Viterbi to offer new graduate degrees

In an effort to adjust to a rapidly shifting job market, the Viterbi School of Engineering will offer four new graduate degrees this fall, including ones in green technology and health systems.

The four Masters of Science degrees — Green Technologies, Electrical Engineering (Electric Power), Health Systems Engineering and Financial Engineering — provide interdisciplinary education with schools such as the Marshall School of Business and the School of Policy, Planning, and Development.

Administrators hope the new degrees, which have been in development for three years, will prepare graduates for an industry focused on cost efficiency that is looking for creative solutions.

Carolyn Suckow, director of Student Affairs for Viterbi’s Master’s and Professional Programs, said the school decided to institute the new programs in order to stay up to date with the needs of society and the private and public sectors of health and energy development.

“What we see in the news, what our researchers tell us, what students are asking for — that’s what determines why we add new degrees,” Suckow said.

Jim Moore, department chair of Viterbi’s Daniel J. Epstein Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering, said the degree was created to address two needs: the need for more well-prepared graduates and the need for more graduate engineering students with undergraduate engineering degrees.

“It was apparent that many areas, especially the arena of health care, will expand rather rapidly in coming years,” he said. “It seems we ought to be attempting to structure curricula that would draw graduate students here and allow them to compete.”

The M.S. in Health Systems Engineering, Moore noted, will teach students tactics which could be effective in changing the way the health care system is approached in the United States.

The other degrees also aim to prepare students to address societal problems.

Electrical power engineering will prepare students to work toward more sustainable goals for powering the country. The masters in financial engineering, already offered by schools like UCLA and Columbia, will teach students to combine math, finance and engineering — skills useful in fields such as investment banking and insurance policy work. The degree in green technology will focus on creating solutions to global demands for energy and energy efficiency problems.

All four degrees will also be offered online through Viterbi’s Distance Education Network. DEN was also part of the impetus to create the degrees, providing information about students’ needs and the demands of the workplace, Moore said.

“Here at Viterbi, we’re basically stalwarts — we do research, we teach classes, we publish papers and we’re not the most businesslike people in the world,” Moore said. “DEN was able to say, ‘Look, here’s the business opportunity. Here’s what we think the faculty should do to meet societal needs.’”

Though the beginning class size is between 20 and 30, Raghu Raghavendra, a senior associate dean for strategic initiatives, said professors hope the program will eventually include as many as 100 students.

“New programs start small,” Raghavendra said. “We hope that our students will find these new degrees useful.”

Laura J. Nelson contributed to this report.