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What Does a Career in Computer Software Engineering Entail?

Software is the ingredient that makes a computer or computer systems perform valuable work and complex tasks through an operating system or user interface. A software engineer or software developer applies principles of engineering to the development of complex instructions for computer operations. As a science-based field, software engineering requires specialized knowledge. Students must master principles of engineering, computer systems, and computer programming languages, as well as software development, software design, and even computer and information project management skills. For most people, formal school or college education and academics are the main sources of the required level of knowledge to become a software engineer. Luckily, as this degree is earned through virtual learning already, some of these degrees can be earned through online education.

A bachelor's in software engineering degree prepares graduates for some exciting fields that have high current and future demand among employers, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Software engineers perform mobile application development, build computer networks and computer and information systems software for organizations, design video games and similar program applications, and carry out security protections for organizational systems and perform data and systems analyst functions.


Components of A Successful Career In Computer Software Engineering

The skills and competencies for a software engineer or software developer go to the foundations of software. Software engineers must understand the purpose of the software and the business or other environments in which it will function. They must build economy and quality into their software design. Successful engineers may be involved in project management from the software's inception to delivery and master software processes like waterfall or agile programming. The core competencies for a software engineer include software management, maintenance, and testing.

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How to Earn an Online Computer Software Engineering Degree

  • Education, whether online or on-campus, is the start. Computer engineering professionals need specific training and education.
  • Internship after education is helpful, students need hands-on experience.
  • Work in systems or applications; specializations include web development, mobile development, and technical tracks like Ruby or Python.
  • Apply for postings in systems or applications.
  • Certifications and training qualify students for specializations.
  • Higher education like bachelor’s or master’s or degrees open opportunities.
  • A graduate degree establishes leadership and qualifies for educational roles.

Typical Degree Requirements

Each school sets the course and credit requirements for its degrees. Each school reserves the right to assign additional coursework to a student based on his or her circumstances. For example, if a master’s candidate has a bachelor’s in a field unrelated to software engineering, then the school may require some additional math, science, or computer courses.

Associate Degree in Software Engineering

An online associate degree is a typical two-year degree that requires about 60 credit hours. Associate degree students benefit from an internship or other practical experience. These degrees are the lowest level undergraduate degree you can earn and, since they cover general education and some basics of the field, they are the easiest to earn through online education. An associate degree can open entry-level positions.

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Bachelor’s Degree in Software Engineering

A bachelor’s in software engineering degree is the primary qualification for entry and provides opportunities to learn and advance from experience, training, and certifications. It is a typical four-year degree requiring about 125 semester credit hours. These degrees are also available online for this specialty.

Master of Science in Software Engineering

Completing a master’s software engineering program is a qualifying degree for educational positions like college faculty, corporate leadership, and senior-level positions. The MS takes about 30 to 35 hours and some type of capstone project or thesis. As master's sdegrees are built for professionals who are already well into their careers, they are often built around weekend, evening, or online learning courses.

Typical Computer Software Engineering Certifications Needed

Many of the software engineering missions require familiarity with special systems from major software development companies. Some of the certifications are in computer languages while others are in computer environments. When taken in combination, certifications can define a software engineering specialization. Some examples of certifications include:

  • C++ Certification demonstrates an ability to work with the C and C++ computer languages. The levels of the certification range from associate level to senior professional levels.
  • IEEE Software developer Certification and Master Certification demonstrate engineering capabilities for design, construction, and testing.
  • Microsoft Certified Solutions Developer accredits developers that use Windows, Azure, SharePoint, and other Microsoft systems.

Academic Standards and Requirements

Online associate and bachelor's degrees require a high school diploma or a GED. Students will benefit from courses in science, mathematics, and computer studies. Those with training or coursework in programming can have advantages when handling college-level coursework. The master’s degree is an advanced degree, and it requires successful completion of a bachelor’s in a related field such as computer science, mathematics, or information technology.

When applying for admission to an accredited software engineering degree programs, students should be in good standing an in compliance with rules governing student conduct. Most schools also require a significant score on the ACT or SAT examination.

