Are you considering enrolling in an online associate degree program in in software engineering? If you have an interest in, and aptitude for, applying engineering principles to software development, this may be your ideal major of study. Graduates often have numerous opportunities to explore a number of exciting and comprehensive computer science professions. Earning this type of degree can also lead to jobs with high salary potential, as well as increasing job growth opportunities and security.
While there are typically many different career options available to graduates in this field, most software engineering professionals at this level become computer programmers or web developers. They may also be responsible for creating systems and software for the companies that employ them. Common projects include developing business applications, games, network controls, and operating systems. Job specifics will vary by position, title, and employer expectations, but many professionals in this field also design and test applications based on user needs. This may necessitate working closely with users and other developers to ensure satisfactory results. Additionally, experts in this field may recommend software upgrades for existing systems, perform routine maintenance, complete updates, and make repairs as needed.
Graduates can also choose to continue their educations after earning associate degrees in software engineering. Transferring credits earned from one regionally accredited institution to another is relatively simple and can equate to a significant jumpstart toward completing a bachelor’s degree.
Requirements of an Associate Degree?
Associate degrees are generally designed to introduce students to the fundamentals of their chosen field. Coursework typically helps those enrolled establish and develop foundational skills necessary to be successful academically and professionally.
Most associate degrees consist of 60 credit hours of classes, and they take full-time students approximately two years to complete. Those with Advanced Placement credits earned during high school may finish in less time. Additionally, there are some accelerated programs available. These often require students to enroll in more courses each semester to ensure a more prompt graduation. It’s also worth noting that students attending classes part-time will need longer to complete requirements.
While curriculums vary from institution to institution, most place their focus on soft skills that can be applied to a wide variety of employment opportunities. Coursework is also likely to incorporate practical career training and general education subjects.
Where Can You Earn an Associate-Level Software Engineering Degree?
Associate degrees in software engineering are most commonly offered by community colleges, technical colleges, and vocational schools. These institutions often have smaller campuses with fewer students and limited organized groups and activities. The facilities available may also be less substantial. Additionally, these schools rarely offer housing options, as most students commute to campus for their classes. Offering fewer services allows these schools to charge less per credit hour than traditional institutions.
It is worth noting, however, that some four-year colleges and universities also have associate-level degree programs available. These programs are generally secondary to the bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees offered.
Online Vs. Traditional Education in Software Engineering?
There are plenty of colleges and universities that offer online software engineering degrees throughout the nation. Whether or not distance learning is an appropriate means of acquiring an education is typically dependent upon personal preference. While curriculums are not standardized between institutions, many online and traditional schools cover the same or similar class subjects. There are, however, some significant differences between the two that you should be aware of.
Online software engineering programs offer more flexibility for students with personal and professional obligations that limit their ability to attend classes in person. Some institutions also offer accelerated programs that allow graduates to enter the workforce much sooner than they would otherwise. While a traditional bachelor’s degree typically requires four years of on-campus instruction, accelerated online programs can take as little as two years to complete. Faster graduation timeframes and scheduling flexibility make online degrees an optimal solution for some.
On the other hand, online programs may not provide as many opportunities to network with other professionals in the field. They also provide limited direct interaction with professors, which can be detrimental for some learners. Additionally, students attending classes in-person may have easier access to academic resources and career services, such as libraries and job fairs. While many institutions have job placement departments dedicated to career development, not all of them are equipped to provide these benefits virtually.
Alternatively, students can enroll in hybrid degree programs. These typically function to bridge the gap between online and traditional education. By combining the flexibility of remote learning with opportunities to interact directly with instructors and cohort members, hybrid programs attempt to provide the best of both worlds. These frequently consist of primarily distance learning course content but require periodic residencies on campus for in-person instruction, peer interaction, and hands-on practice.
What Are the Prerequisites or Admission Requirements for an Associate’s?
Associate degree candidates must complete various institutional requirements before they can enroll in a program.
Enrollment standards vary by institution, but often include the following:
- A high school diploma or GED certificate
- Minimum overall academic grade point average
- Transcripts from any post-secondary education (if applicable)
Applicants may also need to submit additional paperwork, pay application fees, and/or arrange financial aid. It’s recommended that students complete and submit FAFSA documents each year, for which there is a federal deadline. Most community colleges do not require prospective students to submit SAT and/or ACT scores, however. While these are often required by those applying to bachelor’s degree programs, they are rarely necessary at this level. Additionally, associate degree candidates with prior college credit should expect to provide official transcripts containing a record of all prior courses and corresponding grades.
Why Earn This Degree?
There are many reasons to pursue an associate degree. One of the most significant advantages is the cost. Pursing this type of degree is often substantially less expensive than enrolling in a bachelor’s degree program. According to the College Board’s Trends in Higher Education Series in 2017-2018, the average in-state tuition at traditional four-year institutions for a single year was $9,970. Associate degree students, on the other hand, only paid an average of $3,570 per year.
Associate degrees also take less time to complete than other higher education alternatives. Exact graduation timeframes vary based on enrollment status (full-time versus part-time), but many students are able to earn associate degrees in only two years. This is at least half as long as it can take to complete bachelor’s degrees.
