Frequently Asked Questions

Application FAQs

Please see our application instructions (located on our Future Students page) for complete and detailed instructions and requirements to apply. Below are common questions we get from prospective students:

Students who have completed a degree at an institution in the United States can request a waiver from the GRE requirement by emailing sys_engr_info@engr.colostate.edu. The waiver will not be granted until both the student’s application has been submitted and an official transcript verifying degree conferral has been received and added to the application.

Students who have not completed a degree at a U.S. institution are required to have GRE scores before their application is considered complete.

All applicants may check their application status by logging in at http://gradadmissions.colostate.edu/apply/status at any time after they have applied.

The Systems Engineering Department will not provide updates on materials applicants are still missing.

For Ph.D. or M.S. Plan A applicants: If your application status shows a complete application, but you have not sent confirmation of a faculty advisor, your application will still be considered incomplete.

Students can take one or more classes prior to formally applying or being admitted to ensure that the program is a good fit and to demonstrate ability to succeed in graduate-level work. Taking a course does not guarantee admission to a program, but it is one additional factor that the admission committee will consider in our holistic application process.

Students are eligible to use up to 9 credits of coursework prior to formal admissions for a Master’s program and up to 10 credits for a Ph.D. Students must have earned a B or higher in courses for them to apply to the degree.

Per Graduate School policy, grades earned in courses prior to admission do not apply to your degree GPA, which must be at least a 3.0 to graduate.

The Systems Engineering Department does not have scholarships, fellowships, or grants for Master’s or Ph.D. students.

We have limited Graduate Teaching Assistantships available, the details of which may be found here. Individual faculty members may have Graduate Research Assistant positions available–you will need to contact faculty directly to inquire. Graduate Assistant positions have a residency requirements and are only available for on-campus students.

You may also explore institution or federal funding options by contacting the Office of Financial Aid.

These degrees have somewhat similar curriculums, but there are a few differences:

Master of Engineering (M.E.)

  • Typically viewed as a more ‘applied’ degree, and is usually for students interested in gaining new skills and going into industry
  • Can be completed coursework-only, with no project, or you can opt to complete a capstone-type project to apply what you’ve learned with faculty guidance
  • The curriculum is more structured to provide a greater breadth and depth of SE skills

Master of Science (M.S.)

  • Often pursued by students interested in eventually continuing in academia, like an eventual PhD or teaching goal
  • Requires either a 9-credit thesis or a 3-credit project
  • Allows a bit more flexibility in course choice within SE and electives

Our two doctoral degree options have very different curriculums and outcomes:

The Ph.D. is intended as a research degree and generally as preparation for a faculty position at a college or university.

The D.Eng. prepares individuals for professional engineering careers in business, industry, and the public sector.

Please view our Ph.D. vs D.Eng. flowchart to help decide which program is best for you.

No. Securing a permanent faculty advisor is the first step to apply either to the Ph.D. program or the M.S. Plan A (with thesis). Without a faculty advisor, your application will be incomplete and will not be reviewed.

Our Ph.D. application is competitive: the program is highly sought-after and we have limited capacity for new students each application period. Because securing an advisor can be the longest and most difficult part of the application process, we encourage you to begin well in advance of the application deadline.

Students might find they are unsuccessful at securing an advisor for a variety of reasons, including:

  • Faculty may be at capacity with advisees and simply unable to take a new student. You may continue to seek advisors for more than one application period if you are having difficulty locating an advisor who can take you immediately.
  • Some applicant research interests fall outside of the expertise areas offered by CSU’s faculty and may not be a good fit for our program.
  • Some applicants do not clearly state their research objectives and/or do not adequately demonstrate that they are prepared to begin Ph.D.-level research. You might review the information you share when corresponding with potential faculty members to ensure you are presenting a competitive and accurate picture of your skills and goals.

Ultimately, students are responsible for locating a faculty member who fits with their goals; without this an applicant’s file is considered incomplete and is not reviewed for admission.

No, but you must have a Practicum Sponsor from your current employer or the organization in which you plan to do your practicum project. Please note the D.Eng. is a highly competitive program with very few openings for new students each semester.

An applicant who is admitted to the D.Eng. program would be assigned a default faculty advisor and some advisory committee members based on their project topic. Students will then work with this default committee to refine or adjust committee members as necessary before finalizing their committee on their GS6 Program of Study in their second or third semester.

