Best Online Masters in Software Development Degrees for 2023

Master's Degree in Software Development Systems Career Options & Salary

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Why Earn a Master’s in Software Development Systems?

The demand is high for software developers, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), and it's expected to grow even more: as much as 24% from 2016 to 2026.

It takes exceptional IT skills, knowledge of fundamental concepts, and a creative mind for software design and development of apps that people can use to perform specific tasks on computers, tablets, cell phones, and other devices. Luckily, as with many master's degrees, these programs are now available online from several insitutions, so students can attend online and earn their degree while they continue to work. While earning a Master of Science in Software Engineering, Software Development, or graduate certificates in the industry, software engineering students at the graduate level will learn a wide variety of concepts dealing with software programs in their core courses, such as:

  • Software design and development of software projects, software architecture, and software systems
  • Creating models and diagrams
  • Programming languages, including object-oriented languages made for software design and development
  • Mobile applications, online software application development, wearable technologies, and artificial intelligence
  • Software project management
  • Quality assurance
  • Critical thinking skills

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  • High salary
  • Continuing access to financial aid even if you have no tuition support from your employer or if you attend an online program for a software engineering master
  • The ability to earn higher-level online certifications in the software engineering field to expand job options
  • The chance to earn more than someone without a graduate degree
  • The median annual earnings for someone who has completed a graduate program were $69,100 compared to $57,600 for an undergrauate degree
  • You learn about making new programs
  • You will have a great future
  • Software engineers, systems architects, software developers, and skilled software development professionals are in high demand
  • You will be prepared to advance and get your Ph.D.


  • It takes a long time to earn this degree
  • It is possible that you may get a lesser return on investment
  • There are many admission requirements, even for online students
  • You may have to take extra courses before entering into this program
  • You need high exam scores
  • You will have to have some experience
  • The program requires good math skills

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Overview of a Master's in Software Development

What Software Development Master’s Degrees are Available Online?

  • Master of Science (MS)
    The Master of Science degree is very distinguished and a big honor to hold. This is a formal type of degree that provides technical instruction in a wide array of scientific fields such as medicine, physical science, mathematics, computer science, applied science/engineering, nursing, and social and behavioral science.
  • Master of Science in Information Technology
    A Master of Science in Information Technology (MSIT) is a type of postgraduate academic master's degree usually offered in a University's college of business, but is also sometimes integrated into Information Science & Technology colleges as well. These degrees are some of the ones that are most likely to be found online.
  • Master of Arts (MA)
    The master of arts gets its name from the Latin words, “Magister Artium“, it is a highly prestigious degree and one of the oldest postgraduates degree types available, offered in most humanities and arts subjects as well as some areas of social science. These degrees were originally academic teaching qualifications. Holding an MA would make you a master in the subject you chose at a level that would allow you to teach others.
  • Master of Software Engineering
    A Master of Program Information and Software Engineering typically indicates that you have gained the skills and knowledge to design, develop, maintain, evaluate, and test computer systems, computer applications, and other systems and devices.

Admission Requirements

To enroll in a master’s degree program in software development, you would first need to hold a bachelor’s degree and have at least 30 credits. In addition, you may also need a 3.0 or higher GPA or good GRE scores, letters of recommendation, and some schools may also require a statement of purpose. You will definitely need to have good math skills that include a solid understanding of calculus as well as a strong knowledge of computer languages. If you don’t, you may be required to take some extra courses in order to study for this degree. Each school and degree program will have different requirements, so you’ll need to be sure and check with the college or university you are interested in attending. Students attending online will have the same requirements for admission documents as those attending on campus.

How long does it take to earn a Software Development Master’s Online?

Getting an online master’s in software development can take as long as any other master’s degree program, which is typically two years. However, if you decide to study part-time online, then you can expect to earn your degree in four to six years, depending on the amount of time you put into your studies. If you want to speed things up, then you might want to consider enrolling in a fast-track online program where earning a degree can be accomplished much more quickly. Some online degree programs can be completed within a year.

