Whether you’re passionate about solving complex problems or enjoy the idea of managing vast digital systems, a master’s degree in systems engineering can help you develop the skills necessary to succeed in your field.

If you’re considering earning a masters in systems engineering at Harvard Extension School but want to make sure you are prepared to succeed in the program, take a look at a list of prerequisite skills compiled by Bruce Huang, director of Harvard Extension School’s master’s degree programs in information technology.

Key Skills for a Prospective Systems Engineering Student

If a student is familiar with all these concepts and comfortable with these skills, they likely have the prerequisites required for the Systems Engineering Master’s Degree Program.

Computer Science Basics

Understanding of Basic Computer Science Principles: Familiarity with the basics of how computers work, including the differences between hardware and software.

Understanding the Internet: Basic understanding of how the Internet works, how web pages are served, and what protocols such as HTTP and HTTPS are.

Programming Basics

Introductory Programming: Familiarity with the basics of a programming language (like variables, expressions, controls, branching, and repetitive loops found in many intro CS courses).

Problem-Solving with Programming: Ability to use programming to solve basic problems. This includes breaking down tasks into steps and using control structures like loops and conditionals.

Web Technologies

HTML/CSS Basics: Understanding of how to build a basic web page with HTML (Hypertext Markup Language) and CSS (Cascading Style Sheets). This includes understanding how to use tags, create hyperlinks, and style a webpage.

Understanding of Web Browsers: Familiarity with how web browsers render web pages and the differences between various web browsers.

Data Representation

Binary System: Understanding of the binary number system and how data is represented in binary within a computer.

Data Storage: Basic understanding of how data is stored on a computer, including the difference between RAM and disk storage and what file systems are.

Operating Systems

Basic Understanding of Operating Systems: This involves a basic understanding of what an operating system is and what it does. Familiarity with the basics of popular operating systems such as Windows, MacOS, and Linux.