Sustainable Systems Engineering

Help Build a Sustainable Future

Amid growing interest in sustainable product standards, resilient systems, zero energy buildings and regenerative design, sustainability is no longer a concept, but a global imperative for innovation. Channel your passion for sustainability and prepare yourself for the future with a master’s in sustainable systems engineering.

The University of Wisconsin–Madison’s Master of Engineering: Sustainable Systems Engineering program focuses on preparing you to understand, analyze and drive change within your organization as it relates to complex systems and impacts on the environment, economics, and society.

How You’ll Benefit

The Sustainable Systems Engineering program builds on the strengths of UW-Madison as a leader in engineering and environmental sciences.

Students in the Master of Engineering: Sustainable Systems Engineering program are attracted to this field of study for a variety of reasons. Some students are looking to advance within their existing organization and want to gain additional technical and leadership skills. Others are engineers looking to pursue their passions and break into the sustainability industry, whether it’s through consulting, sustainability engineering firms, or sustainability positions in larger companies.

When you complete the program, you will not only have an understanding of sustainable principles, but you will have the skills to lead sustainable projects in your organization and apply tools to perform resource optimization, energy analysis, life-cycle assessment and more.

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Develop Sustainability Management Skills

The Sustainable Systems Engineering program is designed for practicing engineers seeking professional advancement.

Students in the Sustainable Systems Engineering online degree benefit from:

  • Knowledge and skills that can immediately be applied to work situations
  • Project-based learning with experienced professionals
  • Award-winning distance learning design
  • World-class faculty and a highly respected institution

The program comprises engineers and technical professionals from diverse backgrounds and industries, including energy, construction, and consumer products.

As a graduate of Sustainable Systems Engineering, you will not only gain an understanding of sustainable principles, but you will also develop analysis, business, leadership and professional skills.


Ranked in the Top 10 Online Engineering Graduate Programs in 2016, for the fifth year in a row

Ranked No.5 Online Engineering Graduate Programs for Veterans in 2016

Succeed With a 100% Flexible, Online Program

All UW–Madison Sustainable Systems Engineering courses are available online.

Convenient distance learning formats allow you to complete the degree from any location without interrupting your work and family responsibilities. Homework assignments are posted well in advance so you have time to plan.

Course materials and necessary tools can be accessed from any internet connection, anywhere. If you’re traveling you can still call in to participate in course web conferences without access to the internet.

Learn Theory and Application

Nearly all courses will conduct a weekly one-hour live session with classmates and faculty using online meeting tools. These sessions include class discussions, faculty lectures, student presentations and guest lectures.

Faculty will sometimes record their lectures and use the live sessions for interactive discussions. Student projects are typically presented during these times as well. Student attendance at the live sessions is required, however if you have an unavoidable conflict the sessions are recorded for later viewing.

Most of the courses require the completion of at least one or several student projects. Many of these projects are flexible and can sometimes be applied to applicable situations in your own workplace. Projects also allow you to focus on topics that hold particular interest for you, allowing for a degree of individual customization.

Get Feedback On Your Work

A typical week often includes a one-hour live discussion with faculty and classmates. These sessions give you an opportunity to talk about the week’s content, attend lectures, and present your work for feedback.

You will also interact with classmates and professors throughout the week when you participate in online written discussions. Participation in the online discussion is often part of the weekly course requirements. The discussion forums are where classmates learn from each other – you will find your peers to be a wealth of knowledge reflecting varied perspectives, experience and employer backgrounds.

Most weeks contain some reading assignments – textbooks, papers, articles or websites. Many courses also include weekly assignments requiring problem solving, writing, discussion or presentation. To provide you with feedback on your progress, some courses utilize online quizzes to test how well you’re doing.

Confidently Lead Sustainability Initiatives

Courses in the Sustainable Systems Engineering program are designed to provide a foundation of sustainable principles, analysis methods and tools, and a set of enhanced business skills–all based on extensive surveys of engineers and their employers.

