Online Systems Engineering Degrees and Programs

Many problems faced by companies cannot be solved by individuals with expertise in one aspect of engineering alone. Systems engineering is a people-oriented engineering discipline, since it takes a holistic view of engineering problems and focuses on the organizational challenges of developing a system. With experience in a multidisciplinary field, systems engineers integrate multiple aspects of large projects that can range from computer information systems to military defense to come up with solutions and manage projects. The interdisciplinary nature of the field means that career within the field may suit individuals with customer service and communication skills along with problem solving and organizational skills according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

Online degrees in systems engineering could be beneficial to those already working in an engineering field who want to expand their knowledge or to high school graduates and career changers looking to build their careers in the field but cannot attend traditional classes due to work, family or other commitments.

If you are wondering what you can do with a degree in systems engineering, you can rest assured that graduates of online systems engineering degree programs may be qualified to work in a number of different industries as engineering managers, lead or principal engineers, operations research analysts, logisticians or project managers. Some of these occupations along with their associated duties are:

  • Managing the entire lifecycle of a project from conception to sale
  • Developing business relationships by understanding client needs and finding suppliers
  • Suggesting way to improve logistical processes and cut costs

Operations research analysts:

  • Examining information from areas like business, logistics, healthcare, or other fields to find ways to solve problems
  • Using statistical analysis, simulations, predictive modelling along with other methods to develop practical solutions to business problems
  • Advising management and other decision makers on the action needed to solve problems
The systems engineering workforce of the future is geographically dispersed, culturally diverse, gender agnostic, multi-disciplinary and transgenerational

Graduates of systems engineering programs can look for careers in aerospace, aviation, defense, government, manufacturing, transportation and more. Salaries can vary depending on the industry, your job role and experience.

The table below lists careers related to the field of systems engineering along with average wages, employment projections and the job outlook for the decade leading up to 2026 using data from the BLS.

Career
Employment
Median Salary
Projected Job Growth
Operations Research Analysts99,680$90,60025.6%
Industrial Engineers291,710$92,6608.3%
Logisticians182,050$78,6804.8%

Source: 2019 Occupational Employment Statistics and 2018-28 Employment Projections, Bureau of Labor Statistics, BLS.gov.

Choose a degree that can help you meet your career goals

Although engineering is a hands-on profession, online degrees are becoming more common as mid-career professionals seek continuing education programs that fit around work and other life priorities. The BLS reports that most engineering professions require a minimum of a bachelor’s degree and graduate degrees are not uncommon. This is evidenced by a survey of operations research analysts by the U.S. Department of Labor’s O*Net website where 30 percent had a bachelor’s degree and 70 percent had a master’s degree.

Operations Research Analysts
Education Level Required & Percentage of Respondents
Bachelor's
30%
Master's
70%
Source: 2018 Occupational Information Network (O*NET), U.S. Department of Labor, onetonline.org

Systems engineering associate degrees online are rare but you may be able to find non-degree certificates and associate degrees in pre-engineering online which may help you take the first step toward becoming a systems engineer. Doctoral degrees can prepare graduates to teach and lead a research and development team, either in academic or commercial settings.

Most pre-engineering associate degrees are hybrid or blended programs where students have to attend certain classes and labs on campus while taking the rest of their courses online. These degrees are typically designed for students who want to transfer to a four-year bachelor’s engineering degree.

Typical duration: One to two years of full-time study

General prerequisites: High school diploma or equivalent

Typical coursework: Classes usually include topics in math, science and calculus along with courses introducing different aspects of engineering. Some courses you may take include:

  • Introduction to engineering
  • Logic system design
  • Engineering statics
  • Engineering graphics
The systems of the future need to harness the ever growing body of technology innovations while protecting against unintended consequences.

What can I expect to learn in an online bachelor’s degree program?

You may be hard pressed to find fully online systems engineering degree programs at the bachelor’s degree level. However some universities may allow you to complete your general education coursework online along with some other theoretical topics. It can be best practice to check with the university before applying.

If you are working in the field as an engineering technologist or in a similar capacity, you may be able to find accelerated online systems engineering bachelor’s degree programs that can help you meet your educational goals.

Students of systems engineering bachelor’s degree programs can learn how various systems are developed, designed, produced, and maintained for a variety of different industries.

Typical duration: Two to four years of full-time study

General prerequisites: High school diploma or equivalent; associate degree in pre-engineering or a related field depending on the program

Typical coursework: Curriculum covers the identification, modeling, design and management of complex systems and processes apart from core courses in math, statistics and science. Core systems engineering topics could include classes in discrete systems modeling, dynamic systems, operations research, systems modeling and design, and more.

You may also have to complete an internship as a part of your degree program.

What kind of jobs can I get after earning a bachelor’s in systems engineering?

The number of industries requiring qualified systems engineers is vast – from aviation to healthcare and information technology to manufacturing. A bachelor’s in systems engineering may qualify you for entry-level jobs in the field. Potential job titles include:

  • Design engineer
  • Product engineer
  • Requirements engineer
  • System architect
  • Systems engineer
  • Test engineer
The systems of the future need to be engineered by an evolving, diverse workforce which, with increasingly capable tools, can innovate and respond to competitive pressures.