More information can be found in the document Practicum Sponsor Requirements, posted on the D.Eng. web page.

General Program FAQs

Systems Engineering is an interdisciplinary approach and means to enable the realization of successful systems. It focuses on defining customer needs and required functionality early in the development cycle, documenting requirements, then proceeding with design synthesis and system validation while considering the complete problem (including operations, cost & schedule, performance, training & support, testing, disposal, and manufacturing).

Systems Engineering integrates all the disciplines and specialty groups into a team effort forming a structured development process that proceeds from concept to production to operation. Systems Engineering considers both the business and the technical needs of all customers with the goal of providing a quality product that meets the user needs.

A more detailed description can be found here, or you can visit the INCOSE website.

The application process, curriculum, and degree earned are all the same for both the on-campus and online program!

The On-Campus Experience

Students who attend classes at our beautiful Fort Collins campus have opportunities for increased interaction with our professors, more connections in-person with guest speakers and industry professionals, and access to labs, equipment, and other resources for cutting-edge research. On-campus student may choose to take online courses within their program.

The Online Experience

Our hybrid course technology allows online students to participate synchronously or asynchronously in courses happening on-campus. Students may also attend a selection of courses at our South Denver campus. Our Certificate, M.E., M.S., and Ph.D. programs are all able to be completed 100% online!

Yes! All courses required for our certificate, M.E., M.S., Ph.D., and D.Eng. are offered online and there is no residency requirement.

Ph.D., D.Eng., or M.S. Plan A students may be required to have weekly phone or email meetings with their faculty advisor and/or some committee members, but this will depend on individual faculty preference. Some Ph.D., D.Eng., or M.S. Plan A students also choose to travel to campus for major dissertation/thesis exams, but all exams can also be completed using video teleconferencing technology.

On-campus students will use the student portal RAMweb to register, whereas online/distance students must use the CSU Online website to enroll in courses. Online/distance students may not use RAMweb for any course registration.

You can view our registration flow chart for a more detailed view of this process.

Yes! Many of our students are working professionals and it is common for students to take only one or two courses per semester.

Please note that all graduate degrees have a 10-year time limit on coursework. Coursework older than 10 years when the Graduation Application is filed may not apply to the degree.

If you are relying on federal financial aid, there may be additional restrictions. Please contact the Office of Financial Aid to check on your status and requirements.

You may visit our current student research page to review the many different projects that are in-progress.

You may also visit the student exam page to see topics of completed projects.

An M.E. or M.S. student may transfer up to 6 credits provided all Graduate School requirements are met, including:

  • The credit was earned at a regionally-accredited institution
  • The course(s) must have a B or higher earned (‘B-‘ is not accepted)
  • It must be a ‘regular’ course (meaning it cannot be a seminar, special topic, independent study, research credit, or similar)
  • It must not have been used toward a previous awarded degree
  • It must be 500-level equivalent or higher
  • It must be approved by the S.E. Department as relevant to your program of study (a copy of the course syllabus will be required)

Per the Graduate School, there is a 10-year time requirement on individual courses counting toward any graduate degree. If a transfer course will be at least 10 years old at the time the student applies to graduate, it may not count toward your degree.

Please see the Graduate and Professional Bulletin for full information on transfer credit policies.

The Systems Engineering Department has newly implemented summer offerings for a select few of our ‘regular’ courses (with a set syllabus). Our goal is to offer one or two course options each summer.

We also regularly offer ‘non-regular’ independent study or dissertation credits each summer (ENGR 597, ENGR 695, ENGR 699, ENGR 795, or ENGR 799). Eligibility for these courses depends on your degree program. These non-regular courses require a faculty advisor, so if you would like to take one of these courses during a summer semester, you must check with your advisor that they will be available during that time.

Additionally, some Systems Engineering electives that are run through other departments may be offered during the summer.

Ph.D. FAQs

A Ph.D., or Doctor of Philosophy, is a terminal degree that requires an intensive academic research project. Unlike bachelor’s and master’s degrees where coursework is usually most important, the primary focus of the Ph.D. is an original and useful contribution to the field of study (Systems Engineering).

