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What is Software Engineering?
Earning a degree in computer science, and software engineering specifically, can lead to a wide variety of employment opportunities in Massachusetts. This major is particularly relevant to individuals interested in studying and/or working in telecommunications, healthcare, finance, and insurance fields. Graduates gain knowledge and skills often sought by industries of every kind and information technology (IT) professionals are generally in high demand.
According to the U.S. 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.
While software engineers may work in many different capacities, they are generally tasked with creating and maintaining the underlying systems that run devices and/or control networks needed for computer applications. Professionals of this kind are unique from other information technology workers, as they must maintain a broad view of project system and software requirements.
Job parameters can vary quite significantly, with some software engineers responsible for the design and development of the mechanisms needed to meet user needs. Others, however, are more actively involved in the process than others. These professionals are often responsible for creating every piece of the applications and/or systems assigned to them, as well as determining how all the pieces will work together in the end.
It's also common for software engineers to perform regular software maintenance and testing to ensure that the systems developed continue to function properly. Employers may also expect them to supervise other professionals in the field such as software engineers with less experience, quality assurance analysts, and testers. They must also be capable of keeping records, as it is often necessary to maintain exact documentation of every aspect of the systems to provide a clear reference for future upgrades.
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Online Software Engineering Education in Massachusetts
Information technology (IT) is the sixth largest industry in Massachusetts, resulting in $31.7 billion in revenue each year. Additionally, many of the state’s other sectors are likely to seek professionals with computer engineering or software engineering expertise. As a result, employment opportunities are also likely to exist in professional and business services, real estate, education, healthcare, finance, manufacturing, wholesale, entertainment, retail, and construction.
Based on data provided by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, Massachusetts employed 60,310 software developers in May 2022. The state also maintained 154,790 computer and mathematical occupations, making overall job prospects for professionals in the area very good. Salary prospects are also highly promising. The annual mean wage for these professionals ranged between $118,510 and $133,750. Notably, both are significantly above the state’s reported annual mean wage of $76,600 for all occupations.
Many colleges and universities in Massachusetts and throughout the rest of the nation offer software engineering degrees. Notably, this major is suitable for both traditional and online options. As a result, prospective students are likely to find a decent number of distance learning programs available. However, institutional location can have a significant impact on employment. Even those interested in remote learning may want to give preference to Massachusetts schools if they plan to seek jobs in the state. These colleges and universities will offer the most geographically relevant curriculums, which are also likely to take local employer expectations and standards into account. Most institutions also work hard to establish good relationships with nearby companies and organizations. This can be incredibly beneficial when applying for internships and/or professional employment.
Computer software engineering colleges offering the degrees you are looking for in computer science, software engineering, and computer engineering are available across Massachusetts. Options that might offer the degree program you need include Boston University, Northeastern University, Harvard University, Tufts University, The Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and more. Massachusetts is known for some of the best colleges and universities on the east coast, so there's no reason not to look close to home for a public university, or maybe a bit further away if you're looking for a school with more prestige.
According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, software developers, quality assurance analysts, and testers all typically need bachelor’s degrees in computer and information technology or a related field. It’s important for prospective students to realize, however, that education requirements can vary significantly for information technology (IT) jobs. While bachelor’s degrees are relatively standard, it is possible to find entry-level opportunities available to those who possess only high school diplomas or GEDs. Conversely, some employers are only interested in hiring professionals with master’s degrees. In general, most companies and organizations do prefer candidates with higher education.
Software engineering degrees are fairly common, with colleges and universities throughout the nation offering suitable programs. Prospective students can generally choose from options available at the associate, bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral levels. Additionally, some academic institutions offer professional certificate programs for undergraduate and graduate students. These are most appropriate for individuals with degrees in other subjects intent on changing fields.
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 programs, they are typically comprised of both general liberal arts and major-specific classes. Curriculums vary, but students can expect to take an assortment of communication, mathematics, and science classes, as well as basic programming, web design, and database management. They may also receive instruction in various aspects of business and management.
