Systems Design Engineering

Engineer the interactions between anything and everything

Systems Design Engineering students work together on a problem on a chalkboard

Everything on our planet interacts – transportation networks, energy transfer, and biological systems – but how do they work together?

Systems Design Engineering looks at the big picture to find the connections that advance technology and innovation. You’ll learn the fundamentals in electrical, mechanical, and software engineering to prepare for a career with the flexibility to solve the world's biggest problems.

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. Choose from 300 electives to gain a well-rounded experience!

Our project-based approach gives you lots of opportunity to apply your learning to real problems in a wide range of industries. Plus you’ll graduate with two full years of paid work experience through North America's largest co-op program.

By graduation, you’ll be ready to design comprehensive, ground-breaking solutions for the toughest engineering problems. Think everything from heath-care management to advanced cyber-physical security to complex energy systems.

Program highlights

Unlimited innovation opportunities. Use a "big picture" approach to solve problems. Our grads go on to engineering consulting, project management, graduate school, start-ups, and more.

Multi-directional engineering. Learn fundamentals in electrical, mechanical, and software engineering with an overarching focus on engineering design and systems-driven thinking.


Why Waterloo Engineering?

With its renowned co-op program and a supportive entrepreneurial ecosystem, Waterloo Engineering is one of the world’s top engineering schools. You'll have access to emerging technologies, innovative professors, and world-class facilities.

What will you learn?

During your first year, you'll take foundational courses exploring subjects like communication in system design, digital computation, and physics.

Learn more about the courses you'll take for your Systems Design Engineering degree.

Get tips from Waterloo students

Join our monthly newsletter for tips such as choosing a university program, life at Waterloo, and finances.

Questions? Ask a student!

Ask a Faculty of Engineering student about their program, classes, getting involved on campus, and more!


Co-op = relevant paid work experience

Waterloo's co-op program, the largest in North America, is an amazing way to explore potential careers, learn to interview for jobs, graduate with up to two years of valuable experience – and make money!

Sample co-op job titles

  • Product design/development
  • Rapid prototype software developer
  • Product manager
  • User experience designer
  • Application developer
  • Control systems software designer co-op
  • Machine learning developer

Co-op work-study sequence

Starting in first year, you'll normally alternate between school and work every four months, integrating your classroom learning with real-world experience. You can return to the same employer for a couple of work terms to gain greater knowledge and responsibility or work for different employers to get a broad range of experience.

Year September to December (Fall) January to April (Winter) May to August (Spring)
First Study Co-op Study
Second Co-op Study Co-op
Third Study Co-op Study
Fourth Co-op Study Co-op
Fifth Study Study -

Your first work term will be halfway through first year (January to April 2025).

Learn more about co-op →


Admission requirements

Ontario students: six 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 high 80s to low 90s.

Complete the Admission Information Form once you've applied.

Not studying in Ontario? Search our admission requirements.


How to apply

Apply directly to this program on your application.