System Software Engineers

Home >> Careers & Education

System Software Engineers


Education

What’s Needed:

  • Most systems software developers have bachelor?s degrees in computer science or electrical engineering.
  • The field requires a solid understanding of how low-level software interfaces with hardware so highly technical degrees provide the best foundation.
  • Some employers prefer a master?s degree or Ph.D for senior software architect positions.
  • Developers advance through experience and continuous learning of evolving technologies.
  • Technical professionals with related backgrounds such as quality assurance sometimes transition to software development.

What you study:

Study topics include:

  • Low-level programming
  • Data structures
  • Operating systems
  • Algorithm design
  • Software engineering
  • Computer organization
  • Computer networking
  • Mathematics


A Day in the Life

You troubleshoot new system software written for a wireless chipset.

Your morning as a systems software developer begins at home with strong coffee and several urgent messages from the test lab. It is never a good sign when quality assurance engineers become agitated. According to test results the new firmware enhancements have broken the wireless networking chipset?s ability to stay locked on a frequency. An important telecommunications customer is demanding the enhancements by next week so this failure is critical. Your job today will be to troubleshoot the firmware also called system software and fix the problem. The error could be a simple coding misstep or a faulty algorithm. You hope fervently for the former.

You find that a critical software function is overwriting a part of memory needed to manage wireless signaling.

After verifying the software bug with the test team you review the new code for errors and see none. You conduct more sophisticated communications tests in the lab and narrow the problem to one specific scenario. When wireless signal strength fluctuates the new system compensates too slowly and loses its lock. You review the relevant code with a colleague and find that a new function is overwriting a part of memory that is supposed to hold information about signal strength.

While your colleague makes the changes and retests the firmware you work on another project creating a module to support a new wireless protocol. The customer’s product a wireless access point has some idiosyncrasies that need special handling. Your development team holds a conference call with the customer’s lead engineers to review the platform’s technical specifications. The next two hours are spent exhaustively mapping requirements which must be thoroughly documented and formally approved prior to writing code.

Your team meets with the customer’s lead engineers to review tech specs.

After the call you and your team order dinner and plan the development work. You are excited about beginning a project based on new technology and will spend much of tomorrow documenting your proposed approach. You will then meet with management and peers to review the proposal and the conversations are sure to be technically and creatively challenging.


Certifications and Licensing

Certifications are generally optional but can help candidates obtain a position or promotion. The Software Engineering Institute at Carnegie Mellon University offers several highly respected certifications. In particular the software architecture certification addresses real-time embedded systems development. The IEEE offers the Certified Software Development Associate Certified Software Development Professional Wireless Communication Engineering Technologies and Certified Biometrics Professional certifications.


Job Flexibility

Full-time versus part-time:

Most systems software developers work full-time. Many contribute to complex projects that require some overtime in order to meet deadlines.

Work location:

The majority of systems software developers are employed in computer systems design electronic instruments manufacturing and the telecommunications and computer equipment industries. They usually work on teams in offices and labs although some are able to telecommute.


Recommended Websites

  • U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Outlook Handbook ? The site provides a broad introduction to the software development field which includes systems as well as application software. It highlights each specialization and the positive growth outlook for this creative profession. For a closer look at systems software development also consult professional websites in the field.
  • IEEE ? The IEEE is the largest global professional association for technical advancement and engineering standards. The site links to sister sites for many IEEE technology specializations which is valuable for learning about options in systems software development. Rich career and student resources make this website essential for people exploring technical interests.
  • Association for Computing Machinery ? The ACM is a worldwide educational and scientific society for the computing fields. The site includes a timely career news section for students and professionals and a computing news section with articles on key developments in the field.
  • Software Engineering Institute ? The SEI is a federally funded academic center focused on research and best practices in software engineering. The site includes an extensive library of webinars podcasts and publications on a range of software engineering and development topics.


Salaries by City

See typical salaries and ranges for this career below*. Shift click to sort by more than one column — for example first shift-click on state and then shift-click on salary to find best and worst salaries in each state.

