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What is Software Engineering?

Choosing to earn a degree in software engineering can lead to a wide variety of employment opportunities in Florida. Those interested in developing applications, systems, and software engineering will find it the major most beneficial, especially if they already possess strong analytical and problem-solving skills. As a whole, the information technology (IT) field offers significant flexibility, as companies and organizations in almost every industry rely of professionals with expertise in this area. Telecommunications, healthcare, finance, and insurance entities, in particular, are known to regularly hire software engineers.

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), 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.

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Online Software Engineering Education in Florida

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 software engineering students. These cover fewer topics but can often be completed in less time than traditional degrees.

Prior to selecting an academic degree program, prospective students should review education requirements for their preferred profession carefully. Expectations can vary significantly throughout the information technology (IT) field.

Online Associate Degree in Software Engineering (AS)

Associate degrees in software engineering generally consist of 60 credit hours of coursework that take full-time students approximately two years to complete. As undergraduate degrees, these programs are typically comprised of both general liberal arts and major-specific classes. Curriculums vary, but often include instruction in many fundamental software engineering concepts including basic programming, web design, and database management. In some cases, those enrolled may also learn the basics of business and management. Prospective software engineering students should be aware that a software engineering degree might be harder to find at this level, so you might need to consider earning a computer science degree at this level first.

Those seeking the minimum knowledge and skills needed to qualify for entry-level employment will find associate degrees in software engineering highly useful. As programs can be completed in approximately two years, this is one of the fastest ways to enter the field. Additionally, individuals seeking ways to limit the cost of higher education are likely to prefer this method. Most associate programs are offered by community colleges, which tend to charge significantly lower tuition rates than traditional four-year institutions. It’s important to realize, however, that graduates are unlikely to find work in software engineering. These jobs are typically reserved for those with more advanced degrees. The most common employment options at this level include computer programmer and web developer.

Many graduates utilize their newly acquired foundation in the field to pursue further education. It’s fairly common for those with associate degrees to enroll in bachelor’s programs. The prospect is made even more alluring by the fact that credits earned previously can be transferred and applied toward new degrees. The majority of colleges and universities accept at least 60 credits in transfer from other accredited institutions, which roughly equates to two full academic years. While every school is different, those with associate degrees may enter their four-year programs as juniors instead of freshmen.

Online Bachelor's Degree in Software Engineering (BS)

Bachelor’s degrees in software engineering generally consist of 120 credit hours of coursework that take full-time students approximately four years to complete. As with associate degrees, these programs continue to incorporate both general liberal arts and major-specific classes. Course requirements differ between institutions, but are usually designed to provide a broad overview of the field as a whole. In addition to receiving comprehensive training in various programming techniques for software engineering and software design, software engineering students will also learn about the interactions between computers and humans. Instruction also often covers current and future trends including mobile software development, cross-platform engineering, and security. Additionally, it’s not uncommon for these programs to incorporate training in leadership and business.

It's important to note that many colleges and universities provide opportunities for software engineering students and others to select academic concentrations. While not usually required, selecting a specialty can help those enrolled pursue knowledge and skills in particular areas of interest. Selections may be based on personal preference or professional pursuits.

Those planning to apply for entry-level employment in software engineering roles, software developers, information systems managers, computer systems analysts, information security analysts, and network systems administrators will benefit greatly from earning bachelor’s degrees in software engineering. The knowledge and skills gained may also be applicable in other professions and across many industries.

Not all graduates seek employment right away, however. Instead, many choose to pursue further education by enrolling in related master’s degree programs. Those interested in applying to graduate school should be prepared to meet minimum grade point average (GPA) and Graduate Record Examinations (GRE) score requirements set by gaining institutions.

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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. Program specifics vary by institution, but most are designed to provide as thorough assessment of management and innovation, with many opportunities to gain hands-on experience in the field. Instruction often focuses on the software development lifecycle and the various stages involved. Software engineering students can expect to learn how to manage each of the stages independently, in addition to the latest technology developments and trends.

This type of degree is best-suited for professionals seeking leadership and management positions. Those with master’s degrees also tend to have more promotional opportunities and earn higher salaries. Graduates may qualify for jobs in software engineering, 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. Curriculum specifics depend on the college or university, but programs often provide extensive training in the research and development of software systems. It’s also common for software engineering students at this level to learn about various techniques and tools utilized in advanced design and prototyping. Other possible coursework includes courses in economic trends, privacy laws, and maintenance and security strategies for complex systems.

Few companies and organizations expect professionals in this field to obtain doctorate degrees in software engineering. In many cases, those who possess them still compete for the same types of jobs available to master’s degree graduates. This kind of education can, however, make it easier to obtain employment in upper-level management positions. Graduate will also qualify to teach at the post-secondary level and may find employment as research scientists.