What can I expect to learn in an online master’s degree program?

Students of online systems engineering master’s degree programs pursue specialized coursework and complete independent projects applying engineering concepts to a systems engineering problem. Students can explore the concept of systems thinking in order to learn to analyze systems, understand problems and communicate solutions effectively.

Typical duration: Two years of full-time study

General prerequisites: Bachelor’s degree in systems engineering or related field

Typical coursework: Courses taken can include a blend of systems engineering topics along with business and management coursework. Topics you may study include:

  • Global sustainment and integrated logistics
  • Modeling and simulation
  • Systems engineering analysis
  • Systems engineering management
  • Systems engineering process

You may also have to complete a master’s thesis or a capstone project as a part of your online systems engineering degree program.

Possible electives: Computer analysis of power systems; optimization methods for engineering design; systems architecture development

What kind of jobs can I get after earning a master’s in systems engineering?

More and more businesses are realizing the need for qualified individuals who can bring a versatile approach to projects and integrate the socio-technical aspects of complex projects. Graduates of systems engineering master’s degree programs may find employment in industries like nanotechnology, civil engineering, power and energy sectors, government agencies and more. Potential job titles include:

  • Chief systems engineer
  • Logistics systems engineer
  • Mission systems engineer
  • Project manager
  • Systems engineer (lead, principal, senior, associate)
Today’s researchers are revisiting current systems engineering practices to ground them in a sound foundation built on mathematical theory and science.

Online graduate certificate programs in systems engineering may suit those individuals who may not have the time or financial resources to commit toward a master’s degree but still want to broaden their expertise in the field.

Typical duration: One year of full-time study

General prerequisites: Bachelor’s degree in systems engineering or related field

Typical coursework: Graduate certificate program may often focus on a particular area of systems engineering, such as command and control systems, computational modeling, military operations or software system development.

  • Introduction to Systems Engineering
  • Software Systems Engineering
  • System Conceptual Design
  • System Design and Integration
  • System Test and Evaluation

Possible electives: Engineering statistics; advanced concepts in systems engineering; cost estimation

What can I expect to learn in an online doctoral degree program?

Doctoral degrees in systems engineering are typically of two types:

  • Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.): has a focus on original research and theory in order to expand the existing knowledge base in systems engineering
  • Doctor of Engineering (D.Eng.): has a focus on the application of existing research and knowledge to find practical applications to systems engineering problems

However, there can be considerable overlap between the two fields.

Students of online doctoral degree programs in systems engineering can learn how to conduct independent research, study cutting edge topics within the field and contribute to its advancement.

Typical duration: Five to seven years of full-time study

General prerequisites: Master’s degree in systems engineering or related field

Typical coursework: Curricula can vary depending on the area of your interest. However, most students take courses in research methods and analysis along with core systems engineering courses. Classes you may take include:

  • Coupled electromechanical systems
  • Dynamics of complex engineering systems
  • Engineering decision support/expert systems
  • Engineering risk analysis
  • Intellectual property and invention systems

Possible electives: Civil engineering project management; nonlinear programming; applications of random processes.

Dissertation: A major portion of the doctoral degree program is spent writing a doctoral thesis based on independent research which then has to be defended before a panel of experts.

What kind of jobs can I get after earning a doctorate in Systems Engineering?

Doctoral degrees prepare graduates to teach and lead a research and development team, either in an academic or commercial setting. Graduates of these programs may qualify for leadership or executive roles in multinational companies in in requirements management, systems integration, systems architecting, systems engineering management, technical project management, risk management, and other related fields. They may also choose to enter the fields of research and academia, teaching a new generation of systems engineers about the different exciting aspects of the field.

Accreditation

Accreditation is important for both universities offering online systems engineering degree programs and the students attending them. Accreditation is a voluntary process that schools undergo to demonstrate that their educational offerings meet or exceed the professional standards necessary in the industry today. For students, attending an accredited school is often a prerequisite for receiving federal financial aid and to transfer educational credits. Employers may prefer hiring candidates who have graduated from an accredited school or program over those who have not.

The Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET) is the main professional accrediting body for systems engineering programs in the United States.

