Joint Executive Systems Engineering and Management (SEM-PD21)

Master’s Degree #721

Est.imated Completion Time: 24 months

Starts: Fall

Program Area: Defense Systems Management

POC: Program Director

Modality: Distance Learning


The executive SEM-PD21 degree program (721 curriculum) is designed to produce a cadre of change agents skilled in engineering and management across the nation to bring about dramatic improvements in the way American corporations and the defense industry develop and build new systems and products. This program prepares today's technical experts for successful careers as systems engineering leaders, technically grounded senior managers, and agents of innovation and acquisition excellence in their business enterprises. It is known for its unique its joint focus: joint services, joint engineering and management, and joint government and industry; and integrating business and technical elements via formal education, exposure to ongoing research, and immersive experiences in current, real-world industry practices.

NPS established the 721 curriculum in 2000 under the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Center for Innovation in Product Development (CIPD) model of collaboration between universities and industry known as the “Educational Consortium for Product Development Leadership in the 21st Century” (PD21) to meet the growing demand for defense executive graduate education.  Utilizing a hybrid in-person / distance learning format, it was the first NPS program authorized by Congress to enroll Defense contractors for degree credit with specific goal “to reduce product development lead times required to bring systems to IOC.”  Open to qualified military officers, federal government civilians, and a limited number of defense contractor civilians, students are exposed to diverse perspectives, problems, and solutions from a wide cross section the defense acquisition landscape.  Graduates are prepared to deploy advanced knowledge and competence to support evolving national security concerns.  

Participants in this unique program are exposed to state-of-the-art concepts and tools, as well as world-class companies, leaders, and cross-industry best practices. Students acquire the basic skills and strategic perspective necessary to become future leaders and senior managers responsible for driving product development and business growth through innovation and to become effective change agents at their organizations. They develop a mindset receptive to change and continuous improvement, an understanding of the enablers to business success, and an enhanced ability to recognize barriers to success early in the product development cycle when corrective actions are least costly.

The SEM-PD21 curriculum is an eight-quarter distance learning curriculum with entry in the Fall quarter, which begins in late September with an on-site two-week kickoff at NPS in Monterey, CA. After the kickoff, classes are taken at students' locations by web conferencing or online web-based courses. Students are expected to participate in two or three industry trips during the two-year course of study and a graduation ceremony in Monterey at the completion of the program. There will also be occasional Systems Engineering and Management seminars for all SEM-PD21 students within their existing course of study.

NPS and the PD21 consortium believe that this joint engineering & management program offers the best unified curriculum available in systems engineering and end-to-end product development, leadership education. It also ideally aligns with defense leadership vision for transformation and acquisition excellence. All students who successfully complete the two-year distance-learning course of study receive:

  • Degree (choose from):
    • Master of Science in Systems Engineering Management (MSSEM)
      • Must select the 171 or 131 elective track
    • Master of Science in Systems and Defense Management (MSSDM)
      • May select any offered elective track (see section on Elective Tracks)
  • MIT Certificate: Certificate of Recognition signed by Dean of the MIT Sloan School of Management and Dean of the MIT School of Engineering.
  • Additional NPS Certificate: Varies by elective track.
  • DAU: Back to Basics (BtB) review in progress (currently offering PM Practitioner as fulfillment option as an elective track) and 10 CLPs per credit hour.



The course lineup below reflects the present lineup, which has had some changes made to it for the projected Cohort 721-251 course lineup starting this Fall 2024. Please see the program announcement materials for the projected course lineup for Fall.

Courses Required

Quarter Course
Quarter 1 Choose one of the following:
  • SE3810
  • MN3108
  • MN3117
  • SE3810
Quarter 2
  • MN3145
  • SI4021
  • SE3810
Quarter 3 Choose one of the following:
  • ME4702
  • OS4010
  • SI4022
  • SE3810
Quarter 4
  • MN3392
  • MN3156
  • SE3810
Quarter 5
  • OS3211
  • MGMT/ENG-Elective
  • SE3810
Quarter 6
  • MN4379
  • MGMT/ENG-Elective
  • SE3810
Quarter 7
  • SE0811
  • MGMT/ENG-Elective
  • SE3810
Quarter 8
  • SE0811
  • MGMT/ENG-Elective
  • SE3810


The following are eligible for this offering:

  • Naval Officers
  • Naval Enlisted
  • Non-Naval Officers
  • Non-Naval Enlisted
  • DON Civilians
  • DOD Civilians
  • Defense Contractors
  • Non-DOD Federal Employees

Requirements for Entry

  • An undergraduate degree in engineering or a related scientific or technical field with high academic achievement (2.6 GPA or higher); non-technical degrees considered with attainment of college level calculus and/or on a case-by-case basis. Probability & statistics desired but not required.
  • At least five years of experience directly related to product/systems development, systems engineering or systems acquisition (three years if student holds a master's degree).
  • The student must be sponsored by a service, command or company committed to supporting the student's full participation.

