Get Matched With Software Engineering Programs

A software engineer applies the principles of software engineering while testing, developing, designing, maintaining, and evaluating computer software. Software engineers are also sometimes referred to as computer programmers, but engineers have more education and perform more diagnostic tasks than traditional programmers. However, a software engineer’s education can vary. There are bootcamp programs that can have a person working as an engineer in as little as six months to a year, but for engineers who want to move into management or training, a bachelor’s or master’s degree is desired. A doctorate degree in software engineering does exist, but unless a person is seeking to become a subject matter expert or pursue a tenure track position at a major college or university, it’s generally not required.


Requirements of a Software Engineering Master’s Degree?

A master’s degree is considered a lower-level terminal degree. It is pursued after a person has a bachelor’s degree. Also referred to as a graduate degree, this degree can take 18 months to three years to complete, depending on the software engineering school and program. Students will continue to learn about programming processes and how to recognize trends and develop software that meets those trends. There is also sometimes training in management, marketing, and other general business concepts since many software engineers that are pursuing graduate degrees want to transition into management positions. The number of credit hours can vary, depending on how many credit hour each class is worth. In general, a program is usually between 36 and 55 hours. Depending on the level of experience of the student, a capstone or master thesis and internship might be required, though students who are currently working as software engineers might be able to get a waiver for a special project.

Compare Popular Online Software Engineering Programs

Top 25 Best Online Masters in Software Engineering Programs


Harvard University

Score: 95.39

  • Graduate Tuition
    • In-State: $52,456
    • Out-of-State: $52,456
  • Net Price: $19,491
  • Acceptance Rate: 3%
  • Retention Rate: 98%
  • Graduation Rate: 98%
  • Total Enrollment: 30,631
  • Undergrad Students: 9,368
  • Graduate Students: 21,263
  • Grads Salary: $96,000
  • Student-to-faculty: 7:1
  • Harvard University

University of Southern California

Score: 83.06

  • Graduate Tuition
    • In-State: $63,468
    • Out-of-State: $63,468
  • Net Price: $36,808
  • Acceptance Rate: 12%
  • Retention Rate: 97%
  • Graduation Rate: 92%
  • Total Enrollment: 48,945
  • Undergrad Students: 20,699
  • Graduate Students: 28,246
  • Grads Salary: $89,000
  • Student-to-faculty: 9:1
  • University of Southern California

Stevens Institute of Technology

Score: 80.02

  • Graduate Tuition
    • In-State: $39,408
    • Out-of-State: $39,408
  • Net Price: $41,689
  • Acceptance Rate: 46%
  • Retention Rate: 93%
  • Graduation Rate: 88%
  • Total Enrollment: 9,314
  • Undergrad Students: 4,070
  • Graduate Students: 5,244
  • Grads Salary: $95,000
  • Student-to-faculty: 11:1
  • Stevens Institute of Technology

California State University-Fullerton

Score: 76.62

  • Graduate Tuition
    • In-State: $7,176
    • Out-of-State: $16,680
  • Net Price: $7,925
  • Acceptance Rate: 67%
  • Retention Rate: 86%
  • Graduation Rate: 69%
  • Total Enrollment: 40,386
  • Undergrad Students: 35,432
  • Graduate Students: 4,954
  • Grads Salary: $77,000
  • Student-to-faculty: 24:1
  • California State University-Fullerton

Illinois Institute of Technology

Score: 76.54

  • Graduate Tuition
    • In-State: $34,101
    • Out-of-State: $34,101
  • Net Price: $28,702
  • Acceptance Rate: 61%
  • Retention Rate: 85%
  • Graduation Rate: 75%
  • Total Enrollment: 6,943
  • Undergrad Students: 3,125
  • Graduate Students: 3,818
  • Grads Salary: $87,000
  • Student-to-faculty: 13:1
  • Illinois Institute of Technology