Specializations in Systems Engineering

You may be able to choose a specialization within the field of systems engineering that aligns with your interests and career goals. A specialization can help you narrow the focus of your studies or build on your general systems engineering knowledge to develop expertise in one aspect of the field. Some specializations within systems engineering that you may be able to choose from are:

  • Bio-Systems Engineering
  • Logistics Engineering
  • Mechatronic Systems Engineering
  • Spacecraft/Aerospace Systems Engineering
  • Sustainability Systems Engineering
  • Systems Design and Optimization
  • Vehicle Systems Engineering

Certifications

Professional certifications may not be mandatory. However, they can demonstrate your competency in a particular area of the field. Individuals often have to satisfy specific requirements in terms of education and work experience in order to be eligible to sit for certification examinations. Additionally, certifications typically need to be renewed periodically through continuing education classes or reexaminations. Some professional certifications for systems engineers include:

There are plenty of scholarships available for eligible individuals interested in pursuing a career in systems engineering. Apart from professional bodies, scholarships may be offered by various governmental organizations, educational foundations, businesses, and universities. It can be a good idea to check with your university if you are eligible for any grants, financial aid or scholarships that they offer. Some scholarships to help you get started in your search are:

Other resources for those aspiring to work in the field of systems engineering

Employment Statistics

Logisticians

Industries with the highest concentration of employment
  • Freight Transportation Arrangement
  • Aerospace Product and Parts Manufacturing
  • Federal Executive Branch (OES Designation)
  • Pipeline Transportation of Crude Oil
  • Management, Scientific, and Technical Consulting Services
States with the highest level of employment
  • California
  • Texas
  • Illinois
  • Michigan
  • Virginia
Top-paying metropolitan areas
  • Lake Charles, LA
  • California-Lexington Park, MD
  • Providence-Warwick, RI-MA
  • Lima, OH
  • Houston-The Woodlands-Sugar Land, TX

Operations Research Analysts

Industries with the highest concentration of employment
  • Insurance Carriers
  • Monetary Authorities-Central Bank
  • Nondepository Credit Intermediation
  • Management, Scientific, Technical Consulting Services
  • Securities, Commodity Contracts, and Other Financial Investments and Related Activities
States with the highest level of employment
  • California
  • Texas
  • Virginia
  • New York
  • Illinois
Top-paying metropolitan areas
  • Boulder, CO
  • Bridgeport-Stamford-Norwalk, CT
  • Winston-Salem, NC
  • San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, CA
  • New York-Newark-Jersey City, NY-NJ-PA

Source: 2016 Occupational Employment Statistics, Bureau of Labor Statistics, BLS.gov.

Sources:

  • 15-2031.00 – Operations Research Analysts, O*NET OnLine, National Center for O*NET Development, www.onetonline.org/link/summary/15-2031.00, accessed August 2019
  • A world in motion: systems engineering vision 2025, International Council on Systems Engineering, INCOSE, https://www.incose.org/docs/default-source/aboutse/se-vision-2025.pdf, accessed August 2019
  • Architecture and Engineering Occupations, Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/architecture-and-engineering/home.htm, accessed August 2019
  • Associate (Transfer) Degrees, Central Piedmont Community College, https://www.cpcc.edu/programs/associate-degrees, accessed August 2019
  • B.S. in Systems Engineering, Regent University, https://learn.regent.edu/degree-programs/information-systems-technology/b-s-in-systems-engineering/, accessed August 2019
  • Career Outlook, Systems Engineering, Worcester Polytechnic Institute, https://www.wpi.edu/student-experience/career-development/majors/career-outlook/systems-engineering, accessed August 2019
  • DEng vs. PhD, John Hopkins Whiting School of Engineering, https://engineering.jhu.edu/doctor-of-engineering/about-the-program/deng-vs-phd/, accessed August 2019
  • Doctor of Engineering – Offered via distance learning, Department of Engineering Management and Systems Engineering (EMSE), GW Online, https://emse.offcampus.gwu.edu/doctoral-degrees/doctor-of-engineering/, accessed August 2019
  • Doctor of Philosophy in Systems Engineering, GW Online, https://online.gwu.edu/doctor-philosophy-systems-engineering, accessed August 2019
  • Electronics Systems Engineering Technology, Bachelor of Science (BS), Thomas Edison State University, https://www.tesu.edu/ast/programs/bs/electronics-systems-engineering-technology, accessed August 2019
  • Graduate Certificate in Systems Engineering, University of Arizona College of Engineering, https://online.engineering.arizona.edu/online-programs/systems-engineering/graduate-certificate-in-systems-engineering/, accessed August 2019
  • Logisticians, Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/business-and-financial/logisticians.htm, accessed August 2019
  • Online Master of Science in Systems Engineering, UTEP Connect Extended University, https://www.utep.edu/extendeduniversity/utepconnect/online-programs/master-programs/master-of-science-in-systems-engineering/, accessed August 2019
  • Online Master’s in Systems Engineering, Drexel University Online, https://online.drexel.edu/online-degrees/engineering-degrees/ms-systems/index.aspx, accessed August 2019
  • Operations Research Analysts, Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/math/operations-research-analysts.htm, accessed August 2019
  • Systems Engineering Illustrative Programs, Cornell Engineering Systems Engineering, https://www.systemseng.cornell.edu/se/programs/meng-degree-campus/specialization, accessed August 2019
  • Systems Engineering, Graduate Certificate, John Hopkins Whiting School of Engineering, https://ep.jhu.edu/programs-and-courses/programs/systems-engineering, accessed August 2019
  • Systems Engineering, Ph.D, Colorado State University Online, https://www.online.colostate.edu/degrees/systems-engineering-phd/requirements-and-curriculum.dot, accessed August 2019
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