Guide to a Bachelor's Degree in Software Engineering


Updated September 27, 2023

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The evolving technology industry needs software engineers to design, test, and improve apps, networks, and more. Learn what to expect from a software engineering degree, which can qualify you for these jobs in this field. is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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A bachelor's degree in software engineering explores the modern programming concepts necessary for professionals who design, test, and improve software and applications. These programs include intensive math and computer science classes that develop helpful skills like project management and coding security.

As technology grows, the need for software engineers is also likely to increase. Software engineers can also work in industries beyond software development, including media streaming, organizational management, and computer manufacturing.

Explore this page to learn more about a software engineering degree, including common courses, typical costs, and career and salary expectations.

Why Get a Bachelor's Degree in Software Engineering?

Software engineering grew alongside the evolving science of computers.

In the earlier years of computing, technology complexified quickly, so programmers needed more high-tech coding solutions to keep pace with computer users' needs. This demand led to software engineering roles. These professionals created operating systems that could host more intricate coding and software.

The software engineering industry has continued expanding since computing's infancy. Today, software engineers work for computer manufacturers and software designers or publishers. They can also work in niche subfields like cybersecurity, mobile applications, or user experience design.

Software engineers typically have excellent research, analytical, and problem-solving skills. They also possess technical skills in coding, maintaining proficiency in multiple programming languages. They must fluidly navigate the dynamic software testing and building processes. People who excel in this field tend to collaborate and communicate well with others.

A degree in software engineering can help develop many of these skills. These programs typically include hands-on and collaborative projects that incorporate research, programming, and quality assurance.

Though bachelor's programs in software engineering feature content similar to coding bootcamps, these degrees take longer to complete due to their more in-depth coverage of software engineering topics.

Benefits of a software engineering degree can include:

  • Job Flexibility:Depending on their organizations' needs, software engineers may work in various environments, including in office settings or remote locations. Additionally, flexible work schedules are common in this field, with companies offering part-time, full-time, and contract work.
  • Continued Learning Opportunities:Software engineers must follow the learning curve of the technology industry. People who enjoy gaining new skills can find plentiful educational and professional development opportunities in this field.
  • Entrepreneurship Potential:Software engineers can branch into entrepreneurial roles as freelancers or business owners. Professionals with industry experience can contract with multiple clients or start an agency managing other software engineers and projects.

Popular Online Programs

Learn about start dates, transferring credits, availability of financial aid, and more by contacting the universities below.

What To Expect From Bachelor's in Software Engineering Programs

Software engineering bachelor's degrees are typically housed within computer science departments. Usually consisting of 120-130 credits, these programs' curricula prepare students to work with various computer programs and applications as they learn to code, develop, and test software.

In addition to programming skills, enrollees in software engineering degrees may explore topics like cybersecurity, network administration, and data analysis. Common courses include project management, operating systems, and mobile computing. Often, learners must complete a capstone project where they apply learned concepts to realistic scenarios.

Although the cost of a software engineering degree varies by school, tuition is typically $200-$700 per credit.

Admission Requirements

Online software engineering bachelor's degree programs usually require a high school diploma or equivalent. Applicants typically submit materials like letters of recommendation, standardized test scores, a resume, and a personal essay. Some schools also require a minimum GPA.

Many online bachelor's in software engineering programs allow applicants to use Common App, where prospective students can apply to multiple schools by filling out one general application. Most programs do not require work experience for admission to a software engineering program, though applicants with a software engineering associate degree or certificate may be eligible for transfer credits, which can shorten program completion time.

Degree Options

Students seeking a bachelor's in software engineering can choose from various degree types, including a bachelor of science (BS), bachelor of business administration (BBA), or bachelor of applied science (BAS). Below, we explain the differences between these options.

BS in Software Engineering

A BS in software engineering provides students a general computer science foundation with a focus on software engineering principles and skills. Potential careers for graduates include software engineer, software developer, and computer hardware engineer.

BBA in Software Engineering

A BBA in software engineering combines business fundamentals with software engineering topics. Graduates typically qualify for the same types of jobs as those with a BS in software engineering, along with entry-level business positions.

BAS in Software Engineering

A BAS in software engineering may require more applied science courses than the BS. These programs' curricula often focus more on software engineering skills than on general computer science theory.

In addition to these options, some schools may offer software engineering as a concentration within their bachelor's in computer science or bachelor's in business programs.

Popular Bachelor's in Software Engineering Classes

Although the exact curriculum of a software engineering degree varies by program, many schools cover similar concepts. These programs blend general education with STEM and software engineering courses, including classes like:

  • Software Verification and Testing: This course teaches learners to validate, verify, and test software before its release to the public. The class also covers testing methods used to improve software after its release.
  • Database Management Systems: Students in this course explore different methods for storing and managing data in computer and internet applications. This class involves heavy use of SQL databases.
  • Project Management: Successful software engineering projects rely on well-orchestrated project management. This course introduces standard processes used in these projects to reduce bottlenecks and keep tasks on schedule.
  • Capstone Project: Most programs include a group or individual capstone project that incorporates the theory and techniques enrollees learn throughout the program. Students typically research potential solutions to a problem and work with a mentor or peers to bring their ideas to fruition.

How Much Will a Bachelor's in Software Engineering Cost?

Tuition for a bachelor's degree in software engineering generally costs $200-$700 per credit. However, tuition costs may run higher at private institutions or public schools that charge out-of-state tuition.

Learners should also prepare to pay additional fees and costs, like application and book fees. Some schools also charge technology fees for software engineering programs. These fees are typically charged per credit or per semester to cover the costs of computer labs, devices, and internet access.