Learning Outcomes

To achieve the SEM-PD21 program educational objectives for either the MSSDM or MSSEM degree, graduates must complete at least one year of study, or at least 48 quarter credit hours, beyond a baccalaureate level program, achieve a mastery of systems and defense management, and complete an approved thesis report, attaining outcomes demonstrating competency in:

  • System Design. Understand and demonstrate the system design process in a holistic context, applying and integrating methods for both software and hardware aspects of a design. The end-to-end design process should include: identifying capability need; defining requirements; Conducting functional analysis and allocation to hardware, software, and human elements; creating a system functional design; designing a system; deriving and defining requirement specifications; allocating requirement specifications to sub-systems (for hardware, software, and human elements); designing for suitability, including reliability, availability, maintainability, operability, and logistical supportability; performing a system assessment by conducting trade-off studies, evaluating system design alternatives against system capability need expressed as military effectiveness; estimating and analyzing the system cost and risk, including risk mitigation strategies; integrating human elements into the system design; and analyzing and planning for system testing and evaluation.
  • Systems Architecting. Perform system architecting, applying and integrating methods for both software and hardware applications. Construct feasible system functional and physical architectures that represent a balanced approach to meeting stakeholder needs and expectations; stated, implied, and derived system requirements; cyber-resiliency objectives; And suitability objectives such as being open, modular, extensible, maintainable, and reusable. Understand system architecture frameworks and their role in architecture development. Use model-based systems engineering techniques to create, define, and develop system architectures. Develop, analyze, and compare alternative architectures against appropriate, system-level evaluation criteria.
  • System Integration and Development. Apply the core skills of system integration and development to include integrating relevant technological disciplines that bear on the system effectiveness and cost. Understand system realization methods and processes necessary to transition from design to production, including prototyping, design for producibility, and production methods.
  • Engineering Design Analysis. Understands and apply core qualitative and quantitative methods to analyze and select hardware and software system designs. Methods should include problem formulation, alternatives development, alternatives modeling and evaluation, alternatives comparison, optimization, decision analysis, failure analysis, risk analysis, and futures analysis.
  • Project Management. Work as a team member or leader on a military systems engineering project. Demonstrate an understanding of project management principles. Demonstrate competence in the planning and management of complex projects. Understand the principles of and apply current industry approaches and technology to manage systems design, integration, test, and evaluation for large engineering projects.
  • Systems and Acquisition Process. The graduate will understand the theory of and have an ability to lead program teams and manage the systems acquisition process. This involves the system life cycle process for requirements determination, research and development, funding and budgeting, procurement, systems engineering, including systems of systems, test and evaluation, manufacturing and quality control, integrated logistic support, ownership and disposal; the interrelationship between reliability, maintainability, and logistic support as an element of system effectiveness in defense systems/equipment design; and embedded weapons systems software, particularly related to current policies and standards, software metrics, risk management, inspections, testing, integration, and post deployment software support.
  • Engineering Risk-Benefit Analysis. The graduate will be able to apply the principles of probabilistic risk assessment in the context of systems analysis decision problems. This includes a framework for balancing risks and benefits, and analysis under conditions of large financial and technological uncertainties.
  • Operations Management. The graduate will be able to apply the principles of design, planning, control, and improvement of manufacturing and service operations. This includes operations strategy, process analysis, project analysis, materials management, production planning and scheduling, quality management, computer-aided manufacturing, capacity and facilities planning, and theory of constraints applied to product development. Graduates will have the ability to apply basic tools and techniques used in analyzing operations, and have the strategic context for making operational decisions.;
  • Advanced Leadership & Management Concepts. The graduate will have the ability to apply advanced leadership, management and operations research techniques to defense problems. This includes policy formulations and execution, strategic planning, defense resource allocation, project leadership, cost benefit and cost effectiveness analysis, federal fiscal policy, computer-based information and decision support systems, and complex managerial situations requiring comprehensive integrated leadership abilities.
  • Business Theory and Practices. The graduate will have an understanding of the business and operating philosophies, concepts, practices and methodologies of the defense industry with regard to major weapon systems acquisition, particularly the application of sound business practices.
  • Analysis, Problem Solving, and Critical Thinking. The graduate will demonstrate the ability to conduct research and analysis, and proficiency in presenting the results in writing and orally by means of a thesis report and a thesis briefing appropriate to this curriculum.
  • Evaluation, Innovation, and Creativity. The graduate will demonstrate individual initiative and creativity in the application of the skills and knowledge gained from the SEM-PD21 program. The graduate will select an systems engineering or management problem of importance to DoN/DoD, develop a plan to investigate the problem, analyze all of its aspects, suggest a solution as appropriate, and report the significant findings and recommendations in writing by means of a thesis.

Application Information

Applications are handled by the NPS Admissions Office. Please visit the admissions website or contact them at

Tuition & Service Obligation

For information regarding tuition, please contact the NPS Tuition office at, or contact this offering’s POC at

For information regarding service obligation, please visit the Admissions Office’s Eligibility/Service Obligation page.

