Systems Science and Theory

Systems science and theory are, rather than a field of knowledge, a syncretic look at information in and across various fields via the concept of systems. Read on to learn more about this topic and see how relevant degree programs can prepare you to work for private or non-profit organizations, government or academia.

Is Systems Science and Theory Right for Me?

Career Overview

The field of systems science and theory often looks at the concepts, methodologies, models and laws of any system that can be applied to more than one field of knowledge. Systems scientists and theorists use the tools, models, methods and strategies they develop to design, enhance, integrate and inquire within the complex systems of their field of knowledge. These systems frameworks are then applied to fields such as psychology, philosophy, electrical engineering, anthropology, cybernetics, computer science, information science and chaos theory.

There are numerous positions that deal with systems science and theory on a daily basis. Nearly all posts in the fields of systems science and theory require you to hold a graduate-level degree. Work can be found in academia, non-profits, the government and business sectors.

Employment and Career Information

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wages for computer and information research scientists and computer systems analysts were $106,290 and $81,190, respectively, as of May 2013 ( The median annual wage for electrical engineers was $89,180 in the same year; anthropologists earned median pay of $58,360. The median wages for biological scientists and mathematicians were $72,720 and $102,440 in 2013, respectively.

How Can I Work in Systems Science and Theory?

Undergraduate Education

It may help you to take as many courses as possible in computers, technology and electronics at the high school level. Next, at a 4-year college or university, you can enroll in a systems science bachelor's degree program. However, if you want to apply systems science to a certain field, like anthropology, mathematics or electrical engineering, you may want to major in the specific field or double major. Courses in a systems science bachelor's degree program will usually cover systems analysis, design and numerical methods, optimization, computer programming, differential equations and system stability. If you want to work as an engineer, make sure your program of choice is accredited by ABET (formerly, the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology); a degree from an ABET-accredited program may be preferred by employers or required for professional credentials.

Graduate Education

A Ph.D. is usually the terminal degree for most systems scientists. Many graduate programs exist, offering courses covering basic systems theories, models, quantitative methods, approaches and philosophies, as well as more advanced work with systems dynamics, artificial intelligence and neural networking. At the graduate level, coursework can be supplemented with comprehensive exams, research and a dissertation proposal.

Job Options

After graduation, you may find posts in systems science academic departments and the computer industry. However, systems science and theory have recently been applied to genomic analysis, aircraft flight control, linguistics, robotics, climate models, fisheries, logistics and the criminal justice system. Thus, a broad knowledge base, quality research, prolific publication and an open mind can help you advance as a systems scientist.

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