Microsoft Systems Engineer Careers: Job Description & Salary Info

About this article
Get the truth about a Microsoft systems engineer's salary, education and career prospects. Read real job descriptions and see the pros and cons of becoming a Microsoft systems engineer.
View available schools

A Microsoft Systems Engineer Career: The Pros and Cons

Information technology (IT) professionals who gain the Microsoft Certified Solution Expert (MCSE) credential, previously known as the Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer credential, can work as systems engineers and software developers. Check out the table below for a list of pros and cons of a career as a Microsoft Systems Engineer.

Pros
Strong employment opportunities (projected 22% growth from 2012-2022)*
Higher-than-average pay (median salary of $103,000 in 2014)*
Opportunity for travel*
May have option of telecommuting*

Cons
Formal education often required (54% hold a bachelor's and 23% hold a master's degree)***
Will require ongoing certification**
May encounter mandatory overtime (25% of professionals work more than 40 hours per week)*
Must be able to multitask*

Sources: *Bureau of Labor Statistics and **Microsoft Corp., ***O*Net OnLine.

Essential Career Information

Job Description

Microsoft systems engineers work within businesses that utilize Microsoft servers, cloud based applications and other Microsoft software. They help clients use these platforms and software to accomplish their IT needs by connecting systems via desktop applications, optimizing Windows code for client use, tracking system bugs, coding subsystems and designing solutions.

A systems engineer might also be thought of as an architect, builder, code inspector and repair man. Although the career path might be partially limited to those companies and clients who use Microsoft products, it is also possible to further specialize within the field. For example, you might be able to concentrate in areas such as network infrastructure, project management solution, designing databases or server design.

Salary and Career Prospects

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median annual wage for software developers was around $103,000 in 2014, with an estimated 22% growth rate from 2012 through 2022. This figure did not take into account the possible change in salary that a Microsoft-based certification may offer.

Systems software developers and engineers can work as part of a larger IT team within a large or multinational corporation. They can also be part of a small crew handling the needs of a startup, or they can work independently as freelance contractors. Because of the explosive growth in computing technology and the need for systems/software engineers to ensure smooth systems operation, these professionals can find diverse employment in settings such as the corporate world, healthcare, education or software development firms, just to name a few.

What Are the Requirements?

Education

In order to become a Microsoft systems engineer, you will usually need to first obtain an undergraduate degree in either computer science or software engineering. Undergraduate degree programs in software engineering teach many of the requisite skills needed to design, analyze and plan programs. The broader-based undergraduate program in computer sciences provides a good general foundation, which can allow you to then continue study through a graduate degree program or on-the-job training.

Certification Process

A systems engineer must first gain official certification from Microsoft before he or she can use the brand name Microsoft in a professional title. Microsoft hosts both in-person classes and online training for those wishing to pursue the Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert credential. Currently, two separate tracks to the certification are offered - Cloud and SQL Server 2012. It should be noted that while Microsoft does offer training, students should not rely upon that training for a complete education in the subject matter. Microsoft considers the MCSE certification an expert-level credential and assumes that a student has either hands-on experience, formal education or a mixture of the both prior to attempting certification.

Top Skills

While the work of a systems engineer/software developer is varied, there are certain skills commonly sought after. Workers in this profession must have the ability to analyze user needs, design needed software, work collaboratively with other IT team members and evaluate and troubleshoot the performance of a system. Being able to document all aspects of the system or software and creating flow charts to assist other team members are also considered important skills for this profession.

Jobs from Real Employers

Job trends seem to indicate that employers are interested in potential employees who have a 4-year degree, additional certifications in design software, strong analytical abilities and a willingness to collaborate with other team members. Here's a preview of postings from May 2012.

  • A New York company is seeking a computer systems engineer with excellent problem solving skills and a willingness to learn the company's business model. They are looking for candidates with a 4-year degree in computer science or another IT-related degree and additional certifications, including MCSE and A+.
  • A computer software and hardware firm in Baltimore seeks two systems engineers for six-month contract work. Candidates must have at least three years of experience working with Microsoft servers, MCSE certification preferred. They will be responsible for setting up and maintaining Microsoft servers.
  • A technical services company in Houston, TX, is looking for an MCSE/MCP professional to provide support services in handling specific application systems. Candidates must have good interpersonal skills and a high school education.

Standing Out in the Field

Education

While not required for the MCSE certification, a formal education is often a standard requirement of employers. Completing an undergraduate degree program in the computer sciences tells employers that you understand the academics behind software development theory and application. A graduate degree furthers this study by providing a more research-oriented focus on computational systems and the scientific characteristics of software development.

