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What is Software Engineering?

Are you interested in earning a degree in software engineering? While majoring in this subject can lead to a wide variety of employment opportunities in Delaware, it’s a particularly ideal option for individuals planning to pursue careers related to computer science such as developing applications, systems, and software. Telecommunications, healthcare, finance, and insurance entities especially rely on professionals with expertise in this area. That said, graduates often enjoy a significant amount of flexibility, as companies and organizations in almost every industry seek to hire software engineers and other information technology (IT) workers.

Software engineers are responsible for creating and maintaining the underlying systems that run devices and/or control networks needed for all kinds of computer science applications. The scope of the position varies, with some professionals more actively involved in the process than others. At minimum, software builders are expected to analyze user needs before designing and developing mechanisms to meet them. In some cases, however, these professionals must design every piece of the applicants and/or systems they are assigned, in addition to planning how the pieces will all work together in the end. Afterward, software engineers are also expected to perform regular software maintenance and testing to ensure that the systems developed continue to function properly. Additionally, software engineers are often tasked with supervising other software developers, quality assurance analysts, and testers.

Many other information technology professions have similar responsibilities, but software engineers are unique in their broad view of project system and software requirements. This often requires more extensive planning in terms of scope and order of work. As a result, they must also keep exact documentation of every aspect of the systems in order to provide a clear reference for future upgrades.

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Online Software Engineering Education in Delaware

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment for software developers, quality assurance analysts, and testers is projected to grow 25% from 2021 to 2031. This is much faster than the average for all occupations and will result in an increase of about 162,900 job openings each year.

Information technology (IT) is not among the largest industries in Delaware but, as previously mentioned, experts in the field may find work in many other sectors in the state. Software engineering professionals are also commonly hired by finance, insurance, business, manufacturing, and management enterprises.

Based on data provided by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), Delaware employed 5,550 software developers in May 2021. Overall, however, the state maintained 16,730 computer and mathematical occupations. The annual mean wage for these professionals ranged between $102,060 and $115,330. Notably, both of these are significantly above the state’s reported annual mean wage of $59,820 for all occupations.

Many colleges and universities throughout the nation offer degrees in software engineering, as well as other related subjects. Notably, those planning to pursue employment in Delaware should give preference to academic institutions located in the state. Not only will these schools will have a better understanding of employer standards and expectations in the area, but it’s also common for them to have pre-established relationships with local companies and organizations that will make securing internships and paid positions easier.

While it is possible to find employment in the information technology (IT) field with only a high school diploma or GED, many companies and organizations strongly prefer candidates to possess higher education degrees of some kind. Many colleges and universities offer degrees in software engineering and other related subjects, with programs available at the associate, bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral levels. Some academic institutions also provide professional certificates for undergraduate and graduate students. In general, more advanced degrees tend to lead to higher-paying employment.

It's important to keep in mind that education requirements can vary significantly for information technology professionals. Even among software engineers, expectations will differ depending on the employer. As a result, prospective students should always research their preferred occupations, job postings, and corresponding requirements carefully prior to selecting degree programs.

Online Associate Degree in Software Engineering (AS)

An associate degree in software engineering generally consist of 60 credit hours of coursework that take full-time students approximately two years to complete. These are undergraduate programs that are comprised of both general liberal arts and major-specific classes. While curriculums vary by institution, students often receive instruction in many fundamental software engineering concepts such as basic programming, web design, and database management. They may also enroll in business and management courses.

This type of degree is ideal for those who want to qualify for entry-level employment right away, as well as those seeking to pay as little as possible for their education. Associate programs are often offered at community colleges, which tend to charge much lower tuition rates than traditional four-year institutions. While graduates are unlikely to qualify for software engineering positions, they are likely to find employment as computer programmers and web developers.

Another common option for graduates is to pursue further education by enrolling in bachelor’s degree programs. In many cases, the credits earned at the associate level can be transferred and applied towards additional undergraduate degrees. While institutional regulations vary, many colleges and universities accept up to 60 or 90 transfer credits, which is roughly equal to two years of coursework. As a result, those with associate degrees may enter bachelor’s programs as juniors instead of freshmen.

Online Bachelor's Degree in Software Engineering (BS)

Bachelor’s degrees in software engineering and other computer science degrees generally consist of 120 credit hours of coursework that take full-time students approximately four years to complete. As another undergraduate degree, these programs continue to incorporate both general liberal arts and major-specific classes. Every curriculum is different, but those enrolled can expect to receive a broad introduction to the field. Instruction is likely to include comprehensive training in various programming techniques and software design, as well as interactions between computers and humans. Other common coursework includes current and future trends in mobile software development, cross-platform engineering, and security. In some cases, you may also learn about leadership and business as these topics are helpful when preparing for management-level employment.

