Systems Engineering

Systems Engineering

Program Description

Systems Engineering (SE) is the process by which a customer’s needs are satisfied through the conceptualization, design, modeling, testing, implementation, and operation of a working system. There are a range of levels of systems engineering, from product systems engineering used for a standalone product or vehicle platform, to design and integration of so-called “systems of systems” (such as an air operations center or missile defense system), to enterprise wide systems engineering that span an entire organization (such as mobility forces or space command).

The focus on SE becomes especially important in the analysis and synthesis of large and complex systems, such as those that arise regularly in Department of Defense and Air Force problems. Such examples include: space systems, missile defense, Battle Management/Command and Control, network-centric systems, and generally most business and combat support Information systems. Over the last few decades, Systems Engineering has matured in to its own discipline, with a foundation on system science using tools and repeatable processes from product development and systems engineering management. Recently, with the pervasive deployment of complex interconnected networked systems, the use of architecture has taken a central role in communicating the system of systems and enterprise-wide solutions.

The Graduate Systems Engineering (GSE) program is an ABET-accredited program leading to a Master of Science (MS) degree in Systems Engineering. This program is provided to both resident students and part-time students via distance-learning (DL) modality. In full-time residence, it is nominally a six quarter (18 month) program, with students normally entering in September and graduating in March. For distance learning, it is nominally a 24 month to 36 month program, depending on part-time course load.

For more information about online/distance learning (DL) SE programs, or about general DL opportunities and application procedures, please visit AFIT Office of Extension Services at www.afit.edu/DL/

Admissions Requirements

Degree Required: Any engineering degree (Aeronautical, Astronautical, Aerospace, Chemical, Civil, Computer, Industrial, Mechanical, Electrical, or Systems Engineering) or a degree in Engineering Science. A degree in science (e.g. physics, chemistry), math or computer science will be considered for admission on a case-by-case basis. Courses in calculus-based physics and dynamical systems (circuits or engineering dynamics) are required. 

Mathematics Required: Ordinary Differential Equations

Test Required: GRE 153V/148Q (within the last five years) 

GPA Required: Overall - 3.0; Mathematics - 3.0; Major - 3.0 

Waivers to the above criteria may be granted (on an individual basis) by the Department of Systems and Engineering Management. Therefore, individuals whose academic credentials fall below any of the above criteria may still apply.

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Outcomes & Objectives

Program Educational Objectives (PEOs)

The GSE program takes students with traditional engineering backgrounds (mechanical, electrical, computer, aeronautical, etc.) and produces graduates who understand, and can effectively use, the tools and techniques of systems engineering and systems science. Within a few years after graduation, graduates are expected to:

  • Make positive programmatic and/or system engineering impacts, resulting in successful outcomes 
  • Employ sound systems engineering processes and tools across the acquisition lifecycle
  • Contribute as a team member; provide technical leadership to teams; promote and facilitate integration and communication across interdisciplinary teams; sustain and increase an effective professional and technical network


Student Outcomes (SOs)

The following student outcomes are those competencies that students are expected to achieve by program completion. Graduates will:

  • thoroughly understand the SE processes across the lifecycle.
  • apply SE processes and sound engineering principals in a systematic manner to solve contemporary defense-focused problems.
  • proficiently use analytical tools for implementing SE processes and method.
  • effectively communicate technically complex ideas and concepts in both written and spoken formats.
  • develop a detailed understanding in at least one Air Force relevant domain (air, space or cyberspace) or technical specialization.
  • conduct independent research on topics related to systems engineering, systems science and/or its application, including identifying and scoping a problem, synthesizing published work, formulating a design solution, planning and executing a valid research methodology, engineering a model or prototype, and/or analyzing and evaluating results and data.

Program Chair

Lt Col Amy M. Cox

Degree Information

Degree Type: Master's

Delivery Method: In-Residence and Distance Learning

Degree Requirements

  • Core Coursework (16 hours)
  • Mathematics (4 hours)
  • Research Methods (4 hours)
  • Specialization Track (12 hours)
  • Thesis (12 hours)

Graduate School Catalog
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Air Force Institute of Technology
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Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, OH 45433-7765
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