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Systems engineering is a difficult, detail-oriented job. A good systems engineer must figure out how to design and manage complex systems—whether it’s a processor or the tech stack for a major company. They must know how to model systems, analyze data, make good decisions, and prevent projects from becoming overly complex. 

In light of that, systems engineers with the right mix of skills and experience can usually command superior compensation. How high can their salaries go? Blind, which surveys anonymous technologists on a range of issues, recently analyzed the top metro areas for this role's compensation. Here’s the breakdown:

Nationwide, the average total compensation of a systems engineer is between $100,175 and $332,043, according to Blind. According to the most recent Dice Tech Salary Report, systems engineers make an average of $112,407, down a mere 0.8 percent between 2020 and 2021. That’s roughly in line with many other engineering positions—for example, DevOps engineers make an average of $119,201, while data engineers make $117,295. (According to the Tech Salary Report, the average technologist salary stands at $104,566, a 6.9 percent increase between 2020 and 2021.)

What skills do you need for this role? That varies wildly depending on specialization. According to Emsi Burning Glass, which collects and analyzes millions of job postings from across the country, open jobs for computer systems engineers usually ask for some combination of the following skills:

  • Systems engineering
  • Python
  • Linux
  • Software development
  • Java 
  • SQL
  • Software engineering

In addition, systems engineers must utilize their “soft skills” to win buy-in from team members and communicate all kinds of information to other stakeholders. These “soft skills” can include everything from teamwork/collaboration to basic communication skills to writing. Expect that, during the interview process, hiring managers and recruiters will ask you how you’ve used both your technical and soft skills to achieve success in your past roles.