State City / Region Typical Salary Salary Range Job Count % of All Jobs
AK Anchorage $83860 $65K – $112K 190 0.11%
AL Birmingham – Hoover $87050 $61K – $116K 520 0.11%
AL Huntsville $102110 $64K – $144K 2140 1.05%
AL Mobile $68760 $49K – $104K 140 0.08%
AL Montgomery $82500 $62K – $133K 220 0.14%
AR Fayetteville – Springdale – Rogers $80790 $44K – $123K 230 0.12%
AR Fort Smith $67530 $41K – $93K 50 0.04%
AR Little Rock – North Little Rock – Conway $76220 $49K – $96K 680 0.20%
AZ Phoenix – Mesa – Glendale $96020 $61K – $144K 5690 0.33%
CA Bakersfield – Delano $118310 $83K – $168K 330 0.12%
CA Fresno $93550 $55K – $172K 100 0.03%
CA Los Angeles – Long Beach – Glendale (Metro Area) $110830 $70K – $163K 13280 0.34%
CA Modesto $93360 $44K – $146K N/A N/A
CA Oakland – Fremont – Hayward (Metro Area) $112850 $41K – $177K 4480 0.46%
CA Oxnard – Thousand Oaks – Ventura $105090 $65K – $150K 530 0.18%
CA Riverside – San Bernardino – Ontario $114500 $77K – $169K N/A N/A
CA Sacramento – Arden – Arcade – Roseville $89250 $66K – $140K 4410 0.54%
CA Salinas $109980 $73K – $163K 230 0.15%
CA San Diego – Carlsbad – San Marcos $105580 $73K – $150K 7150 0.57%
CA San Francisco – San Mateo – Redwood City (Metro Area) $108900 $78K – $153K 10970 1.10%
CA San Jose – Sunnyvale – Santa Clara $127660 $86K – $176K 24790 2.76%
CA San Luis Obispo – Paso Robles $79510 $46K – $115K 150 0.15%
CA Santa Ana – Anaheim – Irvine (Metro Area) $108810 $65K – $153K 8050 0.57%
CA Santa Barbara – Santa Maria – Goleta $99900 $64K – $153K 920 0.55%
CA Santa Cruz – Watsonville $91500 $45K – $157K 170 0.20%
CA Santa Rosa – Petaluma $114550 $75K – $155K N/A N/A
CA Stockton $96680 $62K – $158K 80 0.04%
CA Vallejo – Fairfield $105450 $78K – $154K 90 0.07%
CO Boulder $109690 $68K – $152K 1700 1.07%
CO Colorado Springs $105960 $76K – $142K 1740 0.72%
CO Denver – Aurora – Broomfield $99830 $63K – $145K 6250 0.51%
CO Fort Collins – Loveland $101640 $72K – $142K 1370 1.03%
CO Greeley $80170 $34K – $114K 60 0.08%
CT Bridgeport – Stamford – Norwalk $87950 $45K – $155K 1720 0.42%
CT Danbury $98290 $56K – N/A 180 0.28%
CT Hartford – West Hartford – East Hartford $84720 $58K – $129K 1080 0.20%
CT New Haven $77250 $56K – $138K 550 0.20%
CT Norwich – New London $78960 $40K – $123K 110 0.09%
CT Waterbury $81250 $52K – $115K 40 0.06%
DC Washington – Arlington – Alexandria (Metro Area) $114040 $70K – $164K 28600 1.22%
DE Wilmington (Metro Area) $101040 $75K – $143K 1170 0.36%
FL Cape Coral – Fort Myers $101020 $62K – $142K 90 0.04%
FL Crestview – Fort Walton Beach – Destin $103380 $73K – $143K 160 0.21%
FL Deltona – Daytona Beach – Ormond Beach $69440 $44K – $95K 80 0.05%
FL Fort Lauderdale – Pompano Beach – Deerfield Beach (Metro Area) $88620 $65K – $130K 1650 0.23%
FL Gainesville $74300 $36K – $125K 70 0.06%
FL Jacksonville $91920 $67K – $121K N/A N/A
