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Online Masters in Systems Engineering (MSE, MSSE)

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Ask the Expert: Donald Gelosh, PhD

Tricia Hatley

Dr. Donald Gelosh is director of systems engineering programs at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI). He received his MS in computer systems design from the University of Houston at Clear Lake and his PhD in electrical and computer engineering from the University of Pittsburgh.

Dr. Gelosh supports the needs of WPI’s corporate partners and their students and is a strong advocate for the advancement of the practice of systems engineering through his efforts with the International Council on Systems Engineering (INCOSE) and the Systems Engineering Division of the National Defense Industrial Association. He has over 40 years of systems engineering experience from various assignments with the US Air Force, government, industry, and academia. What is something you wish the public understood about systems engineering?

Dr. Gelosh: Systems engineering is the contact sport of engineering! To be successful, systems engineers should be out there meeting people, leading teams, and engaging in all aspects of the engineering and management efforts of their organizations.

Systems engineers should be knowledgeable about and involved in all aspects of soliciting and understanding stakeholders’ needs, developing requirements, designing, testing, deploying, and maintaining complex systems. Systems engineers don’t have to be the experts in everything, but they need to know the experts and how to get them involved. Of all the engineering disciplines, systems engineering is the most people-oriented, and success depends on excellent skills in technical leadership. What advice would you give to new and aspiring systems engineers?

Dr. Gelosh:

  • Learn all you can about a specific engineering discipline field of your choice (i.e., electrical, mechanical, chemical, power, etc).
  • Learn in general what engineers in other disciplines do on a daily basis.
  • Talk to other systems engineers about their daily activities.
  • Learn how to lead people and manage resources; learn how to both lead and serve on teams.
  • Continuously prepare yourself through education, training, and experience for opportunities to grow and take on new responsibilities. What does the future of systems engineering, and/or systems engineering programs, look like to you?

Dr. Gelosh: The future of systems engineering and associated educational programs is bright! Systems engineering is a very dynamic field of engineering that is capable of quickly adapting to changing conditions in the technical fields and operational environments. This means that systems engineering will be around for a long time, and the demand for systems engineers will remain high.

The education and training programs in systems engineering that are capable of adapting to the changing conditions, adopting the evolving innovations from industry, and producing well-educated and trained systems engineers will continue to enjoy success.

Is an Online Systems Engineering Master's Degree Right for Me?

An online master's degree in systems engineering is an excellent choice for some. Before pursuing a distance-based degree, it is important to keep certain considerations in mind.

Most online systems engineering master's programs may be completed without the student ever visiting the campus. This may be beneficial for some who don’t have physical access to a campus or are too busy to show up in person; however, it can also prove difficult for others who do not thrive outside the traditional classroom. Students pursuing a systems engineering degree online may not receive in-person support from peers or professors. In light of this, prospective students should be confident of their ability to succeed in a program with minimal physical oversight and assistance.

As mentioned before, an online master's program in systems engineering may be the ideal choice for a professional who wishes to pursue a degree while still working, for a parent with children, or even for someone who wants to attend a quality school but is not located nearby a campus that offers degrees in systems engineering.

List of Online Systems Engineering Degree Programs

Filter by state :
School City State Website Undergrad Graduate Grads
Naval Postgraduate School


CA 373
Stevens Institute of Technology


NJ 290
George Washington University


DC 177
University of Florida


FL 176
Johns Hopkins University


MD 176
University of Michigan-Ann Arbor

Ann Arbor

MI 146
University of Virginia-Main Campus


VA 138
Cornell University


NY 86
Pennsylvania State University-World Campus

University Park

PA 75
George Mason University


VA 71
Worcester Polytechnic Institute


MA 69
Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University-Worldwide

Daytona Beach

FL 68
University of Arizona


AZ 56
Air Force Institute of Technology-Graduate School of Engineering & Management

