The Institute for Systems Research is an internationally recognized leader in systems research. It emphasizes advanced strategies for high-level synthesis and analysis of complex, multidisciplinary engineering systems, using model-based systems engineering techniques.

The Master of Science in Systems Engineering (MSSE) program has been created with substantial industry input. It covers systems definition, requirements, and specifications, as well as systems design, implementation, and operation. Students specialize in one or more of the following: robotics, cybersecurity, computer and software, control, manufacturing, transportation or process systems, communications and networking, signal processing, or operations research. Students also may specialize in any other area upon which they and their advisor mutually agree.

The program draws on the engineering, computer science, and management experience of University of Maryland faculty, and makes optimum use of the university’s advanced facilities, including commercial and open-source software tools for model-based systems engineering (MBSE). In addition, the University of Maryland’s proximity to Washington, D.C. offers advantages and convenience for those seeking employment in, or already employed by, the federal government and the many private industries supporting it. The State of Maryland also has companies that serve the commercial and consumer markets (e.g. bioscience, health care, information technology).

An additional benefit of the MSSE degree program is continual exposure to the latest systems research within ISR and from universities, government, and industry through our many seminars and colloquia.

ISR has designed the MSSE degree for the student who:

  • Is a graduate of an accredited program in engineering, science or math
  • Plans a career in creating, designing, analyzing complex systems, services or processes and wants to apply their creative talents to synthesize and analyze complex, multidisciplinary, real-world cyber-physical systems
  • Wants to use systems engineering principles to help solve perplexing problems of national concern through cutting-edge, model-based systems engineering (MBSE) techniques and methodologies, modeling and optimization, decision and risk analysis, stochastic analysis, and human factors engineering
  • Needs to understand the financial and management issues that affect developing complex systems and services
  • Will benefit from research opportunities and mentoring from world-renowned, multidisciplinary systems researchers in robotics, cybersecurity, transportation, sustainability, and MBSE methods

Components of the MSSE degree

The MSSE is a 30-credit program. Students must comply with the University of Maryland Graduate School's general requirements. All requirements must be fulfilled within five years.

Core curriculum

There are five core curriculum courses, including:

• A three-course sequence in systems engineering fundamentals, requirements, design, and trade-offs; verification and validation; and hands-on projects (9 credits)

• Two additional courses that address a systems engineering specialization area or management topic such as human factors, lifecycle costing, or quality management (6 credits)

Specialization and thesis credits

Three elective specialization courses based on a technical area of interest (9 credits)

Research and thesis, advised by ISR faculty (6 credits)



A total of 30 credit hours is required: 24 hours of coursework and six hours for the thesis project. The coursework includes 15 credits for the five core courses and three 3-credit elective courses. The elective courses must be taken from one specialization area. The thesis should describe scholarly research that advances the state-of-the-art in system design, modeling, analysis, management, optimization, or related topics. The thesis research will be supervised by an academic advisor who is a member of the ISR faculty.

Conducting research and preparing and presenting a thesis gives students the opportunity to publish their work in journals or present it at conferences. Because of its research component, we recommend this option as ideal preparation for those who want to pursue a Ph.D. The research-thesis experience provides invaluable hands-on experience in applying systems engineering knowledge to new research that benefit society in general.

The table below shows standard MSSE specialization areas and approved courses for MSSE students.

Alternatively, students may create their own area of specialization (for example, bioengineering systems or supply chain management) with the approval of their academic advisor and the MSSE graduate director. These approvals must be obtained before the student registers for any of the courses in the customized specialization.

Standard MSSE specialization areas and approved courses

Students may choose from the following approved courses within each specialization area. With approval from the academic advisor and the MSSE graduate director, students may substitute courses having adequate systems content. Not all electives may be offered in the semester desired. Students have the responsibility to satisfy any prerequisites required. This list was last revised in August 2010.

To obtain current information about any course, visit the course catalog of the University of Maryland Graduate School.

