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What is Software Engineering?

Arkansas is a state that is somewhat Midwestern and somewhat southern. Though it's a rather small state in terms of population, its economy is nevertheless an important figure in the nation. The Arkansas economy is led by its manufacturing sector, which brings over $19 billion into the state each year. Other top industries include professional and business services, real estate, social services including education and healthcare, and wholesale trade. Arkansas remains a strong player in the agricultural space, however, with half of the nation's rice originating in The Natural State.

Given that all of these industries are reliant on technology to remain vibrant and profitable in today's economy, Arkansas needs to ensure that its businesses have enough software engineers to keep apace of their competition. The state government pitches in to help public colleges and universities in the state create and maintain world-class degree programs that prepare software engineers for the working world.

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Online Software Engineering Education in Arkansas

One interesting thing about software engineering is that there is no true degree requirement. Employers may prefer to see a bachelor's degree or a master's software engineering degree, but that is not an absolute rule. A hiring manager's first priority is to find a computer programmer who has the experience needed for their projects. Thus, there are many software engineers who have long careers based on independent learning.

Nevertheless, an academic background including a software engineering degree always helps. Not only do students learn more about their major field, but they receive a well-rounded education that includes invaluable soft skills. Many even pursue a minor or double major in a complimentary field.

Online Associate Degree in Software Engineering (AS)

An associate software engineering degree is a great way to launch a career. Arkansas' community colleges have terrific software engineering degree programs that teach students the fundamentals of computer programming and software development. On top of that, all community college students must complete the core college curriculum as part of any associate degree program, which can help them continue their education later.

There are other advantages to associate software engineering degrees. For one, community colleges charge far less per credit hour than four-year colleges and universities. Students who spend their first two years studying at a community college thus end up with far lower overall costs for a bachelor's degree. Furthermore, a two-year software engineering degree makes sense because it's a great foundation for an entry-level position and many certificates that students may desire.

Even though there is no absolute requirement for any degree, it's strongly advised to at least earn an associate software engineering degree. Students will find that the soft skills alone are very helpful when it comes to communicating with non-tech colleagues. Furthermore, those who later change their mind and want a bachelor's or master's software engineering degree will be happy that they already have two years under their belt.

Online Bachelor’s Degree in Software Engineering (BS)

Perhaps the best launchpad for a successful career in software development is a bachelor's software engineering degree. During the four years it takes to complete a full undergraduate degree, students can explore the topic in depth. They can also augment their software development courses with related work in fields such as mathematics and electrical engineering. Some students may even take courses in the business department. A software engineer who has a minor or double major in a field such as management or supply chain management may forge a unique career path.

Bachelor’s software engineering degree students can also enhance their classroom instruction with experiential learning. Most colleges and universities facilitate internship programs that enable students who want to gain some real-world experience. For those on financial aid, there may also be opportunities to work in the IT department at their college or university.

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Online Master’s Degree in Software Engineering (MS)

Nearly any career can benefit from a master's degree. Salaries increase and workers may even receive a promotion before they have a diploma in hand. For those in software engineering, a master's degree offers the opportunity to hone their skills and perhaps find a new specialty. Others even decide to branch out in graduate school to add new skills that broaden their opportunities.

Some venture into an MBA program that features a concentration in software engineering or an adjacent focus. If their desired MBA program doesn't offer the precise concentration they desire, there may be the possibility of earning a dual MBA. These programs allow students to earn both an MBA and a second graduate degree in only three years. Those who earn both an MBA and master's software engineering degree are unlikely to have much time to work, so students should plan for the financial impact of earning these degrees.

Online PhD Degree in Software Engineering (PhD)

A doctorate in software engineering is an option that is increasingly popular. Since computer science is advancing in ways that are ever-more mind-blowing, tech professionals may want to advance their learning with a PhD. Since artificial intelligence is headed into the mainstream, software engineers who have cutting edge research into the subject will be in high demand.

Software engineers who are tackling problems related to cyber security may likewise find a lot of job opportunities. New cryptography algorithms and firewall technologies are always in demand. There are even firms who will hire a PhD to continue their research into these matters. Of course, there are always opportunities for a PhD-level software engineer in the world of academia.

