Skills gap: Consider an online Master’s in Systems Engineering

Holistic approach to managing complex engineering projects developed for 'nontraditional students.'
By Control Engineering Staff April 1, 2008

University Park , PA —A recent report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) points out that engineers need to continue their education to keep up with advancements and technologies in their fields. In an effort to help engineers achieve this without interrupting their careers , Penn State’s World Campus , a unit of Penn State Outreach, is accepting applications for a new online Master in Systems Engineering.

BLS found that “it is important for engineers, as it is for workers in other technical and scientific occupations, to continue their education throughout their careers because much of their value to their employer depends on their knowledge of the latest technology.” The report reveals that job opportunities for engineers are expected to be “good” since the number of engineering graduates is roughly equal to the number of positions expected to open up. It forecasts a strong demand in the near future for engineering firms to replace retiring engineers.

Systems engineering is a holistic approach to managing complex engineering projects; developed first in the aerospace industry and the military, it has been adopted by other engineering disciplines. Systems engineering applies to a variety of systems, including large systems, such as power plants; small systems, such as circuit components; or computer hardware and software systems.

The new program was developed for adult and nontraditional students, according to .Dr. Craig Weidemann, Penn’s vice president of outreach. “Technology advances at such a rapid rate that engineers need to replenish their technical knowledge before it becomes outdated. What they need are educational opportunities that allow them to remain in their fields while they learn new information through programs such as our online master’s degree in systems engineering.”

Dr. James Nemes, lead faculty for the new program, explained that an undergraduate degree is increasingly looked on as an entry-level qualification. To advance into management positions, engineers need to broaden their knowledge and skills. “While an undergraduate degree offers a solid foundation in science and mathematics for engineers, employers are looking for more,” said Nemes. “Students in the systems engineering program develop skills that go beyond that core foundation, such as project management, system management and communications skills.”

There are also numerous resources targeting students much earlier in their engineering careers.

–edited by Renee Robbins, senior editor, Control Engineering Daily News Desk