Online Systems Engineering Master’s Comes from Corporate Education Roots

GW prepares students for Certified Systems Engineering Professional exam

Program: Online Master of Science in Systems Engineering


“The online Master of Science in Systems Engineering provides students with a thorough understanding of system requirements, architecture, and operations, with all coursework based on the latest research. The program is a great fit for students currently working in systems engineering who would like to lead technical projects or pursue new roles in their careers, and for those interested in entering the field,” said Shahram Sarkani, Director of Engineering Management and Systems Engineering Online Programs.

Where it is: Washington, D.C.

Format: Online

Degree you get: Master of Science in Systems Engineering

Prerequisites: Bachelor’s degree in engineering, a physical science, mathematics, computer science, business administration, or information technology

Size of the program: Approximately 150 students

Number of credit hours: 36 (12 courses)

Thesis: Capstone project (3 credit hours)

How long it will take: Approximately 
3 years

When to apply: Rolling admissions

Start Time: Winter, Spring, Summer, Fall

Tuition and Fees: $30,000 

Minimum admission requirements:

  • Bachelor’s transcripts (GPA ≥ C [3.0 on a 4-point scale] in last 60 hours of undergraduate coursework)
  • Two undergraduate calculus courses (grades ≥ C)
  • Résumé
  • International applicants:
    • Academic IELTS: overall band score of 7.0 with no individual score below 6.5; or
    • TOEFL: 600 paper-based or 100 Internet-based; or
    • PTE Academic: 68

Not Required:

  • Essay (statement of purpose)
  • GRE
  • Letters of reference

Who should take it?

  • Working professionals
  • Those who are looking to lead technical projects
  • Those who are entering systems engineering from another engineering field

Things to consider about the program:

  • Program includes some mandatory live events
  • Set course list without electives

Claim to fame:

  • Prepares students for CSEP exam offered by INCOSE
  • Program started as online company-sponsored education
  • Program has long history online

Corporate Education Systems Engineering Program Expands Nationwide

The George Washington University (GW) Department of Engineering Management and Systems Engineering has been offering students degrees since 1954; however, not every applicant is close enough to Washington, D.C., to take the program on campus. Fortunately, for more than a decade, students looking to complete a Master of Science in Systems Engineering [M.S.(SE)] from GW have been able to complete the program online.

The degree started as on-site education for employees of such companies as Lockheed Martin Corporation and Science Applications International Corporation. As time passed, some employees of those companies interested in the program were posted too far away to participate. As a result, the curriculum shifted to a distance learning platform (VTC) in 2000 to accommodate those employees. In 2009 the curriculum was offered online for company-sponsored groups, and in 2014 it was opened online nationwide. Given the program’s professional roots, students should expect a tried and tested curriculum and platform.

“With extensive experience offering our master’s programs by distance learning and online, we have been able to learn and adjust over time as needed,” noted Shahram Sarkani, Director of Engineering Management and Systems Engineering Online Programs. “Notably, the curriculum for the program is developed by the School of Engineering and Applied Science faculty based on feedback from the engineering community and students.”

Systems Engineering Curriculum Focuses on CSEP

One advantage of taking the M.S.(SE) program at GW is that the content focuses on preparing students to take the Certified Systems Engineering Professional (CSEP) exam run by the International Council on Systems Engineering (INCOSE). No doubt this emphasis on CSEP certification comes from the program’s corporate training roots.

In addition to CSEP, the M.S.(SE) program at GW focuses on various systems engineering concepts including:

  • Accounting/finance
  • Architecture/modeling
  • Axiomatic design
  • Project management
  • Risk management
  • Systems analysis

The course list is set and the program doesn’t offer elective or customization options except in selection of the topic for the mandatory capstone project. If the course list doesn’t meet your needs, then GW may not be the best fit for you. Nevertheless, the defined curriculum delivers an up-to-date, innovative concentration on systems engineering content. “The focus of our online Master of Science in Systems Engineering is on educating students about the quantitative aspects of leading-edge technical environments,” said Sarkani.

Students taking the GW M.S.(SE) program online will be taught the same content, by the same faculty, as in the on-campus program. Exams, projects, papers, and homework assignments are established by the same faculty members.

