Overview of a Bachelor’s in Software Engineering
An online or traditional bachelor’s in software engineering degree or development is the entry-level degree for full participation as a software developer and perhaps a software engineer. The degree may be in computer science or computer engineering rather than specifically in software engineering and development. A bachelor’s in software engineering provides an extensive background in mathematics that includes calculus, linear algebra, and differential equations, which allows prospective students to complete the education requirement for careers as software engineers, a project manager in software design, software quality assurance, web development, mobile application development, and more.
While some schools offer online and on-campus certificates, associate degrees, and bachelor's degree programs in software development, the traditional approaches include computer and software engineering. With degrees in either major, students can add courses to develop depth in desired basic concepts like object-oriented programming languages, coding, basic software design principles, the software creation process, and creating usable software systems design.
The first two years of computer software engineer or developer coursework teach students the relationships between mathematics, statistical concepts, and computer fundamental concepts. Software engineering degree program courses include instruction in all of these concepts and often require lab work, so you'll need to check the syllabus carefully if you are hoping to complete a fully online software engineering degree. Students will acquire skills and knowledge to analyze, maintain, and construct software as well as problem-solving skills that can help them in their career as software developers. Students must take courses in programming, operating systems, and must also master one or more source languages such as C++, Ruby, and Python. Below is a list of some of the basic concepts mentioned and more that students might see in a program focused on a software engineering or development degree.
- Basic Software Design Principles
- Operating Systems and Embedded Systems
- Computer Architecture and Computer Systems Design
- Web Development
- Software Engineering Principles
- Software Project Planning
- Software Quality Assurance
- Object-Oriented Programming Languages
- Project Management of Programming Projects and Others
- The Software Creation Process and Software Development Lifecycle
- Classical Algorithms
- Analysis of Algorithms
- Methods of Evaluation
- The Software Lifecycle
- Software Requirements: Iterface, Maintenance/Updates, etc.
- Graphical User Interfaces
- Software Applications
- Software Testing
- Software Security
- Software Products
- Software Publishing
- Artificial Intelligence
- Online Software/Mobile Application Development
- Internships for Real-World, Practical Experience
- And More
Earning an online or in-person undergraduate degree is a positive step both personally and economically. Bachelor degree holders earn much more per year on average than high school graduates and associate degree holders. The difference in lifetime earnings when compared to a high school graduate can be in the range of $1 million over a lifetime of work and earnings. An undergraduate degree also expands professional opportunities. A BA or BS is an entry-level degree for many occupations, including software engineering and development, and it is the requirement for pursuing a master’s or doctoral degree in the field and related software and systems technology. A bachelor’s degree can also qualify an applicant for graduate level certifications that can boost a career, particularly in occupations that do not require state licenses.
A BA or BS degree is an entry-level degree. Today, many employers look at the complexity of their systems, programming projects, and software development process and prefer people with extensive specialized backgrounds and master’s degrees, or more advanced educational achievements. A Bachelor of Science in Software Engineering degree program, or one in development, requires a four-year commitment of time and resources before you can even move on to a master's. The costs of education at a traditional college or state university with the average education requirement for credit hours will exceed $25,000 per year on average and an online bachelor's isn't much less. Job markets can vary substantially while students attend school and there are risks of poor economic conditions near the time of graduation. Students will not enter the job market until they complete the degree, and this represents an opportunity loss of several years of earning power.
Certificate Vs. Bachelor’s
Undergraduate certificates do not require a bachelor’s degree. Students with high school diplomas, GEDs, and associate degrees can qualify for undergraduate certificate programs. However, there might be few software engineering certificates available at this level because of the knowledge required in the software engineering field. The completion times for certificates range from a few months to one year whether they are completed online or on-campus and, for many students, these represent the fast option to go to work as a software developer or in a closely related field. Certificates can demonstrate a level of competence and skill and, with a short time for completion, students can gain a quick foothold in a business or profession.
What Software Development Bachelor’s Degrees are Available?
The major types of bachelor’s degrees for the field of software engineering and development are the bachelor of arts and the bachelor of a science degrees. Both degrees have value and prepare students for further work at the graduate level and many of both can be found online or with online components. While there is a substantial overlap of courses for each software engineering degree, the differences are also important. Many schools offer a track for the arts degree and a separate track for the science degree. Note that an arts online software engineering degree may be more common than a Bachelor of Science option.