Communication and Networking Systems

ENEE 426 Communication Networks

ENEE 620 Random Processes in Communication & Control

ENEE 621 Estimation and Detection

ENEE 623 Digital Communications

ENEE 625 Multi-User Communication

ENEE 626 Error Correcting Codes

ENEE 627 Information Theory

ENEE 691 Optical Communication Systems

Reliable Systems

ENME 607/ENRE 671 Engineering Decision Making and Risk Management

ENRE 600 Fundamentals of Failure Mechanisms

ENRE 602 Reliability Analysis

ENRE 645/ENSE698G Human Reliability Analysis

ENRE 670 Probabilistic Risk Assessment

Computer and Software Systems

CMSC 421 Introduction to Artificial Intelligence

CMSC 435 Software Engineering

ENEE 645 Computers and Optimization

ENEE 646 Digital Computer Design

ENCE 688R Advanced Topics in Civil Engineering: Civil Information Systems


CMSC 722 AI Planning

CMSC 733 Computer Processing of Pictorial Information

CMSC734 Information Visualization

ENAE 692 Introduction to Space Robotics

ENAE 788X Planetary Surface Robotics

ENCE 688D/ENSE 698E Sensor Systems

ENEE 605 Design and Fabrication of Micro-Electro-Mechanical Systems (MEMS)

ENEE 631 Digital Image and Video Processing

ENEE 633 Statistical Pattern Recognition

ENEE 731 Image Understanding

ENME 808T Control of Networked Robotic Systems

Control Systems

ENAE 602 Spacecraft Attitude Dynamics & Control

ENAE 635 Helicopter Stability & Control

ENAE 641 Linear System Dynamics

ENAE 642 Atmospheric Flight Control

ENAE 743 Applied Nonlinear Control

ENAE 788G Advanced Dynamics

ENAE 788K Topics in Aerospace Engineering: Estimation and Control of Stochastic Systems

ENEE 620 Random Processes in Communication & Control

ENEE 660 System Theory

ENEE 661 Non-Linear Systems

ENEE 664 Optimal Control

ENEE 762 Stochastic Control

ENME 605 Advanced Systems Control

Signal Processing Systems

ENEE 620 Random Processes in Communication & Control

ENEE 630 Advanced Digital Signal Processing

ENEE 631 Digital Image Processing

ENEE 632 Speech and Audio Processing

ENEE 633 Statistical Pattern Recognition

ENEE 634 Space-Time Signal Processing

ENEE 731 Image Understanding


Manufacturing Systems

ENME 600: Engineering Design Methods

ENME 607: Engineering Decision Making

ENME 610: Engineering Optimization


CMSC 414 Computer and Network Security

CMSC 631 Program Analysis and Understanding

CMSC 737 Fundamentals of Software Testing

Operations Research

BMGT 830 Linear Programming

BMGT 831 Extension of Linear Programming & Network Analysis

BMGT 833 Integer Programming

BMGT 834 Probabilistic Models

BMGT 835/CMSC 764 Simulation of Discrete-Event Systems

AMSC607 Advanced Numerical Optimization

ENAE 681 Engineering Optimization

ENCE 603/ENME 741 Management Science Applications in Project Management

ENCE 627 Decision Analysis for Engineering

ENCE 667 Project Performance Management

ENCE 724/BMGT 382 Nonlinear Programming in Project Management

ENCE 725/ENME 725 Probabilistic Optimization in Project Management

ENEE 664 Optimal Control

ENEE 762 Stochastic Control

ENME 607/ENRE 671 Engineering Decision Making and Risk Management

ENME 610 Engineering Optimization

Transportation systems

List to come











General information

Admission is competitive. The program looks for strong evidence of motivation and achievement and/or significant professional experience in engineering and/or the sciences. At a minimum, all applicants must meet the general admission requirements of the University of Maryland Graduate School, graduation from a regionally accredited college or university with a B average (or 3.0 on a 4.0 scale). Also key are three (3) strongly positive letters of recommendation, usually from current or recent instructors, employers, or supervisors; competitive scores on standardized tests (the GRE general test with writing assessment is required); and an articulate statement of appropriate goals and interests.

Applicants should have a solid background in engineering, math or science. This will generally include two semesters of calculus-based physics, three semesters of calculus (which includes multi-variable calculus), a course in differential equations, and familiarity with at least one programming language. A semester of engineering statistics and linear algebra is also recommended.

Prospective and current students may seek support for their studies through graduate research assistantships or scholarships. Students currently working in industry, the military, or the government, who plan to pursue their graduate studies part-time, might ask their employers about tuition assistance. All applicants are encouraged to explore sources of external funding; a number of comprehensive Internet sites, such as, offer detailed information and application instructions.

Application deadlines


For early admission consideration, applicants must submit their applications and all supporting material by December 15. Otherwise, international applicants must submit application and all supporting materials by February 1. U.S. citizens must submit application and all supporting materials by March 15.


