Software developers, also known as software engineers, are essential to the modern-day world. The demand for software engineers is only increasing as technology needs expand and grow for businesses, organizations, and individuals. Fortunately, software engineering offers an engaging academic discipline and exciting career prospects. Since this is the case, many engineers opt to earn a master’s degree in software engineering to enhance their knowledge, find a specialty, and increase job opportunities.
Current undergraduate students and industry workers can take advantage of online software development master’s programs. They facilitate self-paced learning, flexible schedules, and location independence. However, all graduate schools and programs are not the same. It is important for students to get the facts to make the right selection. Find out more about master’s in software engineering online degrees below.
What is a Master’s in Software Engineering?
Software engineering refers to creating, optimizing, and testing computer programs. Developers create programs to allow computers, phones, tablets, machines, and robots to function correctly. They also make applications that run on these devices.
Software engineers learn a wide range of skills in an undergraduate degree. It may leave graduates wondering, “is a software engineering master’s degree worth it?” A graduate degree allows students to specialize in a particular area of software engineering, such as machine learning and artificial intelligence. It explores research methods, ideation and design, development, testing, and management with the chosen concentration. Master’s students learn about the latest, prominent software architecture, systems, and programming languages. In some programs, students can connect and apply their knowledge to their preferred industry.
Graduates enter the job market with advanced knowledge and specialized skills. They can use their degree to further their current career or obtain a job in their preferred field. In particular, they qualify for more positions, roles with greater responsibility, higher pay, and better benefits.
Is A Master’s in Software Engineering Worth it?
Many people decide to pursue a career in software engineering with only an undergraduate degree. It can leave prospective students asking, “is a master’s in software engineering worth it?”, especially since it takes hard work and dedication for 1-2 years. Current software engineers can attest to how valuable a graduate degree is because it leads to:
- Higher Salaries: One of the main reasons to obtain a software development master’s is to increase pay. These professionals may earn between $120,730 and $168,570 annually. Higher degrees and experience can help workers reach these earnings. Additionally, working professionals can negotiate contracts and salaries with their new degrees.
- Specialized Work: Since a master’s degree allows students to concentrate on a particular subfield, graduates develop qualifications to work in corresponding roles. Accordingly, engineers can look forward to interesting and important work. They may also enjoy job stability, as there may be few others with shared expertise.
- Better Jobs: When prospective students ask, “is a software engineering master’s degree worth it?” one of their main concerns is if the job market will be better or more accessible for them. Since graduate students have higher qualifications, they have more job opportunities. They can apply for leadership roles and expert positions. Additionally, employers are more likely to favor engineers with advanced degrees.
- Refined Skills: Undergraduate programs prepare students to enter the job market, equipping them with foundational skills. Yet, a master’s program allows students to sharpen those skills in-depth.
- Professional Network: Software engineering graduate students work with professors, advisors, researchers, company heads, and peers. During their 1-2 years, they can make meaningful connections that last their careers. They can help them finish projects, find resources, qualify for jobs, provide recommendations, and offer advice or guidance.
Why Should I Get My Software Engineering Master’s Online?
Schools offer software engineering master’s programs on-campus, online, or a combination (hybrid). Since this is the case, students can select the option which best fits their needs and helps them accomplish their academic goals. There are a few reasons that an online program may be the right choice, namely:
- Lower Cost: The average Master of Science (MS) degree costs $61,200. However, online programs are often thousands of dollars cheaper. It does not only factor in tuition, but also transportation, parking, accommodations, and more. This fact alone can help answer the question, “is a master’s in software engineering worth it?” Students can spend less money to earn more money.
- Flexibility: Many students refrain from higher education because they have to work, take care of their family, or handle other responsibilities. Alternatively, students can look into online learning. Schools allow students to design their own schedules and access material in their free time.
- Freedom of Choice: When students must relocate or travel to attend in-person classes, they may have limited school options. An online program lets them choose from top schools across the country. Additionally, this is a beneficial option for those who cannot travel, have mobility problems, or need learning accommodations.
- Networking: One of the benefits of a master’s program is the networking opportunities. Students may fear they cannot make strong connections when they learn remotely. However, there are plenty of opportunities for students to work together, collaborate on forums and message boards, reach out to professors and advisors, and receive mentorship.
- High-Quality Education: An online software engineering master’s education can be just as valuable as its in-person counterpart. In fact, students may build a richer understanding of course content. They can take their time reading material, repeat video, and audio lectures, and ask professors or peers for support.
- Equivalent Degrees: Many schools do not distinguish between online and in-person degrees on the official diploma.
Types of Degrees and Specializations in Software Engineering Masters
Prospective students considering a master’s in software engineering online should be careful in selecting the right degree and specialization. Their choice could dramatically alter their available research topics, classes and course content, and official titles. Accordingly, it can affect their academic and professional careers.
