Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Thinking About a Masters in Systems Engineering?

As Systems Engineering is becoming a more common area of study at many universities across the United States, online graduate programs geared towards working systems engineering professionals have sprung up as well. Now there are a variety of flexible options for professionals looking to go back to school to earn a graduate degree in systems engineering and related fields.

I initially went back to school for my Masters of Science while working at Lockheed Martin several years ago, and was surprised by how many schools offered flexible, affordable, and systems engineering oriented degree programs. Not all degree programs were called systems engineering, but I included them based on the classes offered and the online rankings websites (U.S. World & News Report and Study.com) who consider them in systems engineering family. Looking back, here are the top programs I found in terms of quality of education and flexibility with your full-time engineering job. Please note that this article is my personal opinion and does not reflect the views of INCOSE, the universities listed are not in any particular order. All universities listed offer 100% online programs.

1. UCLA Masters of Science Online Program - MS Systems Engineering

UCLA's online program was ranked by U.S. News and World Report 2015 as the #1 Online Engineering Degree Program. Their MS in Systems Engineering offers 9 domains of specialization making it even more focused on the area that interested you most. They also offer a MS in Engineering Management. You apply specifically for the online program, you only need 2 letters of recommendation and the GRE is sometimes waived if you are an exceptional applicant. What makes this program appealing is you only need 9 courses to earn your MS degree, the entire program costs around $33,000 not including course material. Overall, this program is very customized for professionals and focuses on making the program convenient.

2. Stanford Center for Professional Development (SCPD)/Honors Cooperative Program (HCP) - MS Management Science & Engineering  (MS&E)

This is the program I personally chose because I loved the flexibility that comes with being local in the San Francisco Bay Area. Students usually have the option of attending classes in person or online, what ever works best for them. You have the option of switching your status to a full-time on campus student part-way through the program if you desire. In addition that have networking events and a SCPD community for professionals to connect with. The program requires 3 letters of recommendation, but you have the option of submitting additional. You apply with the normal applicant pool of MS students, you specify you would like to be part-time and in SCPD by checking a box in the application. Please note that SCPD students must work for a member company and once enrolled/accepted you are considered part of the Honors Cooperative Program (HCP). The one down side to this program is the cost, when I attended it cost $1,340/unit for a 45 unit program that comes to over $60,000 not including fees and other coarse material. You do get to be part of the Stanford Alumni Asc. when you graduate, which has a very strong community in the Bay Area and beyond.

3. University of Southern California (USC) Online - MS Industrial and Systems Engineering or MS Systems Architecting and Engineering

I was very impressed with the huge selection of online programs USC offers in engineering and other fields. They have four MS degrees and a certificate in their Industrial and Systems Engineering category, including an MS in Engineering Management. When I was accepted into the Industrial and Systems Engineering MS program, I was surprised that my BS in Mechanical Engineering and BA in Business Management Economics wasn't enough to fulfill all the program prerequisites and my admission offer required I take additional undergraduate level courses closer to the systems engineering discipline. This meant it would take more time and money to get through the program, but on the bright side this ensures you have a very strong background in systems engineering. USC was another more expensive option on a per unit basis, at $1,706/unit. The 30 unit MS costs around $51,000 plus the cost of prerequisite courses you may need to take, fees and course material. This program was ranked #3 in Online Engineering Degree Programs 2015 by US News and World Report.

4. George Washington University (GWU) Online Programs - MS and PhD in Systems Engineering

What is most interesting about GWU is that they offer both a MS and a PhD program in either Systems Engineering or Engineering Management. I've seen very few PhD systems engineering programs, let alone a SE PhD program online. The PhD program does require you to have 5 years of related professional experience. Tuition at GWU is extremely reasonable at $833/unit, which is only ~$30,000 for a MS degree. Their website says there are no additional fees beyond the unit cost and course material is included in the cost. You may also be able to transfer a few courses, cutting down on your overall cost even more. This is probably the best value for an online MS degree you are going to find, which makes it an excellent option if you will be paying for this out of pocket, but still want to attend a high quality university.

5. Johns Hopkins University (JHU) Online - MS Systems Engineering and MS Engineering in Systems Engineering

JHU offers two similar Masters, one in Systems Engineering and another in Engineering in Systems Engineering. They also offer a MS in Technical Management. In order to be accepted you must have completed 1 year of work in systems engineering. If you are hesitant about jumping into a MS program this university allows you to start with a certificate program, and if you decide to pursue an MS you can apply your courses to the Masters. JHU requires 10 courses for a Masters at $3,710 per course, the program comes to ~$37,000 plus fees and course material.

There are many other universities out there that offer systems engineering or online programs, but these are the 5 that stood out to me as being the most interesting and flexible for a working professional. If there are other programs you recommend please feel free to post information about them in the comment section. Good luck on your graduate education journey!

Cassi Janakos, ASEP
Cassi's Bio/Background

INCOSE Regional Mini-Conference and Volunteer Opportunity

The INCOSE SFBAC Chapter is teaming with the Los Angeles, San Diego, Central and Southern Arizona Chapters to hold a regional mini conference. The conference will be April 8-9, 2016.  The call for papers will be released next month, abstracts will be due December 4, 2015 and final papers/presentation March 15, 2016.  Each chapter is asked to identify 2 reviewers of technical papers that will be considered for presentation.  If you are interested, please submit a bio for consideration to our Chapter President, Rollie Olsen, rollie.olson [at] incose.org