This program accepts applications for the spring semester on a case-by-case basis. All applications and supporting materials must arrive by September 30 for the following spring term.


This program does not accept applications for the summer semester.

Application process

MSSE applicants apply through the University of Maryland Graduate School's application system.

Before completing the application, check the graduate school's Admissions Requirements for specific instructions.

The Graduate School requires all application materials to be submitted electronically:

Graduate application
Transcripts (unofficial)
Statement of purpose
Letters of recommendation
Non-refundable application fee for each program to which an applicant applies

The electronic submission of application materials helps expedite the review of an application. Completed applications are reviewed by an admissions committee in each graduate degree program. The recommendations of the committees are submitted to the Dean of the Graduate School, who will make the final admission decision. Students seeking to complete graduate work at the University of Maryland for degree purposes must be formally admitted to the Graduate School by the Dean.

To ensure that you apply to the MSSE program, make sure that on the “Educational Intent” page of the application you select “A. James Clark School of Engineering-Research Programs” (not “Advanced Engineering Programs”) as the “College/School” and "Systems Engineering (ENSE)” (not “PMSE”) as your “Program of Study.” Note that for the MSSE Program you are not required to submit any documents indicated on the “Uploads Requirements” page.

Official GRE (Graduate Record Exam) and TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) scores should be sent directly to the University of Maryland (institution code 5814) through ETS (the Educational Testing Service). The university also accepts IELTS (International English Language Testing System) scores in lieu of TOEFL. Information on minimum TOEFL/IELTS scores can be found here.

Information for international applicants

The University of Maryland is dedicated to maintaining a vibrant international graduate student community. The Office of International Students and Scholars Services (ISSS) is a valuable resource of information and assistance for prospective and current international students.  International applicants are encouraged to explore the services they offer, and contact them with related questions.

The University of Maryland Graduate School offers admission to international students based on academic information; this is not a guarantee of attendance.  Admitted international students will then receive instructions about obtaining the appropriate visa to study at the University of Maryland which will require submission of additional documents.  Please see the graduate school's Graduate Admissions Process for International applicants for more information. The graduate school also maintains a page of information for international applicants.


Applicants experiencing technical difficulties on the online graduate application site should contact its helpdesk using the "technical support" link there.

For questions related to the admissions process, prospective students may contact the Graduate School or the MSSE graduate director.

Start the application process

Begin your application now through the University of Maryland Graduate School's application system.
Will I receive my degree from the Institute for Systems Research?

Degrees are awarded by the University of Maryland's A. James Clark School of Engineering through the Institute for Systems Research.

Is distance learning available?

Distance learning may be available for some ENSE core courses and electives on a case-by-case basis.

What is the difference between the MSSE (ENSE) and the Professional Master of Engineering program with systems engineering option?

The MSSE (ENSE) program provides you with broad and general hands-on training in systems engineering principles and model-based systems engineering concepts that provides value in industry and government. It gives intensive and specialized training in systems engineering within the various branches of the engineering profession. Students have the option of choosing the thesis or non-thesis degree options. Most students select the thesis option to complete the program, and undertake a master's thesis project demonstrating the practical implications of systems engineering principles. The non-thesis degree option requires only coursework and a scholarly paper.

The Professional Master of Engineering (ENPM) requires the same core courses as the MSSE program but requires no thesis or concentration areas for elective courses. We designed it as a part-time program to assist engineers in the development of their professional careers and provide them with the technical expertise needed in business, government, and industrial environments. Late afternoon and evening classes, taught by College Park faculty and experienced adjunct faculty at the College Park campus, designated learning centers in Maryland, and online provide M.Eng. students with flexibility in how and where to take classes. As with the MSSE, you complete 30 credit hours of coursework to earn your degree; no thesis or scholarly paper is required.

May I defer my enrollment after I have been admitted to the University of Maryland?

You may defer your enrollment for up to two semesters (one calendar year) without reapplying. For example, if you have been admitted for the Fall 2012 semester, you may defer your enrollment until Spring 2013 or Fall 2013. You may change semesters one time only, however, and you must notify the department and the graduate school in writing of your intention to defer enrollment.

Would I be able to enroll part-time in the MSSE (ENSE) program?

Yes. The master's degree clock starts running at the beginning of your first semester and runs for five (5) years; if you have not finished your degree after five years, you must request an extension.

If I have been out of school for ten years or longer, would you accept letters of recommendation from professional supervisors rather than instructors?


Must I submit original transcripts from my undergraduate institution?

