What Can You Do With a PhD IN Systems Engineering?

Aug 06, 2019

What are the career possibilities after earning a PhD in systems engineering? Learn about your job options once you graduate with your doctorate and how much you can expect to make in different industries.

Systems engineering refers to the interdisciplinary field of analysis and management used in electrical, biological, or business engineering. Earning a PhD in systems engineering could qualify you for several high-level positions in the field. You might choose to teach others at the college level, or pursue a career in multiple engineering fields. The table below introduces several of those options.

Career Options for Graduates with a PhD in Systems Engineering

Job Title Median Salary (May 2018)* Job Growth (2016-2026)*
Postsecondary Engineering Teacher $101,720 15%
Industrial Engineer $87,040 10%
Electrical and Electronics Engineer $99,070 7%
Sales Engineer $101,420 7%
Materials Engineer $92,930 2%

*Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Descriptions of Careers for Systems Engineering PhD Graduates

Postsecondary Engineering Teacher

One of the best ways to make use of your PhD in systems engineering is to teach other aspiring engineers earning their degree. Postsecondary teachers instruct students at colleges and universities, whether they attend on campus or through distance education. You'll craft lesson plans and grade homework assignments, essay assignments, research projects, and term papers. If you want to stay relevant and up to date in your field, you can continue performing your own research while presenting your findings in academic journals and at conferences around the world. Typically, a full time professor will teach from August to May.

Industrial Engineer

One of the biggest responsibilities for an industrial engineer is properly utilizing resources, and minimizing waste. You could look at how to effectively control a system and ensure that cost analysis and budget planning all produce positive results. As an industrial engineer, you might evaluate the job performance of an entire corporation to determine strengths and weaknesses, or you may look at the means of moving heavy machinery within a processing plant. You could directly interact with clients, explaining the results of your findings and the status of your projects. A graduate degree in this field is typically required to work in research and development.

Electrical and Electronics Engineer

If your interests lie primarily in technology, you can pursue a career in electrical or electronics engineering. Engineers in electrical systems might find ways to improve the use of electrical power within a product, or figure out why consumers are having issues with something already on the market. You typically work with project managers to make sure a product hits the market in time. If you go into electronics engineering, you could work on many different areas of technology, including, software, systems, or electronic components. There may be options to go into government work, where you might help construct computers or satellite systems. Graduate degrees are usually required for research and development positions.

Sales Engineer

Do you like the idea of pitching the next big innovation to a client? Sales engineers assess client needs and come up with plans for long-term sales relationships. You could determine the kind of improvements to existing products that will generate the most profit for your client and might demonstrate how your plans will affect their bottom line. If your clients have equipment that's professionally installed, it may be up to you to explain how to operate it. You might do a lot of translating, taking complex technical specs and explaining the benefits to your clients. Those with graduate degrees may be the most competitive for advancement, such as elevation to management positions.

Materials Engineer

Engineers in materials may develop and test anything from electronic circuitry to medical devices. You might end up working with metal, plastic, or composite materials to develop new products and ensure that they meet different standards from a company or organization. If the materials don't hold up during development, you could analyze the situation and determine how to improve the structure. When you aren't crafting new material, you might spend time working on budgets and reports for presentations to other members of your company. You may have to measure the impact of your materials on the environment and surrounding economies, as well. Research and development jobs for materials engineers usually call for graduate-level degrees.

A PhD in systems engineering can set you up for many different engineering careers or a position in academia. After earning this degree, you should be well-qualified to move into a number of different industries that rely on your skills, or to advance in your current area of expertise.

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