Systems Software Engineer

Computer systems software engineers design, test, and evaluate software and systems using the principles and techniques of computer science, engineering, and mathematical analysis. They deal specifically with the construction, maintenance, and future growth of computer systems. They may identify each department’s technical needs, make suggestions about its direction, provide product sales and technical support, and set up intranets. They often work with a team to design new hardware, software, and systems.

Job Skills

Computer systems software engineers should be adept at problem-solving and possess well-developed analytical skills. They must be able to communicate clearly and effectively with both team members and customers. They also need to be detail-oriented and have the ability to effectively multi-task.


In 2002, computer systems software engineers earned a median annual salary of $74,040. Earnings ranged from the lowest 10%, who earned less than $45,890, and the highest 10%, who earned more than $111,600. The following shows the median annual salaries for the industries employing the highest numbers of computer systems software engineers:

  • Scientific research and development services – $82,270
  • Software publishers – 77,120
  • Navigational, measuring, and control instruments manufacturing – 76,200
  • Computer systems design and related services – 73,460
  • Wired telecommunications carriers – 68,510

Training and Education

Employers of computer systems software engineers often require candidates to have a bachelor’s degree or higher in computer science or computer information systems, as well as a broad knowledge, and experience with, a variety of computer systems and technologies. School internship or co-op programs greatly increase a candidate’s chances of employment; advanced degrees that include mathematics and systems design will do the same. Many firms have mentoring or training programs for new employees. The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) Computer Society offers professional certification as a Certified Software Development Professional. Obtaining this certification requires a bachelor’s degree, relevant work experience, and a written exam.


In 2002, computer systems software engineers held about 281,000 jobs. 30%, the largest percentage, were employed in computer systems design and related services. Others worked in government agencies, manufacturers of computers and related electronic equipment, and colleges and universities.

Job Outlook

Between 2002 and 2012, computer systems software engineers are expected to be one of the fastest growing occupations. Candidates with at least a bachelor’s degree in computer engineering or computer science should have great opportunities for employment. Employment of computer systems software engineers is expected to grow much faster than the average, due to the adoption and integration of new technologies by businesses and other organizations. Additional job openings will result from replacement of workers who are promoted into management, change occupations, or leave the work force for other reasons.

For more information on becoming a computer systems software engineer, please visit our Directory of Schools Offering Degrees in Computer Science