While your advisor will help guide you, Ph.D. students must take initiative and are responsible for the organization and execution of this research project. Courses taken in pursuit of the Ph.D. are intended to provide skills and knowledge necessary to advance your research in the field, not to simply check boxes in a required curriculum.

Some students have found this video helpful for learning more about the Ph.D. process and expectations, and how to approach an academic pursuit that is very different than what they have previously accomplished.

The process to determine if your master’s can count toward the Ph.D. is as follows:

  1. Your faculty advisor must agree that your master’s is considered “applicable” to the Systems Engineering Ph.D. Most master’s in technical fields are considered applicable, but the initial decision is between you and your Ph.D. faculty advisor.
  2. If your advisor agrees, you will submit the master’s degree as part of your Program of Study (GS6) in the second or third semester of classes at CSU. The GS6 is required to be submitted to the Graduate School before you can register for your fourth semester.
  3. The Graduate School has final say if the master’s degree credits are transferable. Upon the approval of your GS6 Program of Study, up to 30 credits from your master’s degree will be finalized into your degree plan.

We cannot guarantee the master’s can be used until the Graduate School has approved it, but master’s degrees from regionally accredited institutions that are deemed applicable by your faculty advisor are commonly transferred in.

A Ph.D. student may transfer up to 10 credits beyond the 30-credit master’s degree provided all Graduate School requirements are met, including:

  • The credit was earned at a regionally-accredited institution
  • The course(s) must have a B or higher earned (‘B-‘ is not accepted)
  • It must be a ‘regular’ course (meaning it cannot be a seminar, special topic, independent study, research credit, or similar)
  • It must not have been used toward a previous awarded degree
  • It must be 500-level equivalent or higher
  • It must be approved by your faculty advisor and the S.E. Department as relevant to your program of study (S.E. Department will require a copy of the course syllabus)

Because coursework used toward a previous degree cannot transfer, a second master’s degree cannot be used, even in part, toward the Ph.D. curriculum.

Per the Graduate School, there is a 10-year time requirement on individual courses counting toward any graduate degree. If a transfer course will be at least 10 years old at the time the student applies to graduate, it may not count toward your degree. The 30-credit master’s degree is exempt from this 10-year requirement.

Please see the Graduate and Professional Bulletin for full information on transfer credit policies.

No! You may begin taking dissertation credits when you and your faculty advisor have determined you are ready.

Many students who are working full time aim to complete courses prior to beginning dissertation credits, as it can be quite challenging to juggle a job, coursework, research, and any other personal responsibilities.

There is no requirement to finish Ph.D. coursework within a certain time frame. It is common, but not required, for students with full-time employment to take 2-3 years to complete coursework, and then begin dissertation research. The only time limit that applies to the Ph.D. is that coursework must be no older than 10 years at the time the Application for Graduation is filed.

The Systems Engineering Ph.D. does not have a qualifying exam to test students’ knowledge of the subject. In lieu of a qualifying exam, students must earn a B or higher in required coursework (18 credits for the 42-credit Ph.D. and 39 credits for the 72-credit Ph.D.). If a B is not earned (B- not accepted), students may retake a course once for a higher grade.

Ph.D. students must pass two oral exams with their advisory committee to earn their degree.

The preliminary exam generally occurs after students have started their research credits and have an idea of their dissertation goal. Its primary intention is to determine if the student is qualified to continue toward the Ph.D. and it includes:

  • You introducing your committee to your research area, goals and any previous work or needs analysis that has already been completed
  • The committee ensuring you have a grasp on Systems Engineering fundamentals, your research, and the context of the wider academic discipline.
  • You gaining feedback on how to lead your dissertation research down a productive path and keep it within the scope of a manageable project.

After a student passes the preliminary exam, they become a candidate for the doctoral degree and generally commence with the significant research involved with producing a dissertation.

The final dissertation exam or defense must be taken at least two semesters after the preliminary exam has been passed. This is the culmination of all Ph.D. work and includes feedback for the student to incorporate into their final dissertation draft.

These exams may be taken in-person on our Fort Collins campus or students may use video teleconferencing technology to take them at a distance. It is highly recommended to schedule these exams at least a month in advance.

D.Eng. FAQs

The D.Eng. is a terminal degree that requires an intensive applied practicum project. This is a highly practical degree intending to prepare industry professionals for advanced work applying systems engineering to various problems and issues in companies or organizations.

