Online Software Engineering Certificates
| Ashley Reid
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The technology industry continues to flourish, especially the software sector. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics projects 22% job growth for software developers, quality assurance analysts, and testers between 2019-2029.
An online certificate in software engineering can help learners find work in this growing industry. Certificate programs typically comprise 9-34 credit hours. While a certificate covers less ground than a full degree program, it can increase career options and salary potential.
As of April 2021, CompTIA reports high demand for tech workers across the United States. In June 2021, the top industries hiring for tech positions included professional, scientific, and technical services; finance and insurance; and manufacturing. Earning a software engineering certificate online can help professionals take advantage of this high demand while continuing in their current job.
What to Expect From an Online Certificate in Software Engineering Program
Online certificates in software engineering often mirror their on-campus counterparts. Both learning formats generally include the same courses and require the same admissions process. Many universities accept online software engineering certificate credits towards a master’s degree in software engineering.
Some institutions offer stand-alone certificates, or other short programs called bootcamps. Depending on the school, these programs may take place on campus or exclusively online. Still, no matter the institution, enrollees can expect key differences between online and on-campus formats.
How Is an Online Certificate in Software Engineering Different From an On-Campus Program?
Each school handles online learning differently. Still, one main difference between on-campus and online certificate programs lies in how much guided hands-on experience they provide.
Online programs may best suit self-motivated individuals. While remote learners can program and create software from their computer, they may not work in a lab alongside classmates and instructors. Distance learners may need to take more initiative in seeking out academic support, peer connections, and networking opportunities.
Some programs allow up to five years for completion.
Remote programs also usually allow more scheduling flexibility. While on-campus classes follow a set schedule, some online courses let students work at their own pace. This environment can allow learners to complete an online certificate in software engineering more quickly than an on-campus program. Students who need more time may prefer an online course, as some programs allow up to five years for completion.
Online and on-campus programs may also differ in cost. Some institutions charge lower rates for online programs. Many state schools extend in-state tuition rates to online enrollees regardless of residency. Distance learners can also save on expenses such as transportation and housing.
Students considering a software engineering online certificate should consider how these differences may impact their learning experience. Still, online and on-campus programs typically share the same curriculum, especially programs geared toward master’s degree transfer.
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Delivery Formats for Software Engineering Online Certificates
Just as online learning differs from on-campus studies, available online software engineering certificate programs vary. The primary online course delivery formats include 100% online models and hybrid models.
Classes offered 100% online require no on-campus participation. All resources, class discussions, and communication occur in a digital format. Depending on the program, students may take classes synchronously or asynchronously. Synchronous classes require live participation at set times. Asynchronous classes allow students to access course materials on their own schedule as long as they meet assignment deadlines.
To facilitate a completely digital learning environment, schools implement learning management systems. These platforms allow students to access grades, homework, lectures, and reading materials. Schools may design their own digital platforms or use applications such as Blackboard, Moodle, or Canvas.
Even on-campus programs use digital platforms to provide access to syllabi, homework assignments, and grades. Taking classes 100% online means that the learning platform hosts all the course's academic information. Digital learning platforms often include forums to facilitate peer-to-peer and instructor communication.
Hybrid classes combine the flexibility of online courses with the hands-on experience of an on-campus environment. Many hybrid courses require minimal on-campus participation, usually only for labs or group projects. Most lectures and classes still occur online.
Some software engineering certificate candidates may prefer a hybrid delivery format to experience a hands-on learning environment. When on campus, students can ask questions, work with classmates, and even network for future jobs. However, learners who excel in independent study, work long hours, or live far away may find a fully online format more advantageous.
Accreditation and State Authorization for Online Certificates
When choosing an institution — even for a short certificate program — ensure it holds appropriate accreditation. Both regional and national accrediting bodies hold institutions to high academic standards. These organizations report to the Council for Higher Education Accreditation.
Each of the United States' seven regional accrediting bodies governs a specific geographical region. Nonprofit, academically-oriented schools usually earn regional accreditation. Students wishing to transfer online certificate credits towards a master’s degree should note that regionally accredited institutions usually only accept transfer credits from other regionally accredited schools.
