Information for

Systems Design Engineering at Waterloo

Get creative. And still get an engineering degree.

Cross boundaries.  Connect the dots. Look at the bigger picture. Systems Design is designed for people who want the rigour of an engineering degree plus the flexibility to explore topics outside traditional engineering disciplines.

You’ll examine the people, materials, tools, software, and other factors involved in any engineering problem. You’ll learn to look at the system as a whole and assess how one change will affect another element, using a variety of modelling, analysis, and design methods.

Our project-based approach gives you lots of opportunity to apply your learning to real problems. Plus you’ll get 2 full years of work experience through our co-op program.

Once you graduate, your options are wide open: our grads go on to engineering consulting, project management, graduate school, medical school, startups, and more. 

200 electives = lots of choice

Systems Design is Waterloo’s most flexible engineering program — you can choose from 200 different electives.

Add international experience

Grab your passport and take advantage of Canada’s biggest engineering exchange program, with 81 opportunities in 30 countries.


Students holding mechanical device

Try out different career areas and graduate with 2 years of work experience through co-op work terms. You'll alternate 4-month school terms with paid co-op work terms and earn money to help pay for your education.

About Systems Design Engineering

breifcaseGain 2 years of experience in the co-op program

clickApply directly to this program on your application

grad capEarn a Bachelor of Applied Science degree


#1Engineering school in Canada (US News & World Report 2018)

GearsOffered through the
Faculty of Engineering

Money flowerStudents earn $17,800 on average per co-op term


Admission requirements

  • Ontario students: 6 Grade 12 U and/or M courses including
    • Advanced Functions (minimum final grade of 70% is required)
    • Calculus and Vectors (minimum final grade of 70% is required)
    • Chemistry (minimum final grade of 70% is required)
    • Physics (minimum final grade of 70% is required)
    • English (ENG4U) (minimum final grade of 70% is required)
  • Admission averages: Individual selection from the mid-80s
  • An Admission Information Form is required
  • Not studying in Ontario? Search our admission requirements database

First-year courses

September to December

SYDE 101/SYDE 101L - Introduction to Systems Design Engineering/Graphics Laboratory
SYDE 111 - Fundamental Engineering Math 1
SYDE 113 - Matrices and Linear Systems
SYDE 121 - Digital Computation
SYDE 161 - Introduction to Design
SYDE 181 - Physics 1

May to August

SYDE 102 - Seminar
SYDE 112 - Fundamental Engineering Math 2
SYDE 114 - Numerical and Applied Calculus
SYDE 162 - Human Factors in Design
SYDE 182 - Physics 2 (Dynamics)
SYDE 192/192L- Digital Systems/Lab
Complementary Studies Elective course


After first year

Sample upper-year courses

SYDE 322 - Software Design
SYDE 348 - User Centred Design Methods

SYDE 384 - Biological and Human Systems
SYDE 411 - Optimization and Numerical Methods



By alternating school terms and paid co-op work terms throughout your degree, you can explore new career areas and types of employers as your career interests evolve.

Sample co-op positions

  • Technical Analyst - Investment IT, Ontario Teacher's Pension Plan Board
  • Ice Model Research Assistant, Environment Canada
  • Product Design/Development, Sweet Caesar Inc
  • Network Planning Assistant, Rogers Communication Inc.
  • Systems Engineering Associate (Co-op), Mark IV Industries
  • International Growth, Facebook
  • Rapid Prototype Software Developer, Intelligent Mechatronic Systems Inc

Careers in Systems Design Engineering

Recent graduates

  • Applications Engineer, Toyota Motor Manufacturing Canada Inc.
  • Consultant, Deloitte & Touche LLP
  • Technology Consulting Analyst, Accenture Inc.
  • Business Systems Analyst, CIBC
  • Co-Owner and CEO, Vidyard
  • Co-Founder and CTO, Kik Interactive Inc.
  • Management Consultant, IBM Canada
  • IT Business Analyst, Toronto-Dominion Bank
  • Health Business Consultant, TELUS Health

Possible professional designation

Helpful links