- Bachelor of Arts Degrees
A bachelor of arts or BA degree is a liberal arts degree that can be focused on software engineering, development, etc. Students will spend between one half and one-third of their credit hours in general education courses. These general education courses include social sciences, literature, and the humanities. Writing and communication skills are a typical focus of a BA program and not of a BS program. Again, these software engineering programs are more likely to be found online.
- Bachelor of Science Degrees
Bachelor of Science degrees often require more semester hours than a BA degree, though these software engineering programs will still require the completion of general education classes. BS programs have more focused coursework than a BA degree. In software engineering or development, a BS will add courses in the computer and engineering sectors and have fewer courses in general electives outside of the core area of study.
Each school sets admission requirements and selection standards for its programs. A high school diploma or equivalent is the typical requirement for entry into a software bachelor’s degree program. The software engineering and development field is math and computer science intensive. Students can prepare for entering a software developer program by adding additional courses in computers technology, mathematics, coding, and programming. Admission requirements are the same for both online and traditional students.
Schools can be selective for admission to computer science and computer engineering programs. The selection standards often create a preference for students with high test scores in math and science. STEM studies at the high school level will provide advantages for applicants to college level software engineering degree programs.
How long does it take to earn a Bachelor’s Degree in Software Development Online?
The typical requirements for a BS software development or software engineering degree online or in person is four years. The course of study can range from 120-130 semester hours. Online students may be able to complete their degrees faster than on-campus students. Online students may be able to take additional courses during the regular school year, attend summer classes online, and get credit for previous coursework from other sources. Many online schools provide credit for life experience and other personal contributions to the community and public service as well. Using these alternative resources, students may be able to complete an online degree one to one and one-half years sooner than the typical four-year attendance.
Potential Careers in Software Development with a Bachelor’s
A bachelor’s degree in software engineering or development can provide entry and long-term success in a wide range of occupations and industries. Software developers combine science and creativity to produce solutions to problems and challenges. Their work can involve specific tasks on computers and computer applications; software developers can develop systems upon which a network or range of computers can operate.
- Computer and Information Systems Managers or IT managers can plan, direct, and oversee computer operations for a business or organization. They help carry out the information technology goals for the organization.
The median salary for Computer and Information Systems Managers is about $83,800.
- Computer Hardware Engineers meet the needs of their organizations for computer hardware such as computers, servers, and related devices. They select, recommend, or develop hardware to support organizational needs such as enterprise software and computer controls.
The median salary for Computer Hardware Engineers is about $84,900.
- Computer Programmers can write code or create programs. Their roles include maintenance, installation, and upgrading computer software. The programmer uses computer source code or languages to ensure that the computer will perform as expected for the end user.
The median salary for Computer Programmers is about $64,200.
- Computer Systems Analysts analyze the functions and processes of an organization and develop computer systems to carry them out. For example, they can use computers and computer-controlled systems to automate organizational functions and integrate certain tasks into related functions.
The median salary for Computer Systems Analysts is about $69,500.
- Web Developers create websites that can perform critical functions for a business or organization. The developer’s products include eCommerce sites, informational websites, marketing, and sales.
The median salary for Web Developers is about $59,900.
Options to Advance
The field of software development is an open and expanding field. Many experts describe it as a field in which businesses and other end users continuously present new demands for software. With the expanding markets and needs often comes greater complexity. Computer systems often involve multiple layers, interrelated systems, and networks of computers. Higher pay and opportunities typically require experience, specialization, and higher education. Master’s and doctoral programs each further open levels of pay and jobs with high levels of responsibility.
Accreditation is a critical factor in the maximum usage and benefits of an on-campus or online education. In the field of software development, students should look for accreditation by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET). This international organization accredits STEM and computer science fields, and its approval carries weight and influence among employers and educational institutions. Certificates are also important in the field of software development. States do not require licenses in this field, and certification is a convenient and widely accepted way to demonstrate competence, skill levels, and expertise.
Best Bachelor’s of Science in Software Development
Carnegie Mellon University
The renowned research institution uses a unique approach to education that encourages subject-matter expertise among its students. It is a leader in computer science and its alumni ascend to prestigious positions in academic circles, public policy, and private industries. The school offers majors and minors in computer science that can stand alone as degrees or combine with other fields to form strong educational foundations for career development.