National accreditation emphasizes career preparedness. Many vocational programs hold national accreditation. While regional accreditation carries more prestige, students preparing for specific jobs may also consider nationally accredited schools.
For institutions that primarily offer courses online, check for accreditation from the Distance Education Accrediting Commission. Likewise, various third-party agencies provide accreditation for particular programs. For software engineering programs, look for approval from the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology.
To ensure online education meets the same standards as on-campus programs, many states require online schools to hold authorization. Each state maintains its own regulations. For example, Texas requires governing board approval for any electronically delivered program, including online certificates.
Established in 2013, the State Authorization Reciprocity Agreements (SARA) consolidate state authorization regulations to make online education more accessible across state lines. SARA covers any postsecondary distance education, including certificates.
Currently, 49 U.S. states, plus the District of Columbia and U.S. territories, hold SARA membership. Higher education institutions that participate in SARA can accept out-of-state students without further authorization.
How Much Do Online Certificates in Software Engineering Cost?
Total tuition costs vary greatly for online software engineering certificates, ranging from under $3,000 to over $15,000. Factors affecting price difference include school prestige and number of required credits. While some schools offer a lower price per credit, certificate programs may require over 30 credits, causing the total tuition to rise. Additionally, per-credit cost may increase for advanced classes, or classes exceeding the semester's credit cap.
Many institutions charge the same tuition rate for both online and on-campus certificate programs. Some schools lower the cost for online learners. Still, online degree-seekers may experience additional costs to cover university fees and personal computer equipment.
Many institutions charge the same tuition rate for both online and on-campus certificate programs.
Although a certificate does not form part of a degree program, students can often apply for financial aid. Explore options such as scholarships, grants, and loans by following the link below.
Why Get Your Certificate in Software Engineering Online?
Many institutions offer online courses in various subjects. However, not all programs adapt smoothly to an online learning environment. Fortunately, technology programs, such as software engineering certificates, align well to online delivery.
Technology professionals research, create, and work on a computer. As such, earning a software engineering certificate online mirrors daily professional tasks. Current tech professionals may feel comfortable working and studying online. The online format also gives working individuals the flexibility to study on their own schedule.
Still, some students may prefer the collaboration and personal attention that on-campus classes provide. Learners interested in a software engineering certificate should consider how much help they will need throughout the course and whether they can maintain a self-managed study schedule. They should also think about how to network with other industry professionals from a distance.
Online education often caters to current professionals seeking career advancement. As such, instructors expect high levels of dedication and organization. Individuals may wish to wait to pursue a certificate until after gaining professional experience.
Pros and Cons
- Develop personal study schedule
- Continue working at current job
- Potentially lower cost
- Do homework and projects anywhere
- Online classes generally reflect on-campus curricula
- Limited collaboration experience
- No in-person assistance from instructors
- Potentially limited networking opportunities
Selecting Your Online Software Engineering Program
Choosing an online certificate program requires significant consideration. The ideal program delivers strong career preparation, fits your budget, and provides excellent education. Prospective students should weigh the following factors before selecting an online certificate program.
- Commitment to Online Learning: Seek out a school that devotes enough time and resources to its online programs. Since digital courses require extensive dedication from the student, ensure that the institution puts as much effort into the class as well.
- Potential Bridge Programs: If you would like to continue your education beyond the certificate program, consider courses that double as credits towards a master’s degree.
- Program Curriculum: Software engineering encompasses numerous jobs and responsibilities, such as developing application software and establishing network security systems. Since certificate programs include limited courses, make sure that your chosen program offers classes that align with your desired career path.
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Frequently Asked Questions
Yes, many universities and technical institutes offer certificates online for software engineering. These programs generally last six months to one year.
Prices vary from around $3,000 to over $15,000, depending on the school’s prestige, tuition, and required credits. Institutions may also charge different rates for out-of-state students or those studying full time.
An easy way to spot legitimate certificate programs is to search for schools with accreditation from regional or national accrediting bodies. Many software engineering programs also hold programmatic accreditation from ABET.
Many institutions offer online software engineering certificates. Some such schools include Boston University, Ensign College, St. Mary’s University, and Purdue University.
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