2021 Best Online Masters in Software Engineering Programs

If you enjoy working with computers and are fascinated by the complex nature of systems and applications development, then an online masters software engineering program may help you advance your skill set in this field.

Online Masters in Software Engineering

Pursuing your graduate degree can allow you the opportunity to explore a variety of advanced computer and information technology topics, ranging from intelligent systems and artificial intelligence to software architecture, design, and beyond.

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Master of Software Engineering programs can help prepare you to pursue rewarding career options with higher than average salaries and positive career growth.

Online Masters Software Engineering Programs

1 year masters in software engineering

Online software engineering masters programs offer a blend of theoretical and knowledge-based courses with hands-on application and practical coursework.

This program structure aims to help you develop the expertise to design and implement applications and embedded computer systems. You can also develop your skill and competency in creating comprehensive computer software. A masters in software engineering can prepare you for a variety of career options.

Common careers in this field include software engineer, computer systems analyst, computer and information systems manager, computer and information research scientist, and information security analyst. A masters degree may also qualify you for a teaching role at a community college.

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Positions in the field of software engineering may be available in a diverse range of industries. For instance, software engineering professionals can work in computer systems design firms, insurance companies, banks and financial corporations, the federal government, the state government, NGOs, nonprofits, and more.

As part of your online masters in software engineering program, you’ll typically be required to complete a number of advanced-level courses in addition to the completion of a final project or thesis.

Courses topics can include software quality assurance, software architecture and design patterns, software engineering management, and data analytics in software engineering. Additional topics may include embedded systems, parallel processing, advanced software techniques in engineering applications, and analysis of algorithms.

Software Engineering Careers & Salaries

Software Engineering Careers & Salaries

Software engineering professionals can work in various industries, including finance and insurance firms, management companies, software development firms, nonprofit organizations, federal and state government organizations, and manufacturing.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, an online master’s in software engineering can help prepare you to pursue a variety of computer and information technology positions across numerous sectors.

Careers Annual Median Salaries
Computer and Information Systems Managers $146,360
Computer and Information Research Scientists, Software Publishers $141,820
Computer and Information Research Scientists, Research and Development $134,490
Software Developers, Manufacturing $116,080
Computer and Information Research Scientists, Federal Government $109,370
Software Developers, Management Companies $107,640
Software Developers, Insurance Companies $100,980
Information Security Analysts $99,730
Computer Systems Analysts $90,920
Postsecondary Teachers $79,540

The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that the position of software developer will experience job growth of 22% through 2029, which is significantly fast that the average for all occupations.

Other positions that are also expected to experience job growth include computer systems analyst (7%), postsecondary teacher (9%), computer and information systems manager (10%), computer and information research scientist (15%), and information security analyst (31%).

Software Engineering Master’s Curriculum

Software Engineering Master’s

As a software engineering master’s student, you may be required to complete a variety of information and application-based courses similar to those listed below.

  • Software Engineering: You’ll look at program design and measurement methodologies along with data flow, control flow, and software reliability.
  • Intelligent Systems: This course is an in-depth examination of computer systems, including theories surrounding artificial intelligence.
  • Software Quality Assurance: This course is an overview of the process involved in planning, developing, and maintaining software, including systems testing.
  • Software Architecture and Design Patterns: You’ll review theories and real-world application of software architecture and software design principles.
  • Software Engineering Management: You’ll look at quantitative models, cost, and risk related to the lifecycle of software.
  • Data Analytics in Software Engineering: This course is an overview of software evolution theories, including reverse engineering, transformation, recovery, and refactoring.
  • Embedded Systems: This course is a review of embedded applications and data systems, including analysis of microprocessors, communication, diagnostic systems, and digital controllers.
  • Parallel Processing: You’ll look at theories related to parallel processing, algorithm design, performance evaluation, and coding techniques in processing.
  • Advanced Software Techniques in Engineering Applications: This course explores a variety of topics in the field of software engineering, such as data structures, algorithms, six sigma, and software design and complexity.
  • Analysis of Algorithms: This course is an in-depth review of the use of algorithms in practice and theory, including designing algorithms and dynamic programming.

In order to earn your masters degree in software engineering, you may also be required to complete either a project option or thesis option to demonstrate your command of the field.

Admissions Requirements

Masters Software Engineering Programs

Admissions requirements for software engineering graduate programs can vary from school to school, but common criteria may include:

  • Bachelor’s degree. In some cases, schools will want you to have completed your undergraduate degree in either computer science or computer engineering.
  • Prerequisite courses. Some programs will require you to have completed coursework in topics such as calculus, programming languages, operating systems, and algorithm analysis prior to commencing your graduate studies.
  • GRE or GMAT scores. While becoming a less common requirement, some programs may still request your GRE or GMAT scores.

