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A computer systems engineer is someone who combines their knowledge of computer science, engineering, and mathematical analysis to develop, test and evaluate software, circuits, personal computers and more. They don't simply engineer computer technology, but understand how that technology fits into the larger scheme of professional and personal needs.
Individuals choosing this career study the development of computer technology, understand the underlying concepts of computers, create improvements on current processes and equipment, and integrate hardware and software programs and concepts to produce a fully-functional system capable of meeting his or her clients’ needs.
Different companies have different needs regarding their computer systems. A manufacturing company may require specialized inventory tracking abilities, invoicing, payment, and age-of-inventory capabilities. A governmental organization will have entirely different needs depending upon the services it offers. This occupation combines several different disciplines in order to create, purchase and/or install a computer system that is appropriate for each client. Higher mathematics, higher sciences and electronics all factor into computer systems engineering.
Computer systems engineers provide advice to clients regarding the appropriate hardware and/or software to ensure that their computer systems meet their needs. He or she may also be involved in a hands-on manner during the acquisition, installation, testing, and implementation phases of the project. He or she evaluates current systems for effectiveness, makes recommendations regarding the scalability of such systems, and troubleshoots any problems that arise during the use of the system.
With the growing focus of online information sharing, an individual in this occupation reviews a company’s security requirements, its use of online applications ranging from a company web page to online purchasing or personal data exchange, and recommends the security measures that will allow the company to function in a digital world without compromising its clients’ sensitive data.
He or she also provides his or her clients with guidelines regarding system capabilities, user interface, security measures, and other applicable information so that the client can operate the system on a daily basis and troubleshoot minor difficulties.
In a large company, a computer systems engineer may work in a virtual atmosphere. His or her physical location, surrounding, and time schedule may be of little relevance. Conversely, an engineer who supervises a team of workers will occupy a traditional office space and should expect to maintain regular office hours.
A computer systems engineer who is focused more on the product development side may work in a laboratory or other sterile environment to prevent contamination of the delicate electronics that comprise modern computers. One who is focused more on the implementation side will work in a variety of situations according to his or her clients’ needs. These situations will also require the engineer to adapt his or her schedule to accommodate the clients’ hours of operation, using off-hours for system installation and testing, and work hours for system training.
An associate’s degree in science and computer systems engineering provides entry-level education for individuals interested in pursuing this occupation. Typically, graduation requirements include courses in computer systems programming, the design and maintenance of networks, computer science, business telecommunications, and electrical circuits. Careers in computer support, network security, and systems maintenance require an associate’s degree.
To be a computer systems engineer, however, requires a bachelor's degree. Building on the work learned at the associate’s level, the bachelor’s degree includes a thorough knowledge of more complex systems such as microprocessors, data transmission, and security. General course work includes the study of computer science, calculus, engineering, and physics. Specialized classes in electromagnetics, differential equations, wireless networking, computer design, and computer security systems elevate the student’s basic understanding of computers and how they function. Careers include the design of personal computers, large networks, microcomputers, manufacturing, transportation, radar and communications technology, military support, and robotics.
For those who wish to work in academic research or education, a master's or doctorate degree may be necessary.