An online master's degree in systems engineering is an excellent choice for some, however it is not for everyone. Before you choose to pursue an online degree, it is important to keep certain considerations in mind.
It is perhaps most important to keep in mind that 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 who are too busy to show up in-person; however, it can also prove difficult for others who do not thrive outside of the traditional classroom. Students pursuing a systems engineering degree online may not receive a large amount (or any) support from peers, and may only have intermittent contact with professors or other instructors. In light of this, prospective students should be confident of their ability to succeed in a program with minimal 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.
While online programs may not receive the same consideration as their more traditional counterparts, they are certainly not devoid of high-quality instructors. In fact, the following five individuals teach systems engineering courses in schools that offer such degrees online.
Ariela Sofer is a professor and chair of the systems engineering department at George Mason University, where the MS in Systems Engineering is available in both synchronous and asynchronous distance learning modes. Her areas of focus include optimization, nonlinear programming, optimization in medical diagnosis and treatment, and airport planning.
Frank Peters is the interim department chair and associate professor of industrial and manufacturing systems engineering at Iowa State University. His research interests include the common theme of manufacturing systems and process improvements across a variety of industries.
M. Cenk Cavusoglu is an associate professor of robotics and haptics at Case Western Reserve University. His research interests include robotics, systems and control theory, and human-machine interfaces, among others.
Ravindra K. Ahuja is a professor of industrial and systems engineering at the University of Florida, and is president and CEO of Innovative Scheduling. His specialties include mathematical modeling, network optimization techniques, and solving large-scale scheduling problems arising in logistics and transportation.
Yacov Y. Haimes is the Lawrence R. Quarles Professor of Engineering within the department of systems and information engineering at the University of Virginia. He has authored and co-authored over 25 different publications dating from 1960 to the present.
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Prospective systems engineering graduate students must meet a host of admissions standards prior to acceptance. And while the specifics may vary based on the specific institution, in general there are certain admission requirements that 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 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, in this case, 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 will be required to submit their application on or before a certain deadline; while this may depend on the 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.
In order 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), considered the official accrediting agency for engineering schools nationwide (ABET is further divided into separate societies based on branch 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 is only awarded to those engineers who have completed a degree at a four-year accredited program. And this is significant; professional engineers, who are awarded licensure by the National Society of Professional Engineers (NSPE), are able to “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 first obtain professional licensure before they may teach.
And professional licensure often has a positive impact on salary prospects, as well. According to a publication offered by the NSPE, professional engineers earn, on average, 20 percent more than those who don’t retain such licensure.
Those who pursue a degree in systems engineering will generally follow a similar curriculum, regardless of their institution of study. Students will likely be required to take courses in mathematics and computer science, as well as those on the subject of core systems. Graduate systems engineering students generally have a fairly 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, or one of many other types of specialization, depending on the school.
While pursuing an online degree in systems engineering may be a relatively new concept, it is still possible to obtain such a degree from a number of esteemed institutions. Students wishing to achieve a high-quality education in the SE field may wish to consider applying to one of the following five highly regarded programs.
Colorado State University allows students to pursue either master of science (MS) or a master of engineering (MEng) degree in systems engineering. This program affords students the ability to learn solely online, or attend classes on campus if they so choose.
Ron Sega is the Woodward Professor of Systems Engineering at Colorado State University. He is considered a leader in developing systems engineering curriculum in collaboration with industry and other universities statewide.
Thomas Bradley is the associate director of systems engineering at Colorado State University. His primary research interests include design and analysis of aerospace, energy, and automotive systems, design optimization, and environmental assessment.
A master of engineering degree at Arizona State University provides students with the “ability to engineer complex products, processes and services, while leveraging a systems engineering approach.” It may be completed entirely online.
Ronald Askin is a professor and the director of the school of computing, informatics, and decision systems engineering at Arizona State University. He has received numerous awards, including best paper of the year and best book of the year from the Institute of Industrial Engineers.
Pitu Mirchandani is a professor within the school of computing, informatics, and decision systems engineering at Arizona State University. His research interests include optimization, decision-making under uncertainty, real-time control and logistics, and others.
At Colorado Technical University, students may obtain a master of science degree in systems engineering. This prepares students to pursue careers in positions such as energy engineers, manufacturing process engineers, and more.
Imad Al Saeed is a professor of information systems and technology at the Colorado Technical University. His focuses/specialization at the institution include information technology, computer science, and engineering.
Janet Durgin is a lead faculty member focusing on information systems and technology at Colorado Technical University. She has over a decade of experience as a systems engineering manager for a United States defense contractor, and has served for seven years as a program chair in academics.
Students may pursue either a master’s degree or a doctorate degree in systems engineering from Missouri University of Science and Technology. Areas of specialization at this institution include infrastructure systems, systems architecting, computational intelligence, and many others.
Cihan H. Dagli is the founder and Boeing Coordinator of the systems engineering graduate program at Missouri University of Science and Technology, as well as the director of the Smart Engineering Systems Lab. He has published more than 350 papers in refereed journals and is the director of 46 research projects with numerous grants.
Suzanna Long is an associate professor an interim chair with the department of engineering management and systems engineering at Missouri University of Science and Technology. Her recent projects include electric vehicle supply chains, contingency basing logistics, and rare earth elements social life cycle analysis, among others.
A master of science degree in systems and engineering at Texas Tech University is meant to “meet the growing demand for managers with strong engineering, science and technical backgrounds.” Students may complete the degree on their own schedule, and completion time varies based on the individual.
Mario Beruvides is the AT&T Professor within the industrial engineering department at Texas Tech University. His research interests include management of technology, engineering management, and applied ergonomics, among others.
Hong-Chao Zhang is the interim department chair and the E.L. Derr Professor within the department of industrial engineering at Texas Tech University. His areas of focus include sustainable manufacturing, green manufacturing, and life-cycle assessment, among many others.
In general, 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.
There are a number of 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 will 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 with the program. Doing this can help ensure that the prospective student knows what to expect from the degree program before he or she decides to apply.
Meet 20 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.