There are two main types of degrees for a master of software engineering online:
- Master of Science (MS) in Software Engineering: MS in Software Engineering focuses on research, then applies that education to practical areas of work. An MS is the most common type of online software engineering master’s program.
- Master of Engineering (MEng) in Software Engineering: An MEng in Software Engineering concentrates on practical knowledge and training. It may explore some research but tends to keep it relevant to technical skills. It is more likely to find an MEng as on-campus or hybrid, rather than a 100% online option.
Some schools may only offer a general MS or MENG in Software Engineering. However, numerous schools provide specializations under these titles:
- Software Applications: A master of software engineering online with a focus on software applications is an excellent choice. It teaches students how to design, test, and modify web and mobile apps.
- Systems Software: When pursuing a specialization in systems, students learn how to develop and manage complex infrastructure, such as telecommunications.
- Automation, Robotics and Artificial Intelligence: A master’s in software engineering online with this specialty explores state-of-the-art technology. Students prepare to contribute to cutting-edge industries.
- Digital and Embedded Systems: Students concentrating in embedded systems learn how to design and optimize programs for various devices, from medical equipment to security systems.
- Computer and Network Security Systems: Security is a prominent concern, and there is an increasing demand for experts in the field. Students learn how to design and optimize security systems, protecting the latest technology in the industry.
- Games and Entertainment: This specialization teaches students how to design, program, and patch games and entertainment apps.
- Project Management: Leadership roles require a great understanding of software engineering and management. Students learn essential business knowledge and management skills as it relates to software engineering.
What Will I Learn in a Master’s in Software Engineering Program?
Master’s in software engineering online programs introduce and advance students’ knowledge of software design, development, optimization, modification, and management. Typical degrees provide the latest verified research, explore the theory, and promote technical skills.
Students taking a master of software engineering online will take an average of 36 to 48 credits. Most schools and programs split these credits between core courses and elective classes. Typically, core courses pertain to critical knowledge and skills in software development or the specific subfield. Students can select electives from relevant courses, allowing them to tailor their education to suit their needs.
Further, most graduate programs require the student to complete a capstone project or a thesis to complete their degree. They may build on their work in stages throughout their program alongside an advisor.
Common classes in an online software engineering master’s program include:
- Mathematics: Engineering is considerably math-heavy, but software engineers complete most of their math requirements in their undergraduate degrees. Students may need to take mathematics and algorithms.
- Software Engineering Principles: Classes detail best approaches, methodologies, and practices for software engineering.
- Software Design: Students must learn how to ideate, design, and prototype software.
- Software Programming: Software programming is the heart of the degree, teaching students how to use programming languages.
- Software Architecture: When students develop software, they must know how to build a structure or system.
- Research and Analytics: Research and data analysis may be a core component of software engineering, especially if it focuses on design.
- Software Testing and Quality Assurance: Testing is a critical component of software development, ensuring all products meet standards.
Careers and Salary
Students and workers set their sights on better career goals and higher pay grades. These are the main reasons they want a master’s in software engineering. Naturally, they may wonder if a master’s in software engineering jobs and earnings will get them to where they wish to be.
Software engineering can lead to exciting jobs, such as software developers, quality assurance analysts, and software testers. A master’s degree in software engineering can increase job prospects. Graduates have the qualifications to handle demanding responsibilities, broader roles, highly specialized work, or confidential projects and data. Since they may land these types of jobs, they will also receive a corresponding master’s in software engineering salary. While the median salary for software development is $120,730 annually, master’s degree holders may find themselves closer to the top 10%, averaging $168,570.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, an online master’s in software development can help prepare you for a variety of computer and information tech positions across numerous sectors.
|Careers||Annual Median Salaries|
|Computer and Information Systems Managers||$146,360|
|Computer and Information Research Scientists, Software Publishers||$141,820|
|Computer and Information Research Scientists, Research and Development||$134,490|
|Software Developers, Manufacturing||$116,080|
|Computer and Information Research Scientists, Federal Government||$109,370|
|Software Developers, Management Companies||$107,640|
|Software Developers, Insurance Companies||$100,980|
|Information Security Analysts||$99,730|
|Computer Systems Analysts||$90,920|
Do I Need a Master’s Degree in Software Engineering?
Suppose workers have a bachelor’s degree in software engineering and complete an internship. In that case, they can obtain entry-level jobs in the industry. However, many working professionals discover they cannot progress in their careers as easily without higher education. They may not be able to land jobs at their preferred firms or specialize in work they find intriguing. Furthermore, they may spend years working to obtain managerial or executive roles. A graduate degree facilitates a dream career, as they meet or exceed the criteria for numerous jobs, companies, and organizations.
