Systems Engineering vs. Computer Engineering: What’s the Right Path for You?

Systems Engineering vs. Computer Engineering

Engineers aren’t passive observers. Instead, they actively drive progress. Their use of imagination, innovation, and knowledge allows engineering graduates to impact the world in an unparalleled way.
In this fast-changing world, engineers play a crucial role in bringing about multiple advancements. Engineers are both creative and analytical thinkers. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics states that demand for Architectural and Engineering Manager positions is projected to increase by 14,700 jobs annually between 2020 and 2030. Engineering managers with 5 years of experience can earn a median annual salary of $152,340.
Two branches of engineering that have gained popularity recently are computer engineering and systems engineering. Both fields come with a set of advantages that benefit organizations. 
David Long, President of Vitech, has asserted that any company engaged in systems engineering will agree that mission complexity is increasing more than one’s capacity to manage it. Therefore, systems engineering has been developed and refined for many decades to stay on par with technical challenges linked with complex systems.
On the other hand, computer engineering is a potent force that has been positively impacting our lives. In February 2023, Cointelegraph reported that computer engineering, through machine learning (ML), artificial intelligence (AI), 5G networks, and robotics, has been reshaping industries and giving way to new applications.
In this blog, we will delve into both computer and systems engineering, helping you gain an understanding of these fields and choose a career path.

Understanding Computer Engineering & Systems Engineering

According to Jim Johansen, a Ph.D. and assistant professor at Azusa Pacific University, computer engineering focuses on computer networks, applications, software, and hardware. It also encompasses areas such as cluster computers, embedded systems, and cloud computing.
Once candidates master these skills, they can work in various fields. This includes the development of Internet of Things devices, the creation of handheld devices, the customization of computing platforms for satellite systems and space exploration, and the development of large computing platforms for big data centers.
However, systems engineering is a slightly complex discipline. It involves bringing together multiple components and creating synchronization among them. Johansen compares it to being a conductor of an orchestra. Systems engineers need to keep the big picture in mind when acquiring specialized skills to identify design problems during the early stages of product development cycles.
One example Johansen highlights is that of a satellite system, where each subsystem must be designed to cooperate. It goes beyond developing technical infrastructure and involves supporting and maintaining it.
Hence, it is evident that accomplished systems engineers excel in collaboration, actively engaging with project managers and engineering teams in their daily work. They take charge of facilitating the successful completion of a system.

Which Path Should You Choose?

Both systems and computer engineering demand evaluation skills and critical thinking, along with proficiency in technology, mathematics, and scientific instrumentation. 
Most universities offer these engineering disciplines under the umbrella of a Bachelor of Science in Engineering degree. Here every student, irrespective of their specialization, needs to have a solid base in electrical circuits, mechanics, digital systems, electronics, as well as control systems. 
They also need to know more about the physics framework and have strong mathematics knowledge. Candidates can also explore master’s in engineering management online courses provided by various universities to get a clear idea. 
Engineering management can greatly benefit computer and systems engineering students by equipping them with the required communication skills, project management expertise, strategic thinking abilities, business acumen, ethical and legal understanding, and support for career development. By combining technical knowledge with managerial know-how, students can excel in their field, make informed decisions, and contribute to the success of organizations.
Kettering University asserts that engineering managers should leverage their strong engineering expertise and business acumen to lead teams to develop new processes, products, or designs and improve existing ones. The correct engineering management course will allow candidates to step into leadership roles and contribute better to an organization’s strategic goals. 
Finally, when it’s about selecting a specialization, if your interest is in working extensively with computers, designing, evaluating, and maintaining computer hardware and software systems, a computer engineering degree would be apt. However, if you prefer a more comprehensive engineering degree that enables you to explore multiple disciplines while paying attention to the overall objective, a system engineering degree would be an ideal path to pursue.


Both computer and systems engineering help you to carve out dynamic career paths with the best scopes for growth and impact. Candidates should explore their interests, gain hands-on experience through various projects, and seek assistance from professionals to arrive at informed decisions.
Regardless of the engineering domain you choose, continuous learning and staying up to date with new technological advancements is essential. Engineering is an ever-evolving field that urges professionals to adapt to opportunities and challenges throughout their careers.  

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