Systems Design Engineering

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 the Systems Design Engineering program 

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


Systems Design Engineering 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 low to mid-90s
  • An Admission Information Form is required
  • Not studying in Ontario? Search our admission requirements

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 192/192L - Digital Systems/Lab
SYDE 223 - Data Structures and Algorithms
Complementary Studies Elective course


After first year

Sample upper-year courses

SYDE 286 – Mechanics of Deformable Solids
SYDE 351 – Systems Models 1

SYDE 411 – Optimization and Numerical Methods
SYDE 544 – Biomedical Measurement and Signal Processing


Gain relevant work experience through co-op

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 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

Sample co-op employers

  • Deloitte
  • Yelp
  • Environment and Climate Change Canada
  • Intelligent Mechatronic Systems Inc
  • Shopify
  • Atomic Labs

What can I do with a degree in Systems Design Engineering?

Waterloo Systems Design Engineering graduates commonly pursue careers in business analysis, technology consulting, and applications engineering. They often utilize their interdisciplinary skills to work for manufacturing companies, accounting firms, technology companies, and more.

  • Software Development Engineer – Amazon
  • Hardware Program Manager – Microsoft
  • Senior Solutions Engineer – D2L 
  • Software Engineer – Facebook
  • Applications Engineer – Toyota Motor Manufacturing Canada 
  • Software Engineer – Apple
  • Energy Manager – Hydro Ottawa

Possible professional designation

Learn more about Systems Design Engineering