Skip to content

Electrical Engineering Vs Systems Engineering (Compared)

Getting into an engineering school is easy. However, choosing the right major is the hardest part, especially when confronted with two equally viable choices. 

Some students simply can’t define their paths, while some can’t distinctly differentiate between the available choices. 

In this article, we’ll look at the various pros and cons of choosing the two majors. Hopefully, it’ll make the decision easier for you.

What Is the Difference Between Systems Engineering and Electrical Engineering?

Systems engineers typically design, develop and coordinate large systems and projects, such as road and rail building and even software development. On the other hand, electrical engineers deal with electrical and power systems.

While systems engineers may sometimes be hired to manage and coordinate large electrical systems, they usually don’t touch the technical bits.

They’re also paid much higher on average, although electrical engineers in certain industries (like aerospace) can earn way above the average.

Below is a table containing the additional differences between the two fields:

Systems EngineeringElectrical Engineering
What it CoversInvolves aspects of various engineering disciplines as well as business conceptsOnly focused on electrical transmission and equipment
Potential Career PathsProject management/Software development
Average Salary$96,900$90,700
ComplexityRelatively high as it contains concepts from several engineering disciplinesModerate 
Demand for skillsRelatively lowHigh

Can an Electrical Engineer Be a Systems Engineer?

Electrical engineers can easily become systems engineers while the opposite isn’t true. 

Systems engineering is one of the easiest fields to get into, mainly because it doesn’t require a specialized university degree. Electrical engineers who have very good knowledge of electrical systems will find the transition to be a smooth sail.

It’s important to note that systems engineering is a more generalized course that is mainly concerned with making cohesive systems than technical ones.

Conversely, electronics engineering, just like other engineering disciplines, involves solving technical problems using math-heavy solutions.

To become a systems engineer, you should view the problems from a holistic point of view. In engineering circles, this is called “systems thinking” and usually develops with practice.

Extensive experience in technical design and equipment management gives one a better edge at developing systems thinking. 

Nonetheless, some training is necessary before you can make the transition to systems engineering.

In most cases, working under an experienced mentor and taking a general systems engineering course is all you need to do. A master’s course in systems engineering is also a viable option.

Is A Systems Engineer A Real Engineer?

System Engineering is definitely a real engineering field. It’s an authentic, standalone engineering discipline that is broader and less technical than other fields. 

Fundamentally, systems engineers have to understand and apply a variety of engineering concepts to develop good systems and manage them. 

These concepts transcend the subjects of maths, logistics, physics, and computer programming, as is the case with many engineering fields.

What Do Electrical Systems Engineers Do?

Electrical systems engineers are basically systems engineers who work in companies dealing with electrical systems and large equipment. 

The primary qualification for the job is a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering. However, some companies may require additional degrees in systems engineering and computer engineering.

Some of the duties of electrical systems engineers include:

  • Coordinating the manufacturing and installation of electrical equipment.
  • Collecting and presenting data on potential electrical projects.
  • Ensuring installed electrical systems satisfy user requirements.
  • Assisting electrical engineers in their design processes.

Is System Engineer A Developer?

Systems engineers aren’t exactly trained to write code but some systems engineers who work in the IT sector may have some programming knowledge. 

Others who work in fields like manufacturing may have basic ideas of how different computer software work but near-zero coding experience. 

The fact that systems engineering isn’t a well-defined discipline with clear job descriptions makes it an interesting career.

What Skills Does A System Engineer Need?

To make it as a systems engineer, one needs to have strong analytical and decision-making skills. 

These skills will help you look at problems holistically and subsequently come up with the right solutions. 

Being a good leader and communicator also helps as systems engineers are often in charge of large and diverse teams.

Is Systems Engineering A Good Career?

Systems engineering is one of the most lucrative careers. It pays well, offers relatively high job satisfaction, and most importantly, its demand is only set to rise in the coming years.

Are Systems Engineers In Demand?

The demand for systems engineers is quite high at the moment and the peak isn’t even close. In fact, most industries that were once reluctant to employ system engineers are gradually changing their minds.

The metaverse as fronted by several social media giants is also projected to increase the demand for system engineers in the near future. 

The technologies involve higher levels of convergence between software, hardware, and humans, and systems thinking is key to managing them effectively.

What Jobs Do Systems Engineers Get?

Systems engineering can apply to any industry where there are large systems, such as IT, military campaigns, telecommunications systems, manufacturing, and electric power systems. 

systems engineers can also work as consultants and project managers for mid-sized and large projects.

Final Verdict

There’s no doubt that electrical engineering is one of the best career choices one can make. The fact that the profession will still be relevant in the decades to come is just the icing on the cake.

In contrast, systems engineering is a relatively new discipline and although it’s not currently as lucrative, its demand is set to rise sharply in the coming years. What’s more, it has a wider range of job prospects than any engineering discipline.

In the end, whatever major you select should be primarily dictated by your passions. That way, you’ll be better placed to handle the rigors that come with the job without going down under pressure.