Wright-Patterson AFB

OH 53
Kennesaw State University


GA 46
University of Southern California

Los Angeles

CA 45
Southern Methodist University


TX 43
Missouri University of Science and Technology


MO 36
Florida Institute of Technology


FL 26
Texas Tech University


TX 23
The University of Texas at El Paso

El Paso

TX 19
Iowa State University


IA 19
University of Michigan-Dearborn


MI 18
Case Western Reserve University


OH 12
Colorado State University-Fort Collins

Fort Collins

CO 12
Old Dominion University


VA 9
Drexel University


PA 8
New Mexico State University-Main Campus

Las Cruces

NM 8
University of Maryland Global Campus


MD 7
Colorado Technical University-Colorado Springs

Colorado Springs

CO 6
The University of Texas at Arlington


TX 4
University of Connecticut


CT 2
Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University


VA 2

Admissions Requirements for Online Systems Engineering Master's Degree Programs

Prospective systems engineering graduate students must meet various admissions standards before acceptance. And while the specifics may vary based on the institution, certain admission requirements generally stand across the board. In light of this, students interested in beginning an online master's in systems engineering should understand what to expect throughout the application process to ensure they are fully prepared.

Graduate applicants are often required to submit GRE scores, which are specific to graduate programs, although some online programs waive this requirement either entirely, or it is conditionally based on certain criteria such as academic background and grade point average (GPA).

In addition to this, graduate applicants may also be asked to submit letters of recommendation as well, which may be completed by college professors, employers, volunteer coordinators, or any other professional acquaintances who may be able to attest to the abilities of the applicant. Finally, many institutions will also ask for supplements to the application, including essays, proof of research, or other relevant documents.

In every case, applicants are required to submit their application on or before a certain deadline; while this varies by institution, in general, applications are due by January for those interested in starting in the fall, and by late fall for those applying to begin in the spring.

It is also important to understand that online students must still generally follow the same calendar as the rest of the campus; because of this, they must start the program at the same time as other traditional students. On occasion, an online master's program will offer additional start dates, including summer starts, but this varies by institution.

Systems Engineering Program Accreditation

To demonstrate their quality and command respect in the field of engineering, many engineering schools take efforts to obtain credit through the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET), the official accrediting agency for engineering schools nationwide. ABET is further divided into separate societies based on branches of engineering, one of which is the International Council on Systems Engineering.

Accreditation is a voluntary process undertaken by the school and is a system of peer review that allows quality institutions to receive this mark of approval.

Pursuing a degree from an accredited program is, by no means, a requirement to work as a systems engineer in the future. However, professional licensure (the PE credential) is only awarded to those engineers who have completed a degree in a four-year accredited program. And this is significant; professional engineers, who are awarded licensure by the National Society of Professional Engineers (NSPE), can “shoulder the responsibility for not only their work but also for the lives affected by that work,” and is a “legal requirement for those who are in responsible charge of work.” In addition, most states require engineering professors or instructors to obtain professional licensure before teaching.

Curriculum & Specialization in Systems Engineering

Those who pursue a degree in systems engineering will generally follow a similar curriculum, regardless of their institution of study. Students are generally required to take courses in mathematics and computer science, as well as those on the subject of core systems. Graduate systems engineering students typically have a specialized systems engineering curriculum devoid of some of the general education requirements typical in an undergraduate program.

In some cases, students who are pursuing a degree in systems engineering may be able to obtain certain specializations or certificates related to the field. Specifically, students may be able to specialize in:

  • Business systems
  • Systems design and optimization
  • Vehicle systems engineering
  • Environmental systems engineering

Highly Regarded Online Master's in Systems Engineering Programs

While pursuing an online degree in systems engineering may be a relatively new concept, obtaining such a degree from several esteemed institutions is still possible. Students wishing to achieve a high-quality education in the SE field may consider applying to one of the five highly regarded programs.

