FIGURE 3-1 Systems engineering degrees awarded in the United States in the past decade. SOURCE: Based on data gathered in Engineers Joint Council, Engineering Manpower Commission, and American Association of Engineering Societies, 2006, Engineering and Technology Degrees, New York: Engineering Manpower Commission.

Thus, Figure 3-1 does not present a complete picture of U.S. university production of engineers that have an exposure to systems thinking.


Industry has clearly recognized the need for SE-trained personnel. In fact, it has invested significantly in training programs that produce hundreds or even thousands of company-trained systems engineers per year. The committee interviewed representatives from four major U.S. aerospace companies to better understand industry approaches used to develop and train systems engineers. To protect the proprietary nature of any of the approaches being used, the companies themselves are not identified in the report. Some of these companies have emphasized systems engineering training for less than a decade, while others have been involved in it for as long as 30 years. The discussion below summarizes common themes that emerged from the interviews.

  • Training, not just education, is crucial. All the companies agree that a person learns to be a systems engineer by on-the-job-training (OJT)—by practicing the trade. While tools that facilitate the management of a program can be taught and learned, the essence of being a good systems engineer depends on applying all knowledge, including functional and domain knowledge, along with the tools, at the right places in any given

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