Systems Engineer: What They Do, Salary, Skills, and Interview Questions

Hire Remote Developers
Celso Crivelaro
By
Celso Crivelaro
|
Head of Engineering
Linkedin

Table of Contents

Systems Engineers are great at determining where issues are in your development and also monitor products to keep it maintained from having future problems. Learn more about what they do, their skills, and more.
Published on
August 8, 2023
Updated on
April 11, 2024

Do you need someone to develop, maintain, monitor, and troubleshoot your technical infrastructure? Consider hiring a systems engineer. These professionals are experts in designing and managing information technology (IT) systems and processes. They can also test and evaluate systems development and products and keep your systems competitive to increase customer trust.

However, hiring the best systems engineer for your startup is an uphill battle. Although job sites like Fiverr and Upwork are bustling with systems engineers, only a select few have the experience and skills to make your company thrive.

That's why we've written this comprehensive guide to help you hire systems engineers that are a perfect fit for your business. Read on to learn more about systems engineering and the professionals who work in this field. Along the way, we'll also share tips for writing systems engineering job descriptions and interview questions.

What is Systems Engineering?

An interdisciplinary area of IT engineering and systems management, systems engineering involves designing, testing, and managing composite systems over their life cycle. Essentially, systems engineering applies engineering principles to IT systems and architecture. Instead of working with transistors and circuits, systems engineers work with computer hardware, programming languages, clouds, and more.

Systems engineering aims to manage risks in company systems and processes, including those associated with late delivery, unintended consequences, and excess cost. Systems engineers accomplish this by crafting solutions that meet the technical needs of customers and businesses.

What Does a Systems Engineer Do?

As experts in systems engineering, systems engineers play a critical role in your IT infrastructure. Their duties usually include:

  • Designing, testing, and managing hardware and software systems
  • Defining stakeholder and customer needs
  • Installing, testing, and maintaining operating systems, system management tools, and application software
  • Defining system functionality in the early stages of a service or product development cycle.

Systems engineers are also responsible for:

  • Coordinating different departments and teams, including quality assurance (QA) and engineering
  • Evaluating and testing systems
  • Providing support for IT support staff
  • Finding more efficient ways to run processes
  • Scheduling and budgeting systems development projects
  • Implementing and maintaining computer systems so they comply with your company's standard operating procedure (SOP) and guidelines
  • Overseeing the availability of technical resources
  • Developing workflows, risk management tools, and optimization methods for projects
  • Ensuring rapid responses to technical issues

Why Should You Hire a Systems Engineer?

Hiring systems engineers can make your business more competitive. The right hire can look for ways to improve your systems and design new solutions from scratch. You may want to onboard one or two systems engineers because they:

  • Test, create, expand, and maintain organizational frameworks to ensure everything works to your benefit. The right hires can solve organizational problems by testing your systems to locate errors. They can also write custom scripts to create, expand, and maintain systems like the cloud, virtual machines (VM), containers, and more.
  • Solve company problems from a technical perspective. Experienced systems engineers will use their sharp business acumen to address issues in your IT environment. After spotting issues in your code and systems, they will write reports and present their findings to management and other relevant departments.
  • Collaborate with project managers, QA, and engineers to create leading-edge frameworks. Existing team members may not have the expertise, skills, or experience to create competitive IT frameworks. However, an experienced systems engineer can collaborate with other team members to build efficient and cost-effective frameworks. Depending on the level of experience, your hire may also be able to mentor junior and entry-level software and systems developers and engineers.

Systems Engineers Salary

A systems engineer's salary typically depends on experience and skill level. Entry-level or junior engineers and senior professionals tend to have significantly different wages.

Entry Level Systems Engineer Salary

Entry-level or beginner systems engineers have under three years of experience. Most of them are fresh grads with bachelor's degrees in engineering, IT, computer science, and other related fields. However, some are self-taught or graduates of non-traditional institutions like boot camps.

These systems engineers have little professional experience, so they have fewer skills and lower salaries. You may have to invest in educational and mentorship opportunities to help them reach their potential.

According to Glassdoor, the average U.S.-based entry-level systems engineer makes about  $102,000 per year.

Entry-level systems engineers should have the following skills:

  • Robust written and verbal communication skills
  • Familiarity with advanced mathematical concepts such as calculus and trigonometry
  • Solid multitasking skills

An average salary for a, entry-level systems engineer in Mexico is about $3,200 USD per month, and in Brazil the average salary is around $5,700 USD per month.

Junior Systems Engineer Salary

Junior systems engineers have two to four years of professional experience. According to Glassdoor, the average U.S.-based junior systems engineer earns $122,701 per year.

