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What is Software Engineering?

California is one of our larger and more populous states. Its vertical length dominates the US west coast, and it also dominates the economy of the West. In fact, California is the largest economy in the US and one of the larger economic powers in the world. Most people associate the state with the glitz, glamour, and wealth of Hollywood, the tech capital (Silicon Valley), and the sprawling farmlands of the Central Valley.

Indeed, California has a lot to offer. Some may be surprised to learn that the largest industry in California is real estate, including leasing. The $500 billion dollar sector is the #1 real estate market nationwide. The real estate sector is so dominant that California's #2 industry is more than 20% smaller. That is professional and business services, which brings in under $400 billion, still enough to maintain the #1 position nationwide.

A software engineering specialist is a tech worker whose job is to conceive, plan, and create cutting-edge software for their firm or a client. To achieve their goals, software engineering specialists must be masters of at least one, but often multiple, computer programming languages. Graduates from computer science or software engineering schools also tend to focus on specific industries with companies that have common problems to solve. Their programming knowledge often matches those needs.

In their daily work, those working in computer software engineering and similar computer science roles spend most of their time at computer workstations. They employ specialized software packages that help them compose and compile their code, and they often work in darkened rooms. Since they spend endless hours on the computer, many software engineers construct custom office furniture to allay the physical consequences of sitting for so long. In fact, those who neglect their bodies often encounter health problems.

Since their work isn't confined to any particular setting, many computer science and software engineering specialists work from home or some other remote location. In fact, their sector is full of coders who travel the globe, submitting their work via the internet to eager clients. This trend towards remote work has grown during the recent COVID-19 pandemic.

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Online Software Engineering Education in California

California's top five industries are rounded out with manufacturing, information (including computer software engineering and other computer science roles), and social services including education and healthcare. The public University of California college system includes some of the best colleges in the country and many locations: San Jose State University, San Diego State, California State University Fullerton, California State University Northridge, California Irvine, etc. And there are private schools, such as Santa Clara University. Manufacturing brings in over $320 billion to hold the nation's #1 spot for that sector. Information generates over $280 billion, mostly in Silicon Valley, while social service companies exceed $200 billion annually. These top industries have at least one common thread that is central to their current success: the computer software engineering and other computer science projects that power their daily operations.

To make sure that software is up to date and capable of handling contemporary challenges, each of these industries needs skilled, creative computer science or software engineering specialists. It may come as no surprise that California has long been a Mecca of sorts for coders, software engineering specialists, and other tech workers. The Internet was born in the Golden State, as were some of the nation's top tech firms such as Apple Computer, Google, and Reddit, to name a few popular names. The state has countless other firms that enjoy fantastic success in the business of innovation in computer science, software engineering, and many other related and unrelated fields.

The state legislature is aware of the importance technology workers, such as software engineering and computer science specialists, have on their economy. Even the Central Valley's farmers need top software to help them monitor irrigation systems and to run their farm machinery. Thus, the California state government supports its public colleges, universities, and other computer science and software engineering schools in California with funds to grow and maintain top-flight computer science departments.

Online Associate Degree in Software Engineering (AS)

One great way to get started in a software engineering career is with an associate software engineering degree. Schools in California, especially their community college system offers extremely affordable and top-notch computer science degree programs to state residents and participants in the Western Undergraduate Exchange (WUE). Even some international students may be able to make use of this. Students can use their associate computer software engineering degrees to leap into an entry-level position or to bolster an existing career built on independent learning in computer science, software engineering, or both.

An associate computer science degree makes sense on a number of levels. Not only does the coursework for one's major concentration introduce vital concepts in software engineering, computer science, and computer programming, but the required general education courses can be valuable as well. Community colleges require that students complete the core, general education college curriculum for any undergraduate degree. Thus, associate degree graduates have honed their communication and critical thinking skills at the college level and can transfer credits into a bachelor’s in computer software engineering and start in their junior year with the general education courses complete.

Community college students also know that their credit hours are much cheaper than the equivalent software engineering, computer science, and even general education courses in a four-year institution. This means that the total cost of their bachelor's software engineering or computer science degree will be far less than had they started in a four-year university.

Online Bachelor's Degree in Software Engineering (BS)

Perhaps the best way to launch a career is with a bachelor's software engineering degree from one of the top-notch computer software engineering schools in California, whether you choose a local college or university. The state is positively stuffed with some of the best minds in both computer science and software engineering, so it's difficult to find lackluster software engineering programs. Furthermore, California is well known for delivering its top-tier educational standards at a very attractive cost.

A four-year bachelor of science in software engineering or computer science is the employer's favorite choice because graduates dive deep into special topics and have devoted even more time to honing their coding skills. Four-year computer software engineering degrees also allow students the opportunity to explore related topics in computer science that will impact their future careers. For instance, those interested in web development can take courses on design and art so that they can build web applications and software engineering solutions with an eye toward aesthetics. Others might study statistics or even economics if they want to code for the financial sector.

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Online Master's Degree in Software Engineering (MS)

A master's software engineering degree is the fuel that helps careers reach the stratosphere. Students taking master's computer science and computer software engineering programs from schools in California can take this opportunity to dive deeper into topics such as artificial intelligence, data analysis, data structures, cryptography, software engineering, and other technical skills and computer science specialties. Once completed, master's programs are is sure to help anyone earn more money and land the big promotion they've been wanting. In fact, undergraduate students should start thinking about their master's degree in computer science or software engineering as soon as possible if they know they want to make it into the upper echelon of management.