Exams and Experience Needed

software_engineering_program_exam_experience Schools do not require a pre-entrance exam beyond the normal ACT or SAT for ranking candidates. Once admitted, programs provide practical training and education to equip graduates to move immediately into real-world work environments. Internships are frequent requirements in associate and bachelor's engineering programs in software engineering.

Software engineers must master environments such as Microsoft Visual Studio.Net, Dreamweaver, or Oracle NetBeans. They must be comfortable with one or more languages like Ruby, Python, or PHP. They must have a level of familiarity with developer tools like Apache Tomcat or WebMatrix.

Online Computer Software Engineering Degrees

  • Computer science is the study of hardware systems and the process of programming them to perform tasks.
  • Mathematics is the study of logical connections between systems represented by numerical orders.
  • Information Technology is the study of hardware and software systems that mange data, analysis, retrieval, and security.
  • Information Systems involves the creation of databases and other forms of information storage. With a degree in Software Engineering, you could create whole new systems for information for small start-ups to entire health networks.

Online Computer Software Engineering Associate Degree

This is a two-year degree taught by community colleges as well as four-year schools. Part of the curriculum covers general education, math, and science. Verbal and oral communications are key areas for general software development, as these are foundation skills for software engineering. The focus can be on developing and maintaining software applications and software systems.

Find Online Software Engineering Schools

Online education works well for many software engineering students. They can access classwork at any time online and engage faculty and students on online platforms. Students that participate in internships in connection with an associate- or bachelor's-level degree program will have significant advantages in the job market.

Sample online Associate degree Courses

  • Software Installation
  • Introduction to computer terminology
  • Computer languages- e.g., Java, C++
  • software Maintenance
  • Principles of Software engineering
  • Software Testing Protocols
Additional Information for Online Associates in Software Engineering

Online Computer Science Engineering Bachelor’s Degree

The four-year, 125 credit hour curriculum has general education courses that include professional writing, research, and communications. Students must be proficient in mathematics and have a solid background in science. The computer science coursework forms the core of study, the engineering courses and CS courses comprise the major section and related programming, and computer electives fill out a concentration for the software engineering student. The students must attend labs and participate in practicums for design and programming to test knowledge under real-world conditions.

Coursework may include:

  • Communication and Ethical Issues in Computing
  • Software Engineering II
  • Programming Language Design and Implementation
  • Program Design Fundamentals
  • Computer Hardware Fundamentals
Additional Information for Online Bachelors in Software Engineering

Online Computer Science Engineering Master’s Degree

Most students take about two years to complete the Master of Science degree. Part-time and online students may take longer, and three years is a common mark for part-time completion of the degree. Courses prepare graduates for senior responsibility and leadership roles. Master’s students learn to model and apply them to real-world situations. They master object-oriented programming principles to meet the demand for interactive web content. They learn to read and critically assess code and designs. They must be able to identify architecture techniques and programming processes. Master’s graduates must be able to use development tools and operate in a wide range of operating systems and programming environments.

Coursework frequently covers:

  • Leadership Fundamentals
  • Mathematical modeling
  • Management Techniques
  • Advanced software design
  • Software system architecture
Additional Information for Online Masters in Software Engineering

Degree Level Tuition Range Cost Total range costs

Associate’s Degree

Private $3,570-$13,500
Public school $14,600-$24,600

Bachelor’s Degree

Private $35,000-$47,000
Public school in state $10,000-$21,000
Public school out of state $26,000-$37,000

Master’s Degree

Private $30,000-$42,000
Public school $9,000-$19,000

Potential Careers & Salaries for Computer Software Engineering Grads

In the field of software engineering, like nearly every other field in the US economy, there is a direct relationship between education, experience, and salary. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that the weekly wages of employees rose directly with their level of educational achievement. Persons with no college, associate, bachelor's, and master’s degrees earned higher median salaries as education level rises.

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The effect of work experience was much like that of education. Employees in the same positions earned far more than their less experienced counterparts. One must also gauge, that with experience came opportunities for advancement to other occupations.