FL Lakeland – Winter Haven $75810 $52K – $101K 50 0.03%
FL Miami – Miami Beach – Kendall (Metro Area) $85440 $50K – $118K 960 0.10%
FL Naples – Marco Island $83920 $63K – $104K 80 0.07%
FL North Port – Bradenton – Sarasota $93830 $46K – $173K 170 0.07%
FL Ocala $79600 $59K – $122K N/A N/A
FL Orlando – Kissimmee – Sanford $81670 $49K – $117K 1600 0.16%
FL Palm Bay – Melbourne – Titusville $108820 $69K – $150K 1220 0.64%
FL Pensacola – Ferry Pass – Brent $87310 $43K – $120K 40 0.02%
FL Port St. Lucie $70550 $44K – $94K 30 0.03%
FL Tallahassee $69800 $34K – $115K 130 0.09%
FL Tampa – St. Petersburg – Clearwater $84700 $54K – $125K 2610 0.23%
FL West Palm Beach – Boca Raton – Boynton Beach (Metro Area) $96600 $63K – $146K 650 0.13%
GA Athens – Clarke County $61240 $42K – $104K 30 0.04%
GA Atlanta – Sandy Springs – Marietta $94520 $60K – $140K 9300 0.41%
GA Augusta – Richmond County $84710 $47K – $134K 110 0.05%
GA Columbus $75920 $49K – $108K N/A N/A
GA Dalton $84710 $42K – $126K 80 0.13%
GA Gainesville $54260 $41K – $85K 40 0.05%
GA Macon $104210 $62K – $161K 90 0.10%
GA Savannah $88940 $70K – $113K 80 0.05%
GA Warner Robins $84740 $61K – $131K 130 0.23%
HI Honolulu $84070 $62K – $115K N/A N/A
IA Ames $28730 $26K – $65K 40 0.09%
IA Cedar Rapids $77450 $55K – $113K 1240 0.90%
IA Davenport – Moline – Rock Island $89030 $49K – $135K N/A N/A
IA Des Moines – West Des Moines $92010 $59K – $128K 640 0.20%
IA Dubuque $79860 $57K – $176K N/A N/A
IA Waterloo – Cedar Falls $73130 $55K – $161K 130 0.15%
ID Boise City – Nampa $81580 $66K – $96K N/A N/A
ID Coeur d’Alene ID $87040 $60K – $114K N/A N/A
IL Bloomington – Normal $77440 $65K – $94K N/A N/A
IL Champaign – Urbana $91030 $64K – $138K 180 0.19%
IL Chicago – Joliet – Naperville (Metro Area) $91690 $56K – $129K 11760 0.32%
IL Lake County – Kenosha County (Metro Area) $93130 $61K – $136K 1770 0.48%
IL Peoria $79400 $43K – $119K 180 0.10%
IL Rockford $89920 $63K – $130K 50 0.04%
IL Springfield $80380 $64K – $110K 40 0.04%
IN Fort Wayne $92120 $63K – $130K 920 0.46%
IN Gary (Metro Area) $56660 $42K – $90K 40 0.02%
IN Indianapolis – Carmel $84580 $59K – $123K 1880 0.21%
IN Kokomo $103860 $78K – $119K 270 0.69%
IN Lafayette $80460 $51K – $112K N/A N/A
IN Muncie $83430 $58K – $118K N/A N/A
IN South Bend – Mishawaka $86420 $71K – $119K N/A N/A
KS Lawrence $62600 $26K – $76K N/A N/A
KS Topeka $59570 $47K – $99K 100 0.09%
KS Wichita $91720 $57K – $132K 1040 0.37%
KY Bowling Green $69300 $56K – $94K N/A N/A
KY Elizabethtown $81340 $18K – $136K 40 0.10%
KY Lexington – Fayette $75550 $54K – $111K N/A N/A
KY Louisville – Jefferson County $82070 $53K – $117K 930 0.16%
LA Baton Rouge $71510 $45K – $92K 350 0.10%
LA Lafayette $53090 $32K – $103K 70 0.04%
LA New Orleans – Metairie – Kenner $74290 $51K – $132K 330 0.06%
MA Barnstable Town $118180 $61K – $144K 80 0.08%