While software engineers can join a university faculty with a master's degree, a PhD is far superior. This is because a doctorate allows them to land full-time, tenure track positions. PhDs can also find work as research faculty who continue to pursue their passions without having to teach.

Become a Software Engineer in Arkansas

Computers are everywhere these days. Though it may sometimes seem like the march of technological progress is reaching a plateau point, there is always a need for a talented software engineer. After all, as chip speeds increase and storage capacities reach ludicrous levels, software will take advantage of these capabilities. Those who are passionate about computing and technological advances may be curious as to how they can join the ranks of software engineers.

This is a field that has no real restrictions in terms of age or degree level. Youngsters can get a start in the field by simply going online and learning about programming languages. There are a number of free or very affordable courses that teach any programming language imaginable. Some even offer certificates that attest to the student's competency in the language. Even kids in middle or high school can earn these credentials. While they may not yet want to join the working world, they can team up with online or real-world friends to develop software packages including fun new independent video games.

During high school, students should look for any technology courses in their school. In fact, there are even some STEM-focused high schools that may help students focus their studies on programming or computer science topics. In lieu of these opportunities, high school students should strive to excel in mathematics. Most high schools will at least offer Calculus I, but motivated students may see about taking more math courses through a local Arkansas community college. It may even be possible to take these courses online.

When it comes time to look for a college degree program, students should seek out the best computer science degree program they can find. Students should examine each program and compare their course offerings to determine which best suits their long-term goals. One thing that all programs should have, however, is accreditation. While most of Arkansas public colleges and universities will have regional accreditation, programs that hold ABET accreditation may be even better.

Upon graduating with an undergraduate degree in software engineering or computer science, students can venture into the working world or graduate school. Those who land an entry-level engineering position should continue to pursue education in the form of certificates in their preferred software languages. While certificates may be enough to support a career in the long-haul, eventually a master's software engineering degree may be required to reach one's ultimate career goals.

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Potential Careers for Software Engineering Graduates

  • Software Engineer:
    Software engineers need to have a full mastery of one or more programming languages and basic proficiency in two or more others. Each project and employer is sure to have their own language needs. Engineers should also be creative problem solvers who can produce innovative software packages with their team of engineers and programmers.
  • Application Developer:
    Application developers often have a computer science degree, but many others are self-taught and hold certificates that prove their skill level. In fact, even degreed application developers should earn certificates in various languages and skills to prove that they have the specialized knowledge and skill employers need. Professional application developers need experience in the industry they're developing for, since they often create apps from scratch.
  • Web Developer:
    Web developers create apps and websites for clients who want the very best website possible. Web developers typically work on the back end of a website and ensure that the fundamental functioning is there for the client. However, web developers should also be able to write code that primarily impacts the front end of their websites. Languages such as HTML, CSS, and JavaScript are necessary languages for most every web developer. Other language needs may include Python, Java, PHP, and SQL, among others.
  • Information Security Analyst:
    Cyber security is a hot field, and employers are often willing to pay top dollar for information security experts. Infosec analysts work to ensure the safety and security of their firm's cyber security hardware, software, and protocols. To do so, analysts routinely audit their firm's networks and databases to check for any weaknesses in their code. They may also keep a diligent eye on emerging cyber security software and hardware solutions that their firm may need to implement.
  • Database Administrator:
    Most firms these days rely on a database to build and develop their business. Database admins are hired to oversee these virtual information storehouses. Many employers need a database administrator who can oversee security permissions, how data is entered into the database, and even upgrade the database when necessary. Though they may not need to code, database admins should have a working familiarity with Python, SQL, and Linux, if applicable.
  • Game Developer:
    Video games represent a huge portion of the tech sector. Because of this, it’s possible for game developers to earn a handsome salary. These tech professionals may work on specific parts of a game, such as how the graphics are rendered by a video game console, the artwork in a game, or the gameplay mechanics. There are even game developers who have conceptualized, coded, and fully developed games of their own. However, mostly game developers assemble teams of specialized tech workers to bring a game to life.
  • Web and Digital Interface Designer:
    Every piece of software has a way for users to interact with it. While some software still uses a command-line interface, most software packages use a graphical user interface (GUI). GUI designers take many factors into consideration when they create a piece of software, including websites. Not only must the software look good from an aesthetic point of view, but it must also function in an intuitive and efficient manner.

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