5 Best Online Master's in Software Engineering 2023

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Updated January 27, 2023

Explore some of the ways an online master's in software engineering can elevate your career and discover information about the best programs in the software engineering field.

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Software engineers, aided by automation and machine learning, have become more efficient and productive workers. They spend less time on basic code and more time on complex problem-solving and innovation. This shift has made graduate-level education, such as a master's in software engineering, increasingly important.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), the number of master's in computer and information science degrees conferred increased by 187% between the 2009-10 and 2019-20 school years. The expansion of online programs helped propel this growth, making it easier for working professionals to keep their jobs and gain experience while advancing their education.

Discover more details about online programs throughout this page, along with a ranking of the best online master's in software engineering. Explore the details and benefits of online learning to find your ideal educational path.

Top Online Master's in Software Engineering

Learn about the top five online master's in software engineering programs of 2023. The link below describes our process for ranking schools.

#1 5 Best Online Master’s in Software Engineering 2023

California State University-Fullerton

  • Fullerton, CA
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

California State University, Fullerton (Cal State Fullerton) currently enrolls more than 39,000 undergraduate and graduate students. 

Online Master of Science in Software Engineering

Cal State Fullerton's College of Engineering and Computer Science offers an asynchronous online master of science in software engineering degree with no in-person requirements. The 30-credit, 22-month program includes courses like software verification and validation, advanced software process, and modern software management. 

The program's flexible schedule suits working professionals, with coursework exploring software architectural design, software engineering ethics, and software project management. Students without web or mobile application development experience can complete a free summer coding bootcamp through the school. The program requires a six-credit culminating experience that includes a practicum and a final project.

Applying to Cal State Fullerton

Each applicant must possess a bachelor's degree with a minimum 2.5 GPA in their last 60 semester credits from an accredited university. The program requires completion of an introductory software engineering prerequisite course or equivalent work experience.

Program at a Glance

  • School Type: Public
  • Accreditation: Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission (WSCUC)
  • Tuition: About $14,000/degree (in state), about $26,000/degree (out of state)
  • Required Credits: 30
  • Program Length: 22 months
  • Delivery Format: 100% online (asynchronous)
Average Tuition
In-state
$5,742
Out-of-state
$17,622
Retention Rate
89%
Admission Rate
68%
Students Enrolled
42,051
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
100% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission

#2 5 Best Online Master’s in Software Engineering 2023

Carnegie Mellon University

  • Pittsburgh, PA
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Founded in 1900, Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, welcomes students from over 100 countries. The school boasts 65 National Academy of Engineering members, 13 Turing Awards, and 20 Nobel laureates.

Master of Software Engineering

CMU's Software and Societal Systems Department features an online master of software engineering program that takes 24 months, or six semesters, to complete part time. The program includes asynchronous lectures and synchronous meetings with professors. Students can meet in person with software engineering professionals from top companies through the school's industry field trip program.

The curriculum requires coursework like software management theory, requirements for embedded systems, and quality assurance. Electives explore machine learning in practice, natural language processing, and applied deep learning. Students spend their last semester on thesis projects in six key practice areas, like architecture and design, software construction, or quality management. 

Applying to CMU

Admission requirements include a bachelor's degree in a computer science or engineering-related field that includes classes in statistics or discrete mathematics, algorithms, and data structures. The program requires at least two years of software development experience and programming skills. GRE scores are optional.

Program at a Glance

  • School Type: Private
  • Accreditation: Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE)
  • Tuition: $515/unit
  • Required Credits: 108 units
  • Program Length: 24 months (part time)
  • Delivery Format: 100% online (synchronous and asynchronous)
Average Tuition
In-state
$57,560
Out-of-state
$57,560
Retention Rate
96%
Admission Rate
17%
Students Enrolled
13,519
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
3% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Middle States Commission on Higher Education

#3 5 Best Online Master’s in Software Engineering 2023

Stevens Institute of Technology

  • Hoboken, NJ
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Founded in 1870, the Hoboken, New Jersey-based Stevens Institute of Technology offers dozens of tech-focused degrees.

Master of Science in Software Engineering

The master of science in software engineering degree from the Stevens School of Systems and Enterprises provides practical, team-based experience in software creation. The program exceeds the software engineering curriculum standards set by the Association for Computing Machinery and the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers.

The 30-credit degree includes seven core classes and three electives. Learners with advanced software engineering experience may substitute additional electives for some core requirements. Classes explore cost estimation and measurement, software architecture, and software testing. The program requires a software engineering studio capstone.

Applying to Stevens

Application requirements include a $60 fee, two letters of recommendation, official college transcripts, and GRE scores.

Program at a Glance

  • School Type: Private
  • Accreditation: Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE)
  • Tuition: $19,704/semester
  • Required Credits: 30
  • Delivery Format: 100% online
Average Tuition
In-state
$53,828
Out-of-state
$53,828
Retention Rate
93%
Admission Rate
53%
Students Enrolled
7,257
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
34% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Middle States Commission on Higher Education

#4 5 Best Online Master’s in Software Engineering 2023

East Carolina University

  • Greenville, NC
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Located in Greenville, North Carolina, East Carolina University (ECU) is a public research institution that serves more than 28,000 students from every county in the state. 

