5 Best Online Bachelor’s Degree in Software Engineering 2021
| ComputerScience.org Staff
A bachelor’s in software engineering prepares students for well-paying careers in computing and information technology (IT). Graduates qualify for jobs like software developer, computer hardware engineer, and information security analyst. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects a 22% job growth rate for software developers from 2019-2029.
This guide ranks the best software engineering degree programs. We also cover what to expect when earning a software engineering degree online, how to choose the right school, and potential career paths for graduates.
Software engineers use their programming and engineering skills to develop computer software programs, applications, networks, and operating systems. Most software engineering careers require a bachelor’s in software engineering or a closely related field.
Many companies use the terms software engineer and software developer interchangeably, and the BLS does not differentiate between the two. The agency reports 1,469,200 software developer jobs in the U.S. and projects a 22% job growth rate for this occupation from 2019-2029.
Software engineers use their programming and engineering skills to develop computer software programs, applications, networks, and operating systems.
Software engineers commonly work in industries like computer systems design, manufacturing, software publishing, and management. Many software engineers work on teams in offices, but some are self-employed and work at home. Software engineering students and professionals benefit from strong analytical, problem-solving, and communication skills.
Why Get an Online Software Engineering Bachelor’s Degree?
Earning a bachelor’s in software engineering offers many benefits, including in-demand technical skills and knowledge. Students can gain some of these skills by completing a computer science bootcamp, but software engineering jobs often require a bachelor’s degree. The following list outlines several benefits of earning an online software engineering degree.
High Salaries: PayScale reports that graduates with an online software engineering bachelor’s degree earn an average annual salary of $81,930. The BLS reported the median annual salary for computer and IT occupations was $88,240 as of May 2019.
Specialized Jobs: A bachelor’s degree in software engineering prepares graduates for jobs like software developer, software engineer, computer hardware engineer, and information security analyst.
Gain In-Demand Skills: Software engineering degree programs help students develop in-demand skills in areas like computer programming and coding, object-oriented design, logical thinking, and software testing.
The Top Five Online Bachelor’s in Software Engineering Schools of 2021
As technology becomes more prevalent in society, the demand increases for professionals with computer and software skills. This makes now a great time to earn a bachelor’s in software engineering online.
Below, we rank the top online software engineering degrees for 2021. Each program on our list holds either regional or national accreditation. Some also earn subject-specific accreditation. Accredited programs must meet educational standards set by a third-party accrediting agency. This ensures that graduates are prepared to enter the workforce in their field of study. Each program on our ranking holds accreditation from one of the following agencies:
Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE)
Higher Learning Commission (HLC)
New England Commission on Higher Education (NHCHE)
Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC)
Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU)
Read on to learn more about the best online software engineering degree programs of 2021.
Pennsylvania State University (Penn State), home of the Nittany Lions, is located in University Park, Pennsylvania. Founded as a high school in 1855, this university has grown into a major research university attended by over 100,000 students at the undergraduate and graduate level. The school's world campus offers a fully online learning platform for students all over the world.
With programmatic accreditation from ABET, this bachelor's in software engineering best suits students with a passion for programming, coding, mathematics, physics, and chemistry. This online program is offered through Penn State World Campus in partnership with the Behrend engineering school. Students complete this program fully online without any in-person requirements.
Coursework covers a variety of subjects in software engineering, including probability and statistics, computer science, software design, and other modern utilizations of computer networks and security. The program consists of 126 credits, and most students graduate within four years. In their final year, students complete a capstone series, culminating in a collaborative design project.
Applying to Penn State World Campus
To apply, you must complete an undergraduate application, available on the program's website. Students should submit their applications and all accompanying materials, including transcripts and letters of recommendation, before the application deadline. Application windows open in fall, spring, and summer.
Program at a Glance
School Type: Public Accreditation: MSCHE, ABET Tuition: $6,994/semester (59 credits or fewer); $7,549/semester (60 credits or more) Required Credits: 126 credits Delivery Format: 100% online (asynchronous)
With a primary location in Tempe, Arizona, and other satellite campuses in Phoenix, in Scottsdale, and online, this public research university boasts a student population of over 150,000 students. Represented by its mascot, the Sun Devil, Arizona State University (ASU) offers more than 350 degree options to students seeking education in a variety of fields.