1Worcester Polytechnic Institute

Worcester Polytechnic Institute offers two online, graduate-level systems engineering programs. The master’s in systems engineering program is an engineering-focused track designed to increase students’ technical skills and systems management. The master’s in systems engineering leadership is a leadership-focused track designed to enhance students’ skills in managing people, projects, financials, and complex systems.

The master’s in systems engineering program requires applicants to have a BS degree in computer science or an engineering field that is ABET-accredited, while the systems engineering leadership program requires a bachelor’s degree from a regionally accredited institution. Applicants to either program should have a grade point average of 3.0 or higher.

The engineering-focused track divides its curriculum between core systems engineering classes, leadership and management classes, and depth requirements. Courses offered include: systems architecture and design; information security systems and management; global operations strategy; and complex decision making.

The systems engineering leadership program divides its curriculum between business courses, technical and financial depth courses, and technical electives. Courses offered include: technology commercialization; data mining business applications; teaming and organizing for innovation; and business intelligence.

Both programs consist of 30 credits and include a capstone experience.

  • Location: Worcester, MA
  • Accreditation: New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC)

2Colorado State University

Colorado State University allows students to pursue either a master of science (MS) or a master of engineering (MEng) degree in systems engineering. This program allows students to learn solely online, or attend classes on campus if they choose. Both these degrees have content covering management and technical processes to systems design. The faculty for the program includes renowned professionals with a vast body of research and real-world experience.

Common admission requirements for both degrees include a bachelor of science degree from a regionally accredited institution, a grade point average of 3.0, knowledge of basic statistics and calculus, three letters of recommendation, a current resume, a statement of purpose, a completed online application, and one official transcript of all collegiate work completed from every institution attended. International students are required to submit TOEFL or IELTS or PTE scores.

Made up of 30 credits, some courses in the curriculum include the foundations of systems engineering; an overview of systems engineering processes; engineering risk analysis; software development methodology; electrical power engineering; systems requirements engineering; and systems engineering architecture.

The program equips students with skills that can be applied across industries, such as energy, healthcare, aerospace, and automotive. Students will develop expertise in the fields of management, mathematics, and engineering, and learn how to implement and design solutions to complex issues. They prepare for a wide variety of systems engineering careers such as government and military sectors, healthcare systems, power and energy, computer networks, information systems, and cyber security.

  • Location: Fort Collins, CO
  • Accreditation: The Higher Learning Commission (HLC)

3Arizona State University

Arizona State University offers an online master of engineering (MEng) in systems engineering program. This fully online program allows students to engineer complex processes, services, and products while leveraging a systems engineering approach. This program is ideal for professionals who lead major complex systems development or programs at their companies.

The major admission requirements include a bachelor's or master's degree in software engineering, computer engineering, or a related subject; a minimum grade point average of 3.0; a completed graduate admission application; official transcripts; and proof of English proficiency for applicants whose native language is not English. GRE scores are not required.

Comprising 30 credits, the program comprises ten courses, including advanced quality control; design of experiments; engineering administration; enterprise modeling; introduction to systems engineering; project management; reliability engineering; risk management; nonlinear control systems; production systems; and software verification and validation.

At the end of the program, graduates can be qualified to work in information technology, transportation, operations, aerospace, and manufacturing.

  • Location: Tempe, AZ
  • Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission (HLC)

4Missouri University of Science and Technology

The Missouri University of Science and Technology offers an online master’s degree and a doctorate in systems engineering. The master’s program helps engineering managers and engineers develop advanced skills and knowledge to confidently develop and implement complex systems. As an added incentive, students can earn two graduate certificates in any of the following emphasis areas: systems engineering; network-centric systems; model-based systems engineering; and computational intelligence.

Applicants to the master’s program must have a bachelor’s degree in computer science, engineering, applied mathematics, or physical science, and an undergraduate grade point average of 3.0. Admission requirements for the PhD program include an MS in systems engineering (or related field) with a grade point average of 3.5 and a minimum of three years of full-time work experience beyond the bachelor's degree. Common requirements for both programs include GRE scores, and TOEFL or IELTS scores for international applicants.

