Software Engineer vs. Systems Engineer: Which Is for You?

Software engineer and systems engineer are positions that are loved by many but often confused. Do you know what the main differences are between them?

Both careers are related to technology and seem to have a lot in common, but their responsibilities and nature of them are very different.

The differences between software and systems engineers are typically based on the roles of individuals in these fields, educational background, and experience.

Software Engineer or Systems Engineer?

You should choose based on your interests, strengths, and aptitudes. Both roles are essential in developing software systems.

Systems engineers have more experience working with networks and hardware, while software engineers focus on developing applications and coding.

To make it easier for you to choose, we’ll compare the two to help you determine where they differ.

Systems Engineer

A systems engineer

Systems engineers may be responsible for the overall management of engineering projects and focus on integrating the different systems or physical aspects of engineering projects.

System engineers may also be related to the engineering project’s engineering processes, business, and management aspects.

Experts focus on offering all the parts of the system to work well. System engineering can also be considered the link between all the designs, processes, technical skills, and product-development aspects of the project.

So, the systems engineer works in a methodological aspect to manage the technical aspects and an organization’s operations.

Software Engineer

A software engineer

Software engineers may be responsible for designing and developing applications, software programs, or products.

As a software engineer, you may be involved in projects that involve developing software programs.

These software programs will be integrated into a system to boost the system’s effective functioning, reduce dependence on specific hardware structures, and advance the system’s performance.

In the engineering project, software engineering could be a subsystem of system engineering.

What’s the Difference?

We’ll compare these two roles through some key factors, including job outlooks and salaries, required skills, education and training, career paths, related careers, and duties. Then, you can make your decision.

Job Outlooks and Salary

On average, a systems engineer in the United States can expect to receive $122,214 annually. Meanwhile, the average salary for a software engineer in the United States is around $133,722 yearly.

For both, work experience, education, and geographic location can affect wages and job opportunities. In addition, both systems and software engineer job outlook is strong, with an expected growth of 22% from 2020 to 2030.

Required Skills

The software and Systems engineer’s skill sets have a lot in common. Here are some skills essential to these professions:


Most program users may never see its infrastructure, but the quality design is crucial for a reliable user experience.

In addition, both software and systems engineers take user perspective into account and attempt to deliver clear and intuitive interfaces.


In a network or software design or implementation phases, solving problems and issues often requires critical and analytical thinking.

Both kinds of engineers will assess problems and apply cause and effect reasoning to determine the malfunctions’ sources.


Programming in a wide range of languages is an element among these roles.


Most software and systems engineers will work with engineers and employees from many departments. They may also consult with executives and managers during planning or development. These engineers might help any user experiencing difficulties during operations.

Time Management

Whether developing software products or establishing the information technology systems of a company, timelines are essential for success in meeting clients’ and employers’ demands.

Education and Training

Software and systems engineers commonly need at least a bachelor’s degree in computer science or a related area. Also, they may need experience with specific systems and tools.

There’s no denying that many employers prefer candidates with a master’s degree or certificate.

Career Paths

Software and systems engineers often begin their careers in entry-level positions. After that, they move into higher-level roles as they gain more experience.

These engineers may also specialize in a specific position, such as software development or systems security.

The systems engineer may finally become the manager, and the software engineer may become the senior engineer or the project manager.

Related Careers

Here’re some careers closely related to software and systems engineering:

  • Computer programmer
  • Information security analyst
  • Database administrator
  • Web developer
  • Computer and information researcher
  • Hardware engineers


The following are the primary duties of systems engineers:

  • Operational design
  • System integration
  • Testing
  • Maintenance
  • Information management

The software engineer has somewhat different responsibilities, such as:

  • Design development
  • Quality enhancement
  • Providing instruction
  • Client consultation

Comparison Table

Software EngineerSystems Engineer
DutiesFocus on coding and developing applications.Working with hardware and networks.
Time Management


Is The System Engineer A Great Career?

Yes. System engineering could be a rewarding career choice with many growth opportunities.

Do System Engineers Do Coding?

A system engineer may do some coding, but he usually has more experience working with networks and hardware.

The Bottom Line

System and software engineering may sound similar, but they are different professions. Software and systems engineers are responsible for many aspects of technology.

As the name suggests, the system engineer is responsible for maintaining and building computer networks. Meanwhile, the software engineer is close to preserving the applications they develop and developing code.