Additionally, a software engineering master’s salary is desirable. Bachelor’s graduates enter the industry and take home between $64,470 and $120,730 per year. A master’s degree can help them earn significantly more, depending on their degree, concentration, job, and employer. Accordingly, while software engineers may not need a graduate degree, they stand to benefit from it considerably.
What Can I Do with a Master’s Degree in Software Engineering?
The job outlook for software developers and related professions is favorable for the next decade. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) expects 25% job growth, resulting in 162,900 new job opportunities. Since this is the case, it is a good time for individuals to obtain master of software engineering online degrees and increase their job prospects.
Upon graduation, software engineers can apply for numerous master’s in software engineering jobs, each with a substantial software engineering master’s salary to match. Options include:
- Software Developer: A software developer or engineer creates software to meet client or employer needs. They earn approximately $120,730 per year.
- Application or Web Developer: An app or web developer builds websites, apps, and other digital products. They make around $78,300 annually, although a software engineering master’s salary will be higher.
- Computer Programmer: A computer programmer codes computer and digital device software so they can run as intended. They take home $93,000 per year.
- Quality Assurance (QA) Analyst or Tester: A QA runs tests to ensure programs function as intended. They earn roughly $98,220 per year, but a master’s in software engineering salary can be on par with software developers.
- Software Engineering Managers or Project Leads: Master’s in software engineering jobs are often leadership roles. Managers, supervisors, and executives can easily be the top earners for software development, averaging $168,570 annually.
Choosing the Best Program for Me
The best online master’s in software engineering is different for each individual. Schools offer distinct degrees, specializations, and course content. Accordingly, prospective students should analyze each program to ensure it meets their unique needs, preferences, and goals.
Apart from these factors, interested individuals should look into the admissions requirements, accreditation status, tuition, and potential financial aid options. In this way, they can increase their chances of acceptance and study in the program.
When potential applicants have interest in a particular school, they should first look at the admission requirements. Most schools ask for similar documentation, but top schools and programs may require additional materials. Furthermore, some schools may have stricter rules regarding eligibility, such as a higher GPA score or GRE scores. The best online software engineering master’s programs fit with the prospective students’ academic history, current abilities, and future capabilities.
Common admission requests include:
- Application: Students should complete an application form asking for personal details, educational and employment history, and program information.
- Letter of Intent: Some schools require a personal essay, letter of intent, or statement of purpose. Prestigious schools may ask for more than one.
- Recommendation Letter: Students should ask professors, advisors, and employers for 1-3 letters of recommendation.
- Diplomas and Transcripts: Schools wish to see official diplomas and transcripts from all schools after high school. Applicants need at least one bachelor’s degree from an accredited college. Transcripts should reflect any prerequisite courses and the required GPA score.
- GRE Test Scores: GRE or equivalent test scores are a common way for schools to determine if applicants can do well in the program.
The best online master’s in software engineering programs are from accredited colleges and universities. Software engineers often need to obtain certifications to excel in engineering fields. These licenses require a high-quality education marked by accreditation. Students can look to the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET) to verify their chosen school.
Financial Aid and Scholarships
While the best online software engineering master’s programs offer affordable tuition, students can offset the costs with federal and state financial aid. They can also research scholarships and fellowships available in their area, from their current school or employer and their school of choice.
Certifications and Licensure
A master’s degree in software development is only one of the ways software engineers can gain ground in their careers. They can also pursue certifications to grow their specialized knowledge or skill sets, and licensure to establish their credibility and authority.
Software engineers do not have to take an exam or obtain licensure to work in their industry. However, these qualifications are often written into job descriptions. Later in their careers, working professionals have a significant amount of experience. They can also obtain better jobs, higher-up positions, and higher salaries if they have various certifications related to software development.
Recognized associations, professional organizations, and prestigious schools offer certificates relevant to software engineering. Popular courses may include cutting-edge technologies or programs from top-tech companies, programming languages, product or project management, and user-centric research and optimization.
Top certifications in the industry include:
- Microsoft Certified Azure Developer Associate
- AWS Certified Developer – Associate
- Oracle Java SE
- (ISC)2 Certified Secure Software Lifecycle Professional
- Redhat Certified Engineer Oracle Certified Professional
- Salesforce Certification Exam
- CIW Web Development Professional
- PMI’S Project Management Professional
- Google Professional Cloud Developer
College Consensus features only accredited, reputable institutions. The following schools meet our qualifications for quality, but are presented in alphabetical order. They are not ranked.
East Carolina University
East Carolina University (ECU) offers a Master of Science (MS) in Computer Science with concentration in Software Engineering. They have several awards noting that they are one of the best online master’s in software engineering. The program requires at least 30 credits of classes, with 9 core credits and 21 software engineering and computer science courses. Essentially, it allows students to develop a well-rounded education, focusing on both theory and practice.
