for software development. However, a systems engineer is more focused on designing, building, and maintaining complex systems, while a software engineer is more focused on writing, testing, and debugging software code. The roles may overlap in some areas, but they require different skills and have different responsibilities. Therefore, it is possible for someone to work as both a systems engineer and a software engineer, but they may have different job titles or work on different projects depending on their skills and experience.
The career ladder for a software engineer and a systems engineer may differ based on the organization and industry they work in.
For software engineers, the typical career progression is from a Junior Software Engineer to a Software Engineer, Senior Software Engineer, Lead Software Engineer, Principal Software Engineer, and then a Staff or Distinguished Engineer.
For systems engineers, the career ladder may start as a Junior Systems Engineer, then Systems Engineer, Senior Systems Engineer, Lead Systems Engineer, Principal Systems Engineer, and then Chief Systems Engineer or System Architecture Manager.
It's important to note that some organizations may use different titles or have variations in their career ladders, and career progression can also depend on an individual's skills, experience, and performance.
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.