Systems engineers are expected to understand, develop, and operate entire systems with sophisticated interdependencies that are not only complex but rapidly changing. Historically, the SE discipline has its origins of the industrial workplace. As technologies have progressed, the need for experienced technical management with skills in inter-related technologies, processes, tools, and techniques has resulted in requirements for systems thinking in all industrial arenas. The national shortage of systems engineers is a broad concern for large industries as well as the government agencies. Practicing systems engineers, who hold the majority of knowledge for many of the complex systems still in use and many under development, are reaching the retirement phase of their working tenure. This has created a critical shortage of trained systems engineers at every level of expertise.
In 2009, Money magazine called systems engineering the best career in America based on employment growth and salary predictions. Two years later, the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) published an article saying that time has only increased demand for educated systems professionals. In 2014, the Education Advisory Board Market Demand for Systems Engineering noted the national demand for systems engineering increased 17% from 2010 to 2014, with the demand for systems engineers with a graduate degree increasing by 18% in the same time frame.
Today that demand sits at an all-time high, which seems to be a trend that will continue according to Robert Rassa, IEEE Fellow, Director of Engineering Programs for Raytheon SAS, and past president of the IEEE Systems Council, "The complexity of modern systems demands systems engineering." Now, more than ever before, a systems approach is required to address today’s multi-faceted, multi-disciplinary challenges.
The primary employers for systems engineering with a graduate degree are the defense and communications industries, including:
- Boeing Company
- Northrop Grumman
- Lockheed Martin Corporation
- General Dynamics
- General Electric
- Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC)
- Verizon Communications Inc.
Due to the ITAR restrictions of many of these companies’ business areas, a distinct market for systems engineering is within the United States. Many of these companies have processes and internal training programs for their systems engineering employees on the fundamentals of systems engineering but do not offer in depth systems engineering curriculum.