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A master's in software engineering can open doors to compelling careers for creative and detail-oriented technology professionals. Degree-seekers hone their software development skills and prepare for lucrative employment opportunities in the computer systems industry.
As the general public becomes more dependent on software systems for their virtual workplaces, industry professionals benefit from increased salaries and job security. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects jobs for software development professionals to grow by 22% from 2019-2029, significantly faster than most occupations.
Continue reading to learn what to expect from a master's in software engineering program. We also rank the top five online software engineering grad schools and delve into potential jobs for graduates.
Why Get an Online Software Engineering Master's Degree?
Like other engineering fields, software engineering involves applying scientific principles to design, build, and implement systems that solve problems. Software engineering principles permeate the tech industry, remaining relevant as the market for computer applications grows.
As of 2019, computer and information technology professionals earned a median annual salary of $88,240, according to the BLS, far surpassing the $39,810 median annual salary for all occupations.
Software engineering principles permeate the tech industry, remaining relevant as the market for computer applications grows.
Professionals who earn master's degrees in software engineering can pursue fast-paced careers in software development, data analytics, and systems development. Master's degree-holders may also enjoy higher priority for promotions and management positions compared to those with only bachelor's degrees.
See below for a few reasons learners may pursue a master's in software engineering degree:
- Transferable Skill Set: Like coding bootcamp programs, the curriculum and coursework in graduate-level software engineering programs 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 jobs in this field to grow 22% from 2019-2029. 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 future employers. Tech professionals with advanced degrees can often secure high-paying leadership roles in computer and information systems management.
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What To Expect From 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 theory.
Various degrees can help students achieve their tech industry career goals. 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 can lead to 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 certain undergraduate training may need to complete additional prerequisite courses.
Applicants to master's degree in software engineering programs typically need an undergraduate degree in computer science or a related field from a regionally accredited university. Prospective students may need to provide GRE scores, a personal statement, professional resumes, and official transcripts demonstrating a minimum 2.0 GPA.
Online master's in software engineering programs generally require applicants to make a school account and complete an online application. Most programs require applicants to provide test scores and pay an application fee.
Prospective master's in software engineering students need strong skills in statistics, database management, and software development. Internship or work experience in the software industry can make applicants especially competitive in the admissions process.
Prospective software engineers can boost their industry expertise by pursuing one of two graduate-level tracks: an MS in software engineering or an ME in software. Both degrees teach the fundamentals of programming and computer science.
- This academic degree offers a research and theory-based approach to software studies.
- Learners typically complete this degree in two years.
- Enrollees often conduct research and complete a thesis as their culminating project.
- This terminal, professional degree focuses on the practical applications of software development and the construction of software systems.
- Learners may complete this degree in 12 months, although exact program length varies by school.
- Students may work on software development projects or take an exam as their culminating project.
Comparing Software Engineering and General Computer Science Degrees
Two of the most common degrees in the ever-growing computer and tech industry include a master's in software engineering and a master's in computer science. Both graduate-level degrees provide advanced, computer-based training that can lead to high-paying software development careers.
The master's in software engineering offers a more practical approach, while the master's in computer science offers a more theoretical approach. See below for more details about the two programs.
|Master's in Software Engineering||Master's in Computer Science|
|Program Length||1-2 years||Two years|
|Types of Classes||Software architecture, project management, quality assurance, software testing||Cybersecurity, artificial intelligence, machine learning, graphics|
|Focus||The software engineering degree focuses on building and maintaining software through a hands-on approach.||The computer science degree focuses on theories of computer design, mathematics, and logic.|
|Admission requirements||Applicants need an undergraduate degree in computer science or related field. Some programs prefer candidates with programming experience.||Applicants need an undergraduate degree in computer science or related field.|
Popular Software Engineering Courses
Master's in software engineering programs generally include core courses with optional electives and specialized studies. Master's programs may allow students to choose between a thesis or non-thesis track.
Some common software engineering classes include systems architecture, software risk management, web geographic information systems (GIS), and web programming. Read more about these courses below:
This core course evaluates the factors that contribute to strong software architecture. Learners examine the classes, functions, and subroutines of software and how they contribute to a whole project. Instructors may assign case sets and encourage students to explore different arrangements and frameworks in software construction.
Software Risk Management
This core course focuses on the aspects of identifying risk probability within software programs and limiting the chances for risks to occur. In studying software engineering, learners may analyze risk factors related to unstable software, unsafe data, poor time management, and cost overruns.
This elective course allows students to explore the connection between the web and GIS, the system which controls the collection and analysis of spatial and geographic data. Enrollees learn to manage GIS-based projects and to use the latest GIS technology.
This culminating project requires degree-seekers to select a topic, conduct research under faculty supervision, and present a thesis paper. Learners often address problems in the software development industry or investigate a specialized topic of interest. The entire thesis project can take several semesters to complete. Most thesis papers span 40-80 pages.
How Much Will a Master's Degree in Software Engineering Cost?
Master's in software engineering programs generally include 30-36 credits. Graduate tuition for degrees such as a master's in software engineering costs $19,314 per year on average, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. Tuition rates depend on educational factors like school prestige and 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 students to avoid many of these expenses.
Learners can pursue many financing options to help fund their education, including scholarships, grants, loans, and fellowships. See below for financial aid information for software engineering degree-seekers.
Jobs for Master's in Software Engineering Graduates
Earning a master's in software engineering prepares graduates for a variety of employment opportunities in the tech field. Many employers prefer candidates with a master's degree, giving applicants with an advanced degree an advantage in the job market.
Graduates of software engineering programs can work in various fields, including software development, computer and information systems management, network engineering, and computer systems analysis.
Software developers create, maintain, and enhance computer programs. They may incorporate emerging technology to create new applications or improve the functionality of existing systems.
Computer and Information Research Scientists
These professionals design and initiate new approaches to computing languages, tools, and methods. They work to solve computing problems in science, business, and medical industries.
Computer Network Architects
Computer network architects, or network engineers, create data communication networks, including local area networks, wide area networks, and intranets. Network architects rely on advanced computing expertise and advanced planning strategies.
Computer and Information Systems Managers
Computer and information systems managers, or IT managers, direct an organization's use of computer hardware and software. They plan and organize their employer's computer-related activities.
Computer Systems Analysts
Computer systems analysts, or systems architects, analyze and make recommendations to improve an organization's computer systems. They may streamline procedures and design solutions to help an organization operate more effectively.
The Top Software Engineering Master's Degree Online Programs
The following list comprises the top five master's in software engineering programs. All of the schools on our list hold regional accreditation.
Accredited educational institutions meet quality standards for learning established by third-party agencies. Accreditation ensures status, legitimacy, and aptness. Noteworthy accrediting bodies validating our ranked programs include:
- Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC)
- Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE)
- Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission (WSCUC)
- Higher Learning Commission (HLC)
Frequently Asked Questions About Master's in Software Engineering
Is a master's in software engineering worth it?
Yes. Tech professionals who earn a master's in software engineering enjoy fast-paced careers and may also receive promotions and leadership opportunities over professionals with only a bachelor's degree.
How long does it take to get a master's degree in software engineering?
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.
What can I do with a master's degree in software engineering?
Professionals with a master's degree in software engineering can work in a variety of tech careers, including software development, computer and information systems management, and computer systems analysis.
How much does a software engineer with a master's make?
While specific salaries vary, the BLS reported a median annual salary of $88,240 for careers in the computer and information technology industry as of May 2019.
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