This guide is all about systems engineering certifications. It includes information about why people are interested in getting a systems engineering certification, how to go about getting one, and other valuable insights.
Completing a bachelor’s in an engineering discipline is often the stopping point for many professionals’ education. Completing a master’s degree may be the next logical step for those who wish to pursue further higher education. However, some individuals may simply want to build on their knowledge beyond a bachelor’s degree without committing to a rigorous postgraduate program. Obtaining a system engineering certificate may be the perfect middle-ground for such individuals.
Systems engineers are in high demand globally as manufacturing and supply chains recover from the pandemic. Being educated in this field offers engineers a competitive advantage.
Overview of Systems Engineering
Systems engineering combines all engineering disciplines and subgroups into a simplified process for managing projects. More specifically, this engineering field follows a project from concept and prototyping to manufacturing and operations. As a systems engineer, one will be a jack of all trades, ensuring that all stakeholders in a particular product or process are reasonably satisfied. This is accomplished by working with program managers and handling all life cycle considerations properly.
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In short, systems engineering uses systems thinking principles to organize complex operations. For example, the design and development of a new commercial aircraft is a complicated and multifaceted project requiring the cooperation of professionals across many disciplines. When innovating a new aircraft, a process needs to be developed to take it from the conceptual phase to mass production.
Engineers across disciplines each work on a certain aspect of developing the aircraft. Mechanical engineers work on control surfaces and powerplants. Electrical engineers are tasked with developing and integrating sensors and controls. Industrial engineers assist in developing manufacturing processes. But who is responsible for ensuring that all these aspects of developing a new aircraft work synergistically? Enter systems engineers. It is their responsibility to ensure everyone, and everything works together seamlessly.
There are many other types of projects that systems engineers may be involved with. For example, electrical grids are complex systems requiring constant troubleshooting and improvements. Keeping such a system running requires cooperation between electrical engineers, technicians, and lawmakers. As electrical usage increases and different energy sources are incorporated, constant improvements must be made to existing infrastructure. A systems engineer will work to resolve any issues that may come up during this process.
Another example of systems engineering at work is in the process of developing new pharmaceuticals. Developing a new drug is an exceedingly complex process involving scientists, medical professionals, and engineers. Systems engineers will help bridge gaps between the different parties involved by helping to resolve issues.
You may have noticed that the systems engineering process shares similarities with manufacturing engineering. However, there are some key differences. Manufacturing engineering is centered around creating repetitive processes that optimize production quality and minimize cost. Systems engineering is much more proactive because it involves seeking out problems and inefficiencies in existing processes that need to be solved in real-time.
What is a Systems Engineering Certificate?
A systems engineering certificate is proof that an individual completed courses through a university that gave them a solid understanding of this field. These courses are usually graduate level and completed after obtaining a bachelor’s degree in a STEM topic (typically engineering). Obtaining a systems engineering certificate follows a similar template to completing a master’s degree. However, these certificates require less time to complete than a master’s and are often less expensive. Here are a few examples of coursework required to obtain a system engineering certification:
- Decision Analysis: This course covers how to systemically, quantitatively, and visually approach and address important business choices.
- Operations Research: Teaches students how to break down technical problems into small components and then use mathematical analysis to solve them.
- Requirements Engineering: Helps students translate needs and priorities into system requirements.
- System Dynamics: Introduces concepts and methodology to analyze the dynamic behavior of systems with complex feedback loops.
- Systems Engineering Approach: An introductory course to the fundamentals of systems engineering.
Many of the most rapidly growing industries today include increasingly complex manufacturing processes. From aerospace and electric vehicles to semiconductors and integrated circuits, how things are made isn’t as clear-cut as it used to be. Employers are increasingly searching for individuals who are knowledgeable of complex manufacturing processes. Obtaining a certification in systems engineering is an excellent addon to one’s qualifications on top of a bachelor’s degree.
Like many post-graduate programs, systems engineering certificates can be earned online. This option is great for those who want to further their education but have a full-time job and require schedule flexibility. Online courses also allow students to choose the intensity of their coursework. Earning a system engineering certificate online is an excellent option if the educational institution is in a different geographic location.
Examples of Systems Engineering Certifications
Several universities offer systems engineering certificate programs. Most of these programs require roughly the same steps with minor variations. However, suppose one does not wish to attend a university to obtain a certificate and already possess relevant educational and work experience. In that case, they can get certified through The International Council on Systems Engineering (INCOSE). This organization offers educational programs and the following three levels of certification.
- Associate Systems Engineering Professional: This certification is for junior engineers who have some base knowledge of systems engineering but are just starting their careers. These individuals typically have book knowledge but not much work experience.
- Requirements: Submitting an application and passing a knowledge exam.
- Certified Systems Engineering Professional: Engineers with five or more years of relevant experience are good candidates for this certification.
- Requirements: Submit an application, gather professional work references, and pass a knowledge exam.
- Expert Systems Engineering Professional: This certification is reserved for systems engineers with decades of experience and notable accomplishments. Very few individuals possess this title.
- Requirements: Submitting an application, gathering professional work references, and getting application approved by board members.
Choosing between attending a university program or going through the INCOSE certification process is a matter of personal preference. Universities will provide targeted coursework directly related to systems engineering, whereas earning one’s certificate through INCOSE will be a process dependent on one’s work experience. If desired, one can even obtain both qualifications.
When considering earning a systems engineering certificate through a university, the most logical question is how much it will cost.
The cost of tuition will vary depending on whether you enroll in an online or in-person program. Likewise, out-of-state tuition will be substantially greater than in-state tuition.
The cost of earning an online certificate may be substantially lower than earning it in person because your current living accommodations may not need to change. In the end, the university itself will be the most important factor in tuition costs. For example, CalTech offers a Systems Engineering Fundamentals Certificate for $2850, whereas Georgia Tech offers a more in-depth program for just under $10,000.
Although not free, these tuition fees are significantly less than what one would expect for a master’s degree.
If obtaining a certification directly through INCOSE, a one-time application fee of $180 is required. Additional money will likely be spent on learning materials in preparation for the knowledge exams. Under certain circumstances, employers may cover all educational expenses if they feel earning a systems engineering certificate is relevant to your job. Likewise, earning such a certificate independently when starting or switching careers can make your resume stand out and help you negotiate a higher starting salary. For more in-depth information about systems engineering certifications, please visit the INCOSE home page.