MA Boston – Cambridge – Quincy (Metro Area) $110230 $70K – $154K 19430 1.14%
MA Brockton – Bridgewater – Easton (Metro Area) $103320 $70K – $117K N/A N/A
MA Framingham (Metro Area) $99960 $68K – $144K 4460 2.84%
MA Haverhill – North Andover – Amesbury (Metro Area) $125570 $52- N/A 70 0.09%
MA Lawrence – Methuen – Salem (Metro Area) $94830 $58K – $122K 100 0.17%
MA Lowell – Billerica – Chelmsford (Metro Area) $111790 $72K – $150K 2720 2.33%
MA New Bedford $86460 $65K – $134K 40 0.07%
MA Peabody (Metro Area) $103150 $68K – $142K 70 0.07%
MA Pittsfield $89810 $57K – $130K 240 0.72%
MA Springfield $89770 $63K – $134K 200 0.07%
MA Taunton – Norton – Raynham (Metro Area) $113700 $72K – $165K 150 0.35%
MA Worcester $123530 $77K – $150K 1370 0.56%
MD Baltimore – Towson $113680 $70K – $179K 6500 0.52%
MD Bethesda – Rockville – Frederick (Metro Area) $94290 $54K – $138K 4110 0.73%
MD Hagerstown – Martinsburg $104180 $64K – $179K 320 0.33%
ME Portland – South Portland – Biddeford $87390 $61K – $121K 130 0.07%
MI Ann Arbor $79370 $53K – $120K 730 0.38%
MI Battle Creek $87200 $61K – $137K N/A N/A
MI Detroit – Livonia – Dearborn (Metro Area) $93350 $56K – $138K 1730 0.25%
MI Flint $73630 $50K – $96K 60 0.05%
MI Grand Rapids – Wyoming $83460 $57K – $116K 910 0.24%
MI Holland – Grand Haven $72790 $52K – $140K 50 0.05%
MI Kalamazoo – Portage $69420 $34K – $110K 130 0.10%
MI Lansing – East Lansing $68320 $46K – $105K 140 0.07%
MI Muskegon – Norton Shores $74730 $44K – $94K 80 0.14%
MI Niles – Benton Harbor $65100 $51K – $89K 30 0.05%
MI Warren – Troy – Farmington Hills (Metro Area) $80660 $56K – $121K 4580 0.43%
MN Minneapolis – St. Paul – Bloomington $94250 $60K – $141K 6630 0.38%
MN St. Cloud $76040 $47K – $121K 40 0.04%
MO Jefferson City $75110 $51K – $125K 60 0.08%
MO Joplin $57450 $21K – $86K 30 0.04%
MO Kansas City $90980 $57K – $177K 2370 0.24%
MO Springfield $39800 $26K – $93K 50 0.03%
MO St. Louis $91330 $63K – $128K 2300 0.18%
MS Gulfport – Biloxi $44130 $29K – $91K 50 0.05%
MS Jackson $85460 $67K – $119K 100 0.04%
MT Billings $69040 $44K – N/A 40 0.05%
MT Missoula $63320 $38K – $90K 50 0.09%
NC Asheville $86560 $54K – $135K 50 0.03%
NC Charlotte – Gastonia – Rock Hill $104190 $74K – $142K 3160 0.37%
NC Greensboro – High Point $88730 $60K – $120K 300 0.09%
NC Hickory – Lenoir – Morganton $75490 $54K – $111K N/A N/A
NC Jacksonville $171150 $94K – N/A N/A N/A
NC Raleigh – Cary $92780 $65K – $127K 2160 0.42%
NC Wilmington $64440 $49K – $75K N/A N/A
NC Winston – Salem $98870 $66K – $121K 260 0.13%
ND Fargo $65760 $30K – $90K 540 0.43%
NE Lincoln $57810 $37K – $92K 510 0.31%
NE Omaha – Council Bluffs $84760 $54K – $116K 1290 0.29%
NH Manchester $108900 $80K – $156K 260 0.26%
NH Nashua (Metro Area) $111960 $74K – $159K 860 0.67%
NH Portsmouth $90920 $60K – $123K 60 0.11%
