Graduate Certificate in Systems

Our Program

Purdue alumni are known for moving technology forward, developing innovative products, creating timeless designs, and bringing about positive social change. The key to success for many boilermaker trailblazers is systems thinking. Systems thinking teaches people how to consider the complex interconnections between different elements of social, biological, economic, political, and technological systems and turns the spotlight on the role of humans in improving and changing system designs. Whether it’s solving problems in the global energy grid or creating 3-D nanostructures, systems thinkers understand that the whole is more than the sum of its parts.

The Graduate Certificate in Systems is designed to prepare a new generation of industry and academic leaders to create holistic solutions to the most challenging and complex problems in today’s society. This program trains scientists, economists, engineers, designers, and humanitarians to use systems thinking to make significant advancements in research and in professional contexts.

Plan of Study

The plan of study for the certificate requires three graduate SYS courses (9 credit hours) that introduce fundamentals of systems thinking by teaching systems methodologies that can be applied to a variety of complex problems — both at the micro and macro level. Options for the three required courses can be found below.

The below courses have been previously cross-listed in the course offerings from various graduate majors. If a student from any major has completed any of these SYS courses during their graduate studies, the course can be counted towards fulfillment of the certificate requirements.

Required Courses

SYS 50000 - Perspectives on Systems - Engineers are frequently asked to solve problems as a team to achieve a goal. However, confusion arises when proponents of one perspective interact with others without a clear understanding of the variety of SE histories and tools. Each can play an important, complementary role in the development of a robust approach to SE and the role of humans in engineering systems. This course provides an introduction to, and references for, each of 4 distinct approaches to SE concepts/tools.
SYS 51000 - Tools and Methodologies for Designing Systems - The purpose of the course is to emphasize patterns of systems thinking, to introduce systems engineering processes and methods, to introduce theory for model-based systems engineering, and to provide practice in using a model-based systems engineering tool.
SYS 53000 - Practical Systems Thinking - Engineers, social scientists, and managers frequently bring people and technology together to address complex problematic situations in an equitable way that benefits people and the environment. Multiple systems concepts and methods have been developed to address these situations, and typical courses in systems focus on a relatively small portion of the rich assortment of available approaches to addressing systems problems. This course introduces students to multiple systems concepts and methods via readings and class discussion. The students then apply these concepts and methods on team-based projects. The course will emphasize critical thinking about how the concepts and methods are applicable to the problematic situations of the projects and how well the project teams were able to perform the required activities.

Degree Seeking Students

Students seeking a full graduate degree can complete the Graduate Certificate in Systems in addition to their graduate coursework, but they must apply for the Graduate Certificate in Systems separate from the full graduate degree. Reach out to your academic advisor for more information.

Purdue students seeking a graduate degree will receive an official certificate once all required courses for the program are successfully completed.

Certificate-Only Students

Non-degree seeking students can also enroll in the certificate program. Students completing the Graduate Certificate in Systems will be awarded an official certificate once all the required courses are successfully completed.

To enroll as a certificate-only student, go to the Purdue Graduate School website. In the program details sections, choose "Systems" as the selected graduate major and "Systems Graduate Certificate" for the Degree Objective.

Credits from the Graduate Certificate in Systems can be transferred to the full master’s in Systems Engineering if non-degree seeking students choose to pursue a degree in the future.

For more information, please email

The Certificate in Systems program is administered through the Office of the Provost and is governed by the PSC Educational Committee representing different Purdue colleges.