Systems Architect Vs. Systems Engineer

Systems architects and systems engineers work together to design the technology systems for their company or client. This article compares the similarities and differences in their daily responsibilities.

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Comparing Systems Architects to Systems Engineers

Systems architects and systems engineers ensure that a company's computer systems match their overall business structure, process, and goals. Systems architects are in charge of designing and planning while systems engineers build and program solutions. These positions share many responsibilities, so some companies use these titles interchangeably.

Job Title Education Requirements Average Salary (2019)* Projected growth (2016-26)**
Systems Architect Bachelor's degree $108,846 5-9% (computer network architects)
Systems Engineer Bachelor's degree $77,875 5-9% (computer systems engineers)

Sources: *PayScale.com; **Bureau of Labor Statistics

Responsibilities of Systems Architect vs. Systems Engineer

Systems engineers and systems architects are both responsible for designing, building, and updating the technology that helps their company run smoothly. They collaborate with software engineers, hardware engineers, and programmers to specify the designs of systems. However, while a systems architect works on brainstorming the overall technological process of an entire company, a systems engineer may work on building a specific project.

Systems Architect

A systems architect is the IT professional in charge of creating, designing, and implementing technology solutions for their company or client. They must be talented communicators and problem solvers to choose the best solutions for their company and direct teams that build those systems. While they are in charge of developing the overall technological architecture, they must also be detail oriented to create budgets and choose the best options from a range of potential solutions. In general, systems architects work regular hours in an office setting. Because their job involves leadership and management responsibilities, they are well positioned to become enterprise architects or department managers.

Job responsibilities of a systems architect include:

  • Choosing solutions that improve their company or client's overall technological architecture and business process
  • Communicating the benefits, costs and risks of projects to upper-level management
  • Managing and monitoring the firewall system, security software and disaster recovery system
  • Staying up-to-date with new technology and emerging trends

Systems Engineer

A systems engineer builds and customizes computer systems for their company or client. They must be able to work with both the hardware and software elements of computer systems and have the ability to program in multiple languages. Systems engineers are highly motivated individuals who can work on their own and meet deadlines. A successful systems engineer could go on to become a systems architect and work integrating their company's process with technological solutions at a wider scale.

Job responsibilities of a systems engineer include:

  • Meeting with architects and designers to understand the scope of a project
  • Designing, building, and implementing changes to a computer system
  • Monitoring, updating, and troubleshooting computer programs
  • Making informed decisions about the necessary hardware and software components needed to best meet a company's technological needs
  • Using their technical knowledge and understanding of their company's organizational standards to make recommendations about potential solutions.

Related Careers

If you are interested in becoming a computer systems architect, you may also enjoy work as a network architect since both roles involve designing, strategizing, and building large-scale technology solutions. If instead you want to be a computer systems engineer, consider a career as an applications engineer, because both roles involve actually building and programming software systems.

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