Online Master’s in Systems Engineering

Systems engineering combines project management skills with the expert use of technology to manage complex systems in a number of industries. Systems engineers are responsible for project details such as implementation timelines, equipment performance, environmental impact, and budget considerations. These management positions can be found in all major areas of industry, from power plant construction to software design.

Usually, systems engineers have a background in a specific engineering field like civil or structural engineering and have been promoted into management positions that require a broad knowledge with all types of engineering. Systems engineering master's programs are designed for these professionals; working engineers are trained to oversee complex engineering projects.

Why a Master's Degree?

According to CNN Money, systems engineers are in extremely high demand. Engineers with advanced degrees are a hot commodity in an industry that needs trained professionals to supervise lower-level engineers. The ability to design, plan, and implement large projects also requires familiarity with numerous branches of the engineering spectrum. Systems engineers collaborate with physicists, mathematicians, architects, and computer scientists to problem-solve and design innovative solutions. Graduates of online master’s degree programs in systems engineering also qualify for industry certification via the International Council on Systems Engineering.

Candidates for this master’s degree program commonly earn a Master of Science in Systems Engineering degree. However, many schools also offer a Master of Engineering (M.E.) degree in Systems Engineering. An M.E. contains much of the same coursework as an M.S., but does not contain a thesis component and instead is focused on practical skills application. Some schools also offer M.S. candidates a choice between writing a researched thesis or developing an engineering project.

Inside a Systems Engineering Master's Degree Program

Typical online master’s degree programs in systems engineering require four to five years to complete. Rigorous course work requirements are designed to provide a solid foundation in numerous specialty fields in engineering. Core courses include the study of information technology, project management, risk analysis, software development, electrical engineering, system architecture, implementation, and testing/simulation modeling.

Many graduate programs offer specialization tracks that extend beyond core classwork. Typical options for specialty tracks might be:

  • IT and Network Management
  • Wireless Communications
  • Robotics Systems and Automation
  • Power Systems
  • Systems Modeling and Controls
  • Multimedia Applications

Electives are also offered for candidates to pursue individual areas of interest. Electives are usually available in network security, software engineering, database management, supply chain logistics or corporate finance, among others.

What's Next for Systems Engineering Master's Degree Holders?

Graduates of this master’s degree programs are highly skilled and are qualified to manage engineering systems on a large scale. This management qualification applies to any specialty in engineering and may substantially boost the careers of engineering professionals. According to the BLS, the the median salary for engineering managers in 2014 was $130,260.

Industries that are particularly likely to hire systems engineers include:

  • Sustainable clean energy and biofuels
  • Defense
  • Aviation and aerospace
  • Transportation logistics
  • Natural sciences
  • Environmental research
  • Defense
  • Manufacturing
  • Government

While not particularly common, Ph.D. programs in systems engineering do exist. As with most doctoral level programs, research and data analysis is heavily emphasized. Students who wish to pursue their education to the next level will be qualified to lead others in this rapidly growing industry.