Auburn University

Score: 74.25

  • Graduate Tuition
    • In-State: $10,386
    • Out-of-State: $31,158
  • Net Price: $25,271
  • Acceptance Rate: 44%
  • Retention Rate: 93%
  • Graduation Rate: 81%
  • Total Enrollment: 31,764
  • Undergrad Students: 25,379
  • Graduate Students: 6,385
  • Grads Salary: $74,000
  • Student-to-faculty: 20:1
  • Auburn University

University of Michigan-Dearborn

Score: 73.85

  • Graduate Tuition
    • In-State: $14,890
    • Out-of-State: $26,546
  • Net Price: $12,444
  • Acceptance Rate: 54%
  • Retention Rate: 82%
  • Graduation Rate: 56%
  • Total Enrollment: 8,223
  • Undergrad Students: 6,116
  • Graduate Students: 2,107
  • Grads Salary: $78,000
  • Student-to-faculty: 16:1
  • University of Michigan-Dearborn

Regis University

Score: 73.74

  • Graduate Tuition
    • In-State: $14,261
    • Out-of-State: $14,261
  • Net Price: $26,377
  • Acceptance Rate: 76%
  • Retention Rate: 72%
  • Graduation Rate: 67%
  • Total Enrollment: 4,668
  • Undergrad Students: 2,398
  • Graduate Students: 2,270
  • Grads Salary: $86,000
  • Student-to-faculty: 9:1
  • Regis University

Mercer University

Score: 72.88

  • Graduate Tuition
    • In-State: $15,531
    • Out-of-State: $15,531
  • Net Price: $22,087
  • Acceptance Rate: 75%
  • Retention Rate: 86%
  • Graduation Rate: 74%
  • Total Enrollment: 8,889
  • Undergrad Students: 4,859
  • Graduate Students: 4,030
  • Grads Salary: $74,000
  • Student-to-faculty: 13:1
  • Mercer University

Brandeis University

Score: 72.43

  • Graduate Tuition
    • In-State: $55,104
    • Out-of-State: $55,104
  • Net Price: $45,565
  • Acceptance Rate: 39%
  • Retention Rate: 92%
  • Graduation Rate: 87%
  • Total Enrollment: 5,581
  • Undergrad Students: 3,687
  • Graduate Students: 1,894
  • Grads Salary: $80,000
  • Student-to-faculty: 10:1
  • Brandeis University

Arizona State University

Score: 72.29

  • Graduate Tuition
    • In-State: $12,014
    • Out-of-State: $24,498
  • Net Price: $14,808
  • Acceptance Rate: 90%
  • Retention Rate: 85%
  • Graduation Rate: 67%
  • Total Enrollment: 80,065
  • Undergrad Students: 65,492
  • Graduate Students: 14,573
  • Grads Salary: $75,000
  • Student-to-faculty: 19:1
  • Arizona State University

Washington State University

Score: 71.4

  • Graduate Tuition
    • In-State: $12,366
    • Out-of-State: $27,163
  • Net Price: $17,911
  • Acceptance Rate: 83%
  • Retention Rate: 81%
  • Graduation Rate: 62%
  • Total Enrollment: 27,539
  • Undergrad Students: 22,612
  • Graduate Students: 4,927
  • Grads Salary: $77,000
  • Student-to-faculty: 15:1
  • Washington State University

West Virginia University

Score: 71.13

  • Graduate Tuition
    • In-State: $10,602
    • Out-of-State: $27,450
  • Net Price: $12,202
  • Acceptance Rate: 88%
  • Retention Rate: 79%
  • Graduation Rate: 62%
  • Total Enrollment: 24,741
  • Undergrad Students: 19,059
  • Graduate Students: 5,682
  • Grads Salary: $73,000
  • Student-to-faculty: 17:1
  • West Virginia University