Graduates of the program understand how sustainability issues impact design, assessment, maintenance, and operations of complex engineered systems, and use this knowledge to manage sustainable projects successfully. Experts and resources from across the University of Wisconsin System and industry were tapped to develop our curriculum.

This mix of academic researchers and industry leaders enriches the content and assignments of our degree. Students use tools to perform needs assessments, energy modeling, life-cycle cost and benefits analyses and operations optimization.

Degree Requirements

The Master of Engineering: Sustainable Systems Engineering program consists of 30 credits, including a series of foundational and applied courses, business and professional courses and a capstone project. The standard completion time is three years.


Courses range in topic from sustainable energy systems to innovation to sustainable building systems.

Required Courses

Learn how to get the most out of your online learning and collaborative networks. This course teaches strategic skills that are critical to digitally literate professionals.  


Mark Millard


1 Credit(s)

In this highly interactive course, targeted strategies for improving delivery skills, presentation visuals, and audience interaction will be addressed.


Christine Nicometo

1 Credit(s)

Your decisions and actions every day can expose you and your employer to legal responsibilities and liabilities. As you grow in your management responsibilities, your need to help your team act in a legally informed and compliant manner grows. This course will help you understand legal issues that all engineers need to understand to avoid legal problems that can have serious personal, professional, and organizational consequences. Course topics:

  • Intellectual property management
  • Product liability
  • Contracts
  • Professional liability
  • Employer-employee legal responsibilities
  • Working effectively with legal representation
  • Serving as an expert witness


2 Credit(s)

Companies and organizations prosper or die based on their ability to creatively innovate to capture opportunities and avoid obsolescence. Leaders of technical organizations need to develop vision, culture, and practices that value and drive innovation. Learn how you can help build an enterprise that values, pursues, and delivers innovative services and products. Course topics:

  • Roots of innovation
  • Customer-driven innovation
  • Infusing innovation throughout the organization
  • Organizing for innovation
  • Incubation and assessment
  • Developing the creativity of personnel
  • Case studies


3 Credit(s)

Learn innovative system-improvement concepts and approaches that sustainably strengthen mission-central concerns such as quality, cost, customers, markets, revenue, profit, brand, reputation, sourcing, quality of work life, natural capital, buildup of concentrations and base of the pyramid.


Mark Finster

4 Credit(s)

Explore the environmental impacts of commercial and residential buildings, including energy, water, materials, transportation, waste, human health, and land use impacts. Also learn about improvement opportunities in each phase of a building's life cycle, case studies, benchmarking tools, related public policies and their effectiveness, emerging concepts, and the role of human behavior and innovation in building performance.


Joy Altwies

3 Credit(s)

Develop the ability to explain how resource quality impacts the implementation of renewable and nonrenewable energy systems, and assess the sustainability of natural resources that currently support both systems. You will also evaluate alternative pathways to mitigate the negative consequences of energy use.

  • Sources, availability of fuels.
  • Energy conversion and efficiency. 
  • Consumption patterns and trends. 
  • Environmental consequences of energy production and use. 
  • Policy considerations and alternatives. 


Alan Carroll


In this course, you will gain an engineering overview of electric microgrid technology.


Giri Venkataramanan

1 Credit(s)

Learn about state-of-the-art renewable energy applications, including biomass for heat, electric power and liquid fuels, as well as geo-energy sources such as wind, solar, and hydropower. Perform engineering calculations of power and energy availability of renewable energy sources and learn about requirements for integrating renewable energy sources into production, distribution and end-use systems.


Douglas Reinemann

3 Credit(s)

Demonstrate your ability to think globally, sustainably, and creatively. Students in the Capstone will apply theory, tools, and research to conceptualize, analyze, and design a solution to a problem within a social and environmental context. Projects showcase the knowledge and analytical skills acquired during the Sustainable Systems Engineering program, and integrate tools, science and communication to address a need. Prerequisite: Completion of at least 21 credits in the Sustainable Systems Engineering program or consent of instructor.


