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What Undergraduate Degree would best prepare me for a Systems Engineering/Engineering Management Graduate Degree?

I am seeking to become a Systems Engineer/Engineering Manager, but only graduate degrees are offered in these disciplines. What undergraduate degree could I pursue that would do the best job of preparing me for graduate level coursework? Would it be advantageous to complete a bachelors degree in a traditional engineering discipline while taking some management coursework as a minor? #engineering #systems-engineering #degree-selection

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Mark’s Answer

I have held the title of "systems engineering", and my main job was "define the requirements that are needed to resolve a customer problem". This included interviewing and interacting with the customer to define the need, review and application of standards to make sure that the solution would work with related solutions, and design and testing teams to make sure the solution met the need. It required consideration of existing solutions, knowing what was possible, and working with all parties to make sure that everyone (including me!) had a common understanding.


If this is what you would like to do, then I do suggest a undergraduate engineering degree in one of the disciplines, and even some "job experience" prior to moving to a "systems engineering" role. There are a lot of details in any of the engineering disciplines, and one of the "traps" of system engineering is to start doing design, and not focus on requirements. :) I found it good to understand I was a good designer... and that I could divorce my requirements from any design so that others could contribute to the solution.


I hope this was helpful, and this is somewhat close to your definition of a System Engineer. And if not, I have rarely found anyone with an engineering degree that does not find it useful. :)


Best of luck, and keep looking for answers!

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Joanna’s Answer

I have my undergraduate and graduate degree in systems engineering/Industrial and operations engineering form the University of Michigan. I am currently a Manager at BCBSM utilizing my system or process engineering mindset in Healthcare. I took the path of focusing on strategy and bigger picture thinking which my degree definitely prepared me for. I also studied and got my certification in lean/six sigma which is all about processes and how systems interact but making them efficient. It truly depends on where you would like to go with this field but I encourage you to look at the IOE (Industrial and Operations Engineering) website at the University of Michigan if you need a place to start and understand what the degree is all about. There are several schools that have an engineering discipline similar to this. Systems Engineering can really be applied in any time of discipline but it is most often taught in relation to the automotive side. There are also several certifications you can get around engineering management etc. that can supplement your degrees/education.

Hope this helps!

Joanna recommends the following next steps:

Check out https://ioe.engin.umich.edu/
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Michael’s Answer

What do you picture as "systems engineering" ? Is it combining electrical, hydraulic, and mechanical systems into one focus (I.E. mobile hydraulic equipment)? Or do you picture it as more of a factory position, integrating mechanical systems? Or is it writing sets of equations to describe the theoretical 'system response' to a physical action?
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Jamie’s Answer

Industrial Engineering may be something you want to look into. I found IE classes to be more big picture versus the highly focused disciplines like chemical, electrical, aerospace engineering. A degree in physics is also a good discipline, since all of the other engineering disciplines can be derived from physics. This would make you a generalist with a solid foundation with ability to grow into many of the sub-disciplines mentioned.
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Jai’s Answer

You will find Systems Engineers / Engineering Managers in pretty much all fields though I have seen these titles commonly used within Electrical, Mechanical, Industrial Automation / Control Systems and Civil Engineering. You can opt for a degree related to these fields to work in their respective vertical sectors (e.g. construction, energy, utilities, chemicals, equipment manufacturers, etc) or as the world is moving into AI/ML/Analytics you could do a computing or AI/ML degree and be a system engineer that can be panned from computing to all previously stated areas of technologies and verticals. Hope this helps!
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Tommy’s Answer

I did this exact job for most of my 47 years in the aerospace defense industry. I started as an aerospace engineer. Most engineers enter the systems engineering field as an electrical engineer. When I worked at Texas Instruments, SMU seemed to have the best systems engineering degree. Systems engineering covers many disciplines and requires a more generalist approach with strong math and organizational skills. A bs degree in mechanical, electrical, computer science, aerospace or applied math/physics is usually required.
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Rich’s Answer

I have a Masters in Systems Engineering and got my undergraduate degree in Electrical Engineering.  I think looking at what degrees you should go for to prepare for your career should be based on your interests first.  I was always interested in electrical/electronic/computer things - so logically BS in EE first.  I then decided for a Masters I wanted something more system-level, not so specific to EE, and thus I earned an MS in Systems Engineering.  Many people i n EE go on to get a MS EE if they want to stay technical in EE or an MBA if they want to head more towards business/management.  If you have an interest in a more mechanical approach - a BS in Mechanical Engineering might work.  Or if you like manufacturing - Operation Research Engineer.  Or if you like aerospace - an BS in Aerospace Engineering works too. 


I am in the communications field (working for Verizon as an Enterprise Architect) and believe my choices of BSEE and MSSE have been great for what I have done in my career, but your choices should be based on your interest and what you think you want to do in your career.


Rich recommends the following next steps:

Look it professional systems engineering organizations for more guidance.
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Spiro’s Answer

It really depends on the field you are interested in, as others here indicated. In addition to what everyone else mentioned, there is IT systems engineering as well. Any information systems, software engineering degree would be great for that. Or, you could even be a history and political science double major like me and have a systems engineer title. :) Honestly, I would suggest just figuring out what you enjoy, research it, and most importantly, go for it.
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