Additional requirements can include the completion of an online application, submission of a letter of intent or interest, and reference letters.

Accreditation

Masters in Software Engineering Accreditation

Regional accreditation is a status that indicates a school’s programming meets a specific, pre-determined set of quality standards for postsecondary education.

Attending an accredited program for a master’s in software engineering is an important consideration. A program’s accreditation status can impact your ability to transfer credits from one school to another. It can also influence your eligibility for PhD programs down the road.

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Your school’s accreditation status can also impact hiring decisions by potential employers, as accredited degrees are generally viewed with higher regard. For more information on the accreditation status of programs you’re interested in attending, you can visit the US Department of Education‘s website.

Financial Aid and Scholarships

Masters in Software Engineering Financial Aid

There are a number of financial aid opportunities that can help qualifying students fund their graduate studies. Financial aid options include federal and state grants and loans, scholarships, and employer training programs.

Scholarships are financial aid options that do not need to be repaid at the end of your studies, and they may be offered by private or public organizations. In some cases, scholarships are designed for students who are studying in a specific area of education or who come from a certain background.

Employer training programs may be a financial aid option if you’re currently employed by an organization that offers funding for the professional development of existing staff members.

For more information about financial aid opportunities available to you, or to apply for funding, you can visit the US Department of Education’s website and fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).

Professional Software Engineering Organizations

Professional Software Engineers

Becoming a member of a professional software engineering organization may offer you a number of benefits. These organizations typically provide the ability to network with other professionals in the field, which may even help you even find new positions or clients.

The following are a number of professional software engineering organizations:

Professional organizations can also help you keep up to date on emerging trends in the field, find valuable journal articles and publications, and connect with professional conferences and training opportunities.

Is Software Engineering for Me?

Software Engineering Professionals

Whether software engineering is the right path for you may depend on a variety of factors. These factors can include your interest in working with computer and information technologies along with your ability and confidence to solve complex problems.

Other skills and interests that are beneficial for a career in software engineering can include:

  • Interest in developing applications or comprehensive computer software systems
  • Desire to collaborate with other IT professionals on development projects
  • Analyze complex issues, design solutions, and execute the development of new systems

A career in the field of software engineering also involves continuous professional development to keep up on emerging trends.

Is Software Engineering a Good Career?

Software Engineering Careers

The field of software engineering offers higher than average salaries, a positive job outlook, and versatile career options.

Many graduates pursue careers as software developers. The average salary for software developers is $107,510, and employment for this position is predicted to grow 22% over the next several years (Bureau of Labor Statistics).

Other career opportunities in this field include postsecondary teacher, computer systems analyst, computer and information research scientist, information security analyst, and computer and information systems manager.

Your ability to obtain specific positions can be influenced by various factors, such as your experience in the field, your employer, and your geographic location.

How Hard Is Software Engineering?

Software engineering professional

Software engineering professionals often plan, design, and develop complex applications and software for computer systems. They may also test and maintain them.

To help prepare you for a career in the field, the curriculum for a master’s degree program in software engineering generally covers embedded systems, parallel processing, advanced software techniques in engineering applications, and analysis of algorithms.

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Other courses can include software quality assurance, software architecture and design patterns, software engineering management, and data analytics in software engineering.

What Can You Do with a Masters in Software Engineering?

Masters in Software Engineering

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, a masters in software engineering can qualify you for various positions in numerous industries, such as education, government, private business, and nonprofit sectors.

Many graduates pursue careers as software developers, computer systems analysts, computer and information research scientists, and information security analysts.

A masters degree can also help qualify you for teaching positions at the community college level or leadership positions in the field, such as a computer and information systems manager.

Can You Get a Masters Degree in Software Engineering Online?

Masters Degree in Software Engineering Online

Yes, you can earn a degree in software engineering completely online. Both on-campus and online programs generally require you to complete at least 30 credit hours in addition to a project or thesis option.

Completing your software engineering degree online can allow you to benefit from a more flexible course schedule, such as completing coursework on evenings, weekends, or whenever you have the time.

Online attendance options may also help you balance your studies with other life demands, such as work or family responsibilities. In some cases, completing your engineering degree online can also lower your education costs.

How Long Does It Take to Get a Masters in Software Engineering Online?

Masters in Software Engineering Online

Earning a master’s in software engineering online traditionally takes 1 year to 2 years of full-time study to finish. This includes the completion of at least 30 credit hours, including coursework and a project or thesis.

Attending on a part-time basis may extend the length of time required to obtain your degree to 3 or 4 years or more, depending on the number of courses you complete each semester.

While attending part-time may extend the length of time required to earn your degree, this option can often help you balance other life demands while completing your education.

What Is the Difference Between Computer Science vs. Software Engineering?