- BS in Computer Science
- Bachelor of Computer Science and Arts
California Institute of Technology
CalTech is a leader in computer science and it offers an advanced study environment that combines mathematics and computer science. The school has many opportunities for applied learning in advanced research and development settings. CalTech offers a diverse and highly trained faculty and unique access to state of the art research.
- BS in Applied + Computational Mathematics
- BS in Computer Science
- BS in Information and Data Sciences
Ithaca, New York
Cornell University offers advanced research and study opportunities in the field of computer science. Students can get Bachelor of Science degrees through the school of arts or the school of engineering.
- Bachelor of Science degree in Computer science (Engineering)
- Bachelor of Science in Computer Science (College of Arts and Sciences)
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
MIT is a world-renowned center for engineering and computer science. It offers computer science degrees alone or in combination with many other fields including molecular biology, physics, and data science.
- Electrical Science and Engineering
- Electrical Engineering and Computer Science
- Computer Science and Engineering
University of Washington
The Allen School is a vibrant center for technology development and innovation. It is one of the top computer programs and offers opportunities for students to learn and participate in advanced research environments. The ABET-accredited college of engineering programs permit a sustained development process that culminates in a capstone project. Students can tailor their degrees to meet their interests such as software development.
- Bachelor of Science in Computer Science
- Bachelor of Science in Computer Engineering
Traditional Schools Offering a B.S. in Software Development
Full Sail University
Winter Park, Florida
Full Sail is a leader in education for the field of mobile development. Mobile software is a significant source of industry growth and a high demand field for qualified and experienced developers and engineers.
- BS in Mobile Development
- Software Development Bachelor’s Degree
- Web Design and development Bachelor’s Degree
Purdue University Global
This HLC-accredited institution is a leader in online education. They offer a bachelor of science in Information Technology with concentrations in management, networks, information security, and software development.
- BS in Information Technology - Multiplatform Software Development
- BS in Information Technology - Network Administration
Regional campuses across the US
The school offers on-campus, online, and hybrid programs for students seeking degrees in computer science and related fields.
- BS in Software Development - Computer Programming Concentration
- BS in Computer Science - Software Engineering
A large school in the Maryland University System, Towson has a unique location between Washington, DC and Baltimore, Maryland. The computer sciences department offers a strong faculty to support studies in engineering, software development, and cybersecurity.
- BA Computer & Information Sciences Software engineering track
- BS Computer & Information Sciences Software engineering track
Texas Technical University
Texas Technical University offers a comprehensive education in computer science and computer engineering that will support the career choices of software engineer and related occupations. The school offers a minor in computer science that can enable students to major in mathematics or other similar fields and also have a strong foundation in computer technology.
- Bachelor of Science in Computer Science
- Bachelor of Science in Computer Engineering
Frequently Asked Questions
Is software development a better degree choice than software engineering?
It has been said that writing code is engineering rather than science. Instead of asking questions about the world, you are building programs that perform tasks. However, there are differences between the various roles that work to develop or engineer software, despite the fact that their end goals might be similar. That doesn’t mean that one is better than the other. You can do a search and figure out which one might pay more in your area, but if you want to know which is better for you, then you’ll need to answer some questions about yourself first. For instance, are you better at working with people or at working with concepts? Those who revel in working with teams or groups might do better in software development, where you will communicate with several teams working on different parts of the same program in order to create a cohesive end product. Those who don’t work as well with people might prefer to become software engineers, a role in which they will work with a wide range of engineering principles but won’t be required to work with as wide a range of people or teams. That said, software development is still a subset of software engineering.
Is software development difficult?
The answer to this could definitely be yes. Some people can’t follow computer logic well enough to understand one computer programming language, let alone build a program from the ground up. So, learning all the things you must know in order to be a software engineer can definitely be hard. However, if you have a knack in computer programming or you find it easy to understand the basics, you should definitely consider getting into the field. Those who excel in the field can earn a lot of money, and they generally enjoy troubleshooting new programs as they work with their team to solve whatever problem is on their plate. If you are interested in the field, don’t let the idea that it will be difficult dissuade you.