Purdue University Graduate School
Thesis_Tracy El Khoury.pdf (721.78 kB)

Are we teaching systems engineering students what they need to know?

Download (721.78 kB)
posted on 2020-08-13, 18:51 authored by Tracy El KhouryTracy El Khoury
This research addresses the need to advance systems engineering education, by assessing current undergraduate systems engineering programs in the US relative to the needs of the industry.

We extracted over 300 expressions relevant to the systems engineer’s duties from six sources. We chose sources that address the variety in how people define “systems engineering”, the evolving nature of the field, its practical aspect and the lessons learned through experience. We used these expressions to write 35 needed learning outcomes that should be taught to systems engineering students. The outcomes fall under six broad categories relating to requirements management, solution selection and implementation, system architecture and modeling, system performance evaluation, V&V activities and project management. We then looked at what existing undergraduate systems engineering programs are teaching and extracted each program’s current learning outcomes. We compared each program’s current outcomes to the industry-based needed outcomes to determine whether students are being taught what they need to know.

We learned that the duties of systems engineers are not uniquely defined and prioritized by the six sources, and that academic programs do not all teach the same outcomes. We found that all
current undergraduate systems engineering programs in the US are preparing students to meet at least some of the needs of the industry, such as to “Identify stakeholder needs”, “Develop highlevel system architecture” and “Estimate cost”, but that most programs do not teach students how to “Select optimal concept” or how to “Analyze system resilience”.

This work motivates the need to investigate potential gaps in systems engineering education and to determine how well we are preparing students to meet the needs of the industry.


CAREER: Accidental Knowledge: Using Accidents and other Systems Engineering Failures to Inform Research and Education in Systems Engineering

Directorate for Engineering

Find out more...


Degree Type

  • Master of Science in Aeronautics and Astronautics


  • Aeronautics and Astronautics

Campus location

  • West Lafayette

Advisor/Supervisor/Committee Chair

Dr. Karen Marais

Additional Committee Member 2

Dr. Ali Raz

Additional Committee Member 3

Dr. Senay Purzer

Usage metrics



    Ref. manager