Computer Science vs. Software Engineering

Computer science focuses on the relationship between computer software and hardware. This field of study tends to place greater emphasis on mathematics and logic.

On the other hand, software engineering focuses on engineering principles as they relate to software and systems and, more specifically, designing, developing, and testing those systems.

Topics covered in computer science education programs can include applied machine learning, cryptography, introduction to blockchains, networked and distributed systems, computer vision, and algorithms and data structures.

What Is the Difference Between Software Development vs. Software Engineering?

The educational streams of software development and software engineering are very closely tied. The main difference is that engineers are more heavily focused on the engineering components of software. This includes planning, building, and testing.

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Software developers are more concentrated on the building of software specifically. The coursework in a masters in software development program may cover information structures with python, software design and patterns, software engineering, advanced programming techniques, and database design.

What Is the Difference Between Computer Engineering vs. Software Engineering?

Computer engineering is a field of study that focuses on engineering principles as they relate to the physical hardware of a computer. Software engineering concentrates on engineering principles that relate to computer software and systems.

A master’s in computer engineering program may cover topics like programming with multicore and GPUs, advanced microprocessor design, wireless communications, fault-tolerant computing, and theory of computer hardware testing.

What Is the Difference Between Cyber Security vs. Software Engineering?

Cyber Security vs. Software Engineering

Cybersecurity is a highly concentrated area of study within the field of computer and information technology. It focuses on planning and implementing security measures to protect computer systems, information networks, applications, computer software, and digital devices.

The work of a cybersecurity specialist can include implementing protections for an application or system that a software engineer has worked on or built.

When pursuing a degree in cybersecurity, you may be required to complete courses that cover information security, cybersecurity engineering, machine learning, penetration testing, or data mining for business intelligence.

Is a Masters in Software Engineering Worth It?

Software Engineers meeting

Yes, a masters in software engineering is worth it for many students. The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that computer and information technology occupations will experience 11% job growth over the next several years, which is must faster than average.

Several occupations in the field are expected to see even higher growth, including software developers (22%), computer and information research scientists (15%), and information security analysts (31%).

Universities Offering Online Masters in Software Engineering Degree Programs

Methodology: The following school list is in alphabetical order. To be included, a college or university must be regionally accredited and offer degree programs online or in a hybrid format.

Arizona State University

Arizona State University campus

The online Master of Science in Engineering in Software Engineering degree program at Arizona State University requires a total of 10 classes, with each class lasting 7.5 to 15 weeks. The program is a total of 30 credit hours. The program is intended for people who want to lead software engineering projects and teams of engineers.

ASU is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools.

Brandeis University

Brandeis University campus

Brandeis University offers a graduate degree in software engineering that is part-time and 100% online. This program features a real-world curriculum that is refreshed regularly so you can stay on top of industry trends.

Classes include no more than 20 students and are designed to teach how to apply software engineering best practices and build software solutions.

Brandeis University is accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education.

California State University – Fullerton

California State University - Fullerton campus

California State University—Fullerton offers an online Master of Science in Software Engineering. The curriculum covers standard models in software process, software process assessment and improvement, software requirements, and software architectural design.

Other topics of study are software testing, software project management, software measurement, software engineering ethics, and engineering project planning.

California State University – Fullerton is accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior College and University Commission.

Carnegie Mellon University

Carnegie Mellon University campus

Carnegie Mellon University’s Master of Software Engineering program is a part-time, online masters in engineering program designed for experienced software professionals. It can typically be completed in 6 to 8 semesters.

Students are allowed to work at their own pace and within their schedule. They also have access to faculty, careers services, and an alumni network.

Carnegie Mellon University is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

Colorado Technical University

Colorado Technical University campus

Colorado Technical University offers a Master of Science in Computer Science with a concentration in Software Engineering. This program explores operating systems, networking, system architecture, and the software engineering process.

Online classes at CTU are mobile-friendly, run 5 ½ weeks, and have 9 start times per year.

Colorado Technical University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

DePaul University

DePaul University campus

The Master of Science in Software Engineering from DePaul University is designed to teach how to develop high-quality software systems in a cost-effective manner.

The program is entirely online but is also highly collaborative to facilitate the development of real-world communication skills. Topics studied include requirements engineering, software architecture and design, and software construction.

DePaul University is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission.

Drexel University

Drexel University campus

The Master of Science in Software Engineering program at Drexel University is fully online and designed to be industry relevant. Studies in this program include software design and architecture, engineering management, and systems analytics.

The program is interdisciplinary and can be customized with your choice of electives to better suit your interests and career goals.

Drexel University is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

East Carolina University

East Carolina University campus

East Carolina University offers a Master of Science in Computer Science with a specialization in Software Engineering. The program requires students to either complete a project to prepare for work in the industry or, for those more interested in research, to complete a 2 semester thesis.