In addition to the core curriculum, many colleges and universities allow software engineering majors to choose academic concentrations. This can be particularly helpful when pursuing a certain career path as they allow those looking to work in computer science to pursue more specialized skills in preferred sub-fields.

This type of degree is best-suited for individuals planning to pursue entry-level employment. While more advanced degrees can lead to greater opportunities, the standard for most occupations in the field is the bachelor’s degree. Graduates can typically qualify for work as software engineers, software developers, information systems managers, computer systems analysts, information security analysts, and network systems administrators. It’s also worth noting that many of the skills gained while earning this degree are useful in other professions across many different industries.

Many graduates choose to further their education by enrolling in related master’s degree programs. Prospective students should be prepared to meet minimum grade point average (GPA) and Graduate Record Examinations (GRE) score requirements set by their chosen institutions.

Online Master's Degree in Software Engineering (MS)

Master’s degrees in software engineering generally range from 30 to 45 credit hours of coursework that take full-time students approximately two to three years to complete. Every academic institution’s curriculum is a little different, but students can typically expect to take classes related to management, innovation, popular information trends, and the latest technology developments. Programs are often designed specifically to include opportunities to gain hands-on experience that can be easily applied to most workplaces. Those enrolled will also likely spend a significant amount of time examining the software development lifecycle and the various stages involved. Instructors often provide detailed explanations of how to manage each of the stages independently.

Those seeking leadership positions in the field will likely benefit most from earning this type of degree. Many companies and organizations also tend to give preference to candidates who have completed graduate school. In some cases, a master’s can lead to more promotional opportunities and higher pay. Graduates generally qualify to work as software engineers, software developer managers, computer network architects, senior software engineers, and solutions architects.

Online PhD Degree in Software Engineering (PhD)

A PhD or doctorate in software engineering may consist of between 60 and 120 credit hours that can take full-time students up to seven years to complete. Curriculums vary from institution to institution, but students can generally expect to receive extensive training in the research and development of software systems. Additionally, those enrolled are likely to receive instruction on various techniques and tools used during advanced design and prototyping. Other common areas of study include economic trends and privacy laws, as well as maintenance and security strategies that are applicable to complex systems.

It's rare for an employer to require candidates to have this level of education for software engineering jobs. Graduates typically qualify for many of the same jobs as those with master’s degrees, but tend to gain upper-level management positions more easily. Additionally, those with terminal degrees in the field can qualify for post-secondary teaching positions at colleges and universities, as well as positions as research scientists.

Become a Software Engineer in Delaware

Becoming a software engineer in Delaware generally begins with identifying your ultimate career goals. Once you know the type of work you want to perform, you should spend some time researching the occupation. This ensures you are familiar with education, training, and experience standards for new professionals in the field. You can then select the most appropriate degree program to help you gain the skills needed to build a successful career. As most companies and organizations establish minimum hiring qualifications for the positions they post, it’s important to verify the level of higher education you obtain sufficiently meets or exceeds expectations. The most useful majors for this field are typically computer engineering and computer and information technology. Degrees in engineering and mathematics can also prove useful, depending on the job sought.

Notably, hiring standards for software engineers and other information technology (IT) professionals in Delaware are similar throughout the nation. While the state has no established minimum education requirement for this field, most employers expect job candidates to possess bachelor’s degrees.

In addition to earning a degree, you may also benefit from obtaining one or more relevant certifications. These credentials generally serve as confirmation that you possess certain knowledge and skills related to software engineering. As a result, they can set you apart from other job candidates with less expertise. Certifications may also help you qualify for more positions and can be instrumental when negotiating higher pay. This is particularly true for credentials administered by well-known organizations and associations within the field.

There is no single most important credential recommended for software engineers. Instead, professionals tend to pursue certifications that expand their skills in areas of personal or work-related interest. Most options are offered by companies, organizations, or associations, with pricing, skill level, and applicability varying significantly. A particularly well-known and credible provider is the Institute of Certification of Computing Professionals (ICCP).