Certifications

If formal schooling is not an option, certification in other aspects of software development and engineering could be a good alternative. Certification like the COMPT TIA GREEN IT shows an understanding of how to implement IT solutions in an eco-friendly way while the COMPT TIA credential shows you are a professional with solid networking skills. Microsoft also offers continuing certification levels above the MCSE. These certifications further the marketability of the software developer by not only expanding their formal credentials, but also showing employers that the employee or applicant has a diverse set of skills and a wider knowledge base.

Alternative Careers to Consider

Computer Hardware Engineer

These IT professionals work with the physical components of a computer. Their days are spent researching, designing and developing circuit boards, routers and computer chips. Most work in high tech manufacturing firms and research facilities. Entry into the field usually requires an undergraduate degree that can be in the fields of computer engineering or electrical engineering. This career field is expected to grow by 9% in the years 2010 through 2020. The median annual pay for computer hardware engineers in 2010 was $99,000.

Database Administrator

Database administrators use software programs to organize and store data for companies. The BLS lists an undergraduate degree in management of information systems as a common gateway into the field. These workers usually find employment in banks, hospitals and insurance companies, to name a few. With an expected 31% growth in jobs from the years 2010 to 2020, this field may be a good fit for those who prefer to work with software rather than develop it. The median annual pay for these professionals was $73,000 in 2010.

Computer Programmer

Programmers write the code that tells software how to behave. While it is true that software developers often write code, programmers have a much more in-depth understanding of this specialty. Coders must understand programming languages and may be called upon to re-write codes to fit other applications such as mobile devices. They typically work in offices, and it is possible to gain employment in this field with a 2-year degree in computer science or a related program. The BLS reports an expected 12% increase in the numbers of jobs in this field between 2010 and 2020. in 2010, these professionals made a median salary of about $71,000.

Popular Schools

  • Online Programs Available
    1. Georgetown University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Science in Finance
      • Masters of Professional Studies in Technology Management
      • Master of Professional Studies in Real Estate
  • Online Programs Available
    2. The George Washington University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • MSHS in Health Care Quality
      • Masters in Interdisciplinary Secondary Transition Services
      • Master of Arts in Education and Human Development in Special Education for Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Learners
      • Master of Arts in Education and Human Development in Educational Leadership and Administration
      • Master of Arts in Education and Human Development in Educational Technology Leadership
      • Master of Arts in Education and Human Development in Organizational Leadership and Learning
    Certificate
      • Graduate Certificate in Health Care Quality
      • Graduate Certificate in Multimedia Development
      • Graduate Certificate in Special Education for Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Learners
      • Graduate Certificate in Transition Special Education
      • Education Specialist in Educational Leadership and Administration
      • Graduate Certificate in E-Learning
  • Online Programs Available
    3. George Mason University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Education in Special Education, specializing in Applied Behavior Analysis
      • Master of Health Administration in Health Systems Management
      • Master of Science in Health Informatics
      • Master of Education in Special Education, specializing in Autism Spectrum Disorder
    Certificate
      • Applied Behavior Analysis Certificate
      • Autism Spectrum Disorder Certificate
  • Online Programs Available
    4. American University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Arts in Strategic Communication
      • Master of Arts in Strategic Communication - Advocacy and Social Impact Concentration
      • Master of Arts in Economics
      • Master of Public Administration and Policy
      • Master of Science in Agile Project Management
      • Master of Science in Healthcare Management
    Certificate
      • Graduate Certificate in Agile Project Management
      • Graduate Certificate in Human Resource Analytics and Management
      • Graduate Certificate in Project Monitoring and Evaluation
  • Online Programs Available
    5. Kaplan University

    Program Options

    Doctorate
      • Master of Science - DNP Executive Leader
      • Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP)
      • Master of Science - DNP Path (Doctor of Nursing Practice)
    Master's
      • MSCJ: Law
      • Master: Legal Studies
      • MS in Psychology
      • Master : Business Admin
      • Master: Psychology/General Psychology
      • MSPY - Industrial/Organizational Psychology Specialization
    Bachelor's
      • Undergraduate in Legal Studies
      • Bachelor: Liberal Studies
      • Bachelor of Business Admin
      • BSBA - Investment
      • BS in Liberal Studies Leadership
      • Bachelor: Nutrition Science
    Associate's
      • AASBA in Business
      • AAS in Legal Support and Services
      • Associate: Business Admin.
      • Associate: Business Admin. - Office Mgmt
      • Associate: Criminal Justice
      • Associate: Accounting
    Certificate
      • Psychology
      • Medical Assisting
      • Certificate in Human Services
      • Medical Office Administration
      • Human Services Certificates in Child and Family Services
      • Postbaccalaureate Certificate - Pathway to Paralegal
  • Online Programs Available
    6. Colorado Technical University