Computer Software Engineering Median Salaries by Occupation

Salary by Occupation

Median Career Salaries Entry level Mid-career Late-career
Software Engineer $72,500 $92,300 -
Web Developer $50,600 $66,700 $77,200
System Engineer $72,500 $88,300 $120,300
Applications Engineer $62,300 $78,500 $89,900
Systems Administrator $51,400 $63,900 $75,600
Network Engineer $59,300 $76,700 $91,800

Annual Median Salary by Occupation

Occupation Annual Median Salary
Software Engineer $83,300
Web Developer $58,400
System Engineer $75,700
Applications Engineer $68,300
Systems Administrator $60,600
Network Engineer $71,300

Important Questions to Ask (FAQ)

How long does it take to earn a Computer Software Engineering bachelor’s degree online?

Students can complete a bachelor’s in software engineering online in four years. Some online courses can permit acceleration through testing and summer sessions to shorten the time required. Whereas part-time attendance will lengthen the term of study. In four-year on-campus programs, many schools have completion rates at about 60% at the six-year mark, while on average the majority of students do not complete within four years.

How much does an online Computer Software Engineering bachelor’s degree cost?

The costs of a four-year bachelor’s degree when adding tuition, expenses, and room and board are in the range of $190,000 for private schools, $160,000 for public schools at out-of-state rates, and about $85,000 for public schools at in-state rates. However, this cost can vary wildly by region and population density, so make sure to check the costs associated with any school you are considering

Does the school have the major(s) you’re considering?

Schools can house the software engineering major in the department of computer science, the department of engineering, or in a grouping like information technology. Students should make sure that the school offers a true software engineering major and not a CS degree or engineering degree with a concentration in software engineering.

How many students graduate “on time,” in four years?

The rate of graduation in four years has changed sharply in recent years; there is a substantial shift towards completion in 150% of the four-year cycle, or about 6 years. Most students graduate at the six-year mark rather than the four-year, “on-time” mark. The impact of this trend is reflected in school ratings as employers tend to look for schools that retain a high percent and graduate a majority of their student body on time in four years.

Graduation rate Four-years Six-years
Four-year public schools 35% 65%
Four-year private schools 53% 68%

What kind of accreditation does the program online hold? How is it regarded in the field?

There are some significant differences in accreditation that students should understand. The US Department of Education appoints accreditation agencies that provide rigorous assessments of schools and approve those that meet the applicable standards. The accreditation agencies work in regions, providing regional accreditation. Another type of accreditation is national accreditation. This type works for certain types of schools but it is not as widely accepted as regional accreditation.

Within regional accreditation, there are two further types: program accreditation and institutional accreditation. Institutional accreditation reviews the entire organization such as a University and all its schools and colleges. The second type of regional accreditation is programmatic, which involves a narrow focus on a single program, school, or department. For example, the accreditor might grant programmatic approval to the Department of Computer Science.

Accreditation affects the acceptance and usefulness of a degree. The ideal combination might be to select a school with regional accreditation and a computer science department with program accreditation.

Software, Technology & Skills Needed

The study of computer software engineering requires an in-depth knowledge of one or more software languages and substantial knowledge of development tools, computer systems, and system environments. Software engineers can be systems engineers or software applications specialists. The skill-sets differ in the use of hardware in systems work.

Scholarships Available

  • Women Techmakers Scholarships
    Amount: $7,000 Eur (or local equivalent)
    Deadline: December 6

    Formerly known as the Google Anita Borg Memorial Scholarship, the program aims to carry out the late Dr. Borg’s vision of women participating fully in the field of computer science and related technology. Eligible students must be women that are enrolled or about to enroll in a college program to pursue a degree in computing or a related field. Students may pursue bachelor’s, master’s, or Ph.D. level degrees. Recipients must study computer science, computer engineering, or a closely related technical field.

    In addition, they must demonstrate strong academic performance, leadership, and support the involvement of women in the computer sciences. The program supports women students with the goal of producing successful role models. The scholarship operates through zones that cover North America, Asia Pacific, Europe, the Middle East, and Africa. The program consists of a scholarship, ongoing membership in a community and participation in the Google Retreat.