Potential Careers in Software Development with a Master’s

  • Software Developer
    Software developers design new software applications that allow consumers and businesses to use mobile devices and computers effectively, as well as create computer systems that control integrated networks. Highly skilled developers have a bachelor’s degree at minimum and strong programming skills.
    Median Annual Salary: $71,900
  • Computer and Information Research Scientists
    Computer and information research scientists find and investigate innovative technology solutions to challenges in government, business, healthcare, science, and other fields. This position is growing fast and typically requires at least a master's degree in software engineering or a related field.
    Median Annual Salary: $115,700
  • Computer and Information Systems Managers
    Computer and information systems managers, also known as IT project managers, assist and assess the technology goals and needs of an organization or specific departments. They may manage an IT team of assistants who are responsible for implementing a computer system. At least a bachelor's degree is required, although a master's degree with some work experience is desired.
    Median Annual Salary: $83,800
  • Computer Network Architect
    A computer network architect constructs and designs data communication networks, such as local area networks and intranets that connect people within an organization or a business. Typically, a bachelor's degree is required with some work experience; however, a master’s is preferred.
    Median Annual Salary: $121,800
  • Information Security Analysts
    Information security analysts plan and put in place security measures for networks and organizational computer systems. To be a competitive candidate for this position you will need to obtain a master's degree with a cybersecurity concentration.
    Median Annual Salary: $72,700

Options to Advance

You already are making a big move toward advancement by earning a master’s degree. With a master’s, you can get a job in management or even become a CEO of an organization. If you are not already earning a salary in the mid-sixties or more, then you might want to consider looking for a better position, because you'll be worth much more when holding a master’s degree.

Another way to advance is to enroll in a doctorate education level program where you can earn your PhD, which is the highest level as far as degrees are concerned. Once you earn your PhD, you can go anywhere, just make sure you shoot for the top; become a professor or get into research, which also pays very well.

Best Master’s of Science in Software Development Programs

  • The University of Chicago
    Chicago, IL

    The University of Chicago is committed to free and open inquiry, which is what has drawn many scholars to their global campus where challenging ideas are born to change the world. The University of Chicago is an urban research university that has been inspiring students to pursue new ideas and challenge conventional thinking since 1890. The University of Chicago also has positions in the top ten in a variety of national and international rankings.

    Degrees Offered:

    • Master’s Program in Computer Science (MPCS)
    • Joint MBA/MPCS Program
  • Arizona State University
    Tempe, AZ

    Arizona State University was recognized as the most innovative school in the country by U.S. News & World Report and is also where students and faculty get to work with NASA to create advanced innovations in space exploration.

    The Master of Science in software engineering program picks up where the Bachelor of Science in software engineering program leaves off and focuses on developing advanced skills and knowledge in the application and design of all software types. Students learn to apply software development with engineering principles that include designing, operating, maintaining, and testing approaches. The aim is in providing students opportunities to develop professional skills and engage in research abilities.

    Degrees Offered:

    • MS in Computer Engineering
    • MCS, MS in Computer Science
    • MS in Industrial Engineering
    • MS in Robotics and Autonomous Systems
    • MS in Software Engineering
  • Harvard University
    Cambridge, MA

    Harvard University is dedicated to excellence in research, learning, and teaching as well as developing leaders in a number of disciplines who make a difference in the world. The university is based in both Boston and Cambridge, Massachusetts, and has more than 20,000 degree candidates enrolled; that includes students who are undergraduates, graduates, and professionals. Moreover, Harvard has over 360,000 alumni throughout the globe.

    Degrees Offered:

    • MS in Data Science
    • MS in Digital Media Design
    • MS in Information Management Systems
    • MS in Software Engineering
  • Carnegie Mellon University
    Pittsburgh, PA

    Carnegie Mellon University, founded in 1900 by industrialist Andrew Carnegie, is a private, top-ranking research university based in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The university home’s the prestigious School of Computer Science that US News and World Report ranked #1 in the nation. They are also home to the School of Engineering that is ranked in the nation’s top 5 and offers a Master of Science in Software Engineering degree program that can help you succeed in the industry. Students take on a challenging curriculum where they will produce cost-effective, practical solutions under real-world constraints.

