What Is Systems Engineering?

Systems engineering is a process used to arrive at a final system design. Systems engineering helps early detection of possible failures in a system. People holding degrees in systems engineering may work in manufacturing, safety, defense and aerospace industries. Schools offering Engineering & Technology Management degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Systems Engineering Defined

Systems engineering focuses on preventing issues in a specific field by identifying customers, customer issues and malfunctions that require changes. Systems engineering ensures that costs to the company are kept to a minimum.

Important Facts About This Occupation

Median Salary (2015) $64,993
Entry-level Education Bachelor's degree in a computer information science field
Job Outlook (2012-2022) 12% (for network and computer systems administrators)
Work Environment Office setting

Sources: Salary.com, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

The Systems Engineering Process

Systems engineering involves a specific process, according to the International Council on Systems Engineering (INCOSE). According to INCOSE, systems engineering is driven by guidelines that point out what must be done instead of how to do it. The system is derived from customer needs. Problem statements must reflect customer requirements in both functional and behavioral terms. The guidelines for the process are, in order:

  • Identify the problem
  • Examine alternatives
  • Model the system
  • Design interfaces and bring system elements together
  • Run the system
  • Assess the performance of the system
  • Re-evaluate on an ongoing basis

Investigating Alternatives

Systems engineering is based on alternative designs. Because system engineers know that no one design will meet every need, they focus on performance, cost, scheduling and risk factors. Prototypes are then built and evaluated. When evaluation is complete, the real model will be built. The systems engineer must determine the best alternative that balances capability and requirements.

Modeling the System

A model is built for each of the systems engineer's alternative designs. He or she will use block diagrams, analytic equations, flow designs, computer simulations and object-oriented models. Systems engineering is used to create a product and to ensure the feasibility of production processes.

According to the International Council on Systems Engineering, careful systems engineering ensures that a product not only works, but also can easily be integrated into the environment where it is placed. The product must be user-friendly and able to work with any subsystems. When the system is launched, it must be capable of doing what it was designed to do.

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