East Carolina University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Harvard University

Harvard University campus

Harvard University’s software engineering graduate program is available all online. Most students in this program work full time and take 1 or 2 courses per semester. Students are required to complete 2 courses before even applying, earning a B in each to gain admission. Students can choose between a capstone track and a thesis track.

Harvard University is accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education.

Kennesaw State University

Kennesaw State University campus

Kennesaw State University offers a Master of Science in Software Engineering that is available in online, on-campus, and hybrid formats. The program includes 7 required courses and numerous electives.

Students have the option of completing either a capstone project or a thesis. Foundation courses are available for those new to software engineering.

Kennesaw State University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Illinois Institute of Technology

Illinois Institute of Technology campus

Illinois Tech offers a Master of Science in Telecommunications and Software Engineering. This joint program is designed to allow students to study software engineering specifically as it applies to the field of telecommunications.

This is a course-only master’s degree program that can help prepare you to become a telecommunications network engineer or systems integration consultant.

Illinois Institute of Technology is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

Pennsylvania State University

Pennsylvania State University campus

At Penn State, you can earn a Master of Software Engineering 100% online. The program uses a cohort model and usually takes 2 years to complete.  

The program requires 12 courses taken in 7 week terms. The final course includes a software project in which students are asked to apply the knowledge they’ve learned in the previous courses.

The Pennsylvania State University is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

Stevens Institute of Technology

Stevens Institute of Technology campus

Students at Stevens Institute of Technology can pursue a Master of Science in Software Engineering online or on campus. The program consists of 10 courses: 7 core courses and 3 electives. Students who are very experienced in software engineering may be able to substitute more electives for some of the core courses.

Stevens Institute of Technology is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

Texas Tech University

Texas Tech University campus

Texas Tech University’s Master of Science in Software Engineering can be earned entirely online. The program includes both thesis and non-thesis options.

Required courses include Software Project Management, Software Modeling and Architecture, and Software Verification and Validation. The coursework is intended to help students understand complex software systems and traditional engineering processes.

Texas Tech University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

University of Houston – Clear Lake

University of Houston Clear Lake campus

The University of Houston – Clear Lake offers a Software Engineering M.S. online degree program. This program is designed to be both affordable and convenient. It is intended for students who already have a background in computer science.

It is a 30 credit-hour program that can typically be completed in as little as 15 months.

The University of Houston-Clear Lake is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

University of Michigan – Dearborn

University of Michigan Dearborn campus

An MS in Software Engineering at the University of Michigan – Dearborn can be earned online, on campus, or as a combination of both. The program focuses on software testing problems, software maintenance, and evaluation problems.

This program requires that applicants already possess a bachelor’s degree in computer science or computer engineering.

The University of Michigan-Dearborn is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

University of Southern California

University of Southern California campus

The University of Southern California has a Master of Science in Computer Science (Software Engineering) program available both online and on campus.

The curriculum includes studies in software development, systems engineering, customer collaboration, and management skills. Full time students can usually complete the program in 1 ½ to 2 years.

The University of Southern California is accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges, the Senior College and University Commission.

University of West Florida

University of West Florida campus

The University of West Florida offers a Master of Science in Computer Science with a specialization in Software Engineering. The program is intended for both experienced software developers and for students who are new to the field. It is 100% online and includes both thesis and project options.

The University of West Florida is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Washington State University

Washington State University campus

A Master of Science in Software Engineering at Washington State can be completed 100% online with flexible scheduling options. Full-time students may be able to complete their degrees in less than 2 years.

The curriculum was developed with input from industry representatives to ensure that it teaches skills that are in high demand in the workplace.

Washington State University is accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities.

West Virginia University

West Virginia University campus

West Virginia University’s Master’s in Software Engineering degree program requires a total of 11 courses, or 33 credit hours. Courses are available in online synchronous and online asynchronous formats.

The program is part-time with live discussions hosted in the evenings to accommodate students who work during the day.

West Virginia University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

Getting Your Masters in Software Engineering Online

Masters in Software Engineering Online Programs

A masters in software engineering online program may help you start or advance your career working with computer software and applications.

Earning your graduate degree can open the door to a number of career opportunities. Software engineering positions can be found across different sectors of the economy, ranging from government and non-profit organizations to finance, insurance, and management firms.

If you’re interested in advancing in this rewarding field that boasts lucrative average salaries and faster-than-average job growth, then you may want to start exploring accredited master’s in software engineering online programs.

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Brenda Pyzik
WRITTEN BY
Brenda Pyzik
Brenda has a bachelor’s in sociology from the University of Waterloo, with a minor in legal studies. She obtained a graduate certificate in human resource management from Georgian College. Brenda focuses on employment, business, and training and development.