Online Doctorate in Software Engineering


Updated December 22, 2022

If your goal is to research and teach software engineering, consider a doctoral program. Find out what a Ph.D. in software engineering entails and find ways to choose the best program. 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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The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects that computer and information technology occupations will grow by 11% from 2019-29. A software engineering online Ph.D. allows graduates to pursue lucrative careers in large-scale research. In this program, students push the boundaries of current knowledge to apply engineering principles to computer software development.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects that computer and information technology occupations will grow by 11% from 2019-29.

Experienced software engineers can pursue doctorates to perform original research or prepare for teaching positions at colleges or universities. Earning a software engineering degree online allows students to continue working while going to school.

On this page, degree-seekers can find out what to expect from an online Ph.D. in software engineering, why this degree lends itself to online learning, and how to select the right doctoral program.

What to Expect From an Online Ph.D. in Software Engineering Program

Whether offered online or in person, software engineering doctorates require students to complete similar coursework, research, and writing experiences.

Online and on-campus doctoral students complete courses, take comprehensive exams, perform literature reviews, write dissertations, and defend their work to qualified experts. Nevertheless, online students can expect their experience to differ from the on-campus approach in several key ways.

How Is an Online Software Engineering Doctorate Different From an On-Campus Degree?

Distance learning has made some aspects of traditional education, like campus location, unimportant. However, online learning allows students greater convenience and more flexibility when earning their degrees.

Unlike other disciplines, software engineering translates well to an online delivery model. Consider the following factors when deciding between an on-campus and an online Ph.D. in software engineering:

Online On Campus
Online learners may experience fewer scheduling conflicts, more manageable course loads, and a predictable path to graduation. On-campus students can interact with their peers in person, use laboratory equipment, and spend time researching under the guidance of their professors.
In general, online programs may offer greater student diversity than in traditional classrooms. In-person degree-seekers can interact with industry representatives and leaders who attend career fairs or speak at on-campus lectures.
Geography creates no barrier to expertise. Online doctorate programs can hire software engineering professors from around the world. On-campus programs often provide tuition remission and cost-of-living subsidies to doctoral students. These benefits rarely extend to online learners.

Students who value flexibility and a chance to remain in the workplace may benefit from an online doctorate in software engineering. Those who value in-person experiences, however, may experience more benefits from an on-campus program.

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Delivery Formats for Online Software Engineering Degrees

Students can earn software engineering online Ph.D. degrees through several delivery formats. Some schools feature 100% online programs, while others use hybrid models. Programs may deliver coursework through asynchronous or synchronous formats or a blend of these methods. Institutions also use various learning management platforms.

Hybrid programs combine the benefits of online learning with face-to-face experiences. Some hybrid degrees require students to take classes on campus or at an approved site during the summer or a J-term.

Other schools may expect enrollees to visit campus regularly. Degree-seekers who can take the time away from home and work may enjoy the chance to collaborate with other students on software development projects on campus.

Asynchronous delivery allows students to complete coursework whenever and wherever, as long as the learner meets course deadlines. In synchronous classes, enrollees meet online at specific times. Some courses combine both methods. Students who need more flexibility might benefit from asynchronous programs, while learners who seek more interaction with peers may prefer a synchronous approach.

Finally, each school delivers coursework through software management tools. The most popular course delivery programs include Blackboard, Schoology, Whitespace, and Canvas.

Accreditation and State Authorization for Online Degrees

Graduate students should attend online schools with regional accreditation and state authorization. These two designations may sound the same, but they have different sources. Private agencies offer accreditation, which evaluates organizational and academic credibility. State governments authorize institutions to provide educational services under legal guidelines.

Accreditation comes in three different forms: regional, national, and programmatic. Regional accreditation, the most common form, is the most prestigious. National accreditors approve technical colleges, Bible colleges, and most vocational institutions. Programmatic accrediting bodies review and accredit specific departments or programs within larger institutions.

Legitimate accrediting agencies hold membership in the U.S. Department of Education, the Council on Higher Education Accreditation, or both. Regional agencies accredit schools meeting high academic standards. Graduate students who plan to teach in colleges or universities must attend regionally accredited schools. Many engineering programs also hold programmatic or industry-specific accreditation with ABET, but this agency does not accredit doctoral programs.

Schools also need to hold state authorization, which allows a school located in one state to teach students in other states. Currently, 49 U.S. states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico all hold membership in the State Authorization Reciprocity Agreement (SARA). SARA allows member states to offer distance education programs in other member states. Only California does not hold membership in SARA.

How Much Will an Online Doctorate in Software Engineering Cost?

Online doctorates usually cost more than master's degrees due to their length and prestige. Tuition for computer science doctoral programs generally ranges from $450-$1,000 per credit or $27,000-$60,000 total. Several factors determine a school's tuition costs, including its prestige, public vs. private status, and whether it offers in-state discounts to out-of-state online students.

Tuition for computer science doctoral programs generally ranges from $450-$1,000 per credit or $27,000-$60,000 total.

In general, online degrees cost about the same as on-campus programs. The difference lies in financial aid. Traditional doctorates usually include a tuition grant and a stipend from the school. Online learners often have limited access to these benefits and need to pursue other financing options, such as grants, loans, scholarships, or employer support.

Many graduate students rely on federal loans, institutional grants, or employer reimbursement to pay for school. Veteran and military students can take advantage of tuition discounts at some schools, along with federal funding.

Why Get Your Software Engineering Ph.D. Online?

A master's in software engineering prepares professionals for leadership and technical roles, while Ph.D. degrees equip learners to research and teach. For aspiring researchers or college professors, earning a software engineering Ph.D. online offers a flexible pathway. As a technology disciple, software engineering is particularly suited for online learning.

Each student will have to weigh certain considerations when deciding whether an online doctorate is right for them.

Selecting Your Online Software Engineering Program

Prospective doctoral students should consider several factors when selecting an online doctoral program, including:

  • Dedication Toward Online-Specific Education: Does the school have considerable experience in offering online graduate education?
  • Admission Requirements: Each school establishes its own admission requirements. Prospective students should make sure they meet the school's standards before applying.
  • Cost and Financial Aid Options: Applicants need to make sure they can afford the program before enrolling by reviewing the school's tuition rates and financial aid opportunities.
  • Available Concentrations: Prospective students should carefully consider their research areas and professional interests, then determine which schools offer those specializations.
  • Alumni Network: A robust and well-connected alumni network can provide graduates with leadership and career opportunities in the software engineering field.
  • Research Opportunities: At its core, the Ph.D. is a research degree. The best schools offer opportunities to conduct original research with helpful and knowledgeable faculty.

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Frequently Asked Questions About Software Engineering Ph.D's

Can you get a doctorate in software engineering?

Many schools offer Ph.D. programs in information and communication technology. Some of these degrees are doctorates in computer science with an emphasis in software engineering, while others exclusively focus on software engineering.

How long does an online Ph.D. in software engineering take?

An online Ph.D. in software engineering usually takes five years to complete. Some schools offer accelerated programs. Most institutions require students to graduate or withdraw within seven years.

How much is an online Ph.D. in software engineering?

The cost of an online doctorate in software engineering varies based on several factors, including program length, school prestige, and whether the institution is private or public. Public schools are less expensive and offer discounts to in-state students.

Is a Ph.D. in software engineering worth it?

For software engineers who prefer practical coding and program development, a master's in software engineering may offer a better choice. For prospective researchers and college teachers, however, a Ph.D. typically provides the best option.

Featured Image: Luis Alvarez / DigitalVision / Getty Images

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