Another option for a Californian computer coder are MBA graduate programs. This is an especially good option for those who desire more of a managerial role in their firm. It's also a good choice for those in software engineering who have entrepreneurial aspirations. The degree spans two years, though some schools in California may offer accelerated programs, and includes a thorough overview of business at the master's level, then offers students the opportunity to concentrate on a special area for their second year through elective courses and hands-on learning. Depending on one's goals, that second year might be in software engineering, general computer science, leadership, management, finance, or information technology.

Online PhD Degree in Software Engineering (PhD)

A PhD is not always sought by corporate hiring managers, but computer software engineering programs might be an exception. Software engineering experts who have done deep and original research into topics such as artificial intelligence, cryptography, and programming languages are highly sought by top firms. Furthermore, students in doctoral programs often arrive at stunning new insights that they want to take to the marketplace in the form of an entrepreneurial tech start-up firm. A PhD also has other applications.

One of the primary motivations for a PhD is a career in academia, teaching in computer software engineering colleges. Those who hold a doctoral degree are able to land full-time, tenure track positions in some of California's top computer software engineering colleges and universities. Most will start in the classroom where they teach undergraduate students, but then they may join graduate faculty. Others might work as research faculty who rarely see students but spend time working on research projects that are paid for with grants.

Become a Software Engineer in California

Software engineers come in a variety of different forms. Some work on high-profile projects such as Photoshop or Microsoft Office, while others generate applications that are unknown to all but a select few. They also employ a variety of different tools to get their jobs done. For instance, some specialize in writing Java, while others are experts at Python or SQL. They also tend to focus their skill sets based on their industry focus. Graduates from computer science or software engineering schools in the financial world likely have a different set of coding languages than their peers who make GUI-oriented applications for the mass consumer market. With such a dizzying array of options for a software engineering career, many Californians are confused as to how they can become a software engineer.

One of the best ways to get started in software engineering or computer science is to start learning using an instructional book or a website that teaches coding languages and other computer science basics. There are a number of free and affordable options for motivated students to pursue. There are even free courses that are provided by universities. Students who would like a certificate of completion or even college credit can opt to pay more, but beginner-level students needn't worry about that.

Those beginners who are still in high school can hopefully take computer courses through their school. There may be a STEM high school in their area that has a computer science track, or their local community college may allow high school students to take courses there. Computer lovers should also look for like-minded fellows with whom they can collaborate. Many high school computer clubs become incubators for hot new video game or mobile app development projects.

Later in high school, students should assess their current skill level, as well as their long-term goals. Some may have top skills already so they can look for employment or work as a freelancer. Others may want to build on their academic credentials and earn a college degree. They may start with a local community college or an online university, for example, but they should definitely look for a program that is fully accredited.

California's colleges and universities are all accredited with at least regional credentials. Other programs may boast ABET accreditation. ABET is an agency that exclusively accredits STEM programs. Such program-specific accreditation tends to mean that the program will hold high esteem in the minds of employers.

However, some students may find that they want to dive into computer science without any distractions. They can pursue non-academic credentials in the technologies of their choosing. This route will open a lot of doors. After all, employers are more interested in one's skill level rather than a degree. However, this may limit students who later decide that they are interested in the business side of technology.

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Additional Careers for Software Engineering Graduates

  • Application Developer
    These computer scientists focus their work on building applications that meet their client's needs. Application development can include work on mobile apps, simple web widgets, or robust software packages such as Adobe Illustrator. To pursue this career, it's vital to know one or more programming languages and to have strong familiarity with multiple other, related languages.
  • Web Developer
    These technology workers focus their work on web technologies, especially websites. Web developers typically focus on the back end of websites. They create cookies that help our browsers "remember" previous visits while tracking visitor interactions. Web developers need to be well-versed in web languages such as HTML, CSS, JavaScript, and PHP, though each employer will have their own list of requirements.
  • Information Analyst
    The world of high technology relies on these analysts to ensure that systems are safe and secure. Information analysts constantly assess their firm's systems for any security vulnerabilities. When they find problems, they report their findings to others on their team, including recommendations for how to solve the matter.
  • Software Engineer
    Every piece of software needs a team of computer science or software engineering specialists to build and maintain it. Those with degrees from software engineering schools may be the first to start work on a piece of computer software or computer programs, or they may come to a project that is already well underway. There are legacy software packages, such as Microsoft Word, that have been around since before the world wide web that need engineers who can create and distribute needed updates on a regular basis.
  • Information Security Analyst
    Cyber-crime is rampant these days. And an attack can devastate a firm, so they hire information security analysts who help avoid such problems. InfoSec analysts keep a constant monitor over their systems. They look for undetected breaches while researching new techniques for thwarting hackers from gaining control over their networks and databases.
  • Computer Programmer
    Every applications development team and information technology department needs workers who can write code. Programmers tend to work on applications development, which creates solutions that enable the application to work on new hardware and are secure from hackers. Programmers need to be fluent in at least one, if not two, programming languages while having strong familiarity with other related languages.
  • Game Developer
    These tech workers can have many different specialties. Games, after all, need workers who can conceive of the core game functions, coders who can make it work on a computer, and even artists who make the games look fantastic. However, there are some game developers who can do it all, from creating the core story of the game to tweaking the in-game physics or functions.
  • Web and Digital Interface Designer
    These technology workers focus more on aesthetics than function. They are the graphic artists who make web pages not only attractive but user-friendly. They determine, for example, where on a page users can find a search bar or what size font to use. Designers need to be able to use graphics software packages, such as Photoshop, while being able to code in languages such as HTML, CSS, and JavaScript.

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