NJ Atlantic City – Hammonton $116010 $66K – $146K 60 0.04%
NJ Camden (Metro Area) $103990 $76K – $148K 1130 0.23%
NJ Edison – New Brunswick (Metro Area) $106850 $69K – $152K 3180 0.33%
NJ Newark – Union (Metro Area) $102290 $70K – $147K 1750 0.18%
NJ Trenton – Ewing $105770 $78K – N/A 700 0.33%
NM Albuquerque $97010 $68K – $146K 1840 0.50%
NM Las Cruces $75980 $47K – $111K 240 0.37%
NM Santa Fe $94230 $63K – $179K 40 0.07%
NV Las Vegas – Paradise $88500 $30K – $129K 470 0.06%
NV Reno – Sparks $107140 $70K – $143K 240 0.13%
NY Albany – Schenectady – Troy $81850 $53K – $130K 590 0.14%
NY Binghamton $87840 $51K – $126K 400 0.38%
NY Buffalo – Niagara Falls $78560 $47K – $115K N/A N/A
NY Ithaca $90260 $63K – $119K 90 0.19%
NY Kingston $72040 $46K – $107K 30 0.06%
NY Nassau – Suffolk (Metro Area) $86280 $44K – $149K 2250 0.18%
NY New York – White Plains – Wayne (Metro Area) $102690 $69K – $153K 11360 0.22%
NY Poughkeepsie – Newburgh – Middletown $104990 $71K – $119K N/A N/A
NY Rochester $86470 $58K – $123K 2010 0.41%
NY Syracuse $80840 $53K – $134K 590 0.20%
NY Utica – Rome $95590 $59K – $164K N/A N/A
OH Akron $83930 $50K – $111K N/A N/A
OH Cincinnati – Middletown $72300 $50K – $113K 1830 0.19%
OH Cleveland – Elyria – Mentor $77120 $43K – $114K 1060 0.11%
OH Columbus $88830 $61K – $118K 1700 0.19%
OH Dayton $90270 $60K – $128K 530 0.14%
OH Toledo $78740 $51K – $106K 60 0.02%
OH Youngstown – Warren – Boardman $73350 $62K – $103K 80 0.04%
OK Lawton $83060 $48K – $119K 30 0.08%
OK Oklahoma City $69810 $44K – $114K 1110 0.19%
OK Tulsa $83810 $52K – $155K 650 0.16%
OR Corvallis $106120 $64K – $136K N/A N/A
OR Eugene – Springfield $81780 $43K – $131K 290 0.21%
OR Portland – Vancouver – Hillsboro $100300 $59K – $142K 3110 0.31%
PA Allentown – Bethlehem – Easton $105640 $64K – $150K 630 0.19%
PA Altoona $60430 $34K – $104K 60 0.10%
PA Erie $67030 $30K – $129K 60 0.05%
PA Harrisburg – Carlisle $83190 $52K – $117K 950 0.31%
PA Lancaster $84630 $53K – $122K N/A N/A
PA Philadelphia (Metro Area) $96700 $63K – $145K 8550 0.47%
PA Pittsburgh $78570 $53K – $132K 3060 0.27%
PA Reading $87130 $58K – $117K 100 0.06%
PA Scranton – Wilkes – Barre $72260 $64K – $114K 240 0.09%
PA State College $68110 $42K – $111K 80 0.12%
PA Williamsport $85130 $67K – $109K N/A N/A
PA York – Hanover $95770 $59K – $149K 80 0.05%
PR San Juan – Caguas – Guaynabo $68120 $46K – $107K 440 0.06%
RI Providence – Fall River – Warwick $98500 $57K – $152K 2030 0.38%
SC Charleston – North Charleston – Summerville $71270 $53K – $110K 560 0.19%
SC Columbia $72810 $50K – $115K 270 0.08%
SC Greenville – Mauldin – Easley $73020 $51K – $95K 460 0.15%
SC Myrtle Beach – North Myrtle Beach – Conway $66640 $51K – $100K 60 0.06%
SC Spartanburg $72220 $60K – $92K 110 0.10%
SD Rapid City $66810 $42K – $77K 30 0.05%
SD Sioux Falls $83220 $58K – $108K 120 0.08%