Graduates with a bachelor's degree in software engineering pursue careers in software and website development, application development, and database administration. This online software engineering degree includes classes in programming fundamentals, engineering calculus, operating systems and computer management, and mechanics. With a focus on creation and project completion, students at ASU are encouraged to learn by doing. The program culminates in a two-semester capstone project.
The Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering offer this program, which holds programmatic accreditation from ABET. Graduates have found employment as computer programmers, information technology managers, software developers, and software engineers.
Applying to ASU
First-year applicants must demonstrate a minimum 3.0 GPA in all high school competency courses, including math, English, and social science. Learners may apply through the program's website.
Program at a Glance
School Type: Public Accreditation: HLC, ABET Tuition: $6,849/semester (in state); $7,986/semester (out of state) Required Credits: 120 credits Delivery Format: 100% online (asynchronous)
Champlain College in Burlington, Vermont, is a private college offering undergraduate and graduate degrees in more than 80 fields of study. Students complete their education either on campus or online. Founded in 1843, this college remains fairly small, boasting a population of approximately 2,000 students.
This online software engineering degree emphasizes interactive learning by putting concepts into practice and pushing students to implement creative solutions to real-world problems. Students gain technical skills through classes such as webpage development, information systems analysis, C++ programming, and networking fundamentals.
Online students have free access to Champlain's Fast Start Formula Career Course, taught by leading software executive career coach, Jen Morris. This specialized course heightens graduates' career mobility by linking them to potential employers early in their academic career and teaching the skills necessary to enter the workforce.
Graduates with this bachelor's in software engineering from Champlain work in various fields, including finance, computer engineering, computer systems design, and software publishing.
Applying to Champlain
To apply, students create an online profile and complete an application, available on the course website. Prospective students must submit high school transcripts and transcripts from any previously attended institution of higher education. Transfer students may apply up to 90 credits from another school toward this degree.
Originally founded as a school of business in 1898 and transitioning to a college in 1953, Husson became a university in 2008. This private university offers undergraduate and graduate programs to approximately 3,500 students.
This bachelor's degree in software engineering is available entirely online and may be completed at an accelerated rate. Most students graduate in 1-2 years. Learners can specialize their bachelor's in software engineering with a concentration in software development.
Students learn to code and create programs and software. They also learn to identify software issues, analyze data, manage projects, and communicate with clients. Coursework includes systems analysis and design, database design, and interpersonal communications. The curriculum also requires some general education credits, including business ethics and college writing.
Applying to Husson
Husson accepts the Common App, but students may also apply with the school's own online application. Applicants must submit a high school transcript, SAT or ACT test scores, and a letter of recommendation.
Program at a Glance
School Type: Private Accreditation: NHCHE Tuition: $386/credit Required Credits: 121-124 credits Program Length: 1-2 years Delivery Format: 100% online (asynchronous)
Located between Hooksett and Manchester in New Hampshire, Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU) is a private university with a student population of approximately 90,000 undergraduate and graduate learners. As more of its programs move online, SNHU is becoming one of the country's fastest-growing universities.
Students in this software engineering degree program learn to develop software, create secure code, reverse-engineer code, and delve into the up-and-coming field of systems of architecture.
Faculty work in software development and engineering, bringing years of experience and networking opportunities for students and graduates.
Coursework focuses on degree-specific classes and general education. Courses cover software security, full-stack development, programming languages, and server development. Classes are available fully online with no set meeting times or on-campus requirements. Students may participate in special activities and groups hosted by the school, including meetings for Women in Cybersecurity, National Cyber League competitions, and the Association for Computing Machinery.
Applying to SNHU
SNHU accepts applications on a rolling basis throughout the year. Most students learn their admissions status within days of application. Students may apply through SNHU's online portal at no cost. No test scores are mandatory for admission to SNHU.