Most companies expect junior systems engineers to have the following skillset:

  • Some experience with IT support
  • Two to four years of experience with Office 365 Administration (including Exchange, OneDrive, Teams, and SharePoint)
  • Experience with virtualization technologies, including public cloud
  • Knowledge of scripting languages
  • Experience with Active Directory

To compare the U.S. salary, the average salary for a junior level system engineer in Mexico is $3962 USD per month, and in Brazil, you can expect to pay a salary of $13,245 per month total.

Senior Systems Engineer Salary

Senior systems engineers have over four years of experience. Glassdoor has revealed that the average U.S.-based senior systems engineer earns $145,284 per year.

Senior systems engineers have the following skills and responsibilities:

  • At least four years of experience with IT systems management and support
  • Extensive experience with Office 365, Active Directory, Microsoft Windows, macOS, and Linux
  • The ability to design, test, monitor, and maintain new IT architecture and systems
  • The ability to train junior systems engineers and technicians
  • Strong programming skills in Perl, Python, and Ruby
  • Previous working experience in different development and project management frameworks, such as Kanban, Scrum, and Waterfall

In Mexico and Brazil, the average salary for a senior level systems engineer is $7,015 USD per month from Mexico, and in Brazil the average is around $10,800 USD per month

Systems Engineer Skills

As you can see, hiring a systems engineer offers many advantages. Good systems engineers can help you develop innovative solutions and monitor your IT infrastructure. They can also aid you in managing the entire lifecycle of various IT networks and systems.

But before you start hiring, you need to consider potential hires' qualifications, skills, experience levels, and salaries. Here's a breakdown of what you should look for in your new engineer:

Hard Skills

The best fit for your company should have the following technical skills:

Familiarity with Hardware

Your hire should know how to use, fix, support, and maintain hardware. Hardware refers to the physical parts of a computer, including components and peripherals.

Components are the internal hardware parts such as hard drives, motherboards, and RAM. Peripherals include external devices like printers, keyboards, and microphones.

Programming Skills

Like other IT personnel, systems engineers must have solid programming skills. Here are the main languages that systems engineers should know:

  • Perl: A feature-rich coding language with over 30 years of development, Perl is used for many tasks, including system administration, GUI development, and network programming. Perl is one of the most popular languages for systems engineers and administrators because it's platform-independent.
  • Python: A general-purpose language that enjoys immense popularity amongst coders, Python has many libraries and modules for managing and organizing complex data. Although it's not as portable as Perl, Python can run on most major platforms.
  • Ruby: This language features a simple syntax, allowing systems engineers to focus on the logic of their script rather than the syntax. Ruby makes it easier to create systems with fewer bugs.
  • C: Efficient and powerful, C allows users to manipulate memory, which is often necessary for systems programming. C is also highly portable — every CPU has a C compiler.
  • C++: An extension of C, C++ is a general-purpose coding language that can be used to create high-performing apps. C++ gives systems engineers a high level of control over system and memory resources.

Technical Support Skills

Besides knowing how to program and fix hardware, your hire also needs solid technical support skills. Specifically, engineers need to know how to do the following for in-house departments, colleagues, clients, and stakeholders:

  • Pinpoint and resolve network problems
  • Maintain, manage, and repair IT infrastructure issues
  • Install and configure software and hardware
  • Evaluate integration and engineering initiatives
  • Provide technical support to assess security guidelines, standards, and policies

Virtualization

Your systems engineering hire should know how to use virtualization technology. Virtualization lets you use a computer's full capacity by splitting its capabilities among many virtual machines (VMs). Although running on the part of the underlying computer hardware, each VM behaves like a separate computer.

Your hire should know the following types of virtualization:

  • Data virtualization: This is a modern approach to data integration. Unlike Extract-Transform-Load (ETL) solutions, data virtualization doesn't copy or move data. Instead, it leaves data in source systems and creates a real-time integrated view of enterprise data for data consumers.
  • Operating system virtualization: This type of virtualization happens at the heart and core of an operating system. It lets systems engineers run Windows and Linux side-by-side. Companies can also use operating system virtualization to deploy multiple virtual operating systems onto computers, which:
  • Reduces time spent on IT services
  • Boosts security since all virtual operating systems and instances can be isolated and monitored
  • Reduces hardware costs
  • Desktop virtualization: The opposite of operating system virtualization, desktop virtualization allows administrators to deploy virtual desktop environments to hundreds of physical computers at once. Unlike traditional operating systems, desktop virtualization can perform mass updates, configurations, and security checks on all virtual desktops. It can help you cut costs, boost security, and reduce hardware costs.
  • Server virtualization: The process of dividing a physical server into multiple isolated virtual servers offers many benefits, including:
  • Increased application performance
  • Reduced server complexity
  • Higher server ability
  • Lower operating costs
  • Efficient task deployment
  • Network functions virtualization (NFV): NFV divides a network's main functions — such as file sharing, directory services, and IP configuration — so you can distribute them among systems. This type of virtualization cuts hardware costs by reducing the number of physical components — such as hubs, routers, cables, servers, and switches — required to create independent networks. NFV is especially popular in the telecommunications industry.