Another benefit to graduating in less time is the ability to pursue employment sooner. Those who choose to earn bachelor’s degrees must wait longer to join the workforce, whereas associate degree holders can begin working and earning salaries much sooner. In addition to bringing in a steady income, this allows them to begin paying off any student loans they had to take out.
Finally, the credits earned from an accredited associate degree program can be transferred to other institutions in the future. All completed coursework can count toward bachelor’s degree requirements. This is particularly relevant for those who find employment at companies that support further education. Some employers will supplement or completely pay for classes to make their workforce more knowledgeable.
Why a Degree in Software Engineering?
Earning a degree in software engineering can lead to a wide variety of different career paths.
Graduates will be prepared to pursue employment in many high-demand areas, such as:
- Database Management
- Network Systems
- Computer Systems Management
- Web Development
As a very flexible field, software engineering graduates can typically establish career pathways that allow them to capitalize on their personal strengths and interests. Additionally, because the knowledge and skills utilized by these professionals is applicable in many scenarios, it’s possible to find work in a wide variety of industries. From telecommunications and finance to healthcare and insurance, individuals with software engineering degrees are often sought-after.
While advanced degrees can make candidates more competitive when applying for jobs, the software engineering field offers opportunities for advancement without more education. Associate degree graduates can often find entry-level employment and earn promotions based on work performance and years of experience. Ultimately, the best way for software engineering professionals to advance their careers is by reading relevant publications and enrolling in training programs.
Other benefits to earning this type of degree include a promising job outlook, exposure to cutting-edge software and technology, and lucrative pay potential.
What’s Involved in This Degree?
Associate degree programs in software engineering are typically designed to provide students with a broad introduction to the field that can help them find entry-level employment or prepare them for enrollment in bachelor’s degree programs. While every college and university is different, most curriculums require students to take a mixture of general education and major-specific courses. As a result, students can typically expected to take a combination of classes related to software engineering, as well as many general education classes such as composition, math, humanities, and science.
- HTML 5 Programming
- Database Management
- Web Design
- Operating Systems
- Advanced Mathematics
- C++ Programing
- Java Programming
- Data Structures
- IT Project Management
- Microcomputer Maintenance
- Systems Analysis and Design
- Mobile App Development
- Web System Development
What to Consider When Choosing an Associate Program for Software Engineering
When considering which software engineering program to choose, there are several important factors you should be aware of. Every college and university is different, making comparing and contrasting options an important part of the selection process. Some of the most significant aspects include cost, location, and accreditation status.
Earning a software engineering degree can be expensive, but prices vary greatly from institution to institution. This is particularly true when it comes to public and private schools. Location can also impact how expensive enrollment is. State residents typically pay far less than those enrolling from out-of-state. It’s also worth mentioning that local schools often have established relationships with nearby employers, which can lead to more internship and employment opportunities. Additionally, these schools usually have a better understanding of employer standards in the area.
The accreditation status of colleges and universities is also important. Institutions do not have to go through an accreditation process, but most are regionally or nationally accredited. The primary difference between these two options is whether or not professors have to possess doctorate degrees in order to provide instruction. Regionally accredited schools require this, while nationally accredited institutions set their own standards. Only regional accrediting agencies are overseen by the U.S. Department of Education and the Council of Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA), setting them apart from national accrediting bodies. As a result, credits earned at regionally accredited colleges and universities tend to be easier to transfer. Schools without proper accreditation may not prepare you for employment and they cannot offer federal student financial aid.
In addition to being accredited by a national or regional agency, academic departments can receive field-specific accreditation. The most prominent specialized accreditation organization for software engineering is the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET). ABET also accredits programs via the Computing Accreditation Commission (CAC).
Further Software Engineering Education
Prospective students are not limited to earning an associate degree in software engineering. In fact, there are degree options available at every level – associate to doctorate. The level of education you require will ultimately depend on the type of profession you plan to pursue.
Online Bachelor’s Degree in Software Engineering
Bachelor’s degree programs in software engineering typically provide students with comprehensive training in the field that prepares them for entry-level employment. The majority of prospective employers expect candidates to have bachelor’s degrees, which means graduates tend to be well-positioned in the job search market. Some of the most common career outcomes include software developer, information systems manager, computer systems analyst, information security analyst, and network systems administrator.
The majority of bachelor degree programs in software engineering consist of 120 credit hours of coursework that take full-time students approximately four years to complete. Those with associate degrees awarded by regionally accredited institutions may be able to graduate in as few as two years. Curriculums vary, but most cover a significant amount of field-specific information including various programming techniques, interactions between computers and humans, and software design. Students may also learn about mobile software development, cross-platform engineering, and security. Additionally, most colleges and universities allow those pursuing this major to select a concentration.
Online Master’s Degree in Software Engineering
Few entry-level jobs in this field require master’s degrees in software engineering, but earning one can lead to additional employment opportunities. Graduates are, for example, typically qualified to apply for leadership positions within the field. Other benefits of earning a master’s include higher salary potential and faster promotion. While there are many positions available to graduates, some of the most common options include software developer manager, computer network architect, senior software engineer, and solutions architect.