Master of Science in Software Engineering

The online master of science in software engineering degree from ECU's College of Engineering and Technology blends traditional computer science and software engineering. Students can learn to design, test, develop, and maintain software systems through a combination of theory and practice. As the only program of its kind in North Carolina, it took the school 25 years to develop it. 

The curriculum covers object-oriented design, programming languages, and tools for software project management. The 30-credit degree requires three core classes and 21 elective credits. The program offers coursework-only, project, and thesis options. The coursework-only option requires an e-portfolio and comprehensive exam.

Applying to ECU

Each applicant needs a bachelor's degree in computer science, software engineering, or a related field. Admission criteria includes MAT or GRE scores, a minimum 3.0 GPA, and letters of reference. The program admits students from other disciplines on a case-by-case basis. 

Program at a Glance

  • School Type: Public
  • Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC)
  • Tuition: $290/credit (in state); $1,020/credit (out of state)
  • Required Credits: 30
  • Delivery Format: 100% online
Average Tuition
In-state
$4,452
Out-of-state
$20,729
Retention Rate
83%
Admission Rate
88%
Students Enrolled
28,798
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
93% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges

#5 5 Best Online Master’s in Software Engineering 2023

Texas Tech University

  • Lubbock, TX
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Texas Tech University (Texas Tech), a public research institution, was founded in 1923 and now enrolls more than 40,000 students. The school boasts 72 National Merit finalists and 41 Goldwater scholars.

Master of Science in Software Engineering

Texas Tech's Edward E. Whitacre Jr. College of Engineering offers an online MS in software engineering degree that emphasizes advanced concepts like quality assurance methodologies and software design. The program offers thesis and coursework-only options.

Students without undergraduate backgrounds in computer science may need to complete undergraduate leveling courses like data structures, operating systems, or algorithm analysis.

The curriculum requires three core courses in software project management, software modeling and architecture, and software verification and validation. Enrollees choose from electives like fault-tolerant computer systems and distributed systems. The college boasts numerous research centers and research groups studying everything from wind power to nanotechnologies.

Applying to Texas Tech

Each applicant must possess a bachelor's degree, preferably in a computer science or engineering discipline. The program requires proficiency in statistics and probability or at least one high-level programming language.

Program at a Glance

  • School Type: Public
  • Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC)
  • Tuition: Contact school directly
  • Required Credits: Varies
  • Delivery Format: 100% online
Average Tuition
In-state
$8,683
Out-of-state
$20,953
Retention Rate
87%
Admission Rate
70%
Students Enrolled
40,322
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
54% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges

What to Expect From Online Master's in Software Engineering Programs

Master's degrees in software engineering provide a comprehensive focus on computer-based engineering, programming, and software design. Graduate students build on their foundational knowledge to study advanced computer engineering concepts.

Master of science (MS) degrees in software engineering take a theoretical approach to software design, while master of engineering (ME) degrees focus on a practical application of software creation. Both degrees allow graduates to pursue jobs in software engineering.

Course requirements vary by school, but software engineering master's programs typically require 30-36 credits and take two years to complete. Applicants without relevant undergraduate credits may need to complete additional prerequisite courses.

How Is an Online Master's in Software Engineering Different From an On-Campus Program?

On-campus and online master's in software engineering programs typically have the same material and outcomes, but the student experience can differ substantially. For example, while synchronous online classes simulate on-campus lectures and real-time student engagement, asynchronous distance learning applies independent learning environments.

Most internships have in-person requirements, though online learners can usually choose locations near them. The table below showcases the differences in other major categories.

Online vs. On-Campus Master's in Software Engineering Degrees
Online Program On-Campus Program

Costs

Average annual tuition cost of $19,749 for in-state students — some schools offer in-state rates for out-of-state students

Average annual tuition cost of $19,749 for in-state students, plus travel or room and board

Course Load

Often one or two classes for 7-15 weeks

Full-time or part-time schedules available — usually 1-5 classes per semester

Scheduling

Asynchronous classes anytime or scheduled synchronous classes during the day, afternoon, evening, or weekends

Classes run during the day, afternoon, evening, or weekends

Program Length

Typically two years, though heavy course loads and transfer credits can decrease study times

Typically two years, but accelerated programs and transfer credits can decrease study times

Delivery Format

Asynchronous delivery with anytime access to learning materials or synchronous delivery for a more interactive experience

In-class sessions offering direct interaction with peers and instructors

Sources: NCES

Prospective students should evaluate their needs and priorities. They can then compare online and on-campus offerings to identify the method that best aligns with their learning style.

How Is an Online Master's in Software Engineering Different From a Bootcamp?

