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Best Online Master’s Degrees in: Engineering Systems

engineering degree

Editor's Picks: Online Schools for Engineering Systems


Cornell University won our best value award for schools that offer online master's degree programs in systems engineering. The university's annual return on investment (ROI), the amount a student pays in tuition versus what they receive in lifetime earnings, is 9.8%, according to Cornell University's ROI increases to 11.9% when financial aid is considered.


Cornell University also earned our award for flexibility. College Prowler ranked Cornell 13th in its list of colleges with the most flexible curriculums, which indicates that students can study what they want and still earn the degree they're pursuing. Cornell's systems engineering graduate program consists of 30 credit hours of courses, including two credit hours that are delivered on campus. Along with the required core courses, students may enroll in elective classes in the disciplines of systems management, systems applications, and systems modeling and analysis.

Career Support

Colorado State University received our award for career support. The university's career center offers career counseling, resume and cover letter advice, a searchable online job and internship database, a listing of career fairs and workshops, and the means to find contacts within national and international companies. All alumni have access to Colorado State University's career services for free up to one year after they graduate.

Financial Support

Regis University won our award for financial support because 95% of its full-time beginning undergraduate students received financial aid, according to the National Center of Education Statistics (NCES). The university's financial aid office offers federal and state loans and grants, university scholarships, and more for students who are pursuing a college degree. Regis University's website includes information on these programs, important deadlines, and the appropriate steps for applying for financial aid.

Technology Support

Arizona State University received our technology support award because of the services its online help center provides distance learning students. U.S. News & World Report placed Arizona State University second in its student services and technology ranking of the top online graduate engineering programs. The university offers live technical support 24 hours a day, seven days a week, they can access course materials by using a smartphone application, and live streaming video is available as a learning tool.

Student Engagement

Penn State University claimed our award for student engagement. U.S. News & World Report placed the university third in its ranking of student engagement and accreditation of the top online graduate engineering programs. When an online student submits a question to their professor he or she can expect a response within 24 hours, and the school's faculty keep tabs on their students by tracking their logins into the course system, according to U.S. News.

Library/Research Support

Penn State University also received our award for best library and research support. Students of Penn State's World Campus have access to the school's University Libraries system, which is the seventh largest research library in North America with more than 100,000 e-books, according to the university's website. The University Libraries website allows students to search for books, articles, e-journals, and multimedia, as well as through databases and course reserves.

Faculty Credentials

Cornell University also received our faculty credentials award. U.S. News & World Report ranked Cornell University seventh in faculty credentials and training of the top online graduate engineering programs. According to U.S. News, 83% of the university's faculty have at least two years of online teaching experience. Cornell also finances an online teacher training program for its professors.

Faculty Accessibility and Involvement

Regis University received our award for faculty accessibility and involvement. College Prowler gave the university a grade of "B+" for academics, which demonstrates that professors are accessible, knowledgeable, and they are interested in their students' success. When determining the grade, College Prowler also considers how well professors communicate with their students, if classes are engaging, and class size.

Alumni Engagement

Arizona State University received our award for alumni engagement because of the benefits it offers members of its alumni association. These benefits include alumni newsletters, the chance to participate in contests and prize drawings, retail discounts, insurance — including home, auto, medical, and life — discounts, and more. Alumni members also receive special rates on career coaching sessions and free access to an alumni association job board that allows Fortune 500 companies and alumni-owned businesses to search for potential employees.

New Student Orientation

Arizona State University also claimed top honors for new student orientation because of the step-by-step video tutorials it provides. These tutorials cover a wide range of topics relating to online learning, including how to register for classes, utilize academic advising, access classes, use the university's online library system, and how to use Spark, a smartphone application that connects students and alumni. These orientation videos are available to anyone who has access to the Internet which gives potential students an opportunity to get a feel for Arizona State's online classroom before they sign up for courses.

Explore a Master's Degree in Engineering Systems

Engineering systems focuses on the complexity of engineering projects and how they should be designed or managed to get the best results. Graduate students in engineering systems degree programs learn about work processes, logistics, project management, organizational studies, and control and industrial engineering. Students may also have the option to specialize in an area of engineering systems, such as operations research, control systems, computer network systems, or aviation systems. Requiring around 30 credit hours, it typically takes students up to two years to complete a master's degree in engineering systems. However, it can take more or less time to complete the program, depending on factors such as the school, previously earned college credits, and enrollment status of the student.

Class Curriculum

As an interdisciplinary field of study, a master's degree in engineering systems requires students to take courses in engineering, technical, and project management disciplines. Engineering systems courses generally cover topics such as conceptual design, design and integration, software systems, and testing and evaluation. Core courses may include the following:

  • Systems Engineering Foundations. In this course, students will be introduced to the foundational aspects of systems engineering. Concept development is discussed, as well as the processes of engineering development and issues involved in post-development.
  • Technology and Project Management. Students learn about the strategic role of technology and projects, and how to apply techniques for project management solutions. Through assignments and projects, they also learn about planning and implementation, ways to analyze project management issues, and how to balance stakeholder requirements for things like quality, time, cost, and personnel.
  • Software Systems Engineering. This course addresses software engineering principles, processes, and approaches for software system development. In addition, students study planning, requirements, design, architecture analysis, implementation, testing, and maintenance as they are related to software.

Along with course work, graduate students in engineering systems programs complete various types of hands-on projects involving case studies, role playing, management tools, and more. It is also not uncommon for students to frequently work in groups so that they can develop organizational, interpersonal, and management skills required for professional projects. A master's project or thesis may be required at the end of the program.

Building a Career

Students graduating from master's degree programs in engineering systems will leave with the engineering knowledge, problem-solving skills, and analytic abilities to create systems that meet operational needs. There are a variety of fields that that graduates can find positions solving engineering problems, including bioscience and health, energy, natural resources, aerospace, and environment. Possible job titles include operations research analyst, system safety engineer, and process engineering manager.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the employment of operations research analysts is projected to increase by 15% before 2020, while employment of system safety engineers is expected to increase by 15%. These types of engineers earned a median annual salary of $75,430, while operations research analysts earned a little less at $70,960.

The BLS also reported that employment for architectural and engineering managers, including process engineering managers, is expected to increase by 9% from 2010 to 2020. These types of managers earned a median annual salary of $119,260, with the highest salaries in research and development, and manufacturing.

But even though these types of figures can give you an idea of the career outlook for those with an engineering systems degree, they are not guarantees of employment or income. Keep in mind that job availability and salary often depends on factors such as location, education level, professional experience, and economic conditions.