Why Systems Engineering?

Systems Engineering has been named “the best job in the country” by CNNMoney.com. Demand is soaring for talented technical professionals who can solve increasingly complex problems. Today’s leading organizations seek people who integrate technology, policy, and business elements to obtain an advantage in a competitive global economy. Systems engineers contribute problem-solving and analytical skills that apply across many domains – in the public and private sector – including national security, aerospace, transportation, energy, health care, telecommunications, finance, and manufacturing. Through the economic downturn and recovery, our nation has experienced a shortage of well-qualified individuals with the education and experience to take on the challenges of advanced technology positions. Now is a great time to enhance your skills and your value in today’s marketplace by earning a graduate degree in Systems Engineering.

Why AMP?

“I surveyed numerous programs and found the University of Virginia program to be the most rigorous and quantitative SE program with proven value across many different domains. The one year, alternating weekend program made this an optimum choice for a working executive. The program demonstrated and validated the value of SE in any business or technical area. The cohort model even surpassed the on-line courses for convenience, and was more attuned to my learning style. This program has more direct applicability than I found in most of the others. The program is offered by the School of Engineering in conjunction with the Darden School of Business. I have recommended this program to many employees, friends, and colleagues….”

Joseph Parker, AMP ’05
President, iN2STEM Solutions

Who are AMP students?

Each year the Accelerated Master’s Program enrolls thirty to forty highly motivated individuals from diverse backgrounds and industries. About two-thirds of the members of the cohort live and work in the Northern Virginia/DC/Maryland area. Others come from Central Virginia and the Shenandoah Valley, the Tidewater area, and from Southside and Southwestern Virginia. The AMP often has students from North Carolina, and in some years students have traveled from Georgia, Tennessee, Pennsylvania, New York, or Canada to earn their degrees in this unique program. The AMP’s diverse cohort includes both experienced technical professionals from a wide range of industries and those who wish to transition into leading-edge engineering and information technology positions. The majority of AMP students have from three to twelve years working experience. The cohort occasionally includes one or two students who are in earlier stages of their careers. The rest of the participants range upward in experience. For the last several years there has been a span of 25 years or more from the youngest to the most senior member of the cohort, giving a richness of wisdom and enthusiasm to the group. Typically there may be 25 different companies or organizations represented among the students in the cohort. Some of the employers represented to date include Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, Boeing, Booz Allen Hamilton, MITRE Corp., SAIC, General Dynamics, Man Tech, Raytheon, NAVSEA, SPAWAR, CACI, Department of Homeland Security, FBI, National Ground Intelligence Center, Definitive Logic, US Army, US Navy, US Air Force, CFA Institute, Capitol One, Wells Fargo, Sun Trust, Pfizer, Target, CarMax, J.Crew, U.S. Postal Service, AREVA, Norfolk Southern, BAE Systems, High Performance Technologies, Inc., Orbital Sciences, Alion, and General Electric. Employees of small, family owned-businesses and self-employed individuals have also earned their degrees through the AMP.

How does the one-year weekend format work?

Students in the Accelerated Master’s Program in Systems Engineering complete a full-fledged master’s degree in one year (May – April) without interrupting their careers. Working professionals travel to Charlottesville for in-person classes on Grounds at UVa’s Darden Graduate School of Business. Meals, lodging, and parking are provided at the Darden School. The AMP schedule includes two weeks in residence, one at the beginning of the program in late May and another the following April. In between these two “bookend” weeks, classes meet all day every other Friday and Saturday for a total of twenty Friday/Saturday weekends over a ten-month period.
Students start their studies in May and graduate the following May.

Members of the AMP cohort progress through the program together. On the alternate class weekends, students take one course on Friday and a different course on Saturday. Friday classes meet from 9 am to 5 pm followed by a group dinner and an evening seminar. Saturday classes meet from 8 am to 4 pm. In the two-week interim between class weekends, students read, study, do homework, work on projects, and participate in study groups. Graduate teaching assistants provide support and have regular “office hours” through online and on-site study sessions. You can see the current year’s schedule of classes on the “Schedule” page under the “Current Students” drop down menu.

How do students from different locations work together in project groups?

Learning Inside and Outside the ClassroomIn some courses project groups are assigned; in others, groups are student-organized. Project groups with members from various locations may use the online meeting tool Blackboard Collaborate 12, which is available for free through University resources via Collab. Blackboard Collaborate web conferencing offers screen sharing, audio, and chat, and sessions can be archived for future reference. Graduate teaching assistants hold regularly scheduled online study sessions using Blackboard Collaborate, and each student is provided with a headset at the beginning of the program for this purpose. Groups sometimes use conference calls or Skype to work together. Even groups whose members live in relatively close proximity often use Blackboard for convenience. Project groups may also meet in the Study Group Rooms at the Inn at Darden on Friday nights of class weekends.

How much time does the Accelerated Master’s Program require outside of class time?

The Program requires a strong commitment from the student, and a commitment by his or her family and employer as well. The curriculum is rigorous and the pace accelerated. In a Q & A with prospective students, an alumnus who was a top student said, “The best thing about the Program is that you can complete the degree in one year – and – the worst thing about the Program is that you have to complete the degree in one year.” Different professors have different teaching styles, and different students find different courses more or less demanding. Your experience will depend on your own strengths and weaknesses, your interests, and your personal study style. Most students tell us that a good rule of thumb is that you will spend as much time working on coursework outside of class over the two-week interim as you spend in class during the class weekends. Some students devote more time. A current student emphasized, “Beyond the level of effort required to successfully complete the courses, the more you put into it, the more you get out of it, and I want to get the most out of it I possibly can.”