Some examples of potential certifications available to software engineers include:

  • Certified Secure Software Lifecycle Professional (CSSLP)
  • Certified Software Development Professional (CSDP)
  • Certified Software Engineer (CFE)
  • CIW Certified Web Development Professional
  • Amazon Web Services (AWS) Certified Developer
  • Oracle Certified Master (OCM)
  • Salesforce Administrator
  • Microsoft Certified Azure Solutions Architect
  • Project Management Professional (PMP)

Once you select a certification to pursue, make sure you carefully research application requirements. These will differ depending on the credential chosen, ranging from passing a written examination to completing an entire course. It’s also important to note that most certifying bodies expect you to meet continuing education guidelines.

Many software engineering and other information technology workers also choose to join professional associations and organizations. These groups often serve as wonderful resources in the field by providing a place for like-minded individuals to share their knowledge freely. Memberships can also lead opportunities for further development, as well as discounts, monthly publications, and access to academic journals.

A few prominent options include:

  • Association for Computing Machinery (ACM)
  • Association of Software Professionals (ASP)
  • Association for Women in Computer (AWC)
  • Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE) Computer Society
  • Python Software Foundation (PSF)

Careers for Software Engineering Graduates

  • Application Developer
    Application developers are responsible for creating, developing, managing, and maintaining new programs and software used on smartphones, computers, tablets, etc. They help companies and organizations remain relevant with the latest technologies and web developments. They may also be expected to collaborate with other web and information technology professionals. According to PayScale, application developers make an average base salary of $72,450 per year.
  • Computer and Information Systems (IS) Manager
    Information systems managers are responsible for overseeing teams of IT professionals as they work to maintain employer needs. They troubleshoot problems, administer computer system updates, and install hardware/software. They may also be responsible for budgeting, hiring employees, training new professionals, monitoring performance, delegating assistance requests, and researching new business technologies. According to PayScale, information systems managers make an average base salary of $87,700 per year.
  • Computer Network Architect
    Computer network architects are responsible for designing and building data communication networks: local area networks (LANs), wide area networks (WANs), and intranets. These professionals present plans to management and explain why and how they will benefit the company and perform upgrades to technology hardware and software such as routers, adapters, and network drivers. According to PayScale, computer network architects make an average base salary of $121,500 per year.
  • Computer Programmer
    Computer programmers are responsible for writing, modifying, and testing code and scripts intended to help computer software and applications function better. They often work to turn developer and engineer designs into instructions that computers can easily follow and may update and expand upon existing programs, test programs for errors, and fix faulty lines of code. According to PayScale, computer programmers make an average base salary of $67,900 per year.
  • Computer Systems Analyst
    Computer systems analysts are responsible for studying current computer systems and procedures for companies and organizations with the intent of designing and implementing improvements. They often consult with managers to determine how IT is currently used, while researching ways to increase efficiency. They work to add functionality to existing computer systems but may also analyze the costs and benefits of potential upgrades. According to PayScale, computer systems analysts make an average base salary of $73,200 per year.
  • Information Analyst
    Information analysts are responsible for collecting and analyzing network, software, and hardware data. They typically work for organizations with IT departments, identifying and anticipating problems within their systems, providing detailed analyses of the systems and networks, and providing feedback and recommendations when appropriate. According to PayScale, information analysts make an average base salary of $69,350 per year.
  • Software Developer
    Software developers are responsible for creating computer applications to help users perform specific tasks. They typically possess a strong understanding of various computer languages including C++, Python, and Java and are also highly familiar with operating systems such as Linux, Solaris, and HPUX. Most software developers work with teams of systems engineers and computer programmers throughout the product creation process. According to PayScale, software developers make an average base salary of $75,700 per year.
  • Software Engineer
    Software engineers are responsible for developing computer software by utilizing engineering principles. They work to analyze and modify existing software and design, construct, and test new applications to ensure they meet user needs. It’s common for them to work with complex and large systems rather than individual systems. According to PayScale, software engineers make an average base salary of $90,650 per year.
  • Systems Administrator
    Systems administrators are responsible for organizing, installing, and supporting local area networks (LANs), wide area networks (WANs), and other data communication systems for businesses. They also spend time managing, troubleshooting, and proactively updating hardware and software assets to prevent issues. They may be expected to communicate with partners, providing project status, activity, and achievement updates. According to PayScale, systems administrators make an average base salary of $65,000 per year.
  • Web Developer
    Web developers are responsible for supporting and maintaining websites and digital products. They do this by planning and creating software solutions and web applications and by validating test routines to ensure external and internal interface quality. They also generate solutions for problems or bugs as they are identified. Additionally, web developers examine written code to ensure it meets industry standards and is compatible with all devices. According to PayScale, web developers make an average base salary of $61,700 per year.

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