Drexel University

Score: 70.23

  • Graduate Tuition
    • In-State: $36,234
    • Out-of-State: $36,234
  • Net Price: $39,267
  • Acceptance Rate: 80%
  • Retention Rate: 87%
  • Graduation Rate: 78%
  • Total Enrollment: 22,344
  • Undergrad Students: 14,021
  • Graduate Students: 8,323
  • Grads Salary: $80,000
  • Student-to-faculty: 9:1
  • Drexel University

Kansas State University

Score: 69.99

  • Graduate Tuition
    • In-State: $10,294
    • Out-of-State: $23,018
  • Net Price: $18,855
  • Acceptance Rate: 95%
  • Retention Rate: 86%
  • Graduation Rate: 69%
  • Total Enrollment: 19,722
  • Undergrad Students: 15,046
  • Graduate Students: 4,676
  • Grads Salary: $72,000
  • Student-to-faculty: 18:1
  • Kansas State University

Texas Tech University

Score: 69.91

  • Graduate Tuition
    • In-State: $6,956
    • Out-of-State: $15,136
  • Net Price: $17,896
  • Acceptance Rate: 67%
  • Retention Rate: 86%
  • Graduation Rate: 64%
  • Total Enrollment: 40,378
  • Undergrad Students: 32,579
  • Graduate Students: 7,799
  • Grads Salary: $72,000
  • Student-to-faculty: 21:1
  • Texas Tech University

The University of West Florida

Score: 69.39

  • Graduate Tuition
    • In-State: $7,088
    • Out-of-State: $22,166
  • Net Price: $8,609
  • Acceptance Rate: 48%
  • Retention Rate: 85%
  • Graduation Rate: 53%
  • Total Enrollment: 13,521
  • Undergrad Students: 9,291
  • Graduate Students: 4,230
  • Grads Salary: $67,000
  • Student-to-faculty: 22:1
  • The University of West Florida

North Dakota State University

Score: 68.64

  • Graduate Tuition
    • In-State: $7,585
    • Out-of-State: $11,377
  • Net Price: $15,962
  • Acceptance Rate: 96%
  • Retention Rate: 75%
  • Graduation Rate: 63%
  • Total Enrollment: 12,242
  • Undergrad Students: 10,096
  • Graduate Students: 2,146
  • Grads Salary: $72,000
  • Student-to-faculty: 17:1
  • North Dakota State University

East Carolina University

Score: 68.2

  • Graduate Tuition
    • In-State: $4,749
    • Out-of-State: $17,898
  • Net Price: $14,410
  • Acceptance Rate: 92%
  • Retention Rate: 80%
  • Graduation Rate: 65%
  • Total Enrollment: 27,151
  • Undergrad Students: 21,688
  • Graduate Students: 5,463
  • Grads Salary: $67,000
  • Student-to-faculty: 18:1
  • East Carolina University

St. Mary's University

Score: 67.83

  • Graduate Tuition
    • In-State: $19,224
    • Out-of-State: $19,224
  • Net Price: $21,379
  • Acceptance Rate: 86%
  • Retention Rate: 68%
  • Graduation Rate: 56%
  • Total Enrollment: 3,253
  • Undergrad Students: 2,001
  • Graduate Students: 1,252
  • Grads Salary: $77,000
  • Student-to-faculty: 11:1
  • St. Mary's University

University of Houston-Clear Lake

Score: 67.83

  • Graduate Tuition
    • In-State: $7,920
    • Out-of-State: $17,316
  • Net Price: $17,871
  • Acceptance Rate: 69%
  • Retention Rate: 67%
  • Graduation Rate: 54%
  • Total Enrollment: 8,562
  • Undergrad Students: 6,352
  • Graduate Students: 2,210
  • Grads Salary: $75,000
  • Student-to-faculty: 15:1
  • University of Houston-Clear Lake

DePaul University

Score: 67.65

  • Graduate Tuition
    • In-State: $21,719
    • Out-of-State: $21,719
  • Net Price: $32,151
  • Acceptance Rate: 70%
  • Retention Rate: 84%
  • Graduation Rate: 69%
  • Total Enrollment: 20,917
  • Undergrad Students: 14,134
  • Graduate Students: 6,783
  • Grads Salary: $76,000
  • Student-to-faculty: 17:1
  • DePaul University

