Systems engineers play a special role: they are responsible for creating the systems used in many economic sectors, including aerospace, health care, finance and manufacturing. The role of project manager often falls to the systems engineer as well; it is not uncommon for a systems engineer to oversee the creation of a system from its initial conception through implementation and final evaluation. This can be a very rewarding and engaging career, but it is rarely an easy one. A substantial amount of knowledge and technical skill is required, and most people are not going to be able to pick all that knowledge up just through osmosis. This is where an online master's degree program in systems engineering comes in. While degree programs in this subject are varied, they can be essential for learning how to succeed in the field.
Featured Online Colleges for Systems Engineering in 2018
Online colleges for systems engineering can be a great fit for students seeking systems engineering careers, particularly students with prior work or family commitments. To help you get started on your journey, we have selected 10 colleges offering online programs for systems engineering and featured them in the following list. We made our selections based on data from National Center for Education Statistics' Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) and our custom methodology, which you can see more about at the bottom of this page. Without further ado: our 10 featured online colleges for systems engineering.
Kennesaw State University
Texas Tech University
Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University-Worldwide
Missouri University of Science and Technology
Colorado State University-Fort Collins
George Mason University
University of Florida
University of Michigan-Dearborn
University of Arizona
Colorado Technical University-Online
Degree Overview: Systems Engineering
Systems engineers need a solid grasp on the design, modeling, and analysis of technological systems in order to work in such varied fields as communication, transportation, healthcare and manufacturing on a day-to-day basis. The courses of a systems engineering degree program are structured in such a way to help students learn the fundamental skills they need in order to design equipment, networks and devices that solve clients' problems. But what are those courses, and what are the skills they teach? This is what we will be discussing here.
Online Systems Engineering Courses
Bachelor's degree programs in systems engineering typically focus on teaching students the engineering principles needed to analyze and design models that improve functionality. Along with general education classes, students of this field will encounter advanced mathematics, science, and computer courses. The most common course requirements include:
- Computer programming
- Systems modeling/ design
- Engineering management
- Operations research
Some undergraduate programs also offer a track option to prepare students to enter medical school after they've completed their bachelor's degree.
For those who'd like to continue their studies, master's degree programs in systems engineering delve deep into advanced theories of system modeling, risk analysis, and research methods. These programs are typically designed for working professionals with a desire to solve complex engineering problems in fields such as energy, aerospace, environment or government. Students of these programs may be able to focus their studies onto a specialization, such as:
- Biomedical systems engineering
- Cybersecurity systems engineering
- Human systems engineering
- Modeling and simulation systems engineering
- Project management
- Software systems engineering
In addition, students may choose to further their education with any number of post-master's certificate programs that focus on systems engineering specializations, including engineering management, power systems engineering and systems architecture. If you do your research early enough, some certificates are even structured as companion programs that can count toward master's degree requirements, helping you to earn both certificate and degree in one fell swoop.
There are also a few Ph.D. level degree programs in systems engineering, and they are usually geared toward professionals and executives who have extensive experience working in the field. Candidates usually have to prepare a dissertation in a specific topic area, such as systems engineering architecture or dynamics of complex engineering systems, in order to complete the program.
Career-Related Skills to Develop
There is a growing need for engineers with an understanding of not just just the pieces, but how all of those pieces interact with one another. Systems engineers do not focus on just the electronics, ergonomics, or software, but instead on the system as a whole. They must be able to lead projects and integrate all of their team's specialties into one cohesive unit, so communication skills are key. Analytical and adaptive thinking are also valued skills, since systems engineers are involved in the entire process from concept to design, and then on to production and ultimately operation. These professionals must be able to consider their customers' needs from both a business and technical viewpoint in order to provide a quality product that truly meets their needs, as well as being able to change their plans and ideas in case something should go terribly wrong with the process.
A strong background in research is also valuable in many regards. It's important to understand the progression of knowledge and invention through the past, with its various successes and failures, as well as the status of engineering in the present, regarding what kinds of projects are underway and the revelations that have come about from their progress. Being aware of this information helps engineers to develop innovative methods of tackling problems and improving operations in the varied fields of computer networking, building design, transportation, manufacturing, bio-medicine, government, and more.
Career Outlook for Systems Engineering
Students who enroll in systems engineering degree programs have a range of career options and prospects across a range of different industries. Here's a closer look at what to expect in a few of these industries.
Want to design a spacecraft that can take man to Mars, or build the next satellite sent off to explore the outer edges of our solar system? Aerospace engineers primarily design, manufacture and test air- and spacecraft. They assess projects to determine if they can be built safely, and make sure all designs meet engineering principles and quality standards.
This career requires a wide range of specialties, including aerodynamic fluid flow, guidance systems, control and instrumentation, robotics, propulsion and much more. It's not an easy career to work in — it is, in fact, literally rocket science — but it certainly is a fascinating one, filled with possibility and opportunity!
People working in these positions have no shortage of responsibilities. Architectural and engineering managers typically oversee and coordinate their staff to work seamlessly with other organizations on a given project. One day you may be in a meeting with a company's finance, production and marketing directors to consider the overarching direction for the company's next move; the next you may spend at your desk, drawing up work schedules for the individual members of your own team. People in these management positions prepare departmental budgets and draft budgets for new projects; hire and oversee new staff; coordinate work; and draft plans to best develop new projects and designs. Most architectural and engineering managers have at least a bachelor's degree, and many have earned master's degrees with specialties in management or technology management. It is not uncommon for engineering managers to earn a master's degree in business administration as well.
Systems engineers must be able to look at the "big picture." It is their duty not only to help plan and design successful systems, but also to provide technical consulting, training and support to team members and customers. They coordinate the activities of different departments, reporting performance, goals, objectives and outcomes to managers and other executives. System engineers are brought on board in the early stages of a development cycle so they can document system requirements, and then they work with other teams to move the development cycle from inception to operation. For most projects, they must consider and flesh out many different aspects, including: operations, performance, testing, manufacturing, training and support and cost and schedule. Students who consider themselves "big thinkers" and enjoy working as part of a team may find this a rewarding career path.