Other Information

Applications are now being accepted for the Joint Executive Systems Engineering Management (SEM-PD21) 2024-2026 Class, Cohort 721-251 Commencing 16 September 2024. See the attached announcement materials for specific dates and contact information. The SEM-PD21 team looks forward to answering questions from interested candidates; do not hesitate to reach out.

Click to view the 721-251 Announcement (pdf)

NPS SEM-PD21 Alumnus is Going to the Moon

Victor Glover, NASA Astronaut and USN Captain was selected as a NASA astronaut four years after graduating from the Naval Postgraduate School’s Joint Executive Systems Engineering Management (SEM-PD21) Program, while serving as a Legislative Fellow in the United States Senate. He piloted NASA’s SpaceX Crew-1 mission to the International Space Station in 2018 and served as a crewmember aboard for more than six months. Glover is currently assigned to pilot NASA’s Artemis II lunar mission.

Glover graduated from the SEM-PD21 master’s program in 2009 following completion of a space systems academic certificate in 2005, both via distance learning.

NPS Adds Another Astronaut Alumnus With NASA’s Newest Class
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A child's dream to 'drive' a space shuttle propels him toward a historic NASA mission

Apply by selecting “Apply Now” at the top right corner of this page. Please visit the admissions website for additional instructions and guidance on the application process. Questions may be directed to

Applicants must ensure all official transcripts are ordered and sent directly to the NPS admissions office (either by mail or e-transfer).

Sponsoring commands/organizations/companies must also have a support agreement in place with NPS (MOA for Navy commands and DD1144 for non-Navy organizations). Check with the program director at if unsure of existing agreements or to initiate an agreement.

For the 2024-2026 class there are 25 total seats available. Tuition must be collected before commencement of each quarter (see tuition letter attached in the Announcement Materials section for due dates and additional details).  (Note: Qualified active-duty Navy and Marine Corps officers are eligible for NPS mission funding (tuition free) but the student or their command are responsible to purchase books and pay for all travel related expenses).

Note: The total ownership price per seat is $60,000 for military, federal government civilian employees and Defense contractor civilian employees, payable according to the payment schedule provided in the SEM-PD21 tuition letter (or as negotiated with the SEM-PD21 program office). Tiered pricing is offered to an organization or company sponsoring 5 or more students (call Dr. Wally Owen, SEM-PD21 Program Director for more details). This total ownership price includes all tuition, textbooks, course support materials and equipment (software, handouts, case studies, etc.), travel, transportation and per diem for all campus/training with industry visits including graduation and a PC camera and microphone headset. Students must have high-speed Internet to participate in sessions and to access SAKAI course management system.

For questions regarding tuition, please contact this offering’s POC at or the NPS Tuition office at

For information regarding service obligation, please visit the Admissions Office’s Eligibility/Service Obligation page.


September 16 through 27, 2024: Program kick-off and orientation at Naval Postgraduate School, Monterey, California. Orientation includes program indoctrination, Silicon Valley Industry trip, start of two core courses and participation in graduation events.

After the kickoff, students return to their organization locations and take courses over the Internet synchronously using Zoom for Government (ZfG) and/or MS Teams web-conferencing academic tools and/or asynchronously using Sakai, the NPS Online course management system. Students take two core courses per quarter offered in two 3.0 hour synchronous sessions per week on Fridays (0730-1030 and 1100-1400) Pacific Time for the first year then take two remaining core courses on Fridays (0730-1030) Pacific Time in each of Fall and Winter quarters of year two. Students pick a four-course elective track and conduct independent thesis research in year two. The days/times for elective track courses vary and some of the tracks are delivered asynchronously affording students an alternative delivery method if chosen. Program administrative sessions are periodically offered on Fridays from (1400-1500) Pacific Time with advance notice provided to students.

Students are expected to attend the two-week program kickoff on campus, participate in two (2) one-week industry trips during the two-year course of study (typically in June during the break between Spring and Summer quarters) and one-week on campus graduation week in September at the completion of the program. Students are also required to participate in a quarterly Systems Engineering Seminar (SE3810) that hosts a thesis writing workshop and provides guest speaker lectures either live by web-conferencing or recorded by video streaming. The lectures are also open to all participating student commands and companies. The SE seminar is graded on a Pass/Fail basis.

Elective Tracks

Sponsors and students selecting the MSSDM degree option have great flexibility in designing their elective structure. There are numerous domain specialty tracks (4 courses each) that are available to each student as an elective track which, when taken with the SEM-PD21 core/fundamental courses, earn participating students an additional certificate such as:

  • Systems Engineering Management (171)
  • Advanced Acquisition Studies (218) (DAU BtB- PM Practitioner)
  • Human Systems Integration (262)
  • MBSE Design & Development (133)
  • Space Systems (273)
  • Systems Analysis (281)
  • Defense Management Foundations (192)
  • Capability & Mission Engineering (131) (requires a calculus-based probability & statistics course)
  • Others - as available

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