Systems engineering is focused on the design and management of complicated engineering projects, across a wide range of engineering specialties. In systems engineering, there is a combination of technical and project management skills required to complete multidisciplinary projects. Modeling, simulation, requirements analysis, project management and building consensus are all required tools in order to complete a complex project.
Systems engineering was originally started in the early 1940s, out of a need to manipulate and manage a complex, interrelated system as a unit, instead of the sum of many small parts. As project scope expanded to include multiple areas, special expertise was required to coordinate the changes across multiple fields and areas of skill, for the benefit of the overall project. The development of this field was born out of a genuine need for someone with engineering education and expertise to manage all the other engineers.
The National Council on Systems Engineering (NCOSE) was created in 1990 as a professional society for systems engineers. The purpose of the NCOSE is to build a recognized professional standard set of business practices and to encourage the development of specialized training in this field of engineering. In 1995, the association was renamed International Council on Systems Engineering (ICOSE) in recognition of the multidisciplinary engineering programs outside the US.
As technology continues to advance, the need for systems engineers grows. The tools and methods used to understand and improve complex systems expand to meet the exponential growth of new systems. There are standard tools used to understand the complex systems as they all rely on fundamentally sound engineering concepts.
Modeling, simulation, system dynamics, decision making, and multiple types of analysis are all necessary skill sets that are used in systems engineering. A good example of a project that required systems engineering is the building of the International Space Station. Within the complicated project to build and launch the space station, there were an array of specialist and experts necessary to make all the individual pieces work together. Without an interdisciplinary approach, the project would have derailed due to lack of effective communication and coordination
Systems engineers are also utilized in more common settings, such as the development of complex computerized systems to control building systems. The different fields have specifically requirements and the skill of someone who understands all aspects is critical to the success of these innovations. The credentials necessary to become a systems engineer is a university degree in systems engineering. This field of study is available in most major university engineering faculties.