This type of degree is ideal for those seeking a basic introduction to many of the most fundamental software engineering concepts. While graduates are unlikely to qualify for software engineering positions, they are typically capable of securing jobs as computer programmers and web developers.
There are many benefits to earning associate degrees. Prime among them is the lower cost point. In most cases, these programs are offered by community colleges, which tend to charge lower tuition and fee rates. Students can also complete coursework in two years, as opposed to four years when seeking bachelor’s degrees. This allows graduates to enter the workforce sooner, simultaneously saving money on education and earning an income. Additionally, undergraduate credit hours from accredited academic institutions can be transferred. If graduates do want to continue their studies by enrolling in bachelor’s programs, transferring previously earned credits can jumpstart the process. In fact, most colleges and universities accept up to 60 or 90 credit hours in transfer credit, which is the difference between starting as a freshmen or a junior.
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. These are undergraduate programs, similar to associate degrees but with a broader spectrum of courses included. As such, they are typically comprised of both general liberal arts and major-specific classes. Curriculums vary, but students can expect to take an assortment of communication, mathematics, and science classes, as well as programming, software design, mobile software development, cross-platform engineering, and information technology security. They may also receive instruction in various elements of leadership and business.
This type of degree is ideal for those planning to pursue entry-level employment as software engineers, software developers, information systems managers, computer systems analysts, information security analysts, and network systems administrators. It’s also important to note that the knowledge and skills grained while earning this degree are also readily transferrable to other professions, making it possible to obtain employment across many different industries. As previously mentioned, bachelor’s degrees are considered the academic standard for most occupations in the field.
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 gaining institutions.Check Out the Best 15 Online Bachelors in Software Engineering
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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. Graduate programs no longer incorporate general liberal arts classes, although certain undergraduate courses are sometimes requires as prerequisites. Instead, those enrolled focus their studies solely on subjects pertinent to their selected majors. Curriculums vary, but students can typically expect to study various topics in management, innovation, information trends, and the latest technology developments. In most cases, opportunities to gain hands-on experience are also plentiful.
This type of degree is ideal for individuals seeking employment as software engineers, software developer managers, computer network architects, senior software engineers, and solutions architects. It can be particularly beneficial for those who plan to pursue leadership and supervisory positions in the field. Graduates tend to have access to some of the best jobs and often enjoy higher salaries.Check Out the Best Online Masters in Software Engineering
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. These programs can vary significantly, but it is fairly common for students to receive extensive training in the research and development of software systems. They are also likely to learn various techniques and tools used during advanced design and prototyping, as well as economic trends and privacy laws. Other possible areas of study include maintenance and security strategies that are applicable to complex systems.
While the first few years of enrollment are generally comprised of traditional classroom work, independent study and research are more prominent as the program progresses. Students are typically responsible for writing dissertations, which they must defend before a board of professors prior to graduation.
These degrees are ideal for those interested in pursuing occupations in upper-level management, research, and/or post-secondary education. Notably, few occupations in this field require doctorate and PhD degrees. In fact, graduates typically qualify for many of the same employment opportunities as those with master’s degrees.
Become a Software Engineer in Massachusetts
In addition to software engineering, there are many other related professions available to those with experience in this field. As a result, it’s important to consider your ultimate career aspirations and goals carefully. Taking time to research the various options will help you make the most informed decisions about your future. Once you identify the type of work you want to perform, it becomes significantly easier to research all of the associated standards and expectations. Not only will this ensure you are familiar with the requirements for your preferred occupation, but it helps ensure you select the most appropriate major, minor area of study, elective courses, extracurricular activities, and/or internship opportunities. Planning ahead in this way can set you on the right path for success in the field.
While most companies and organizations set their own hiring standards, the education requirements for software engineers and other information technology (IT) professionals are fairly standardized. The mass majority of these workers possess, at minimum, bachelor’s degrees. Not all of these degrees are in software engineering, however. Depending on the posted position, prospective employers often accept or prefer candidates who majored in computer engineering or computer and information technology. In some cases, even degrees in engineering or mathematics can lead to successful careers in the field.