Cloud Architecture

Systems engineers should also have a thorough understanding of cloud architecture. Here are some specific cloud engineering skills to look for:

  • Database skills: Systems engineers need to have strong database skills to create, run, test, and deploy cloud architecture. At a minimum, they should be familiar with:
  • MySQL: An open-source data management system based on structured query language (SQL), MySQL supports a variety of data structures, including JSON, standard data types, and advanced geospatial data.
  • Hadoop: Also known as Apache Hadoop, this software library can store and process large datasets. Users can also use Hadoop to distribute the processing of large data sets across clusters of computers.
  • Unix shell scripting: Shell scripting involves writing a series of commands for Unix systems. It can help systems engineers and developers save time by running sequences of commands as a single command.
  • Containerization: This is virtualization where apps run in isolated spaces called containers. Essentially lightweight VMs, containers are abstracted away from the host operating systems and only have limited access to underlying resources. Containerization is often used to pack various microservices found in modern apps. Some handy tools are Docker and Kubernetes.

Familiarity with Operating Systems

Last but not least, systems engineers need to use different operating systems. They should know how to install, fix, and write scripts in Windows, macOS, and Linux. If your company works with smart devices, your hire should also know how to use and modify systems in iOS, Android, HarmonyOS, and other popular smart device operating systems.

Soft Skills

Besides having a solid grasp of technical concepts like programming and IT systems, the best systems engineer for your team should also have solid soft skills. Without these, your hire may not fit perfectly in your workforce. Here's a brief overview of the soft skills your engineer should have:

Problem-Solving Skills

Like other engineers, systems engineers need to be analytical. They should constantly ask questions and analyze the systems and processes around them.

Communication Skills

Systems engineers also need strong written and oral communication skills. They need to know when to listen and speak and how to take criticism in stride. Otherwise, they won't be able to collaborate with a broad range of team members, departments, stakeholders, and clients.

Patience

Your hires must have a lot of patience to create and manage complex systems. They should be able to look at all the small details to grasp the big picture and test every component and application in your system. Even after many failed attempts, systems engineers need to keep on testing to find errors.

Strong Organizational Skills

System engineers also need well-honed organizational skills to handle the amount of data in your systems and juggle multiple projects simultaneously. They must be able to track history and status accurately and create reports and documents for colleagues, stakeholders, and clients with non-technical backgrounds.

How To Hire a Systems Engineer

Once you've created a list of must-have skills for systems engineers, it's time to start hiring. Here's how:

Find the Right Place to Hire Systems Engineers

Where to find system engineers for your company? There are many places to source and hire professionals with the right skills, including:

Freelancer Sites

You can use freelancing sites like Fiverr and Upwork to locate hires for your team. Many freelance systems engineers on these platforms charge budget-friendly rates that you can't find anywhere else. However, there is no pre-vetting, and you may need to go through piles of resumes and tests to locate the right fit.

LinkedIn

Another great option for hiring systems engineers is LinkedIn. Home to 1.6 million active job seekers, LinkedIn has plenty of communities and tools to kickstart the hiring process.

Consider using the following LinkedIn business tools to locate and hire systems engineers:

  • Recruiter: This tool helps you find and connect with professionals. Recruiter gives you up-to-date insights on over 740 million LinkedIn members, recommended matches, and advanced search filters.
  • Career Pages: An employer branding tool that helps you share your company's story and reach candidates, Career Pages empowers you to show off your company culture, showcase your jobs, and target the right talent.

Talent Marketplaces

If you have limited energy and time for hiring and onboarding talent, consider partnering with a talent marketplace. Unlike freelance sites and LinkedIn, which require you to vet and test candidates manually, talent marketplaces already have pre-vetted systems engineers. Revelo is the top choice for hiring managers and companies looking to source and hire talent all in one place, with a place that is trusted. 

Some talent marketplaces will also help you deal with complex human resources challenges, such as immigration, payroll, and compliance issues.

