Systems Engineers vs. Software Engineers: What’s the Difference?

Businesses rely on workers dedicated to keeping information technology safe and functional, computer networks functioning smoothly. Systems engineers and software engineers are two types of IT professionals who head this effort. They have similar duties, although their titles suggest different job responsibilities. Here’s what systems engineers and software engineers do, what roles they fill, how their duties overlap, and why either position are in demand in IT staffing firms:

What a Systems Engineer Is

A systems engineer is a person who specializes in figuring out how to get connected devices to communicate effectively. Systems engineers could work in technology consulting, developing hardware, or designing integrated computer systems. Or you could work in an information technology (IT) department at a large company, overseeing hardware maintenance.

A systems engineer interacts with other IT staff members to determine how to best match an organization’s needs to the features of computers and computer networks. For instance, systems engineers might recommend replacing an old network system with a new one. This involves choosing the best hardware components for the task while keeping costs down. Working with vendors, systems engineers examine data on pricing, delivery times, and warranties. This ensures that an organization receives the best deal while avoiding potential pitfalls and delays in processing and shipping.

What a Software Engineer Is

A software engineer designs and develops programs that run on computers and computer networks. Software engineers need to understand how software is constructed and what makes it run, then design and code the programs that will accomplish the necessary tasks. They work with a team of programmers responsible for developing and coding software to accommodate a specific business task, such as tracking inventory computer systems. An experienced software engineer will oversee a team of programmers and ensure that they produce high-quality code.

What a Systems Engineer and Software Engineer Share

  • Both systems engineers and software engineers work on computers and networks, which means they both:
  • Identify problems and look for ways to fix them
  • Coordinate with other IT staff members to figure out how to best address problems
  • Work with vendors to evaluate products and pricing
  • Recommend solutions that adhere to budgetary and time constraints

With both positions, data security is a concern. Systems engineers and software engineers ensure that data is safe and secure.

What Makes a Systems Engineer and Software Engineer Unique

Systems engineers and software engineers do much the same work, but they have some key differences.

Systems engineers and software engineers may not be involved in the actual development of computer programs and computer systems. However, they both work to ensure that the final products meet and exceed the client’s needs.

Most systems engineers start out working as system administrators to gain experience. They may move up to systems engineers as they gain more experience. In many cases, the term systems engineering refers to a specific type of job, such as designing integrated computer systems. Software engineers work with a team of programmers to create a program that meets a particular business need.


In the end, what separates systems engineers from software engineers is their expertise in different aspects of IT. A systems engineer focuses on hardware, whereas a software engineer focuses on software. Both positions need to know a lot about programming, but a systems engineer won’t need to know how to design a software program from scratch. Most IT staffing firms have both systems engineers and software engineers in their rosters, but you want to make sure that you choose highly qualified and properly screened candidates.

Technical Paradigm is among the best IT staffing firms to provide your startup with reliable professionals, whether you need systems engineers or software engineers. See who we have ready to work in your company!

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Building a company primed for growth means staffing it with skilled and reliable team members. Time is crucial in the highly competitive IT talent market, which is why it’s a good idea to leave the task of searching, testing, vetting, and interviewing candidates to us. In doing so, you’ll get to focus on what genuinely matters—running your business to the best of your ability.
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