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Difference Between Network Engineer & System Engineer

Network engineers and system engineers are both computer savvy professionals who work on a company's network. System engineers work with a team to create a system that will meet their clients needs, while network engineers maintain and troubleshoot these networks.

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Comparing Network Engineers to System Engineers

Both network engineers and system engineers work on and troubleshoot the computer networks of their employers. The main difference between the two is that system engineers develop the computer system based on the needs of their employer, while network engineers work on these networks that have been developed. Other similarities and differences are explored further below.

Job Title Education Requirements Median Salary (2017)* Job Growth (2014-2024)**
Network Engineer Bachelor's Degree in Information Technology or Computer Science $70,411 8% (for all network and computer systems administrators)
System Engineer Bachelor's Degree in Engineering, Information Technology, or Computer Science $76,175 8% (for all network and computer systems administrators)

Source: *PayScale.com; **U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

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Responsibilities of Network Engineers vs. System Engineers

While system engineers develop and maintain computer networks for companies, network engineers work on and troubleshoot these systems. Besides this main difference, the day-to-day responsibilities of these two positions are quite similar. Both roles must understand network security, how to fix issues, and handle changes and updates. Both of these engineers must have sharp written and verbal communication skills, as they often work in teams.

Network Engineer

Network engineers integrate and troubleshoot an employer's computer network system. Network engineers must have a deep understanding of networking technology, such as routing, DNS servers, and cryptographic tunneling, as well as common software, such as Microsoft Office. A bachelor's degree in information technology or computer science is commonly required, though previous experience may make up for a lack of education. Strong communication skills are important, as network engineers may work in teams or have to explain complex network issues to those without computing backgrounds. These engineers generally work in an office and may be required to travel if their employer has multiple locations.

Job responsibilities of a network engineer include:

  • Oversee the network's security and firewall
  • Train junior engineers
  • Keep records and reports of networking issues and their solutions
  • Ensure network disaster recovery

System Engineer

System engineers are the architects of computer systems for their clients or employers. These computer experts work with a team of engineers, administrators, and programmers to create these complex systems. In some cases, they may reconfigure existing computer systems to meet the desires of their employer. Creating these systems takes a great deal of teamwork, so sharp communication skills are necessary. A bachelor's degree in engineering, information technology, or computer science is often required.

Job responsibilities of a system engineer include:

  • Troubleshoot any system issues that arise
  • Oversee any changes to the computer system
  • Install and provide support for company messaging systems
  • Stay educated by reading journals and attending workshops
  • Train new system engineers

Related Careers

Plenty of alternate job options exist for those with a knack for computer systems. Computer support technician may be a good fit for those interested in the troubleshooting aspects of being a network engineer. If the software building aspect of being a system engineer sounds appealing, you may be interested in becoming a computer programmer.

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