Systems Engineering Competency Assessment Guide

Compilation of 37 competencies needed for systems engineering, with information for individuals and organizations on how to identify and assess competence

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This book provides guidance on how to evaluate proficiency in the competencies defined in the systems engineering competency framework and how to differentiate between proficiency at each of the five levels of proficiency defined within that document. Readers will learn how to create a benchmark standard for each level of proficiency within each competence area, define a set of standardized terminology for competency indicators to promote like-for-like comparison, and provide typical non-domain-specific indicators of evidence which may be used to confirm experience in each competency area.

Sample topics covered by the three highly-qualified authors include:

  • The five proficiency levels: awareness, supervised practitioner, practitioner, lead practitioner, and expert
  • The numerous knowledge, skills, abilities, and behavior indicators of each proficiency level
  • What an individual needs to know and be able to do in order to behave as an effective systems engineer
  • How to develop training courses, education curricula, job advertisements, job descriptions, and job performance evaluation criteria for system engineering positions

For organizations, companies, and individual practitioners of systems engineering, this book is a one-stop resource for considering the competencies defined in the systems engineering competency framework and judging individuals based off them.

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Our Contributors



Clifford Whitcomb, Ph.D. is a Professor in the Systems Engineering Program at Cornell University. He is a Distinguished Professor Emeritus and a former Chair of the Systems Engineering Department at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, CA. Dr. Whitcomb is an INCOSE Fellow and a Fellow of the Society of Naval Architects and Marine Engineers (SNAME). Dr. Whitcomb’s research areas include development and assessment methods for systems and system-of-systems architectures, and development of systems engineering competency models and frameworks. He is a co-author, with Leslie Whitcomb, of Effective Interpersonal and Team Communication Skills for Engineers, IEEE Press, John Wiley and Sons published in 2013. He was a principal investigator for the development of the Systems Engineering Career Competency Model (SECCM) now formally a part of the US Navy Human Resources Competency Network. He collaborated as part of the team that developed the Digital Engineering Competency Framework (DECF) with the Systems Engineering Research Center (SERC) at the Stevens Institute of Technology. He was a member of the IEEE working group that developed the initial IEEE P1484.20.2:2022 Recommended Practices for Defining Competencies and is an INCOSE liaison for the ISO/IEC JTC 1/SC 7/WG 20 "Software and systems bodies of knowledge and professionalization". He is the Editor-in-Chief of the journal Systems Engineering. Dr. Whitcomb is a retired naval engineer and submarine officer, with a Masters in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science from MIT, a Naval Engineer degree from MIT, and a Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Maryland.


Ms. Lori Zipes has been a member of INCOSE since 2006, earning her CSEP in 2008 and ESEP in 2016.  She is currently serving as Co-Chair of the Competency Working Group and Assistant Director for Technical Information.  Ms. Zipes also serves on advisory boards for the Systems Engineering Research Center (SERC) and Purdue University.
Educated at MIT, Ms. Zipes has a BS and MS in Ocean Engineering, as well as a second MS degree in Systems Engineering from the Naval Postgraduate School with distinction.  Ms. Zipes is the Command Chief Engineer for Naval Surface Warfare Center Crane, a US Navy research and development base.  Her current position is an enjoyable culmination of a 30+ year career as an engineer for the Navy, always striving to raise the bar on systems engineering knowledge and capabilities.


Ian is a retired Chartered Engineer, IET Fellow IET and INCOSE ESEP. Over his 40-year career he worked in both specialist technical and technical managerial roles in space, communications, transportation, and automotive sectors. He graduated in 1980 from Bristol University, UK (MEng - Electronic and Electronical Engineering). He worked initially in electronics, migrating to firmware and then software development, eventually finding his home in the systems engineering discipline, where he spent most of his working life. Ian was a prime mover for a competency-based approach to career development and assessment within INCOSE and has been a passionate advocate for the INCOSE Systems Engineering Competency Framework since its inception in 2010. He is one of its principal authors and its main editor.

"Systems Engineering Competency is a curious mix. We WANT to be competent, but ARE we? The Competency Model Framework provides insight into ourselves; how we think, what we have experienced. It sheds light on the answer to the question, not as a "yes" or "no", but to what degree and in which competency areas."

- Eileen Arnold, ESEP

"The Systems Engineering Competency Framework and associated Competency Assessment Guide are very important and impactful products from INCOSE. Building upon previous efforts, the framework and assessment guide enable current and future systems engineers to better understand these crucial competencies and to assess their levels of proficiencies across those competencies. The framework provides the primary taxonomy for classifying learning resources made available through the Professional Development Portal (PDP) and the assessment guide enables PDP users to assess their proficiency using a well-defined methodology."

- Don S. Gelosh, ESEP-Acq

Coming Soon!

Interview with the Authors


Press Release

SAN DIEGO (08 February 2023) – The International Council on Systems Engineering (INCOSE) Competency Working Group is pleased to announce the publication of the Systems Engineering Competency Assessment Guide, published by Wiley.

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