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Systems Engineering: Its Emerging Academic And Professional Attributes

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2010 Annual Conference & Exposition


Louisville, Kentucky

Publication Date

June 20, 2010

Start Date

June 20, 2010

End Date

June 23, 2010



Conference Session

Developing Systems Engineering Curricula

Tagged Division

Systems Engineering Constituent Committee

Page Count


Page Numbers

15.1162.1 - 15.1162.17



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Paper Authors

author page

Wolter Fabrycky Virginia Tech

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Systems Engineering: Its Emerging Academic and Professional Attributes Wolter J. Fabrycky, Lawrence Professor Emeritus at Virginia Tech and Chairman, Academic Applications International, Inc.


From its modest beginnings more than a half-century ago, Systems Engineering is now gaining international recognition as an effective technologically based interdisciplinary process for bringing human-made systems into being, and for improving systems already in being. Certain desirable academic and professional attributes are coming into clear view. Others require further study, development, testing, and implementation.

This paper summarizes the heritage from which Systems Engineering entered the 21st century. Several emerging attributes of Systems Engineering education and professional practice are addressed. These include the necessary but not sufficient academic and professional activities of technical societies, degree programs and program accreditation, certification and licensing, knowledge generation and publications, recognition and honors, and considerations regarding maturity. Special attention is directed to those attributes that should be developed further to enable Systems Engineering to serve society well in this century.

I. Systems Engineering Defined and Described 1

To this day, there is no commonly accepted definition of Systems Engineering (SE) in the literature. Almost a half-century ago, Hendrick W. Bode, writing on “The Systems Approach” in Applied Science-Technological Progress, said that “It seems natural to begin the discussion with an immediate formal definition of Systems Engineering. However, Systems Engineering is an amorphous, slippery subject that does not lend itself to such formal, didactic treatment. One does much better with a broader, more loose-jointed approach. Some writers have, in fact, sidestepped the issue by saying that Systems Engineering is what systems engineers do.” 2

Systems Engineering Defined. The definition of Systems Engineering and the systems approach is usually based on the background and experience of the individual or performing organization. The variations are evident from the following published definitions, with sources noted:

1. International Council on Systems Engineering: “An interdisciplinary approach and means to enable the realization of successful systems.” 3 2. Electronic Industries Alliance: “An interdisciplinary approach encompassing the entire technical effort to evolve into and verify an integrated and life-cycle balanced set of system people, product, and process solutions that satisfy customer needs. Systems Engineering encompasses (a) the technical efforts related to the development, manufacturing, verification, deployment, operations, support, disposal of, and user training for, system products and processes; (b) the definition and management of the system configuration; (c) the translation of the system definition into work breakdown structures; and (d) development of information for management decision making.” 4

Fabrycky, W. (2010, June), Systems Engineering: Its Emerging Academic And Professional Attributes Paper presented at 2010 Annual Conference & Exposition, Louisville, Kentucky. 10.18260/1-2--16818

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