Systems Engineering is an engineering discipline that focuses on the design and management of multi-component, complex systems.
This broad definition also gives an idea of why systems engineering is such an interdisciplinary field. A competent systems engineer should possess in-depth knowledge in the fields of mechanical, process systems, industrial, electrical, electronics, control, and manufacturing engineering, as well as to have a good understanding of organizational matters and project management principles.
Systems Engineering is one of the fields that was developed more recently, and after engineering systems and projects became way too complicated for other more narrow-focused engineers to handle. Today, we have systems that involve electric power units that feed microprocessors, which in turn give instructions to control systems that are pushed by hydraulic components, etc. Complexity is everywhere today, so a good Systems Engineer is valued in the industry, and will continue to be in high demand for many years to come.
The role of the Systems Engineer is first to design a system, and secondly to manage it. For this, the engineer carefully develops the system in phases divided by the types of the components, determines the life-cycle, and then integrates everything accordingly. As expected, there’s extensive use of software tools for data analytics, modeling, simulation, and validation, as it is not easy to layout and predict all of the interactions of the components of a complex system right away.
To become a Systems Engineer, one would have to study on one of the more traditional engineering disciplines, and then take that path via a Master’s or a Ph.D. program. Thus, there are no Bachelor of Science programs for Systems Engineering, with the exception of one in Brazil and one in Singapore.
All that said, to become a successful Systems Engineer you will also need to have higher than average interpersonal skills, a desire to work in a management position, and the passion to study a very wide spectrum of engineering disciplines.