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Does anybody have experience in Systems Engineering?

  1. Sep 22, 2014 #1
    Hey everyone, hopefully this is the right place to post this.

    I'm going into an undergraduate program in January, and I've been leaning towards the interdisciplinary program of systems engineering. I was wondering if anybody has had experience in this field? I would imagine it would be a legitimate area to get into; technology will always be innovative and evolving in one way or another.

    What I'm concerned about is whether or not this would be TOO specialized of an area, therefore lowering prospective job opportunities. How would a degree like this compare to something as broad as say, mechanical, civil or industrial engineering in terms of job stability, opportunities and earning potential?

    I'm positive there are very smart people on these forums, so I figured I'd ask here. Any help would be appreciated.
  2. jcsd
  3. Sep 22, 2014 #2

    D H

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    The issue with system engineering isn't that it's too specialized. It's the other way around; it's perhaps too generalized. You run the risk of being a jack of all trades and a master of none.

    That said, with today's large systems, there's a need for people who can see the big picture. Most of the people working on those big systems are working on but a tiny, tiny part of the system.They are so focused on counting the spots on a particular species of spotted beetles that live only on the north side of a particular species of trees that they can't see that the forest is on fire. Your job as a systems engineer is not to say that the forest is on fire. That's a bit after the fact. A systems engineer needs to be able to determine ahead of time how the combined actions of the engineers who do this, the engineers who do that, and the engineers who do some other thing can collectively start a forest fire. Then they have to stop them from doing that.
    Last edited: Sep 22, 2014
  4. Sep 23, 2014 #3
    So SE is MORE broad than the classic engineering disciplines? It sounds like it's heavily weighted more towards management than anything else?

    Would this be a good choice to pursue as an undergraduate degree? The help is much appreciated.
  5. Sep 23, 2014 #4

    D H

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    Exactly. You need to be able to see why the supposedly perfectly designed electrical system, the supposedly perfectly designed avionics system, the supposedly perfectly designed software, and the supposedly perfectly designed mechanical system somehow don't play nice together. There's no way any one person can learn all of electrical engineering, all of computer engineering, all of computer science, and all of mechanical engineering. Yet the systems engineer nonetheless somehow has to figure out what it is that occasionally makes those systems act so antagonistically.

    It doesn't help one bit that those systems almost always do cooperate perfectly. It helps even less that the one time they choose to misbehave is exactly the moment that opens the door wide open to Murphy's Law.

    And yes, systems engineering is a bit closer to management. One of the most common ways complex systems fail is underestimating how much time and money it takes to build them. Scientists and engineers tend to be overly optimistic about how easy a task is. When you get a cost and time estimate from Joe Blow you'll hopefully have learned to apply a multiplier of 1.2. That's actually very good. If only I could do that well!
  6. Sep 24, 2014 #5
    Thank you my friend, I shall pursue systems engineering!
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