Several financial aid options can help learners cover the cost of some or all of their tuition, including scholarships, grants, and student loans. Explore potential financial aid options through the links below.

Jobs for Bachelor's in Software Engineering Graduates

A bachelor's in software engineering can qualify graduates for in-demand careers such as software developer, software engineer, computer hardware engineer, and information security analyst.

These jobs typically pay higher-than-average salaries: For example, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), software developers earned a median salary of $109,020 in 2021, while computer hardware engineers made a median salary of $128,170.

With additional experience or education, professionals can also qualify for advanced roles. For instance, a master's in software engineering can help workers land managerial jobs. Below, we explore potential careers for graduates of online software engineering bachelor's programs.

Software Developers

Software developers make computer applications and systems. Many software developers work in computer systems design, manufacturing, software publishing, and management. Some of these professionals work as employees for companies, while others are self-employed or contractors.

  • 2021 Median Annual Salary: $109,020
  • Job Outlook (2021-31): +25%

Computer Hardware Engineers

Computer hardware engineers develop computer systems and their components. Typical job tasks include testing computer hardware, updating computer equipment, coordinating the manufacturing process, and modifying designs. Computer hardware engineers typically need at least a bachelor's degree.

  • 2021 Median Annual Salary: $128,170
  • Job Outlook (2021-31): +5%

Software Engineers

Software engineers apply engineering principles to the software development process. They collaborate with other engineers, systems analysts, and programmers. They typically use programming languages like Java, C#, C++, and Python.

  • 2021 Median Annual Salary: $109,020
  • Job Outlook (2021-31): +25%

Information Security Analysts

The BLS projects much-faster-than-average job growth for information security analysts from 2021 to 2031. Information security analysts organize security measures for computer systems and networks. They need strong analytical and problem-solving skills. Most of these positions require at least a bachelor's degree.

  • 2021 Median Annual Salary: $102,600
  • Job Outlook (2021-31): +35%

Computer Programmers

Computer programmers write codes that bring computer software and applications to life. Programmers also test and upgrade these codes. They are well-versed in programming languages like Java and Python. Although these jobs are projected to decline from 2021 to 2031 due to automation, programmers are still required for advanced coding tasks.

  • 2021 Median Annual Salary: $93,000
  • Job Outlook (2021-31): -10%

Popular Online Programs

Learn about start dates, transferring credits, availability of financial aid, and more by contacting the universities below.

Selecting a Software Engineering Bachelor's Program

With dozens of high-quality software engineering programs available, choosing the right one can be challenging. In addition to tuition costs and curriculum, consider the following factors:

  • School location
  • School and program reputation
  • Course scheduling and delivery
  • Class sizes and student-to-teacher ratios
  • Available program concentrations
  • Graduate outcomes
  • Future educational opportunities within the school
  • Career support resources like mentorships, internships, and job fairs

Applicants should research prospective schools' accreditation. Institutional accrediting bodies endorse schools who meet strict standards for academics, faculty, and student outcomes. The Council for Higher Education Accreditation approves and oversees these accrediting bodies, which include groups like the Higher Learning Commission and the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

To receive federal financial aid or be eligible to transfer credits between schools, students must usually attend an accredited school.

Software engineering programs themselves can also hold accreditation, usually from organizations like ABET. Programmatic accreditation, while optional, signals that a program or department offers courses that prepare learners for careers in their field.

Should You Study Software Engineering Online?

Earning a software engineering degree online can offer enrollees flexibility, convenience, and accessibility. Many distance education programs include asynchronous classes where students complete assignments on more flexible schedules. This allows them to balance their studies with other obligations.

Online students can attend top programs around the country without relocating. Some public schools allow online students to pay in-state tuition rates regardless of where they live. Other institutions may offer lower tuition rates for online learners specifically.

Software engineering degree programs are often well-suited to the online learning experience because students need to master digital environments to succeed in the software engineering field.

Explore more software engineering programs

Software Engineering Certificate Programs

Software Engineering Certificate Programs

Associate Degrees in Software Engineering

Associate Degrees in Software Engineering

Master's in Software Engineering Programs

Master's in Software Engineering Programs

Doctoral Degrees in Software Engineering

Doctoral Degrees in Software Engineering

Popular Online Programs

Learn about start dates, transferring credits, availability of financial aid, and more by contacting the universities below.

FAQs About Earning a Software Engineering Degree

What can you do with a bachelor's degree in software engineering?

A bachelor's degree in software engineering can qualify you for an array of jobs. In addition to becoming a software engineer, graduates can pursue opportunities in cybersecurity, multimedia programming, and data analytics.

Is a BS in software engineering worth it?

Earning a BS in software engineering degree can offer a positive return on investment because it helps prepare you for in-demand information technology careers with higher-than-average salaries. According to the BLS, software engineers and related roles are projected to grow 25% from 2021 to 2031. The median salary for these workers was $109,020 as of 2021.

Are software engineering programs hard to get into?

Undergraduate software engineering programs sometimes have more challenging admission requirements than other degrees. Applicants may need to demonstrate their knowledge of STEM concepts on their high school transcripts or through prerequisite courses. Some programs may require a minimum GPA or minimum SAT or ACT scores to prove academic proficiency.

Do software engineering jobs pay better with a degree?

While not all software engineering jobs require a bachelor's degree, completing this credential can increase professionals' earning potential: According to May 2023 Payscale data, the average salary for all junior software engineers — regardless of educational attainment — is $65,800, while workers with a bachelor's degree in the field earn an average of $86,000.

Last reviewed June 8, 2023.

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