The majority of master’s degree programs in software engineering are comprised of between 30 to 60 credit hours of coursework that takes full-time students approximately one to two years to complete. Curriculums vary, but students can expect instruction that focuses on management, hands-on experiences, and innovation. Instructors will also expose students to the latest technology developments and trends in the field.
Online MBA Concentration in Software Engineering
One of the nation’s most popular graduate degrees is the master’s in business administration (MBA). Earning an MBA can drastically increase employment opportunities, salary potential, marketability, advancement options, and job security. This degree is particularly well-suited for prospective students interested in establishing their own software engineering businesses. Graduates will also qualify for employment as information technology managers, financial managers, industrial production managers, and management analysts.
Most master’s degrees in business administration range from 30 to 60 credit hours of coursework and take full-time students approximately two years to complete. Accelerated programs do exist and are built to require less time. Topics covered often relate more to business and finance, but the knowledge and skills gained can prove invaluable in almost any workplace.
Online PhD in Software Engineering
PhD and doctoral degrees in software engineering typically lead to many of the same careers as master’s degrees do, but may make it easier to attain upper-level management positions. This level of education is also often required for post-secondary teaching positions as many colleges and universities.
Doctorate degrees in software engineering typically consist of between 90 and 120 credit hours and may take full-time students four to seven years to complete. Students will be required to conduct independent studies, as well as write and defend dissertations prior to graduating.
Software Engineering Certification
In addition to software engineering degrees, students and professionals alike can choose to pursue certifications in the field. These credentials ensure relevancy in the constantly changing world of technology and often provide a competitive advantage during the job application process. Certifications may also lead to higher pay and more advancement opportunities.
It’s important to note, however, that most employers do not require staff to have specific certifications. Instead, professionals can choose credentials that align best with their personal interests and career goals.
Most certification programs are run by private companies, such as Microsoft or Oracle. These companies and organizations set varying requirements and many can be completed online. Other popular certification providers include the Project Management Institute and CompTIA.
Available Careers with an Associate Software Engineering Degree
There are numerous employment opportunities available to individuals who have associate degrees in software engineering. Professionals in this field can find work in a variety of industries including telecommunications, healthcare, finance, and insurance. Most, however, are employed by computer systems design and services companies, with additional positions sometimes available in manufacturing, software publishing, and enterprise management.
While salaries and daily duties will vary, some of the most common professions available to graduates include:
- Computer Programmer
- Web Developer
- Applications Developer
- Cyber Security Analyst
- Video Game Designer
- Information Systems Manager
- Information Technology (IT) Consultant
- Multimedia Programmer
- Web Designer
Web developers create web pages and websites. These professionals know how to write code and take steps to ensure materials are maintained in easily accessible databases. According to PayScale, web developers make an average base salary of $60,100 per year.
Cyber Security Analyst
Cyber security analysts work to protect information technology infrastructures. They take any necessary steps to keep data secure and offer advisory services during consultations. According to PayScale, cyber security analysts make an average base salary of $76,650 per year.
Computer programmers write and test code that is used to make computer applications and software. Simply put, these professionals take program designs from software developers and engineers and transform them into a language computers can understand. According to PayScale, computer programmers make an average base salary of $65,300 per year.
Video Game Designer
Video game designers code programs on various platforms in order to create playable games. This typically involves generating story concepts and mapping out gameplay so that other team members can help with the development process. According to PayScale, the average yearly salary for a video game designer is $66,600.
Information Technology (IT) Consultant
Information technology (IT) consultants advise clients on how to use information technology appropriately to meet objectives. They often analyze and solve IT problems, as well as installing and troubleshooting hardware and software issues. According to PayScale, the average yearly salary for an IT consultant is $80,650.
Overall, the earning potential for those with associate degrees in software engineering is decent. According to PayScale, the average base salary for associate of science (AS) software engineering graduates with a single year of experience is $57,000 annually. Individuals with associate of applied science (AAS) software engineering degrees typically make a little more, with an average base salary of $66,000 a year. Both are higher than the mean national annual wage of $56,310, as reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
It’s important to note that earning potential is likely to rise for professionals as they gain experience in the field. Early career employees tend to make less than those who have worked in the field for 10 or more years. Earning positional is also often dependent upon location. Some states professionals in this field more than others. Prospects are best in California, Washington, and New York. Large cities like San Francisco, Seattle, and Washington are particularly promising. Chicago, Illinois, however, is home to some of the lowest salaries in the industry.
Overall, the outlook for professionals in this field is very promising. According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, employment of software developers, quality assurance analysts, and testers is projected to grow by 22% from 2020 to 2030. This is much faster than the national average for all professions and will result in about 189,200 new job openings each year. While this includes professions at every level, the increase will positively impact the availability of entry-level positions for associate degree holders as well.
The primary explanation for the anticipated job growth in this sector is mostly due to an increasing need for efficient software programs, applications, and systems related to smart phone and tablet use. Health and medical insurance and reinsurance carriers also require innovative software solutions designed to manage enrollments digitally. As the number of people utilizing digital platforms increases, so too will the demand for qualified programmers, developers, analysts, and testers.