Students will be able to access the course material, submit assignments, contact instructors, and participate in discussion boards using the Blackboard online learning platform.

“The benefit of pursuing the program online rather than on campus is convenience. Working professionals have the opportunity to earn their master’s degree from a top-tier university while continuing to work, no matter where they are in the world,” said Sarkani.

The GW M.S.(SE) program offers live virtual class meetings on a weekly basis. These classes are recorded and can be watched asynchronously. However, students are required to attend two of the classes live.

Diverse Student Body Adds Character to Systems Engineering Classes

The M.S.(SE) student body spans a wide age range, from 25 to 50, and career levels extend from junior engineer to business manager.

“While many comparable programs require students to have several years of experience in the field, and a bachelor’s degree in engineering, our program is open to applicants seeking to transition into the field or to work in a business role,” explained Sarkani. “We think this adds depth and character to our student body and provides additional perspectives in the classroom that one might not find in another institution.”

Shahram Sarkani, Director of Engineering Management and Systems Engineering Online Programs.

Shahram Sarkani, Director of Engineering Management and Systems Engineering Online Programs.

Though the minimum requirements ask for students to have achieved a 3.0 GPA average or better (in the last 60 hours of the bachelor’s degree), the school will also take an applicant’s personal achievements into consideration.

“GW considers a candidate’s entire background and all submitted materials when reaching an admission decision,” said Sarkani. “Applicants who do not meet the requirements may still be eligible for admission. Their records will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis.”

Students are advised to take only one course per session to limit the time dedicated to their studies, and thus the effect of the time commitment on their work and personal lives. Even so, Sarkani points out, “Students must be self-disciplined and self-motivated, have good time-management skills, and be comfortable studying independently to succeed in the program. They should understand that although the online format allows for great flexibility, it does not mean the courses will be easy.”

Limiting students to one course at a time can also help the transition back into education for those who may have been out of school for a while. This schedule contrasts with many other programs, which tend to recommend that students take one course for the first semester and then ramp up to two courses within the first year. “Students returning to school after many years can rest assured that they will be well taken care of at GW,” said Sarkani. “And for students who may not be familiar with taking courses online, we offer an optional practice session with the online tools each semester.”

He added, “Online students also have access to a wealth of resources at GW, including the Center for Career Services, the Division of Information Technology, and the libraries.” There will be no shortage of support for students working toward a Master of Science in Systems Engineering from George Washington University.

The George Washington University has sponsored promotion of their Online Master of Science in Systems Engineering on All opinions are mine. —Shawn Wasserman

Core Courses

  • EMSE 6001 The Management of Technical Organizations (3 credits)
  • EMSE 6020 Decision Making with Uncertainty (3 credits)
  • EMSE 6099 Problems in Engineering Management and Systems Engineering [Capstone] (3 credits)
  • EMSE 6410 Survey of Finance and Engineering Economics (3 credits)
  • EMSE 6505 Knowledge Management I (3 credits)
  • EMSE 6580 Information and Software Engineering
  • EMSE 6801 Systems Engineering I (3 credits)
  • EMSE 6820 Program and Project Management (3 credits)

Systems Engineering Focus Courses

  • EMSE 6805 Systems Engineering II (3 credits)
  • EMSE 6810 Systems Analysis and Management (3 credits)
  • EMSE 6815 Requirements Engineering (3 credits)
  • EMSE 6840 Applied Enterprise Systems Engineering (3 credits)

Written by

Shawn Wasserman

For over 10 years, Shawn Wasserman has informed, inspired and engaged the engineering community through online content. As a senior writer at WTWH media, he produces branded content to help engineers streamline their operations via new tools, technologies and software. While a senior editor at, Shawn wrote stories about CAE, simulation, PLM, CAD, IoT, AI and more. During his time as the blog manager at Ansys, Shawn produced content featuring stories, tips, tricks and interesting use cases for CAE technologies. Shawn holds a master’s degree in Bioengineering from the University of Guelph and an undergraduate degree in Chemical Engineering from the University of Waterloo.