Become a Software Engineer in Florida

If you want to become a software engineer in Florida, it’s important to spend some time considering your ultimate career goals and how you intend to reach them. Researching minimum hiring qualifications is essential, as this ensures you obtain the correct education, training, and skills to be successful. Notably, there are a wide variety of different information technology (IT) professions available, all with their own unique standards and requirements. While the software engineer profession is promising, make sure you are not more interested in a closely related occupation prior to enrolling in a degree program. Additionally, always verify that your intended profession is complimented by any minor areas of study, academic concentrations, and/or elective courses you select.

Beyond industry standards, there are no additional requirements set by the state of Florida for software engineers and other information technology professionals. Minimum hiring qualifications are determined by individual companies and organizations, making it essential to review job postings carefully before submitting applications. While expectations can vary, most employers generally expect candidates in this field to possess bachelor’s degrees in computer engineering or computer and information technology. In some cases, majoring in engineering or mathematics may also suffice.

After earning the necessary degree, you may want to consider obtaining one or more certifications related to software engineering. Professionals use additional credentials to demonstrate their dedication to the field and to gain specialized knowledge and skills in subject areas that are often valuable to potential employers. Some companies and organizations actually require certain certifications prior to employment, although this is not typically the case for entry-level positions. In general, however, possessing any number of professional credentials can set you apart from other candidates during the job application process. In some cases, they may even help you to negotiate higher pay.

Unlike with some professions, there is no single most important credential recommended for software engineering and other information technology workers. It’s left up to the individual which certification(s) to pursue. However, there are numerous options available, with the most reliable credentials overseen by well-known companies, organizations, and associations. A popular source of many highly regarded certifications is the Institute of Certification of Computing Professionals (ICCP).

Some examples of potential certifications offered by ICCP and other reliable sources 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)

Similarly, joining a professional association is not required but can prove very useful to software engineering professionals. Many choose to obtain memberships with at least one organization due to the many benefits they offer such as useful discounts, access to academic journals, professional development opportunities, and invitations to networking events. One of the biggest perks, however, is the ability to connect and engage with others in the field.

A few prominent organizations and associations 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)

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Potential Careers for Software Engineering Graduates

  • Application Developer
    Application developers help companies and organizations remain relevant with the latest technologies and web developments. They create, develop, manage, and maintain new programs and software that can be used on smartphones, computers, tablets, and other electronic devices. They may also collaborate with other web and IT professionals. According to PayScale, application developers make an average base salary of $72,450 per year.
  • Computer and Information Systems (IS) Manager
    Information systems (IS) managers work to maintain employer needs by troubleshooting problems, administering computer system updates, and installing hardware/software. They may also budget, hire employees, train new hires, monitoring performance, delegate, and research new business technologies. According to PayScale, information systems managers make an average base salary of $87,700 per year.
  • Computer Programmer
    Computer programmers write, modify, and test code and scripts in order to turn developer and engineer designs into instructions that computers can easily follow. Their work is what allows computer software and applications to function properly. When issues arise, they also test programs for errors and fix faulty lines of computer code. According to PayScale, computer programmers make an average base salary of $67,900 per year.
  • Information Analyst
    Information analysts work for companies with IT departments, collecting and analyzing network, software, and/or hardware data. These professionals typically help anticipate and identify problems within systems and provide detailed analyses of systems and networks, providing recommendations when appropriate. According to PayScale, information analysts make an average base salary of $69,350 per year.
  • Software Developer
    Software developers work to help others perform tasks on various electronic devices by creating computer applications. This may require the use of many computer languages such as C++, Python, and Java. They may also use different operating systems, including Linux, Solaris, and HPUX. These professionals rarely work entirely alone to perfect products; instead, they often coordinate efforts with teams of systems engineers and computer programmers. According to PayScale, software developers make an average base salary of $75,700 per year.
  • Software Engineer
    Software engineers develop computer software using engineering principles. They spend a lot of time analyzing and modifying existing software. They may also design, construct, and test new applications to ensure user needs are adequately met. Notably, software engineering professionals typically 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 manage, troubleshoot, and proactively update hardware and software assets for the companies and organizations they work for. A significant amount of their time is spent organizing, installing, and supporting local area networks (LANs), wide area networks (WANs), and other data communication systems. In some cases, these professionals may also be expected to work with partners in order to communicate project status, activities, and achievements. According to PayScale, systems administrators make an average base salary of $65,000 per year.
  • Web Developer
    Web developers plan and create software solutions and web applications while supporting and maintaining websites and other digital products. They ensure the quality of external and internal interfaces by validating test routines and work to generate solutions for problems or bugs when they are identified. They may also be expected to verify that written code meets industry standards and is compatible with all necessary devices. According to PayScale, web developers make an average base salary of $61,700 per year.

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