    Degrees Offered:

    • M.S. in Software Engineering
  • Kennesaw State University (KSU)
    Kennesaw, GA

    Kennesaw State’s degree program in software engineering is made up of seven core courses and three electives, along with either a capstone project or a thesis. There are also several courses available for students who don’t have a background in computer science which will provide the skills needed to complete the program.

    This university is a vibrant public research school that offers state-of-the-art instructional technology programs. KSU’s engineering programs are nationally ranked. In fact, the Princeton Review has recently listed the school’s "study game design" program, among the top 50 worldwide.

    Degrees Offered:

    • M.S. in Software Engineering

Traditional Schools Offering a M.S. in Software Development Systems

  • Software Development
    Auburn, AL

    Auburn University is ranked in the top 50 public schools in the country by US News and World Report and is the 2nd largest research university in the state. The College of Engineering is home to many great software engineering programs and ranks in the top 100 in the nation.

    The (non-thesis) Master of Software Engineering program requires 33 credits, where the MS in Software Engineering degree program requires 30. To enter either program you will need a bachelor’s degree along with some experience in software engineering, computer science, or both. If you don’t have the experience required, you can take extra courses.

    Degrees Offered:

    • Master of Software Engineering (MSwE)
    • Master of Science in Research-oriented Software Engineering (MS)
  • Florida Institute of Technology
    Melbourne, FL

    Florida Tech’s College of Engineering and Computing can give you the skills needed to develop, manage, and maintain exceptional software programs. Students graduate with a comprehensive background in computer science, mathematics, and computer organization with courses that include: Software Engineering, Software Testing, and Software Modeling and Metrics.

    Degrees Offered:

    • Master of Computer Engineering
    • Master of Computer Information Systems
    • Master of Computer Science
    • Master of Science in Software Engineering
  • Boston University (BU)
    Boston, Ma

    BU’s MS in Software Development degree program requires 32-credits that students can obtain in just 16 to 24 months. No technology experience is needed to enter this program and they welcome students from all backgrounds. This program is great for those planning to work while they study. Evening classes are available online through the BU’s Metropolitan College.

    Degrees Offered:

    • MS in Software Development
  • DePaul University
    Chicago, IL

    DePaul University is among the largest Catholic universities in the U.S. and is home to a College of Innovative Digital Media and Computing. The school is deeply committed to providing high-quality education to students from diverse backgrounds and ranks as one of the top 120 universities in the nation by US News and World Report.

    Degrees Offered:

    • MS in Software Engineering
  • University of Southern California
    Los Angeles, CA

    The University of Southern California is a university of private research. Known as a worldwide hub for international trade, technology, and arts, the school ranks as one of the top 25 universities in the nation. The Viterbi School of Engineering holds the tradition of excellence, as it is currently ranked as #11 in the U.S. by US News and World Report.

    Degrees Offered:

    • M.S. in Software Engineering

Frequently Asked Questions

Do I have to have a software development or engineering undergraduate degree to earn a master’s in this field?

Generally, the answer to this question is no. Most schools that offer degrees at this level in this field will not require you to have a specific undergraduate degree. However, they may want you to have a related degree such as computer science, information assurance, cyber security, etc. The reason that some programs do not want to provide admission to those who do not have certain degrees is that master’s programs cannot teach you the basics. If you cannot program already, a master’s program will not be long enough to teach you the basics of programming and provide you with in-depth knowledge of software development. It simply is not feasible.

Will I need to complete the GRE?

This also depends on what program you choose. However, fewer and fewer master’s programs overall are requiring these standardized tests and there is little reason for it to be required in this field. It is much more important that you know the basics of programming and computer science rather than that you pass a standardized test.

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