How much does a Systems Engineer earn?
A very important question.
It’s not the ‘most’ important question when considering an engineering role, but it’s one of the four key pillars we should consider when determining if an SE role is right for you.
We consider the four equal pillars of job satisfaction to be:
Ability to learn
Salary is obvious. How much does one get paid. This satisfies your feeling of being ‘wanted’ by an organisation.
Impact is the measure of how impactful your role is. This varies for each individual as a reflection of their own interests. For example, working on the next renewable energy source is more impactful than rolling out a new IT architecture for a large conglomerate. We like to think so anyway! How much impact you make satisfies your feeling of ‘contribution’.
Ability to learn is the measure of how much new stuff you can learn in the role and for how long. If you’re just ‘turning the handle’ doing the same old stuff, you’ll get bored pretty quickly. The ability to learn will satisfy your ambitions for growth.
Finally, job flexibility is now essential in any role. We work to live, not live to work. Therefore, a role should be flexible to fit into your current lifestyle (within reason). If the school run is needed or working compressed weeks for family reasons is a must, then, a role's ability to flex in this manner is powerful. Remote work falls into this category too. This pillar satisfies the feeling of work and life being on an equal footing with your employer.
These four pillars should all carry equal weight in your decision making process in finding a new role. You may value one more against the other, but consciously making that decision, knowing that you may be trading against another pillar is important for career progression.
Ok, so back to the original question, what is the salary of a Systems Engineer?
In the UK, in 2023, a graduate Systems Engineer can expect to earn in the range of £30,000 - £35,000 per annum.
In the US, it ranges from $60,000 - $80,000 depending on location.
In the EU, it varies in the ranges of €40,000 - €45,000.
For a Senior Systems Engineer in the UK, you can expect to earn in the range of £50,000 - £60,000 per annum.
In the US, it ranges from $95,000 - $110,000.
For the EU, it’s approximately €73,000.
Next up is the weird category of Lead / Principal Systems Engineers. This category truly depends on the individual company definition of lead and principal engineers grades.
We believe Lead is an engineer of approximately 10 years experience or Chartered and Certified with less experience but more time in ‘leading’ projects.
Principal level is where you start to become part of the furniture of the office, understand all of the systems inside out, have deep depth in a particular domain and worth your salt when it comes to safety.
For a Lead Systems Engineer in the UK, the starting salary begins at the £60,000 per annum mark.
For a Principal Systems Engineer the salary ranges from £65,000 to £80,000 per annum, the upper ranges reserved for when principals start turning into Chief Engineers and taking on some elements of technical risk.
For the United States, a principal could expect to earn $140,000 to $190,000 in rare instances.
For the EU, it's in the ranges of €75,000 - €120,000.
For those interested in learning about Contractor Rates & Roles we have only a partial data set which represents the UK.
For a Systems Engineering Contractor working in the U.K. the day rate ranges in the range of £500 - £650 per day for Outside IR35 roles.
There certainly is an upward trend in the day rate due to the increased demand for Systems Engineers. Meaning, most recruiters are starting negotiations around £580-£600 per day in 2023.
So taking an average of 220 working days per annum, a Systems Engineering Contractors limited company can turnover approximately £110,000 to £143,000. However, there are a bunch of pro’s and con’s associated with such a role, including the risk of unemployment.
So if you’re interested in finding your next Systems Engineering role, check out The School of Systems Engineering Jobs Portal here as well as using our Free Ultimate Guide on How to Get Hired as A Systems Engineer.
Note - all of the salaries listed above are pre-tax.
Note - data and figures taken from LinkedIn jobs portal.