St. Cloud State University

Score: 64.62

  • Graduate Tuition
    • In-State: $9,127
    • Out-of-State: $13,549
  • Net Price: $14,065
  • Acceptance Rate: 95%
  • Retention Rate: 69%
  • Graduation Rate: 44%
  • Total Enrollment: 10,420
  • Undergrad Students: 8,569
  • Graduate Students: 1,851
  • Grads Salary: $73,000
  • Student-to-faculty: 16:1
  • St. Cloud State University

Penn State World Campus

Score: 63.76

  • Graduate Tuition
    • In-State: $24,164
    • Out-of-State: $24,164
  • Net Price: $19,551
  • Acceptance Rate: 82%
  • Retention Rate: 75%
  • Graduation Rate: 36%
  • Total Enrollment: 13,979
  • Undergrad Students: 8,210
  • Graduate Students: 5,769
  • Grads Salary: $78,000
  • Student-to-faculty: 16:1
  • Penn State World Campus

Champlain College

Score: 63.22

  • Graduate Tuition
    • In-State: $14,310
    • Out-of-State: $14,310
  • Net Price: $35,133
  • Acceptance Rate: 56%
  • Retention Rate: 76%
  • Graduation Rate: 64%
  • Total Enrollment: 3,543
  • Undergrad Students: 3,060
  • Graduate Students: 483
  • Grads Salary: $70,000
  • Student-to-faculty: 14:1
  • Champlain College

Where Do You Earn a Master’s Degree?

Master’s degrees are earned through courses and programs offered from colleges and universities. If you are looking for a graduate program for software engineering, search for colleges and universities that offer graduate programs. Many schools that offer a bachelor’s degree in software engineering often also offer graduate programs. Technical and trade schools will not offer advanced degrees, so look for online or on campus programs at larger colleges and universities. When you are looking for graduate programs in software engineering, make sure the college or university is regionally accredited, as well as the program itself if possible. Getting a degree from an unaccredited school could hurt your career prospects. This is especially important to investigate with strictly online programs and regional accreditation. Programmatic accreditation is not absolutely required, but it doesn’t hurt either.

Online Vs. Traditional Education in Software Engineering

In the old days, getting a degree online was frowned upon because they were considered subpar. Fortunately, things have changed, and now there are plenty of well-known, respected colleges and universities that offer online programs and degrees. However, there are still some differences between online and on-campus programs that don’t involve the quality of the programs or the schools.

First, online programs take several forms. Some programs are discussion board based, with no classroom instruction, while others actually have online classes in virtual classrooms with an instructor. There are also hybrid programs, in which both discussion boards and at least one classroom session are required. Some people prefer the option of not having classroom instruction because it means that the entire program can be completed when it’s most convenient for them, while others appreciate the interaction that occurs in a classroom setting.

Another option are schools that offer virtual versions of their on-campus programs. This is for students who can take classes at traditional class times but prefer to not visit campus to take courses. This program isn’t as flexible timewise as a completely online program, but still removes the need to travel to campus.

Find Your Online Software Engineering Program

On-campus programs haven’t changed much past offering virtual versions of their programs. But software engineering lends itself well to online formats. Software can be purchased and placed on computer dedicated for the classroom, and uploading files for assignments is easier thanks to increased speeds of Internet. For those who are looking for online software engineering programs, the only thing to consider is which type of program you want to pursue: discussion board, hybrid discussion and classroom, or virtual.

What are the Prerequisites for a Master’s Degree?

Depending on the school, the requirements to enter a master’s degree program can vary. For example, some schools require potential students to take either the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) or the Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) as part of the admission requirements, but other schools do not require these exams. Work experience is also considered for graduate school candidates.

But there are some requirements that all schools tend to have:

Why Earn a Master’s Degree in Software Engineering?

