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Systems Engineering

The Breakdown

Don’t be fooled by the bland sounding nomenclature of systems engineering.  Though you might initially assume it is a little dry, rest assured that systems engineering is actually quite fascinating.  Indeed, it’s a realm of engineering that can be as applicable to environmental studies and practices as it is to say economics.  And it offers undergrads and professionals alike the chance to truly solve some real world problems. 

Distilled down to a simple definition, systems engineering focuses on combining different components to make safer, more efficient systems.  Yes, we realize that sounds incredibly general.  However, that’s because, as we mentioned above, systems engineering can be applied everywhere (from computers to telecommunication to politics even).  As such, systems engineering is actually an interdisciplinary pursuit.  Through a variety of classes in mathematics, engineering, computer science, economics (and even perhaps psychology), you’ll learn how to take a holistic approach to problem solving.  You can expect a lot of work in mathematical modeling and simulation and you’ll certainly hone your technical skills.  Finally most programs will require you to complete a senior capstone design project.  

Without question, as a systems engineering major, you must have formidable quantitative skills.  Moreover, you should be someone who is detail-oriented and good at synthesizing information.  And you should be someone who has an insatiable curiosity about the world around them.  


Nuts and Bolts

As a systems engineering major, you’ll have to tackle such challenging classes as: Calculus I, Probability, Linear Algebra, Introduction to Dynamic Systems, Statistics, Optimization of Systems, Discrete Systems Modeling and Simulation, Decision and Risk Analysis, Human Factors Engineering, Deterministic Operations Research, Computer Networking Protocols, Modern Telecommunications and Hydraulics.

Decisions, Decisions

Systems engineers also might enjoy studying civil engineering, computer engineering, information technology, actuarial science, statistics, electrical engineering, mechanical engineering, structural engineering, chemical engineering, computer science, operations research, organizational psychology, economics and business.

What's Next

Given the interdisciplinary nature of systems engineering, it should be no surprise that grads can find employment in many industries.  To begin with, they might end up working as software system engineers.  This entails creating software for specific businesses which, in turn, helps said businesses track and streamline their processes.  Additionally, another path is environmental systems engineering.  Those who take this route help to design and implement systems for such important jobs as waste disposal and water treatment.  Electric systems engineering is yet another possible direction to follow.  In this capacity, engineers might design, implement or help maintain systems for telecommunications and robotics.  Grads may also work in petroleum systems engineering, seeking ways to make the extraction process cleaner and more efficient.  Finally, it should be noted that although you can certainly find employment with an engineering degree, you will not be a full-fledged, licensed engineer.  Indeed, you will have to pass the Fundamentals of Engineering Exam (known as the FE) administered by the National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying.  Upon successful completion of the FE exam, you will acquire an apprenticeship to qualify for the Professional Engineer exam (known as the PE).  Once you pass the PE exam, you will become a fully certified engineer!



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Don Munce