Lee DeBaillie

3 Credit(s)

This course provides students with foundational knowledge to develop and implement a change management strategy using proven processes and tools.


Carl Vieth

1 Credit(s)


Senior faculty and experienced professionals in the industry facilitate the program’s courses. Our instructors stay connected with students and are highly accessible, which enables them to address the specific interests of students.

Admission Requirements

Admission requirements for the Master of Engineering: Sustainable Systems Engineering program are listed below.

Exceptions to standard admission requirements are considered by the admissions committee on an individual basis.

  • A bachelor’s degree from a program accredited by the ABET or the equivalent.*
  • A minimum undergraduate grade-point average (GPA) of 3.00 on the equivalent of the last 60 semester hours (approximately two years of work) or a master’s degree with a minimum cumulative GPA of 3.00. Applicants from an international institution must have a strong academic performance comparable to a 3.00 for an undergraduate or master’s degree. All GPAs are based on a 4.00 scale. We use your institution’s grading scale; do not convert your grades to a 4.00 scale.
  • Applicants whose native language is not English must provide scores from the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL). The minimum acceptable score on the TOEFL is 580 on the written version, 243 on the computer version, or 92 on the Internet version.
  • International applicants must have a degree comparable to an approved U.S. bachelor’s degree. 

We do not require applicants to submit scores from the Graduate Record Examination (GRE). 

*Equivalency to an ABET accredited program: Applicants who do not hold a bachelor’s degree from an ABET accredited program may also qualify for admission to the program. Such applicants must have a BS in science, technology, or a related field with sufficient coursework and professional experience to demonstrate proficiency in engineering practice OR at least 16 credits of math and science coursework. Registration as a professional engineer by examination, if achieved, should be documented to support your application. 

All applicants are advised to determine whether this program meets requirements for licensure in the state where they live. See the National Society of Professional Engineers website for contact information for state licensing boards

Application Overview

The admissions process has been designed to conduct a holistic review of your likelihood of success in the program. Decisions are based on your academic and professional background.

To start the process, please read the admission requirements to determine your eligibility. If you have questions about your eligibility, please request an eligibility review by e-mailing Daryl Haessig at This e-mail should include a copy of your current resume and informal transcripts.

Applications are accepted for admission during the Fall term. Applications are reviewed in the order received, on a rolling basis until the July 1 deadline. Admission is competitive and selective. Therefore, applicants are encouraged to submit application materials prior to the deadline

Steps to Apply Now 

Email the admissions committee chair and state your intent to apply and to which program. Attach your current resume or CV to your Intent to Apply email.

Your resume/CV should include at least:

  • Educational history (including GPA, awards and honors received).
  • Professional work experience (including specific details on your engineering experience, technical training, and responsibilities).
  • Listing of professional association memberships, advanced training (such as a PE license) and other noteworthy, personal- or engineering-related details.
In the application be sure to:
  • Upload a pdf version of your current resume/CV
  • Upload a pdf version of your “Reasons for Graduate Study” essay
  • Upload a pdf version of your transcripts
  • Enter contact information for at least three professional recommendations, including at least one from a direct supervisor
  • Important: Complete the application by submitting the application fee. Applications submitted without paying the fee cannot be reviewed and will not be acted on.

Arrange to have one copy of your official transcript sent directly from your previous educational institutions to the Department of Engineering Professional Development. Transcripts should be sent directly by the educational institution to the CoE Online Admissions Office.

We will accept transcripts via any delivery method options (including pdf) offered by the educational institutions you have previously attended. However, transcripts issued to students are not sufficient for admission to the Graduate School.

To avoid processing delays, have your transcripts sent directly to:

CoE Online Admissions Office
Attn: Daryl Haessig
432 N. Lake Street, Room 701
Madison, WI  53706

(For pdf’s, use the following email address:

After all of your application materials have been received, the admissions committee chair will schedule a phone interview with you.

