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To become a systems engineer, you may first need to obtain a degree in engineering from a four-year college or university. Either while in school or shortly thereafter, you may also benefit from participating in an internship program. Depending on the area where you live, obtaining an engineering license might be a requirement to work on certain projects. Membership in local and regional engineering organizations can offer connections for networking with other professionals, possibly exposing you to career advancement opportunities.
An engineering degree from a college or university typically provides the educational foundation required to become a systems engineer. With an engineering degree, you are usually prepared for most entry-level positions in the field. Most students major in mechanical, civil, or electrical engineering to prepare for work as systems engineers. Typically, coursework covers a broad range of subjects such as chemistry, business ethics, calculus, and computer science.
In addition to an engineering degree, you might want to acquire a license, certification, or a post graduate degree to strengthen your chances of becoming a systems engineer. An engineering license normally determines your competency for working on complex projects, particularly those related to public safety. Certification programs are available if you already have an undergraduate degree and wish to pursue engineering training without investing in another degree program. Post-graduate degrees may provide hands-on experience before you accept a full-time position or increase your chances for managerial positions. With a post-graduate degree, you may also qualify to teach college-level courses to anyone who wishes to become a systems engineer.
Establishing the proper licensing credentials might depend on the regulations in your area. You will likely have to pass an examination to receive your license. In some areas, you might need several years of on-the-job experience before being able to obtain an engineering license.
While academics provides the theoretical foundation for becoming a systems engineer, on-the-job experience places you in direct contact with engineering projects. Working as a systems engineer typically exposes you to multiple aspects of a project. You are usually able to apply the knowledge gained during engineering training to a broad range of industries related to environmental, software, and electrical systems.
While not a requirement to become a systems engineer, membership in engineering organizations may offer some advantages. Many benefits of the organizations include access to career advice and job search assistance. Another advantage to joining an engineering organization is the opportunity to take continuing education courses to maintain your license. Often, you can enroll in these courses at reduced rates to stay abreast of the advances in the systems engineering field.