Systems engineer role and why study systems engineering

Two engineering students in the Diamond Building

What is systems engineering?

A systems engineer’s work focuses on making previously disconnected engineering elements work together in a system. These elements are made by other engineers and can include computer code, machine parts, or electronics.

Due to a systems engineer role to work with components from different fields of engineering, they need a wide base of knowledge to complete their work effectively.

What can you expect from a degree in systems engineering?

A degree in systems engineering at a UK university like the University of Sheffield, will usually last for three years and, upon completion, students earn a Bachelor of Engineering, or BEng. Alternatively, some systems engineering degrees are available as a four-year programme, where you will graduate with a Master of Engineering, or MEng.

A postgraduate degree, which in the UK is often called a Masters, is a one-year programme and a graduate from a systems engineering degree will usually earn a Master of Science, or MSc.

What will you study?

While there are plenty of degrees in the field of systems engineering, there are some common subject areas.

As with other engineering degrees, you will study modules on mathematics, computing, and electronics, as well as modules that are tailored to your chosen area of systems engineering.

For example, on the University of Sheffield’s BEng Computer Systems Engineering, alongside those core areas, you will learn how to control and test robotic systems, before moving on to more complex topics, like programming, machine learning, and mechanical design. This degree also offers optional modules, so you can tailor your studies to suit your goals.

Why study systems engineering?

If you are a problem solver with an interest in maths, computing, or physics, an engineering degree could be a great option for you. But why, specifically, should you choose to study systems engineering for your undergraduate degree?

Transferable skills

Studying a degree in the UK is a brilliant way to gain brand new skills for a career in systems engineering. Along the way, you will also develop skills that will be useful whether you decide to pursue an engineering-based career, or otherwise.

  • Spoken and written communication - As part of your degree, you will need to collaborate with your classmates in the classroom, as well as read and write in English.
  • Planning and time management - An engineering degree requires plenty of work, so you will need to create a strategy to manage your time effectively.
  • Computing - The skills you gain as you work on computers and specific software will be useful in many jobs.
  • Research and analysis - You will have to be able to undertake research and come to conclusions yourself, using critical thinking skills.

Demand for talented engineers

Engineers are sought after by employers in the UK and around the world. According to the jobs website Michael Page, over 180,000 people with engineering skills will need to be hired to meet the UK’s engineering demand in 2021 and 2022. With a degree from a highly respected, Russell Group university like the University of Sheffield, you’re likely to be looked upon favourably by employers.

As a graduate from a UK university, you would be eligible for the UK’s generous post-study work visa, called the Graduate Immigration Route, and be able to stay and work in the UK for up to two years after your graduation.

Rapidly changing industry

As technology continues to evolve, a systems engineer’s knowledge will do the same. So what exactly is the role of a systems engineer? A systems engineer must have insights into cutting-edge technology as a key part of the systems engineering role is to plan for the future, and to ensure systems are not made redundant. This can make the role very exciting as you learn and grow while you work.

Work with other engineers, around the world

Systems engineer roles and responsibilities include collaborating with other engineers as they work to combine separate components into one system. This will involve you talking to engineering specialists who you can learn from, and this experience can also be a great way to expand your professional network.

As manufacturing and production moves away from the West, there may also be the opportunity for international travel. With a systems engineering degree, you can broaden your horizons.

Careers with a system engineering degree

Now we have looked at the reasons to study the subject, how can you put those skills into practice? Fortunately, there are plenty of avenues you can explore for your career.

Systems engineering across different disciplines

As a multidisciplinary field, systems engineer specialists are useful right across the job market. Biomedicine, computing, technology, manufacturing, and environmental planning are all fields that employ systems engineers. So, depending on where your interest lies, you have plenty of opportunities.

Graduates from the Department of Automatic Control and Systems Engineering at the University of Sheffield have gone on to work at global companies such as Arup, Rolls-Royce, Boeing, Jaguar Land Rover, and IBM.

Study systems engineering in the UK

If you would like to study a degree in systems engineering, the University of Sheffield is a brilliant choice. As a member of the world-class research-intensive Russell Group universities, Sheffield is famed for its excellent faculty, research, and facilities. Sheffield is also ranked among the world top 100 universities by the QS World University Rankings 2022.

Why study systems engineering at the University of Sheffield?

The University of Sheffield is home to the UK’s only department dedicated to Control and Systems Engineering, and regularly conducts research for major institutions, such as the European Space Agency. The research the University does is then used to inform the teaching of the degree courses – ensuring you’re constantly learning from the most recent innovations in your field.

How to study systems engineering at the University of Sheffield?

If you would like to study a systems engineering degree at a UK university, the University of Sheffield International College can help you get to where you want to be. At the International College, you’ll receive a warm welcome as we help you settle in and get used to the style of teaching in the UK before you progress to the University of Sheffield. We also enable you to develop the academic and English language skills you need to study at Sheffield.

Undergraduate pathway programmes to a systems engineering degree

Designed specifically for international students who want to pursue an undergraduate degree at the University of Sheffield, we offer the International Foundation Year in Science and Engineering at the International College. Over the course of either 1.5 or 2 semesters programme, you will study engineering modules, as well as modules where you’ll develop your English language levels.

Once you successfully complete the programme and pass your assessments, you will be fully prepared to progress to the first year of your chosen undergraduate degree at the University of Sheffield.

From this programme, you can progress to two exciting systems engineering degrees:

  • BEng Computer Systems Engineering
  • BEng Mechatronic and Robotic Engineering

You can also progress to the four-year forms of these programmes:

  • MEng Computer Systems Engineering
  • MEng Mechatronic and Robotic Engineering

These progression degrees are also accredited by the Institution of Engineering and Technology, the Institute of Measurement and Control, and the Engineering Council UK – so you can be sure that your degree is high-quality and valuable, graduating with the skills to impress employers.

Postgraduate pathway programmes to a systems engineering degree

If you already have your undergraduate degree and would like a supportive environment where you can become accustomed to life in the UK before you start your postgraduate degree, the Pre-Masters in Science and Engineering is the programme for you. Over the 1.5 or 2 semesters that you’re at the International College, you will study core modules, including those designed to boost your English language skills, as well as pathway modules that are directly related to your chosen postgraduate degree.

After you successfully complete the programme, and achieve the required grades, you can progress to the following degrees at the University of Sheffield:

  • MSc Advanced Control and Systems Engineering
  • MSc Autonomous and Intelligent Systems
  • MSc Robotics
  • MSc Wireless Communications Systems

Places are limited on some degree courses, so you are advised to apply and confirm your place as soon as possible.

Apply now

If you are ready to start your study abroad journey, you can apply using our simple application form.


Is systems engineering a good career? 

Yes. Not only does it pay well, but it is also high in demand, and offers a good work-life balance. 

The skills and knowledge needed to be a systems engineer is also high in demand in other fields such as manufacturing and aerospace industries.

What are the four principal stages of systems engineering? 

  • Stage one: task definition
  • Stage two: conceptual 
  • Stage three: design 
  • Stage four: implementation 

What is the purpose of systems engineering?

Systems engineering focuses on resolving early uncertainties in project development. This is done by establishing the project scope and defining developmental strategies to decrease the risk of unreliable estimates.