Tips for a Physics BS going into a systems engineering job?

In summary, the systems engineering position that I was recently offered requires that I pass a TS/Sci clearance. However, I am not sure if my physics background will be a good fit for the position. I am wondering if anyone can recommend any reading material/skills I should practice before starting the position.
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Mbatkis
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I was wondered if anyone could give me some tips on what to expect going into a career in systems engineering. I completed my undergrad BS in Physics last year and I have worked as a student trainee optical engineer for two years (Intermittent schedule).

I just completed my first year of grad school in Physics and I don't think I want to stay, and because of that, I will have to leave my position as an optical engineer as it is contingent upon completing an MS before being hired full time (Federal Pathways Program). Because of this, I have been applying for jobs and recently I was just given a conditional job offer for a system engineering position with a large government agency. The condition is that I can pass a TS/Sci clearance which I won't have any issues doing. However, this has me wondering how well my skills will transfer over.

I have a good understanding of how to code in Python and I have some experience with MATLAB as well. I took a statics engineering course as an undergrad and I sat in on lectures for dynamics as well, but other than that my undergrad was spent doing Physics and Mathematics coursework. During undergrad, I also worked for 3 years as an IT Tech with my school's helpdesk and I consider myself very computer savvy, but I was wondering if there are any skills or abilities I may be missing.

If anyone can recommend any reading material/skills I should practice before starting the position I would appreciate it.
 
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Welcome to PF.

Do you know what document management software/system they use? I'd imagine that you will be using it a lot, so it might be good to at least go through some introductory materials and tutorials to be more prepared.

You might also find out what software tools they use for things like creating documents and drawings and simulating the systems. Again, if you can learn the basics of those software packages, it should help you to hit the ground running...

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Systems_engineering
 
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It sounds like you will be going into systems engineering in a classified government contractor effort. Systems engineering is largely about collecting, organizing, and documenting requirements and tracking them through to the work being done. Resources must be allocated to stay within the schedule and budget of the program. There are many government standards and requirements that must be followed. The government might audit the program periodically.
You should be prepared to learn a lot of new things about organizing projects. Your physics background may not be critical. Be smart, adaptable, and ready to learn.
Take a good look at the link that @berkeman gave.
 
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OP: I got my PhD in Physics. During my career, I worked in several different fields, including nearly 15 yrs as a systems engineer for major telcom companies (private industry sector). At this stage, you probably can't do much advance preparation. Systems engineering covers a broad scope of activities (as does other branches of science and engineering). You don't know what to prepare for until you get further details of your responsibilities. Given that you need a security clearance, those details might be hard to come by. Here are some general considerations:

* One important consideration is the scope of the "system" you're working on. As telcom examples, a "system" could range from a single mobile phone to a global communications network.

* Another important consideration is the size, structure, and scope of your systems engineering organization, and of the organizations that systems engineering interfaces with. Some organizations have various tiers of systems engineering that deal with different granularities of technical details, ranging from systems engineers who deal primarily with sales and marketing organizations to systems engineers who deal primarily with design and development organizations.

* Depending on your organization, your responsibilities may span a single tier or multiple tiers. For example, in one organization, my role was narrowly defined: I received, as input, customer requirements from a higher-tier systems engineering group and wrote, as output, systems engineering requirements that in turn served as input to the design and development organization. But in another organization, my role was more fluid: I interacted directly with the customer, wrote the high-level customer requirements and the systems engineering requirements. I also wrote the system test requirements and setup the system testbed, and was a member of the field-trial team.

* Again, depending on your organization, your responsibilities may include, e.g., reliability analysis and power budgets. Or those may fall under different organizations entirely.

* You will most likely spend a lot of time writing documents and making drawings. The tools range from generic (e.g., Word and Powerpoint) to specialized (e.g., specific software for requirements documents and CAD for drawings). Again, since your position requires a security clearance, they most likely will have specialized software that you can't play with in advance.

* In summary, when you get on board, try to quickly understand the scope of your responsibilities. E.g., if your responsibility is to write systems requirements for the design engineers, you don't get wrapped up in design details. This is particularly important since you'll likely be operating against strict deadlines, and the design engineers may not welcome what they view as intrusion on their turf (important to understand the organizational culture).
 
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1. What skills from my physics background will be most useful in a systems engineering job?

Your strong analytical and problem-solving skills, as well as your ability to think critically and logically, will be extremely valuable in a systems engineering job. Your understanding of complex systems and mathematical modeling will also come in handy.

2. How can I prepare for a systems engineering job with a physics degree?

Consider taking courses or gaining experience in areas such as computer programming, systems analysis, and project management. Additionally, familiarize yourself with systems engineering principles and processes.

3. Will my physics degree be seen as a disadvantage in a systems engineering job?

Not at all! Your physics background demonstrates your strong foundation in analytical thinking, which is highly sought after in systems engineering. Your degree will be seen as a valuable asset and can set you apart from other candidates.

4. Are there any specific industries that are looking for physics graduates in systems engineering roles?

Systems engineering is a versatile field and is utilized in many industries, including aerospace, defense, healthcare, and technology. Your physics background can be applied to various systems engineering roles in any of these industries.

5. How can I continue to grow and develop in my systems engineering career with a physics degree?

Consider pursuing advanced degrees or certifications in systems engineering, project management, or a specific industry. Additionally, seek out opportunities for continuous learning and stay updated on industry advancements and best practices.

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