Bootcamps provide an alternative study option to software engineering degrees. These condensed programs typically feature intensive career-focused training, portfolio-building exercises, and career coaching. While some bootcamps offer advanced courses, they do not cover the same depth of content as online master's degrees in software engineering.

Moreover, bootcamp students may not have access to the same type of facilities, alumni groups, or extracurricular opportunities as graduate students. Though some organizations hold bootcamps in high regard, these programs may not have the same universal appeal to employers.

Delivery Formats for Online Software Engineering Master's Degrees

Online programs offer several delivery formats to accommodate various student schedules and learning styles. Online software engineering master's degrees can run entirely online or in a hybrid format with some on-campus requirements. With limited travel needed, fully online programs offer greater accessibility to distance students.

Online programs may run asynchronously or synchronously. Students who need the flexibility to study on their own schedule likely need asynchronous delivery, while learners seeking real-time interactions with peers and instructors may prefer synchronous classes.

Accreditation for Online Software Engineering Degrees

Always ensure that an online software engineering master's degree holds accreditation from an organization approved by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA). Among other things, accreditation demonstrates high quality to students and provides access to federal financial aid.

Though not mandatory, some online master's in software engineering also have programmatic accreditation. Accreditation from an organization like ABET can increase the program's prestige and appeal.

How Much Will an Online Master's in Software Engineering Cost?

Master's in software engineering programs generally include 30-36 credits. On average, graduate tuition costs $19,314 per year on average, according to NCES. Tuition rates depend on factors like reputation, private or public status, online or on-campus instruction, and enrollees' home states.

Degree-seekers should also factor in other costs, such as campus fees related to parking, technology, and health services. Fortunately, pursuing software engineering master's degrees online allows learners to avoid many of these expenses.

Prospective enrollees can pursue several financing options to help fund their education, including scholarships, grants, loans, and fellowships. See below for financial aid information for software engineering degree-seekers.

Why Get Your Master's in Software Engineering Degree Online?

Like other engineering fields, software engineering involves applying scientific principles to design, build, and implement interconnected problem-solving systems. Software engineering principles can apply across other tech sectors and roles, as well.

As of 2021, computer and information technology professionals earned a median annual salary of $97,430, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), far surpassing the $45,760 median annual salary for all occupations.

Professionals who earn master's degrees in software engineering can pursue careers in software development, data analytics, and systems development. Master's degree-holders may also enjoy higher priority for promotions and management positions.

The following list explores reasons learners may pursue master's in software engineering degrees:

  • Transferable Skill Set: Like coding bootcamp programs, the curriculum and coursework in graduate-level software engineering programs can prepare enrollees for many tech-focused career paths. Degree-holders can work in software development and nearly any computer science field.
  • High Demand: The BLS projects employment in this field to grow by 25% from 2021-2031. This projected growth, coupled with a high median annual salary, contributes to a high-demand, high-reward career path.
  • Opportunities for Advancement: Earning a graduate-level software engineering degree helps candidates communicate their ambition and professionalism to employers. Tech professionals with advanced degrees can often secure high-paying leadership roles in computer and information systems management.

Explore Computer Science Careers

Selecting Your Online Software Engineering Program

Prospective students should consider some or all of the following items when researching online master's in software engineering programs:

  • Institutional and programmatic accreditation
  • Online learning support, technologies, and resources
  • Delivery method and residency requirements
  • Program curriculum and specialization opportunities
  • School facilities and accessibility for online learners
  • Program cost and financial aid
  • In-state or out-of-state tuition rates
  • School location and travel requirements
  • Admission requirements and competitiveness
  • Graduation requirements, including thesis and capstone components
  • Department faculty and student/teacher ratio
  • Extracurriculars and networking opportunities
  • Industry partnerships and connections available
  • School and program prestige and reputation

Explore Related Programs

Software Engineering Certificates

Software Engineering Certificates

Associate Degrees in Software Engineering

Associate Degrees in Software Engineering

Bachelor's Degrees in Software Engineering

Bachelor's Degrees in Software Engineering

Online Bachelor's Degrees in Software Engineering

Online Bachelor's Degrees in Software Engineering

Master's Degrees in Software Engineering

Master's Degrees in Software Engineering

Doctorate in Software Engineering

Doctorate in Software Engineering

FAQ About Online Master's in Software Engineering

  • How long does it take to get a master's degree in software engineering online?

    Online master's in software engineering programs generally comprise 30-36 credits and take two years to complete. However, program length varies depending on learners' enrollment status.

  • Is software engineering hard?

    Software engineering includes several challenging fields, including advanced mathematics, coding, and complex computer architecture. Students may find the large amount of research and practical lab work in a master's program difficult.

  • How much is an online master's degree in software engineering?

    The cost of an online master's degree in software engineering varies by school and program. According to the NCES, the average annual tuition was $12,394 in public schools and $26,621 in private schools in 2020-21.

  • Is an online master's in software engineering worth it?

    It can be. A tech professional with a master's degree in software engineering can pursue lucrative careers and may receive promotions and leadership opportunities over bachelor's-level professionals.

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