What To Expect From Bachelor’s in Software Engineering Programs
Graduates with a bachelor’s in software engineering can pursue lucrative careers in software engineering and development. Software engineering programs cover topics like computer programming languages, software design, security, and computer networks. Students learn how to assess usability and apply engineering principles to software development.
Most online software engineering degrees take four years of full-time study to complete and require about 120 credits. Students seeking shorter timelines can look for accelerated options. Common courses include introduction to computer programming languages, methods of software engineering, user experience design, and software development lifecycle.
Software engineering bachelor’s degree programs usually require a high school diploma or equivalent. Applicants may need to submit letters of recommendation, standardized test scores, a resume, and/or an essay. Some schools also require a minimum GPA.
Many bachelor’s in software engineering programs allow applicants to use Common App, a website that lets prospective students apply to many different schools by filling out just one general application. Most programs do not require experience with software engineering, but a software engineering associate degree or certificate may increase students’ chances of acceptance.
Students seeking a bachelor’s in software engineering can choose from various types of degrees, including a bachelor of science (BS), bachelor of business administration (BBA), or bachelor of applied science (BAS). Below, we explain the differences among these degree types.
A BS in software engineering provides 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.
A BBA in software engineering covers business fundamentals with a focus on software engineering. Graduates typically qualify for the same types of jobs as those with a BS in software engineering, as well as entry-level business positions.
A BAS in software engineering may require more applied science courses than the BS. Students may spend more time learning software engineering skills than general computer science theory.
In many cases, software engineering is available as a concentration in bachelor’s in computer science and bachelor’s in business programs.
Comparing Software Engineering to General Computer Science Degrees
There are several differences between a bachelor’s in software engineering and a bachelor’s in computer science. However, both degrees can lead to a software engineering career.
Computer science programs focus more on computing theories, while software engineering programs focus more on practical applications. The following table outlines similarities and differences between a bachelor’s in software engineering and a bachelor’s in computer science.
Bachelor’s in Software Engineering
Bachelor’s in Computer Science
Types of Classes
Introduction to programming, calculus for engineering, methods of software engineering, digital circuits and systems
Introduction to programming, artificial intelligence, computer architecture, calculus
Software developer, computer hardware engineer, software engineer, computer and information systems manager
Computer and information systems manager, computer hardware engineer, computer programmer, computer network architect
High school diploma or GED certificate, ACT/SAT scores
High school diploma or GED certificate, ACT/SAT scores
Building and designing software systems, hands-on approach, software lifecycle, project management
How computers work, math, logic, computer science theory
Most bachelor’s in software engineering programs require core, elective/concentration, and project/capstone courses. Core courses may cover topics like computer programming languages, calculus, software security, and the software development lifecycle. Courses vary by program, but the following list outlines courses commonly found in software engineering bachelor’s programs.
Introduction to Computer Programming Languages
This core class provides a foundation in popular computer programming languages like Java, C++, and Python. Students learn to create secure, professional, and efficient code.
This course discusses typical software security vulnerabilities. Learners explore strategies and techniques for creating secure code using best practices and programming principles. They also learn to find security vulnerabilities and mitigate risks to data and software.
UI/UX Design and Development
Students in this course investigate user experience and user interface design concepts and techniques. The class emphasizes user-centric designs, user testing, and visual prototypes. Learners design and develop user interfaces for cloud-based, mobile, and embedded systems.
Software Reverse Engineering
This course explores the basics of reverse engineering for software systems. Students learn how to make new software products, recreate code for applications, and improve the efficiency of software components.
Software Development Lifecycle
This class covers the different stages of the software development lifecycle, including documentation, characteristics, and purposes. Students learn software development best practices and how to evaluate the effect of documentation, communication, and ethics on the software development lifecycle.
How Much Will a Bachelor’s in Software Engineering Cost?
The price of a bachelor’s in software engineering degree varies by factors like school, enrollment status, and delivery format. In-state students at public schools often pay lower tuition rates than out-of-state public school students. Additionally, private schools typically charge higher tuition rates than public schools.