The reason many software engineers pursue master’s degrees in software engineering or a related field is because employers expect it. For most employers, a bachelor’s degree is the minimum degree required to work as a software engineer, so for those who want to progress in their careers or move into management, additional education provides an extra advantage. For those who intend to earn a doctorate degree, a master’s degree is a requirement for that program unless you join a combination degree program. Certification organizations generally do not require a graduate degree in order to apply for certifications, but the additional education doesn’t hurt. Also, some certification organizations offer special certifications for students who have a graduate degree, and that could lead to additional career opportunities and additional financial opportunities.

Why a Degree in Software Engineering?

The first logical reason for getting a degree in software engineering is that someone wants to be a software engineer. They want to design computer programs and get paid well for it. Although it is possible to make a living as a software engineer without a formal education, most employers require at least a bachelor’s degree to work for their organizations. It is a profession that is most likely going to increase in demand, so there is also a sense of job security in the field. And, as software needs evolve, along with the need for increased security measures, there are several avenues a software engineer can take in the profession. But, even with the many options, the promotion process is still very linear. Work experience and additional training leads to new certifications. New certifications lead to promotions at work. Promotions at work lead to additional possibilities for certifications, etc. So, the longer you work, the more certifications you can get, which leads to more work opportunities.

What’s Involved in a Master’s Degree in Software Engineering?

A masters degree program in software engineering generally covers software analysis, development, and security. Most going into this program have at least a base level understanding of software engineering and also some work experience. This program builds on that knowledge and experience and introduces advanced concepts that someone who might want to move into supervisory and management positions might need to know.

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Common Courses

  • Software Project Management
  • Software Verification and Validation
  • Software Analysis and Design
  • Software Evolution
  • Object Oriented Design
  • Developing Portable Software
  • Business Network Security
  • Software Reuse


  • Software Engineering is a concentration in a computer science program

What to Consider When Choosing a Master’s Program in Software Engineering


When choosing a school, accreditation is a vital consideration. Not all programs are accredited, and some are accredited by agencies that aren’t recognized by everyone as credible. You want to look for a school whose program is accredited by an entity approved by the Department of Education, which is mainly regional accreditation. This is another area where you need to take care: there are two types of accreditation, national and regional. Although it would seem like national accreditation would be more prestigious than regional, it’s actually the opposite. You want to choose a school and a program that are regionally accredited. Going to an unaccredited school or completing an unaccredited program will do nothing to further your career. Employers tend to hire those with degrees from accredited schools, and agencies that grant certification once you are working often require that candidates have graduated from accredited schools.

Further Software Engineering Education


An MBA combined with a software engineering program is a good idea for someone who wants to enter management within the realms of computer science. Having advanced knowledge in business, combined with the expertise and experience in software engineering, makes for an excellent candidate in several industries. Most companies require some sort of database security and administration to protect their information, so a person who can run a business as well as understand system security is an asset.

Doctorate or PhD

Unless you intend to become a subject matter expert or pursue teaching at a college, a PhD in software engineering isn’t usually necessary.


Certifications are the main way software engineers and others working in computer sciences display their expertise. There are many different certifications a software engineer can pursue, but we’ve listed some common certifications below.

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  • Springboard Software Engineering Career Track:
    A certification that covers front-end and back-end web development. Must have a basic understanding of JavaScript, HTML and CSS.
  • Certified Software Development Professional:
    This certification comes from the IEEE and gives students a thorough understanding software engineering process: requirements, design, construction, and testing.
  • CIW Web Development Professional:
    Requires two courses: CIW JavaScript Specialist and CIW Database Design Specialist. Between the two, you will have a solid understanding of JavaScript, MySQL, MS SQL, and Oracle databases.
  • Oracle Certified Master:
    One of most advanced certifications for database administrators or software engineers. It includes a rather demanding exam, spanning the course of two days. To qualify, a candidate must have completed the Oracle Database 12c Administrator Certified Professional, two additional specialty courses, and have basic knowledge of Linux command line.
  • Salesforce Administrator:
    This was created so those who are already familiar with how Salesforce works can demonstrate their knowledge.
  • Microsoft Certified Azure Solutions Architect:
    This certification allows a person to showcase their ability to build cloud and hybrid applications using Azure.
  • Project Management Professional:
    This is one of the most important certifications for a project manager working in the software industry.