Kennesaw State University
Kennesaw State University (KSU) delivers a Master of Science (MS) in Software Engineering. They designed their program to prepare individuals for a competitive job market, to develop a comprehensive knowledge of the domain, and excel in their career choice. Students can complete their master’s degree in 2 years, completing five core courses, a capstone project or a thesis, and three or four elective classes. Students can personalize their academic journey to meet their particular interests.
Pace University provides a Master of Science (MS) in Software Development and Engineering. They boast an excellent program that covers theory, practice, and professional skills. Course content explores software and system design, software management, and resources. All classes prioritize collaborative work, so students can expect to form valuable connections. On top of the 36-credit program, students can choose to add certificates in Software Development and Engineering, or Secure Software and Information Engineering.
Penn State World Campus
Penn State World Campus has an exceptional Master of Software Engineering program. Students learn how to develop top-tier software products by grasping software research and analysis, design, architecture, programming, verification, data storage and retrieval. The 36-credit program takes approximately 2 years to complete, finishing with a capstone software project showcasing applied knowledge and skill. Many graduates appreciate the program for its useful curriculum, networking opportunities, and 100% online experience.
Regis University (RU) understands that software engineers are in high demand. Their ultimate goal is to prepare their graduate students for their promising career, providing a strong foundational knowledge and specialized skills. Their program spans 18-24 months with students completing 36 credits. Students can also take graduate certificates in Enterprise Java Software Development, Full Stack, Mobile Software Development, or Software Engineering. Additionally, applicants can look forward to one of the most affordable software engineering programs in the United States.
University of Houston Clear Lake
The University of Houston Clear Lake (UHCL) ensures students have a high-quality education, maintain convenience, and receive flexibility. They offer a 30-credit Master of Science (MS) in Software Engineering program. Students can specialize in one of four different domains: Gaming, Robotics, Software Project Management, or Data Mining. They should expect to take core credit classes and a few courses from their chosen concentration. Additionally, graduation requires a capstone project or thesis.
University of Maryland Global Campus
The University of Maryland Global Campus designed a unique Master of Science (MS) in Information Technology specializing in Software Engineering. Their main objectives are to help students learn theory, apply technical knowledge, develop problem-solving, and build exceptional leadership qualities. The degree requires 36 credits, including a software engineering project worth 3 credits. One of the best features of their master’s degree is that students can work with an advisor to personalize their academic schedule.
University of Michigan Dearborn
The University of Michigan Dearborn has a Master of Science (MS) in Software Engineering. The program requires 30 credits; however, students can choose coursework, capstone project, or thesis options to satisfy graduation requirements. Application courses serve as a way to specialize in a particular discipline, exploring web engineering, game engineering, data engineering and analytics, information and knowledge engineering, mobile and cloud computing, or embedded systems. Students can look forward to a career in these distinct fields.
University of Texas at Austin
University of Texas at Austin (UTAUS) is a well-known school offering a Master of Science (MS) in Software Engineering. Students learn about current software technologies, machine learning, systems, architecture, advanced programming, software testing, project management and evaluation, and other important focuses. Since UTAUS offers such a comprehensive education, it can proudly boast about their student’s achievements. For instance, their graduates regularly receive job offers from top tech companies, such as Google and Intel.
Washington State University
Washington State University (WSU) offers a Master of Science (MS) in Software Engineering, particularly for career development. With the help of leaders in the industry, the school creates rich course content that teaches essential knowledge and skills. It covers software requirements, design, architecture, testing, quality assurance, maintenance, and project management. Students can complete the 30-credit program with full-time or part-time studies options. This way, they can obtain their master’s on their own schedule.
Professional Organizations in Software Engineering
While students are completing their online software engineering master’s degree or upon graduation, they should look into joining a professional organization. Reputable societies provide countless advantages to their members, such as:
- Offering continuing education and resources
- Facilitating licensure
- Extending networking opportunities
- Updating on the latest news
- Helping to uphold industry standards
- Assisting job seekers find excellent positions
The most notable associations for software engineering include:
- Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE) Computer Society: IEEE Computer Society is one of the leading organizations for computer scientists and engineers. They seek to empower their members and advance the industry.
- Association for Women in Computing (AWC): AWC was one of the first associations for female computing professionals. Their main focuses are networking, education, and mentoring.
- Association for Information Science and Technology (ASIS&T): ASIS&T focuses on information science and research. If software engineers pursue an academic or research career, they may appreciate this organization.
- Computing Technology Industry Association (CompTIA): CompTIA is an excellent organization for all tech professionals. They provide training, continuing education, exams and certifications, resources, and networking.