Once completed, your application will be presented to the Admissions Committee for evaluation at the next scheduled meeting. 

Admission decisions are made on applications in the order received. The Admissions committee will make one of the following decisions:
  • Recommend admission to the UW-Madison Graduate School
  • Request additional information before evaluating further 
  • Decline further consideration of your application
After a decision has been made on your application, the admissions committee chair will contact you by email to inform you of the decision and to schedule a time to discuss the decision and your next steps.
The admissions committee provides admission recommendations to the Graduate School. The Graduate School is the formal admitting office for graduate students and retains ultimate authority on all admissions decisions.

Tuition and Financial Aid

Tuition Cost

 $1,300 per credit (based on 2015-16 tuition rates), payable at the beginning of each semester. Students are billed for courses in which they are enrolled each term. There is no lump sum payment plan.

Tuition Includes
  • Technology costs for Internet course delivery
  • Live webconferencing
  • Toll-free telephone line for the audio portion of conference calls
  • Library use
  • Use of the webconferencing software for group project work for program courses
Total Tuition

Total tuition for this program is $39,000* for students entering in Fall 2015. (This tuition is based on 30 total credits, the cost will increase if for some reason a student needs more than 30 credits.) 

*This total does not include textbooks, or course software. Software required for courses is typically available in educational versions at substantial discounts.

Federal Loans

Students who are U.S. citizens or permanent residents are eligible to receive some level of funding through the federal direct loan program. These loans are available to qualified graduate students who are taking at least four credits during the Fall and Spring semesters, and two credits during Summer. Private loans are also available. Learn more about financial aid at

Employer Support

Many students receive some financial support from their employers. Often, students find it beneficial to sit down with their employer, look through the program booklet and discuss how this program applies to their current and future responsibilities. Other key points to discuss include how participation will not interrupt your work schedule or ability to travel, and your employer will immediately see and benefit from your progress as you apply your learning to workplace projects and responsibilities.

The Sustainable Systems Engineering program is designed to prepare your employees to lead sustainable efforts within your organization in moving toward a more sustainable environment and economy. UW–Madison is committed to delivering the highest quality and best value in engineering education. Your organization immediately benefits as your employees apply new strategies and tools to improving real projects.

Immediate Results for Your Organization’s Sustainability Goals

Through participation in SSE, your employees will be able to:

  • Use real-world projects for application of sustainable strategies, systems thinking, quality improvement methods, and life-cycle design and analysis
  • Manage your organization’s sustainable initiatives
  • Attend courses with peers from other top employers and gain knowledge as they learn by working together.
  • Tailor coursework to be applicable to your specific industry

No Interruption to Employees’ Availability

  • SSE is designed for full-time, working professionals. The format enables your employees to pursue world-class graduate engineering studies without interruption to work schedule or hindering availability for travel.

Students continue their studies from anywhere in the world they can connect to the Internet.

Contact Us





Master of Engineering

Sustainable Systems Engineering

$1300 per credit

Resident and Non-Resident

July 1

Fall Application Deadline

Students & Alumni

Whether you’re a current or past student of the program, you have access to several resources that will keep you tied to UW-Madison.

See more here.

Ranked in the Top 10 by U.S. News & World Report

For the sixth straight year, the quality of our programs–and the success of our students–have earned the University of Wisconsin a place among the nation’s top 10 online master of engineering programs.

See the Ranking

Our Webinars

Upcoming Webinars:

Manufacturing Systems Engineering Information Session >>
Tuesday May 9th, 1 PM CST
Live info session for applicants and students interested in the program


Watch our most recent webinar:

Manufacturing 2025: What's Next for Global Manufacturing >>

How to Improve Your Design With Computer Simulation >>

Smart Manufacturing >>

How Good Drinking Water Goes Bad >>

Breakthrough Innovation >>