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What Is a Bachelor's Degree in Software Engineering?
Software engineers design and develop computer software and applications, working with other information technology (IT) professionals to create functional programs that meet users' needs. Software engineers enjoy strong job prospects. For instance, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects software developer positions to grow by 21% from 2018-2028, far faster than the national average for all occupations.
An online bachelor's degree in software engineering prepares students to enter this quickly growing field, choosing from a variety of careers in software engineering. This page offers an overview of what to expect from these programs, including application requirements, common courses, and salary potential. It also answers commonly asked questions.
Should I Get a Bachelor's Degree in Software Engineering?
An online bachelor's degree in software engineering offers many benefits, such as increased salary potential and career and networking opportunities. The following list outlines several key benefits of undergraduate software engineering programs.
- Job Opportunities: Obtaining a bachelor's degree creates job opportunities, which ranks among the most common reasons students pursue higher education.
- Increased Salary: A bachelor's degree can provide graduates with more job opportunities with higher salary potential.
- Job Security: Bachelor's degree-holders generally enjoy greater job stability and security than workers with only a high school diploma.
- Job Satisfaction: Bachelor's graduates report higher levels of job satisfaction, and they are more likely to find their jobs challenging and engaging than professionals without a degree.
- Networking: Bachelor's programs allow students to build connections with other software professionals, which can lead to increased job opportunities.
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Advice from a Software Engineering Graduate
Why did you decide to pursue a bachelor's in software engineering?
What was the deciding factor in selecting your specific program and specific school?
What was the job search like after graduating with your bachelor's in software engineering?
How did your degree program prepare you for your current career and recent positions?
My degree covered a lot of topics, like networking, web design, security, database, app development, and project management. I put my focus on databases and took every course available on that subject. Oracle is the biggest database company, but my first job had me doing tech support for a clunky Java application. I found myself learning enterprise resource planning software and processes specifically around accounting, which was rough. Eventually, I tried to switch to a database-focused team.
When this was not possible, I switched jobs. My degree provided a good foundation, but my detour in tech support for two years left my database skills somewhat atrophied. I had to relearn some syntax and commands, and production database work is often way more complex than anything you'll see in a classroom. If you have the foundation in place, you can still figure things out, though.
What are some of the most rewarding aspects of working in software engineering? Some of the most challenging aspects?
The salary can be much higher than average, especially for those with advanced skills. There is a lot of job security for the most part, and I probably get five recruiters trying to pitch me a new job every week. It's also nice to work on important projects a lot of the time; my current project is often mentioned by the CEO and other VPs in company communications.
Many challenges stem from miscommunication, such as business users not understanding functionality or what's possible. Many projects can drag on far past their deadlines. Things can change quickly as far as new software being adopted. Teams can be "siloed" or somewhat isolated, which can make getting things done difficult when you rely on and wait for various teams to do small parts of a large process.
What advice would you give to students considering pursuing a bachelor's in software engineering?
Admission Requirements for a Bachelor's Degree in Software Engineering
Each school maintains its own admissions requirements, but most undergraduate software engineering programs require students to hold a high school diploma or GED. More selective colleges may require a minimum GPA and/or minimum SAT or ACT scores. Some colleges may also request letters of recommendation and a statement of purpose. Hundreds of public and private colleges use The Common App, which allows students to apply to several schools at once with the same online application.
What Can I Do With a Bachelor's Degree in Software Engineering?
Graduates with an online bachelor's degree in software engineering can pursue further education, such as an advanced degree, or immediately enter the workforce. The following sections explore these two options in more detail.
Career and Salary Outlook for Software Engineering Graduates
Information technology is a rapidly growing field, and software engineers enjoy many opportunities for challenging, engaging work. Increasing demand for trained IT professionals has created accelerated job growth. As previously noted, the BLS projects careers for software developers to grow at an above-average rate from 2018-2028.