The National Center for Education Statistics reports that public, four-year institutions charged in-state students an average of $9,212 in tuition and fees for the 2018-19 academic year. That same year, private schools charged $31,875 on average.
Online software engineering students often save on many of the expenses that on-campus students incur, such as housing and commuting costs. Additionally, many online programs allow all online students to pay in-state tuition rates regardless of where they live.
All types of students can take advantage of financial aid opportunities to help offset the cost of their degree, such as loans, scholarships, and grants.
Jobs for Bachelor’s in Software Engineering Graduates
A bachelor’s in software engineering opens the door to lucrative, in-demand careers like software developer, software engineer, computer hardware engineer, and information security analyst. Software developers earn a median annual salary of $107,510, while computer hardware engineers make a median salary of $117,220 per year.
Depending on experience, graduates may also qualify for other computer and IT careers. Earning a master’s degree in software engineering can lead to career advancement and higher salaries. Below, we describe potential careers for graduates with an online software engineering bachelor’s degree.
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.
Required Education: Bachelor’s degree Job Outlook (2019-29):+22% Median Annual Salary:$107,510
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.
Required Education: Bachelor’s degree Job Outlook (2019-29):+2% Median Annual Salary:$117,220
Software engineers apply engineering principles to the software development process. They collaborate with other engineers, systems analysts, and programmers. The typically possess hard skills in programming languages like Java, C#, C++, and Python.
Required Education: Bachelor’s degree Average Annual Salary:$86,980
Information Security Analysts
The BLS projects much faster-than-average job growth for information security analysts from 2019-2029. Information security analysts organize security measures for computer systems and networks. They need strong analytical and problem-solving skills. Most positions require a bachelor’s degree at minimum.
Required Education: Bachelor’s degree Job Outlook (2019-29):+31% Median Annual Salary:$99,730
Our ranking of the best software engineering degree programs is a great place to start your search for the right school, but there are several other factors to consider. Below, we explain additional factors to think about when choosing where to earn your bachelor’s in software engineering degree.
Schools receive accreditation by undergoing a third-party evaluation process that considers academics, faculty qualifications, campus facilities, and student services. Attending an accredited school increases students’ employment, financial aid, and education opportunities. Many of the best bachelor’s in software engineering programs also hold programmatic accreditation from ABET.
The price of a bachelor’s in software engineering degree varies by factors like school, enrollment status, financial aid opportunities, and delivery format. Prospective students should weigh all of these factors before deciding on a school
A university’s career services can help students find jobs and internships by offering resume-writing workshops, mock interviews, and access to job databases.
Many universities publish the average salaries of program graduates, allowing prospective students to estimate their earning potential after graduation.
Why You Should Get Your Software Engineering Degree Online
Earning a software engineering degree online offers flexibility, convenience, and accessibility. Many distance education programs let students log on to the virtual classroom and complete assignments on their own schedule within set deadlines. This format gives students the flexibility to balance their studies with personal and professional obligations.
Online students can also attend top programs around the country without relocating. Additionally, many schools allow all online students to pay in-state tuition rates regardless of where they live.
Software engineering degree programs are especially well-suited to the online learning experience because students need to master the digital environment to succeed in the software engineering field.
Frequently Asked Questions
What bachelor's degree is best for a software engineer?
Software engineers usually earn a bachelor’s degree in software engineering, computer science, or a related field.
Is a software engineering degree worth it?
Yes. A bachelor’s in software engineering prepares students for lucrative careers. For example, software developers earn a median annual salary of $107,510.
What can you do with a bachelor's in software engineering?
Software engineering degree programs prepare students for jobs like software developer, software engineer, computer hardware engineer, and information security analyst.
Is being a software engineer hard?
It can be. Software engineers engage in difficult but rewarding work. These professionals benefit from strong math, logic, computer, and analytical skills.
Bachelor's programs in computer science (CS) cover the theoretical and mathematical underpinnings of computing. Schools offer various degree titles, including bachelor of arts in computer science, bachelor of applied science...