Systems Engineer Job Description

If you decide on freelancer sites or similar options that require marketing for hiring candidates, you'll need a compelling systems engineer job description to attract the best talent. Your job ad should cover the following at a minimum:

  • Job title
  • Job location
  • Company description
  • Duties and responsibilities
  • Required skills and experience
  • Compensation and benefits
  • Working schedule

Here's an example of a systems engineer job description:

Remote Senior Systems Engineer — Revelo

Revelo is looking for a Remote Senior Systems Engineer to join our globally-distributed team. We need a highly-skilled Senior Systems Engineer with at least five years of experience to help us create, test, and deploy effective IT systems within our company.

This role is open to Senior Systems Engineers in the following time zones:

  • Pacific Standard Time (PST)
  • Central Standard Time (CST)
  • Mountain Standard Time (MST)
  • Eastern Standard Time (EST)

Company Description:

Revelo is a customer-centric talent marketplace that matches FAANG-caliber programmers with startups worldwide. Check out Revelo to learn more.

Duties:

  • Evaluating the systems and processes in our organization, including server, network, and storage infrastructure
  • Providing onsite support to stakeholders and customers as needed
  • Performing quality assurance (QA) procedures to ensure that all systems are working efficiently
  • Using cost-benefit analyses to create systems for projects
  • Communicating and collaborating with a broad range of team members, stakeholders, and departments, including QA, management, clients, vendors, and software developers
  • Creating technical guides to help colleagues handle support issues
  • Being a backup for IT support

Requirements:

  • At least four years of IT generalist experience with server infrastructure, security, virtualization, and cloud services
  • Experience with network access, data security, and backup systems
  • Extensive knowledge of Windows Server 2015-2022, Microsoft Windows, Mac Desktop OS, Office 365, and Active Directory
  • Strong multitasking skills
  • Manage incidents within defined service-level agreements (SLAs)
  • Diagnose and resolve technical problems while adhering to established best practices
  • Represent our company in a professional manner offsite and in-house
  • Extensive knowledge of DNS, Network Protocols, shell scripting, and DHCP
  • Robust understanding of programming languages, including Python, Perl, and Ruby
  • Experience with open-source platforms like Linux
  • Provide top-notch code reviews and mentorship

Compensation and Benefits:

  • Competitive salary of $110,000 to $120,000 per year, depending on experience
  • Parental leave
  • Wellness program
  • Medical and dental insurance
  • Life insurance
  • Tuition reimbursement
  • Vision care
  • Work from home

Schedule:

  • 9:00 AM to 6:00 PM PST
  • Monday to Friday

Systems Engineer Interview Questions

Once candidates start rushing in, you'll need to vet them for expertise and experience. After the initial selection based on portfolios, the interview process will help you the most in making a final pick.

Here are ten questions that should aid you in learning more about candidates' work ethic, personality, and experience:

  • What types of systems engineering tasks are you the most passionate about?
  • How do you keep up with new trends in systems engineering?
  • Do you prefer designing engineering or software systems?
  • What challenges did you face in your career, and how did you overcome them?
  • What is the most challenging part of being a systems engineer?
  • How would you explain systems engineering concepts to colleagues and stakeholders with non-technical backgrounds?
  • How frequently should a company update its systems?
  • Have you created plans for disaster recovery? If so, what were they like?
  • Have you ever led a team before? How did you find the experience?
  • What is the most challenging part of working in a multi-disciplinary team?

Start to Hire a Systems Engineers With Revelo

With so many candidates to vet, finding and hiring a systems engineer for your business can be time-consuming and frustrating. Fortunately, Revelo can help.

We are a talent platform that helps you source, hire, and manage highly-experienced systems engineers. All our talents have been pre-vetted for their English proficiency, skills, and knowledge. We boast systems engineers specializing in every tech stack and language, including Perl, Python, C++, C, and Ruby. All you need to do is make a pick and start working.

Contact us today to start hiring systems engineers.

Need to source and hire remote software developers?

Get matched with vetted candidates within 3 days.

Related blog posts

Data Engineer vs. Data Scientist: What’s the Difference?

Data engineer vs. Data Scientist: What’s the Difference?

Rafael Timbó
READING TIME: 
About Software Developers
Aerospace Software Engineer: What They Do, Salary & How to Hire

Aerospace Software Engineer

Rafael Timbó
READING TIME: 
About Software Developers
Hire Ukrainian Developers: Everything You Need to Know

Hire Ukrainian Developers [Full Guide]

Fred Monnier
READING TIME: 
About Software Developers

Subscribe to the Revelo Newsletter

Get the best insights on remote work, hiring, and engineering management in your inbox.

Subscribe and be the first to hear about our new products, exclusive content, and more.

Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.
Hire Developers