Yes, unless you did your undergraduate work at the University of Maryland (the graduate school will retrieve your records). The graduate school does not accept copies, although you may be granted admission with the provision that you submit sealed, official transcripts within your first semester.

How do I choose an advisor?

When you first enroll in the program, the Graduate Director works with you to arrange your first semester's schedule. As you progress, the director will help you identify ISR faculty members to serve as your advisors, to help you plan coursework and supervise your thesis or scholarly paper. We encourage you to seek faculty members with joint appointments to ISR and an engineering department in which you have an undergraduate background or substantial interest (your area of concentration or specialization). You can search online for appropriate prospective advisors on ISR's faculty directory page.

How do I get approval for my academic plan?

You develop your coursework plan with the assistance of your academic advisor and the Graduate Director. The director approves the plan.

How do I decide which is most appropriate for me, the thesis or the non-thesis option?

The decision is up to you. We encourage and recommend the thesis (six of the required 30 credits) to demonstrate the practical application of systems engineering principles, make a significant contribution to systems research, and have the opportunity to publish your work. We also recommend the thesis option if you want to pursue a Ph.D.

The non-thesis option requires 30 credits (six core courses and four electives in no more than two specialization areas) and a scholarly paper. The scholarly paper requires an approved topic and supervision of your academic advisor, review by at least one faculty member, and Graduate Director approval. We do not recommend this option if you want to eventually pursue a Ph.D.

Can I transfer ENSE core courses I took for a previous degree from another department for credit toward my master's degree in systems engineering?

Yes, but only if they were not included in your previous Approved Program. In most circumstances, however, you will not be required to re-take ENSE core courses, but may take additional electives, as approved by your advisor and the Graduate Director.

How do I transfer courses from another institution or UM department for credit toward my master's degree?

Fill in a Request for Transfer or Inclusion of Credit form. Courses taken in engineering departments can be transferred, but only courses with a technical/systems flavor can be transferred from the business school. ONLY SIX (6) CREDITS CAN BE TRANSFERRED OR INCLUDED. This is not negotiable. Please do not ask us to endorse a petition to the graduate school to extend this limit.

When do I submit required forms to the graduate school, and with which forms should I be familiar?

You must complete and submit the Application for Diploma, Approved Program and Nomination of Thesis Committee forms early in your final semester. Deadlines vary from year to year. You will find the calendar of deadlines for graduate students for each academic year online.

Other important forms you will use as appropriate include:
Request for Transfer or Inclusion of Credit;
Request for Extension;
Petition for Waiver of Regulation;
Certificate of Completion (for thesis-option students); and
Certificate of Completion for Master's Degree without Thesis.

Forms you will use if you don't register online are:
Graduate Student Schedule Request;
Schedule Adjustment Form; and
Permission to Oversubscribe a Closed Course

What should I do if I need additional time to complete my master's degree work?

Our offer of admission requires you to complete the degree within five years. If you have not met program requirements within this time frame, you may request an extension from the Graduate School. In some cases we may require you to reapply to the program. Most full-time students complete the degree in two years.

If I have completed my coursework, but need additional time to finish up my thesis or scholarly paper, do I need to register on campus?

Yes. The graduate school requires you to be registered during the semester you expect to graduate. You need only register (and pay!) for one "study" credit of ENSE 798 or ENSE 799 (thesis research). Contact the Graduate Director for permission to enroll in the appropriate section and obtain an electronic rubber stamp for permission to register online.

There is one exception. If you have completed all work for your degree, including submission of all required forms, before the first day of the next semester, you no longer need to be registered. For example, if you defend your thesis in May, after the deadline for Spring graduation, and submit all required materials, including Certificate of Completion, before the first day of the Summer I session, then you will be eligible to graduate in August without registering in either Summer session.

Do I risk not graduating if I miss a deadline?

Deadlines for submission of forms such as the Application for Diploma, Approved Program, and Nomination of Thesis or Dissertation Committee, as well as for submission of your thesis or scholarly paper and Certificate of Completion, are firm, and the graduate school does not grant extensions or exceptions. However, if (for example) you are unable to meet the deadline for May graduation, but expect to have everything in order for August graduation, you may participate in the May commencement ceremony. You must contact the Diploma Office in advance to arrange this. You will receive your diploma in the mail about six weeks after the date of your graduation.

General information for students
For more information, contact:

Jeffrey W. Herrmann
Director of Education Programs
The Institute for Systems Research