TN Chattanooga $79800 $41K – $113K 140 0.06%
TN Clarksville $71750 $30K – $112K 40 0.04%
TN Johnson City $123660 $65K – $185K 40 0.04%
TN Kingsport – Bristol – Bristol $75750 $37K – $134K N/A N/A
TN Knoxville $85830 $52K – $122K 340 0.10%
TN Memphis $78840 $39K – $108K 610 0.10%
TN Nashville – Davidson – Murfreesboro – Franklin $82790 $36K – $112K 840 0.11%
TX Amarillo $70490 $37K – $128K 100 0.09%
TX Austin – Round Rock – San Marcos $99290 $60K – $147K 7240 0.89%
TX Brownsville – Harlingen $89070 $69K – $115K 30 0.03%
TX College Station – Bryan $75640 $43K – $125K 50 0.06%
TX Corpus Christi $77410 $54K – $125K 40 0.02%
TX Dallas – Plano – Irving (Metro Area) $97830 $64K – $139K 12140 0.58%
TX El Paso $73450 $63K – $99K 130 0.05%
TX Fort Worth – Arlington (Metro Area) $91250 $60K – $137K 1810 0.21%
TX Houston – Sugar Land – Baytown $88780 $54K – $141K 8370 0.32%
TX Killeen – Temple – Fort Hood $92220 $62K – $127K 150 0.12%
TX Longview $81870 $53K – $115K 50 0.06%
TX Lubbock $74580 $46K – $117K 60 0.05%
TX McAllen – Edinburg – Mission $86460 $49K – $163K 70 0.03%
TX Midland $82150 $54K – $135K 30 0.04%
TX Odessa $100320 $59K – $137K N/A N/A
TX San Antonio – New Braunfels $97770 $66K – N/A 1080 0.13%
TX Sherman – Denison $96820 $64K – $136K N/A N/A
TX Tyler $75270 $26K – $115K 40 0.04%
TX Waco $82050 $47K – $136K 70 0.07%
UT Ogden – Clearfield $85970 $57K – $136K 350 0.18%
UT Provo – Orem $88180 $54K – $128K 920 0.51%
UT Salt Lake City $91710 $60K – $137K 2030 0.33%
VA Blacksburg – Christiansburg – Radford $74700 $31K – $145K 170 0.26%
VA Charlottesville $77200 $54K – $115K 410 0.43%
VA Harrisonburg $88110 $59K – N/A 90 0.16%
VA Lynchburg $98450 $62K – $118K 70 0.07%
VA Richmond $95740 $65K – $160K 1760 0.29%
VA Roanoke $92040 $54K – $139K 240 0.16%
VA Virginia Beach – Norfolk – Newport News $90440 $61K – $134K 1820 0.25%
VT Burlington – South Burlington $92260 $61K – $128K 650 0.56%
WA Bellingham $100240 $68K – $140K 60 0.08%
WA Kennewick – Pasco – Richland $85480 $52K – $117K 70 0.08%
WA Olympia $85440 $82K – $110K 260 0.28%
WA Seattle – Bellevue – Everett (Metro Area) $98710 $78K – $150K 13670 0.97%
WA Spokane $86810 $55K – $140K 100 0.05%
WI Appleton $95790 $52K – $116K 40 0.04%
WI Eau Claire $73530 $47K – $121K 40 0.06%
WI Green Bay $79100 $54K – $96K 90 0.06%
WI La Crosse $80010 $53K – $118K 40 0.05%
WI Madison $89990 $57K – $119K 1110 0.33%
WI Milwaukee – Waukesha – West Allis $82090 $60K – $113K 930 0.12%
WI Racine $90630 $76K – N/A 30 0.04%
WV Charleston $65160 $42K – $129K 220 0.15%
WV Huntington – Ashland $66410 $35K – $109K 40 0.04%
WV Morgantown $64620 $46K – $90K 510 0.83%
WV Wheeling $60670 $29K – $84K N/A N/A

    Advertisement

    POWERED BY
    Customer Service: 855.213.0348
    Mon-Fri 8AM-8PM CST, Sat 8AM-5PM CST, Sun 10AM-6PM CST
    © 2017, Bold Limited. All rights reserved.