The master’s program offers a thesis (36 credits) and non-thesis (30 credits) option. For the PhD program, students must complete only 54 credits if they have already completed a master’s degree in systems engineering. (If students are directly pursuing a PhD degree after a BS degree, then they need to complete 84 credits.)

The MS program includes instruction in systems engineering and analysis; information-based design; systems life cycle costing; and systems architecting. The PhD offers courses such as advanced research methodologies; systems architecting; optimization under uncertainty; and mathematical programming.

  • Location: Rolla, MO
  • Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission (HLC)

5Texas Tech University

Texas Tech University offers an online master of science (MS) in systems and engineering management degree program. The program prepares engineering managers and industrial engineers for successful careers in consulting, industry, research, and university teaching. There is a growing demand for highly technical managers with a sound understanding of management and finance, and the program aims to fulfill it. Offered both online and on-campus, this program offers students with a non-industrial engineering degree to get graduate training in engineering management and their chosen specialty.

The major admission requirements for the program include official transcripts, diplomas/degree certificates, test scores, a statement of purpose, recommendations, writing samples, and a creative portfolio, among other requirements.

The program comprises 30 credits and includes courses such as the engineering management environment; decision theory and management science; systems theory; simulation models for operations analysis; and optimization principles.

Through the program, students learn how to identify, formulate, and solve complex engineering problems by applying engineering, science, and mathematics principles. They also learn how to communicate effectively with a range of audiences, recognize ethical and professional responsibilities in engineering situations, and make informed judgments. Overall, they are trained to develop and conduct experiments, analyze data, and use engineering judgment to draw conclusions.

  • Location: Lubbock, TX
  • Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC)

Campus Visitation Requirements for Online Systems Engineering Master's Programs

In general, campus visitation requirements for online systems engineering master's programs will vary depending on the school. Some may require the students to attend once per semester to complete exams, while others may allow the student to complete the degree without ever setting foot on campus.

For many institutions, the latter is true; for example, a degree at Missouri University of Science and Technology may be obtained through courses delivered online, and without any in-class instruction. Because of this variance across schools, prospective students should familiarize themselves with specifics in order to be prepared for what to expect.

Other Considerations for Selecting the Right Program

There are several other considerations that prospective students should keep in mind before deciding on pursuing an online master's degree in systems engineering.

Most importantly, students should research whether or not the institution assists students with job placement after graduation; many schools offer career counseling programs, which can be highly beneficial for those students searching for post-graduation employment.

Students may wish to discuss these and any other questions or concerns with an admissions officer before applying to the program. Doing this can help ensure that the prospective student knows what to expect from the degree program before applying.

Salary and Career Outlook for Systems Engineers

Overall employment in the broad category of architecture and engineering professions is projected to grow faster than the average for all professions (BLS 2023).

  • Computer hardware engineers earn an average wage of $147,770 per year, with the field projected to grow 5 percent by 2032, adding an estimated 78,100 jobs (BLS 2023).
  • Industrial engineers earn an average of $103,150 per year, with the field projected to grow 12 percent by 2032, adding an estimated 327,300 jobs (BLS 2023).
  • Electrical engineers earn an average of $117,680 per year, with the field projected to grow 5 percent by 2032, adding an estimated 299,700 jobs. (BLS 2023).

While systems engineers do not have their own distinct BLS category, they are often classified related to their area of expertise, falling into categories such as computer hardware engineers, electrical engineers, or industrial engineers. However precise classification can vary, as the work of systems engineers often spans across multiple disciplines.

More on Systems Engineering

Systems Engineering Professors to Know

Meet several top professors of systems engineering who teach at well-regarded universities, and who contribute both to the field of systems engineering and to the knowledge of students in their respective programs.