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Integrated Core

The three-term core course, Foundations of System Design and Management, provides an integrated view of architecting, engineering, and managing the development of complex systems. Students in the master’s and certificate programs attend these classes together, allowing for enrichment between classmates, all experienced professionals from diverse industries. These synergistic cohort interactions are a hallmark of SDM.

The core course runs over the full academic year, including the fall and spring semesters and the January Independent Activities Period (IAP). The core offers a rigorous education in systems thinking, taking a spiral approach to developing skills in our three key areas: system architecture, systems engineering, and project management.

During the spring semester, the course culminates in an integrated team project, tackling a challenge presented by a sponsor from industry, government, or another area. The teams of students immerse themselves in the problem, design, and solution spaces of their projects while taking a systems thinking approach to engineering, design, and strategic decision making.

Learn more about the foundations of our integrated core in this mind map! Click and drag to move around the map, and double-click to zoom in on text.

Master’s Degree Curriculum

All master’s students are required to complete a minimum of 90 subject units and 24 units of thesis, including:

  • 36 units from core 
  • 12 units from depth courses in engineering and 12 units from foundation courses in management 
  • 30 units minimum from elective subjects, with 15 units minimum each from engineering and management 
  • 24 units from thesis 

Students must receive a grade of C or higher for core, depth, foundation, and thesis credits. Students must earn a grade of D or higher for elective subjects.

Depth & Foundation Courses

Depth and foundation courses support the program’s goals of building skills and knowledge to face complex challenges. Engineering depth courses enrich expertise in areas introduced in the core, while management foundation courses offer significant exploration in a core business area such as finance, accounting, or strategy. Students must complete a minimum of 12 units from foundation courses and 12 units from depth courses from the list of approved courses.


Fellows must take a minimum of 30 units in elective subjects, comprised of at least 15 units in management and and 15 units in engineering. Additional elective units may be taken. However, the balance between disciplines must be maintained, with a difference of no more than 12 units between the total amount of engineering and management units by the time the student completes the program.

A wide variety of courses have been approved to count towards these requirements from the School of Engineering and Sloan School of Management. Available courses may vary by semester. 

View a sample list of approved courses here (PDF).


The SDM program is designed to teach principles, concepts, processes, and tools for system design and management. The SDM thesis provides an opportunity for students to interpret the knowledge acquired through the SDM core and other courses and apply that knowledge to problems of substantial size and significance. Students gain experience demonstrating true intellectual leadership by taking on challenges in which both technical and management issues are important and interdependent.

SDM theses are:

  • Conducted under the guidance of faculty in the MIT School of Engineering and the MIT Sloan School of Management; and
  • Researched in consultation with supervisors at students’ workplaces (as applicable).

Many employer-sponsored students have been able to show immediate value to their organizations based on thesis work.

Grade Point Average

Students are expected to maintain a cumulative grade point average of 4.0 or above throughout the program on MIT’s 5.0 grading scale. Consecutive semesters with a cumulative grade point average below 4.0 may result in a student’s being denied the opportunity to register for the subsequent term. Credit will be allowed for courses in which a C or D grade is earned, but students must have a 4.0 cumulative grade point average or above to graduate.

Certificate Program Curriculum

All certificate students are required to complete:

  • The integrated three-term core course, completed at a distance
  • Fourteen professional seminar days on campus taught by MIT faculty
  • A comprehensive capstone project jointly selected and evaluated by MIT and the student’s sponsor

For more information, visit the Certificate program page.

Last updated September 13, 2023