Each of these certifications have their own requirements, so you should research carefully so you’ll know which certifications you qualify for. And, just to be clear, when you are choosing your school to attend to get your master’s degree in software engineering, make sure you choose a school that is regionally accredited. Otherwise, you might not be able to attain your certifications because the certification agency will not recognize your degree as legitimate and therefor you won’t meet the qualification requirements.

Potential Careers for Software Engineering Masters Graduates

There are many different careers a person with a master’s degree in software engineering can pursue.

Below is a small sample of careers:

  • Web Designer & Developer
    Some might not consider web design a part of computer science, but there is a definite level of skill and expertise required to design websites. Designers must learn programming languages as well as understanding how computer operating and networking systems work to properly design sites that display information. They are also experienced at working with graphics and numerous types of codes.
  • Security Consultant (Cyber Security)
    With the increase of using computers to do everything from reminding us to pick up the dry cleaning to depositing checks, it’s important that the applications and programs we use allow us to do these things safely. However, when there is a breach, it’s good to know that there are a group of people who are trained to stop the breach and track down those responsible. This is what cyber security professionals do. Not only do they stop attacks and find the offenders, but they also help developers create programs that are safer, so attacks won’t happen again.
  • Data Analyst
    Data analysts review data stored in databases and look for errors or breaches in the database programming. They are trying to ensure that all data is accurate and that bad actors cannot manipulate the information and render the database useless.
  • Application Developer
    An application developer, more commonly known as an app developer, will develop apps for a variety of uses. Most people think of mobile devices when it comes to apps, but household appliances as well as automobiles and other devices run on apps as well. An app development analyzes the device’s needs and creates the apps that fit those needs.
  • Software Tester
    Software testers receive software that has been coded and test it for design and security flaws. They use it as a regular user would, but with a critical eye so that problems can be caught and corrected before the software is made available to its target audience.
  • Systems Analyst
    A system analyst evaluates computer and networking systems to ensure that they run correctly. Important factors such as proper integration with existing systems and software, proper security features, and ease of use features are in place and working properly and are examined and feedback presented to developers.
  • Technical Support Specialist / IT Support Specialist
    IT specialists are the front line for a company’s computer system and network. They troubleshoot connectivity and performance issues, correct those issues, and install equipment so an office can operate properly.

Salary Expectations

Software engineers on average make starting salaries between $105,000 and $142,000 per year, depending on experience. A software engineer with a master’s degree and some work experience will be on the higher end of that pay range and could be making approaching $200,000 a year by mid-career. Salaries will vary depending on geographic location and the organization. Larger organizations tend to pay their engineers more than smaller companies, but the wages are still competitive. Obviously, a person going into the field with a master’s degree is going to earn more than someone starting with a bachelor’s degree, and the potential for higher wages increases with experience and certifications. Also, this is a base salary; benefit packages, bonuses, and other financial incentives are not included in the base salary pay.


According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are almost 200,000 job openings in the software engineering and development industries. And the need is expected to increase at a faster-than-average rate over the next 10 years. Many of these opening will be created due to attrition and others changing careers or moving into parallel positions. Another driving factor is the increase in the need for applications for mobile devices.

Find Your Online Software Engineering Program

But software engineers can also make the leap into more business-related fields, as well, especially those who have master’s degrees in business administration or management. This advanced degree makes a candidate even more attractive to potential employers because they not only understand the concepts needed to manage a business, they understand how information technology, computer science, and security are also vital parts of managing a successful business. So, the combination of software engineering and business administration and/or management could lead to a financial boon for those who choose to take that path.

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