Software engineering graduates can pursue a variety of IT careers in areas like software development, programming, systems analysis, and database administration. Salaries are generally competitive, with mid-career IT professionals in many positions earning $70,000-$80,000 annually.
The following section outlines some of the most popular career choices for software engineering graduates.
Information Systems Manager
|Job Title||Entry Level (0-12 Months)||Early Career (1-4 Years)||Mid-career (5-9 Years)||Experienced (10-19 Years)|
|Information Systems Manager||$59,000||$67,000||$79,000||$91,000|
Continuing Education in Software Engineering
Online bachelor's degrees in software engineering prepare graduates to pursue advanced degrees and professional certifications. Further education offers many professional benefits, including increased career opportunities and salary potential. Read on to learn about the best options for continuing education in the software engineering field.
- Master's: Master's degrees typically represent the highest level of education required for software engineers, preparing graduates for advanced positions with increased responsibility. These degrees typically take 2-3 years to complete. Many online programs give students the flexibility to work while they earn their degrees.
- Ph.D.: A Ph.D. is the highest attainable level of education in software engineering, though most positions don't require this degree. Building comprehensive, highly specialized knowledge, Ph.D. programs typically suit students interested in research and academic positions, though some graduates pursue high-level software engineering roles.
- Certifications: Many certifications, such as the Oracle certified professional designation, can help IT workers increase their job opportunities and command higher salaries without the extensive time and money investment of a degree.
Earning Your Bachelor's Degree in Software Engineering
Program requirements vary by school, but learners can generally expect online bachelor's degrees in software engineering to comprise around 120 credits and take about four years of full-time study to complete. Many schools also offer accelerated and/or part-time enrollment options.
Most bachelor's in software engineering programs are BS degrees, though some schools may offer BAs. Students build fundamental knowledge in computer science topics, such as programming languages, operating systems, database management, and communication networks. Students also complete specialized courses in software design, engineering, and architecture.
The nature of the material makes software engineering degrees a natural choice for online study. Many schools offer fully online programs, which enable learners to complete their degrees without visiting campus.
Comparing Bachelor's Degree Options
Software engineering is a diverse, rapidly developing field, and many schools offer degrees featuring slightly different approaches to the subject. These programs rarely present radically different course materials, but students may find that some specializations meet their personal and professional goals better than others. The list below outlines three common types of software engineering programs.
Bachelor of Science in Software Engineering
Bachelor of Science in Engineering - Software Engineering
Bachelor of Science in Information Technology - Software Development
Popular Bachelor's Degree in Software Engineering Courses
Most online bachelor's degree programs in software engineering offer an overview of the information technology field in addition to allowing students to specialize their knowledge and skills through electives and/or concentrations. Programs often include a final capstone project, which ties together major curriculum topics and enables students to demonstrate their overall learning.
The list below outlines five courses commonly found in software engineering programs. Exact course titles might differ between schools, but the general content remains similar.
- Intro to Programming
- This course builds foundational knowledge of programming principles and languages (often Java). Students gain an understanding of basic programming topics, such as design, coding, documentation, and debugging. Most courses focus on object-oriented concepts and may also cover topics like data structures and input/output statements.
- Information Security
- Security plays a major role in all aspects of information technology. This course provides an overview of basic security concepts, including threats, vulnerabilities, and system security optimization. Most courses also touch on legal issues associated with cybersecurity and cybercrime, along with the vulnerabilities inherent in software systems.
- Project Management
- This course explores project management principles in the context of software engineering. Students learn to apply business and organizational management skills to information technology. Courses often cover the various methods of organization and learning, including team- and discovery-based methods.
- Mobile Architecture and Programming
- Mobile computing is a rapidly growing sector of IT. These classes focus on the development of mobile applications, touching on topics like design standards, mobile functionality, security, and mobile operating system compatibility.
- Web Scripting
- A web scripting course examines the tools necessary to create websites and other online platforms. These courses often focus on server-side scripting, web design, web document creation, form creation, and aspects of mobile design, including user interface.