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After determining your preferred profession and earning the necessary degree(s), you may want to seek out related certifications. Obtaining additional credentials pertinent to your occupation not only demonstrates dedication to the field, but also offers opportunities to showcase specialized software engineering skills. Certification is not usually required for occupations in this field, especially those at the entry-level. It is important to note, however, that many employers do give preference to candidates who possess additional credentials. This is particularly true for credentials administered by well-known organizations and associations. They can also lead to more professional opportunities and higher pay. They can also lead to more professional opportunities and higher pay.
Notably, Massachusetts does not stipulate which certifications software engineers should possess. Instead, individuals in this field are generally free to pursue credentials that align best with the work they perform. While many choose options meant to expand their knowledge of relevant topics, it’s not uncommon to make selections based on personal interests.
The majority of software engineering certifications are offered by prominent companies, organizations, or associations in the field. Pricing, skill level, and applicability can also vary significantly, making it important to research potential options carefully. Every certification has its own distinct application requirements. While some require candidates pass written examinations, others necessitate completing entire academic courses. A particularly well-known and credible credentialing entity 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 credentialed, it’s important to realize that most certifying bodies expect recipients to meet continuing education guidelines. As a result, it’s likely you will need to continually participate in various professional development opportunities relevant to the certification obtained.
In addition to securing additional credentials in the field, software engineering and other information technology workers often choose to join professional associations and organizations. Becoming a member typically leads to many benefits including access to helpful resources, monthly publications, development opportunities, discounts, and networking events.
Some popular professional associations and organizations 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)
Potential Careers for Software Engineering Graduates
- Application Developer
Application developers are typically employed by companies and organization to ensure they remain relevant with the latest technologies and web developments. One way they achieve this is by creating, developing, managing, and maintaining new programs and software that are used on smartphones, computers, tablets, and more. They frequently collaborate with other web and IT professionals. According to PayScale, application developers make an average base salary of $72,463 per year.
- Computer and Information Systems (IS) Manager
Information systems (IS) managers are hired to oversee the work of IT teams. This means coordinating activities including budgeting, hiring new staff members, training, monitoring performance, delegating assistance requests, and researching new business technologies. They also troubleshoot problems, administer computer system updates, and install hardware/software. According to PayScale, information systems managers make an average base salary of $87,717 per year.
- Computer Network Architect
Computer network architects are employed by companies to design and build data communication networks such as local area networks, wide area networks, and Intranets. They typically present their plans to management, along with explanations as to how and why the proposals will be beneficial. They may also perform necessary hardware and software upgrades such as installing new routers, adapters, and network drivers. According to PayScale, computer network architects make an average base salary of $121,498 per year.
- Computer Systems Analyst
Computer systems analysts are hired to design and implement improvements to computer systems and procedures. They consult with managers to study current implementations and determine how information technology is utilized and work to find ways to increase efficiency and add functionality to existing computer systems. They also determine the potential costs and benefits of the upgrades they recommend. According to PayScale, computer systems analysts make an average base salary of $73,224 per year.
- Software Developer
Software developers are hired to create computer applications that help users perform specific tasks on various electronic devices. To do this, they often utilize a variety of computer languages such as C++, Python, and Java and different operating systems including Linux, Solaris, and HPUX. They often coordinate their work with teams of systems engineers and computer programmers to ensure the product creation process runs smoothly. According to PayScale, software developers make an average base salary of $75,708 per year.
- Software Engineer
Software engineers work to develop computer software using various engineering principles. They design, construct, and test new applications in order to ensure they meet user needs, as well as analyzing and modifying existing software when needed. Rather than focusing their efforts on individual systems, they typically work with complex and large systems. According to PayScale, software engineers make an average base salary of $90,649 per year.
- Systems Administrator
Systems administrators organize, install, and support networks of all kinds and other data communication systems. They generally aim to prevent issues from developing. They achieve this by managing, troubleshooting, and proactively updating various hardware and software assets. It is also their responsibility to communicate with partners, providing updates on project status, activity, and achievements. According to PayScale, systems administrators make an average base salary of $64,989 per year.