  • ESA Foundation Scholarships
    Amount: $3,000 (15 Awards)
    Deadline: April 26

    The ESA scholarship is for minority and women students seeking careers in game design or computer arts. The fund awards 15-30 scholarships at $3,000 each. The applicants may be high school seniors, or college students enrolled or enrolling in a four-year program at an accredited school. Eligible applicants must have a 2.75 GPA or better. Application deadlines may change from year to year

  • Generation Google Scholarships
    Amount: $10,000 (USA), $5,000 (Canada)
    Deadline: Varies

    This fund aids members of underrepresented participants in computer science and technology. Generation Google Scholarships awards $10,000 scholarships for students pursuing bachelor’s or master’s degrees. The award decision prioritizes diversity, leadership, and academic background. Eligible students must pursue a field of computer science and strive to excel in technology development. Award winners can attend the annual Google Summer Retreat.

  • Honeywell International Scholarships
    Amount: $5,000
    Deadline: March 15

    The Society and Women Engineers (SWE) offer the Honeywell International Scholarships for $5,000 each to female students pursuing a bachelor’s degree in computer science and software engineering. Students must attend an ABET-accredited school on a full-time basis and maintain a 3.5 GPA on a four-point scale.

  • Google Lime Scholarship
    Amount: Up to $10,000
    Deadline: July 6

    The Lime Connect organization works to assist students with disabilities. Partnered with Google, the Google Lime Connect scholarship supports students with limited abilities whether visible or invisible. The scholarship awards may be as much as $10,000. The eligible students may be enrolled as graduate or undergraduate students pursuing degrees in computer science, computer engineering, software engineering, or a closely related field. The award consists of funds and a summer internship with Google.

  • Google Student Veterans of America Scholarship
    Amount: $10,000
    Deadline: November 1

    The student veterans scholarship or Google SVA is a partnership with the Student Veterans of America. The program awards up to $10,000 for the upcoming school year for veterans pursuing careers in the field of computer science in the U.S. Eligible students must be qualified veterans, enrolled in an accredited school program or accepted for enrollment. Students must have and maintain strong academic performance.

Professional Organizations

  • ACM
  • CompTIA
  • AWC
  • IEEE
  • CRA


The Association for Computing Machinery

This large membership organization promotes advanced computing as a science, a body of knowledge, and as a profession. The organization welcomes computing educators, researchers, and professionals, and it promotes dialogue on the challenges that face the entire field. The organization promotes increased standards for the profession and offers continuing education and other learning and certification resources. They recognize the discrete differences among the professional fields within the area of advanced computing, ACM student chapters offer information on more than $1.5 million in annual scholarships and student competitions. With conferences sponsored by industry leaders like Microsoft, the ACM has educational and information resources that will benefit computer software engineering degree students.




Many software engineers enter Information Technology jobs and careers. CompTIA is an organization that promotes IT careers with certifications, networking, and advocacy. The CompTIA communities cover areas such as Canada, the UK, Australia, and New Zealand, and International groups. The useful groupings include women’s advocacy, emerging technologies, managed services, and other useful divisions of the information technology industry. Students can take advantage of news, information, trends, and continuing education resources.



Association for Women in Computing

The AWC was among the early organizations dedicated to promoting increased participation by women professionals in the computing professions. The organization welcomes professionals in all areas of computing including software engineers, programmers, system analysts, technical writers, trainers, and consultants. The organization is an ideal place for women that, as students or professionals, wish to take advantage of mentoring, continuing education, and professional networking designed to promote women computing professionals. The association works with the Institute for Certification of Computer Professionals (ICCP) and agrees with its standards for professional ethics.



IEEE Computer Society

This organization is dedicated to the field of computer science. The IEE is a platform for publishing, collaboration, networking, and working conferences. The peer-reviewed journals offer opportunities to teach, learn, and validate research. The organization has a varied Digital Library that provides information resources and access to research. The organization is a leader in professional education, training, and corporate education. The IEEE specializes in self-paced advanced learning systems that benefit corporations and organizations of nearly every size. Students can benefit from the digital library, research, and opportunities for internships and networking.