Pairing Internships With Your Education
Internships can play a valuable role in both professional and academic development. Typically taking place in approved information technology environments (usually businesses), internships allow students to apply course concepts to professional practice.
Along with increased knowledge and skills, internships can build valuable professional connections that serve students after graduation. Successful internships can open doors to full-time positions or provide networking opportunities, which can make it easier to find jobs in the future.
Selecting Your Bachelor's Degree in Software Engineering Program
Prospective students should consider many factors when choosing the best school for their needs. Some key considerations include:
Small schools typically provide more individualized attention than larger schools, but larger schools may offer more resources and program options.
Tuition ranks among the top concerns for most students. Public schools typically cost less than private schools, but many factors affect tuition. Some schools offer reduced tuition rates for online students.
Some programs offer specialized concentrations, which can help students distinguish themselves in the job market. Potential concentrations include mobile development and web development.
Some students may be drawn to accelerated programs, which require highly intensive study but allow students to enter the workforce quickly. Students working full time may prefer part-time enrollment, which allows for lighter course loads but requires longer completion times.
Online vs. In-Person
Online courses offer increased flexibility, but they also require students to be highly independent and self-directed. In-person courses may be less convenient for working students, but they often feature more structure.
Accreditation indicates that a school meets high academic standards. Students should look for schools with regional accreditation, which expands employment, financial aid, and education opportunities.
Should You Get Your Bachelor's Degree in Software Engineering Online?
Online learning offers more flexibility than traditional campus learning. However, online formats require students to exercise more independence and self-direction. Online courses often allow students to complete classwork at any time of day, but most programs still impose assignment deadlines, and learners must take responsibility for completing their work without the structure of weekly campus sessions.
Ultimately, online learners must decide if they're willing to take on less-structured academic environments in exchange for increased flexibility. Many students, particularly those who work full time or live far from college campuses, find the tradeoff is well worth it.
Accreditation for Software Engineering Schools and Programs
Prospective learners should make sure each school of interest holds proper accreditation. Accreditation indicates that institutions meet high standards for academic and professional quality. Students who attend non-accredited schools may not qualify for federal financial aid or be able to transfer their credits to other accredited colleges.
Schools may receive regional or national accreditation, with regional accreditation generally considered the more prestigious of the two. Prospective software engineering students should look for schools accredited by one of the six regional accrediting organizations.
Programs within a school may also receive accreditation. Computer science and IT programs may hold programmatic accreditation from the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology.
Professional Organizations for Software Engineering
Software engineers and other IT specialists can take advantage of professional organizations to stay current in a constantly changing field. Professional organizations may offer benefits like networking, professional development, and continuing education opportunities. The list below outlines three popular professional organizations for software engineers.
Scholarships for Bachelor's Degree Programs in Software Engineering
Software engineering majors can potentially finance their studies through multiple avenues, including scholarships offered exclusively to technology and engineering students. This section outlines five popular scholarships for software engineering students.
A.T. Anderson Scholarship
Who Can Apply: Full-time undergraduates majoring in STEM fields who identify as American Indian, Alaska Native Villager, Native Hawaiian, Pacific Islander, or part of another indigenous group qualify for this award.
Banatao Family Filipino American Education Fund
Who Can Apply: Incoming freshman technology majors attending California colleges can apply. Applicants need at least 50% Filipino heritage.
Entertainment Software Association (ESA) Foundation Scholarships
Generation Google Scholarship
Who Can Apply: Information technology students who identify as members of historically underrepresented groups can apply.
Society of Women Engineers Scholarships
Who Can Apply: Female students enrolled in ABET-accredited programs can apply. The organization offers a wide selection of scholarships each year.
Frequently Asked Questions About Bachelor's in Software Engineering
Which bachelor's degree is best for software engineers?
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What major is software engineering?
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