Systems Architecting and Engineering at USC

The USC Viterbi School’s Systems Architecting and Engineering program provides graduate engineers and engineering managers with the advanced knowledge and skills necessary for conceptualizing, designing, implementing, and managing complex systems. The emphasis is both on the processes by which complex systems are conceived, planned, designed, built, tested and certified as well as the system itself. The knowledge and insights gained from the SAE program can be applied to defense, space, aircraft, homeland security, healthcare, and energy grid, transportation and other commercial industries.

Recognized worldwide as one of the most outstanding programs available today, USC’s Systems Architecting and Engineering (SAE) program is led by Professor Azad M. Madni, an INCOSE Fellow and 2011 INCOSE Pioneer awardee. The program was founded in 1988 by the late Professor Eberhardt Rechtin, the father of the NASA/JPL Deep Space Network. Prof. Rechtin authored three of the founding texts in the field, and is widely viewed as the father of systems architecting.

USC is an established leader in system architecting and engineering graduate education and research. Currently more than 25 companies are participating in USC’s SAE programs. Six of the active instructors in the SAE curriculum have a combined industrial experience of 190 years. All were senior managers, including 4 vice presidents of major corporations.

The graduate program in Systems Architecting and Engineering as a strategic initiative in the USC Viterbi School of Engineering. USC is a principal collaborator and organizer in the Systems Engineering Research Center (SERC) funded by the Department of Defense. In 2007, the Center for Software Engineering became the Center for Systems and Software Engineering – an organized research unit to provide a mechanism to enhance research and involve related disciplines outside the Viterbi School. A PhD program is under discussion.

Six of the INCOSE (International Council of Systems Engineering) Fellows are on the faculty of USC, as well as one of the INCOSE Pioneer Awardees – more than any other institution. The Viterbi School’s impact has produced a long list of distinguished alumni, including astronaut Neil Armstrong and General Norman Schwarzkopf. Numerous executives of U.S. and foreign technology companies – such as Apple computer co-founder A.C. Markkula; Andrew J. Viterbi, co-founder and chief technology officer for Qualcomm Inc. in San Diego; and Lily Chiang of Hong Kong based Chen Hsong Holding Co., a multinational producer of specialized machinery – are also alumni


Systems architecting is an interdisciplinary, integrative approach and means to specify the structure and behavior of an envisioned system. Systems architecting is both art and science, requiring a new way of thinking that capitalizes on associations, exemplars, patterns and metaphors to make the architecting problem tractable.


"Systems engineering considers both the business and the technical needs of all customers with the goal of providing a quality product that meets the user needs."

International Council on Systems Engineering (INCOSE)
Systems engineering is an interdisciplinary approach and means to enable the realization of successful systems. It focuses on defining use needs and required functionality early in the development cycle, documenting requirements, then proceeding with design synthesis and system validation while considering the complete problem. Often the user is also a customer. Systems engineering integrates all the relevant disciplines and specialty groups into a team effort forming a structured development process that proceeds from concept to production to operation.

Published on March 2nd, 2017

Last updated on August 11th, 2022