Computing Research Association

The CRA joins with government and industry to promote and advance education in computing. Education and research are the keys to continued leadership in technological innovation. The CRA is a coordinating body that provides advocacy with public and private sector policymakers to increase the total investment in computer research.

Choosing an Accredited College

Accreditation is important when selecting colleges or schools for software engineering. Employers and other educational institutions use accreditation as a level of assurance that the program provides high-quality education. Accreditation is an independent assessment by a professional group appointed by the US Department of Education. The more impressive type of accreditation is regional accreditation. The ideal combination is to attend a school that has regional accreditation for the entire school and program accreditation for the department that teaches the software engineering majors you want. University HQ strongly recommends selecting an accredited school or program.

Online vs. On-Campus vs. Hybrid

Today, software engineering students can select the type of learning environment that meets their needs and preferences. Students can select on-campus education, online, courses, or a mix of the two that is called a hybrid program.

On-campus learning is also called synchronous learning. The idea is that students gather at a place and time to participate together in a course, lab, or lecture.

Online learning is ideal for people that cannot leave their job, business, or other obligations to attend school on campus. These students can attend online courses that they can access on their schedules from any location with an internet connection. Online education can be less expensive both for tuition and living expenses than on-campus education. The flexible format permits students to mix coursework into their schedules.

The hybrid plan permits students to take courses online and on-campus and typically in the order that the student prefers. Hybrid education can offer the best of online and on-campus education.

Frequently Asked Questions

What do I learn in a software engineering degree?

In associate and bachelor’s programs, you’ll first have to complete general education courses. After this, you’ll study programming, data structures, web technology, advanced mathematics and algorithms, databases and computer networks, and more. Once you reach a master’s level degree program, you’ll be taking more classes in management or administration. You may also be able to choose a specialization to help you stand out once you graduate.

What accreditation should I be looking for?

First, you must choose a program that has regional accreditation from an agency approved by CHEA. Then, if you’re looking for programmatic accreditation, you will want to consider schools with accreditation from The Accrediting Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET). This is the gold standard for engineering accreditation and will provide you with the best opportunities after you graduate.

How much can you make with a degree in software engineering?

The average salary for a software engineer is $88,000/year. Once you reach the later part of your career and gain experience, this could increase to over $116,000/year. Those with skills in enterprise planning earn as much as 60% more than the average engineer, and even simple additional skills, such as Cisco networking or data mining, can earn you 38% or 40% more, respectively.

Does the College Have Post-Graduate Job Placement Help & Assistance?

University HQ considers Post-graduate job assistance and career counseling as a priority item when selecting a school for a software engineering degree. The degree-granting schools are in strong positions to assist their graduates during the final year of school and after graduation. Most schools have a broad community of partners, supporters, business associates and alumni. This community is a resource for networking referrals and hires for graduates.

Students should look carefully at the level of resources that the school commits to career counseling, outreach, and interview preparation. Getting off to a good start after graduating can be a key to long-term success.

Why You Need to Consider the Overall National Rankings of the College and the Effects on Your Career or Salary

The average income of recent graduates is one of the strong factors in college rankings. Rankings are a prominent part of selection and recruitment by many employers. In terms of rankings and job prospects, the rating assigned to a college or university is a factor in graduate success. When selecting a college or university for a software engineering degree, students should consider the ranking.

The ranking may not be as important to student success as other factors like the experience of faculty, library, and research resources, or the educational environment. Student success may depend more on such factors. The income level of recent graduates will not likely predict whether a student will do well in classes or enjoy the time spent in school. To the extent that income and job success matter, then rankings are an important consideration.

Each student must decide the weight to give to rankings and salary considerations. When selecting among school choices that may seem otherwise equal, the ranking can be an excellent deciding factor because it relates to the investment and the return on investment for a college degree.

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