This is in contrast to the Ph.D., which is a terminal degree that provides advanced preparation in the area of academic research, for students intending to become a faculty member or otherwise maintain involvement in academia.

The process to determine if your master’s can count toward the D.Eng. is as follows:

  1. The Admissions Committee evaluates applicants’ credentials, and if offered admission, the applicant would be notified if the program supports their master’s degree applying toward the D.Eng.
  2. If your master’s is supported, you will submit it as part of your Program of Study (GS6) in the second or third semester of classes at CSU. The GS6 is required to be submitted to the Graduate School before you can register for your fourth semester.
  3. The Graduate School has final say if the master’s degree credits are transferable. Upon the approval of your GS6 Program of Study, up to 30 credits from your master’s degree will be finalized into your degree plan.

We cannot guarantee the master’s can be used until the Graduate School has approved it, but technical master’s degrees from regionally accredited institutions that strongly inform your planned practicum project are commonly transferred in.

A D.Eng. student may transfer up to 6 credits beyond the 30-credit master’s degree provided all Graduate School requirements are met, including:

  • The credit was earned at a regionally-accredited institution
  • The course(s) must have a B or higher earned (‘B-‘ is not accepted)
  • It must be a ‘regular’ course (meaning it cannot be a seminar, special topic, independent study, research credit, or similar)
  • It must not have been used toward a previous awarded degree
  • It must be 500-level equivalent or higher
  • It must be approved by your advisory committee and the S.E. Department as relevant to your program of study (S.E. Department will require a copy of the course syllabus)

Because coursework used toward a previous degree cannot transfer, a second master’s degree cannot be used, even in part, toward the D.Eng. curriculum.

Per the Graduate School, there is a 10-year time requirement on individual courses counting toward any graduate degree. If a transfer course will be at least 10 years old at the time the student applies to graduate, it may not count toward your degree. The 30-credit master’s degree is exempt from this 10-year requirement.

Please see the Graduate and Professional Bulletin for full information on transfer credit policies.

Your coursework should be mostly, if not fully, completed prior to beginning your practicum project (ENGR 786 credits). Approval to begin the practicum rests with your advisory committee and practicum sponsor, and students must pass their preliminary exam prior to starting the practicum.

There is no requirement to finish D.Eng. coursework within a certain time frame, but it is common for students to take about 2-4 years (depending on full or part-time status).

The only time limit that applies to the D.Eng. is that coursework must be no older than 10 years at the time the Application for Graduation is filed.

The Systems Engineering D.Eng. does not have a qualifying exam to test students’ knowledge of the subject. In lieu of a qualifying exam, students must earn a B or higher in required coursework.  If a B is not earned (B- not accepted), students may retake a course once for a higher grade.

D.Eng. students must pass two oral exams with their advisory committee to earn their degree.

The preliminary exam generally occurs after students have completed their coursework. Its primary intention is to determine if the student is qualified to begin the practicum project and it includes:

  • You introducing your committee to your practicum site, plan, goals and any previous work or needs analysis that has already been completed
  • The committee ensuring you have a grasp on Systems Engineering fundamentals, your vision for your practicum, and the context of the wider academic discipline.
  • You gaining feedback on how to lead your practicum project down a productive path and keep it within the scope of a manageable project.

After a student passes the preliminary exam, they become a candidate for the doctoral degree and are permitted to begin practicum credits.

When all practicum credits and requirements have been fulfilled, the student is permitted to register for Professional Doctorate dissertation credits (ENGR 799B), which are used while the student is completing the formal write-up of their practicum and outcomes.

The final exam or dissertation defense must be taken at least two semesters after the preliminary exam has been passed and after at least 9 credits of ENGR 799B have been taken. This exam is the culmination of all D.Eng. work and includes feedback for the student to incorporate into their final dissertation draft.

These exams may be taken in-person on our Fort Collins campus or students may use video teleconferencing technology to take them at a distance. It is highly recommended to schedule these exams at least a month in advance.

Walter Scott, Jr. College of Engineering logo

Systems Engineering

Email

sys_engr_info@engr.colostate.edu

 

Phone

Toll free: (877) 491-4336
Fort Collins: (970) 491-7067