    Program Options

    Doctorate
      • Doctor - Management - Criminal Justice
      • Doctorate: Computer Science
      • Doctorate - Computer Science: Information Assurance (Executive Format)
      • Doctor of Management - Graduate Level Instructional Practices
      • Doctorate: C.S. - Enterprise Information Systems
      • Doctorate: Management - Organizational Development and Change
    Master's
      • Master of Science in Computer Science
      • Master: Computer Science - Database Systems
      • Master of Business Admin
      • Master of Business Admin - Entrepreneurship
      • MS - Computer Science - Computer Systems Security
      • M.S. - Information Technology
    Bachelor's
      • B.S. - Psychology
      • BS - Criminal Justice
      • B.S. - Psychology - Organizational Behavior
      • B.S. - Psychology - Consumer Behavior
      • BS - Nursing (RN to BSN completion)
      • BS - IT - Web Development
    Associate's
      • Associate of Science in Business Administration
  • Online Programs Available
    7. Saint John's University

    Program Options

    Doctorate
      • Ph.D. in Literacy
      • Ph.D. in Literacy: Educational Leadership
      • Ph.D. in Literacy: Special Education
      • Ph.D. in Literacy: Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL)
    Master's
      • Master of Business Administration: Interdisciplinary Business
      • Master of Business Administration: Taxation
      • Master of Science in Accounting
      • Master of Science in Taxation
      • Master of Science in Library and Information Science
      • Master of Science in Library and Information Science: Academic Librarianship
  • Campus Locations:
    8. Virginia College

    Program Options

    Bachelor's
      • Bachelor: Human Resource Management
      • Bachelor: Private Sector Accounting
      • Bachelor: Management Information Systems
    Associate's
      • Associate: Accounting Specialist
      • Associate: Human Resource Mgmt
      • Associate: Network Engineering
  • Campus Locations:
    9. Brightwood College

    Program Options

    Associate's
      • Medical Assistant - AS
    Certificate
      • Computer Networking Technology
      • Dental Assistant
      • Medical Office Specialist
      • Pharmacy Technician Certificate
      • Medical Assistant - Certificate
      • Medical Assistant - Diploma
  • Online Programs Available
    10. Herzing University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • MBA
      • MBA Dual Concentration: HR & Project Mgmt.
      • MBA Dual Concentration: BS Mgmt. & HR
      • MBA Dual Concentration: Business Mgmt & Project Mgmt.
      • MBA: Technology Management
      • MBA Dual Concentration: Accounting and Project Management
    Bachelor's
      • B.S. - Business Management With No Concentration
      • B.S. - Business Management: Entrepreneurial Studies Concentration
      • B.S. - Information Technology: Security Technology Concentration
      • Bachelor: Health Care Management
      • Bachelor: Accounting
      • B.S. - Information Technology: Network Management Concentration
    Associate's
      • Associate of Science - Business Management
      • Associate of Science - Business Studies
      • Associate: Health Information Management
      • Associate: Healthcare Management
      • Associate of Science - Information Technology Admin and Management
      • Associate of Science - Accounting
    Certificate
      • Diploma: Medical Office Admin
      • Diploma: Medical Assisting
      • Diploma: Bookkeeping and Payroll Accounting
      • Networking Systems Certificate

Featured Schools

Georgetown University

  • Master of Science in Finance
  • Masters of Professional Studies in Technology Management
  • Master of Professional Studies in Real Estate

What is your highest level of education completed?

The George Washington University

  • MSHS in Health Care Quality
  • Masters in Interdisciplinary Secondary Transition Services
  • Graduate Certificate in Health Care Quality
  • Graduate Certificate in Multimedia Development

What is your highest level of education?

George Mason University

  • Master of Education in Special Education, specializing in Applied Behavior Analysis
  • Master of Health Administration in Health Systems Management
  • Applied Behavior Analysis Certificate
  • Autism Spectrum Disorder Certificate

What is your highest level of education?

American University

  • Master of Arts in Strategic Communication
  • Master of Arts in Strategic Communication - Advocacy and Social Impact Concentration
  • Graduate Certificate in Agile Project Management
  • Graduate Certificate in Human Resource Analytics and Management

What is your highest level of education?

Kaplan University

  • Master of Science - DNP Executive Leader
  • MSCJ: Law
  • Undergraduate in Legal Studies
  • AASBA in Business
  • Psychology

Which subject are you interested in?

Colorado Technical University

  • Doctor - Management - Criminal Justice
  • Master of Science in Computer Science
  • B.S. - Psychology
  • Associate of Science in Business Administration

Are you a US citizen?

Saint John's University

  • Ph.D. in Literacy
  • Ph.D. in Literacy: Educational Leadership
  • Master of Business Administration: Interdisciplinary Business
  • Master of Business Administration: Taxation

What is your highest level of education?

Virginia College

  • Bachelor: Human Resource Management
  • Bachelor: Private Sector Accounting
  • Associate: Accounting Specialist
  • Associate: Human Resource Mgmt

What is your highest level of education completed?