Building the Future: Online Software Engineering Degree

Software engineers create and develop software programs and applications, work on networks and back-ends, write code, manage databases, and develop and maintain websites. Today, new programs and software are constantly in demand across industries, and the field of software engineering is brimming with employment opportunities. Jobs in software development, web development, and database administration have particularly lofty growth forecasts.

A degree in software engineering will prepare graduates for immediate employment within the field. In a software engineering program, you’ll learn how to code, develop websites, build databases, and much more. Today, students have the opportunity to earn a software engineering degree on campus and on the web. Whether you’re interested in an associate, bachelor’s, or graduate degree, you’ll be able to find a quality software engineering degree online program. Online programs are taught asynchronously, allowing you to pursue a rigorous and rewarding degree without ever setting foot on campus.

If you are creative, analytical, detail-oriented, and a skilled problem-solver with a knack for math, a career in software engineering may be right for you. Considering earning a software engineering degree online? Read on to learn more about the classes you’ll take and the jobs you can prepare for in an online software engineering program.

Online Software Engineering Degree Overview

Earning an associate-level software engineering degree online can potentially lead to introductory jobs in the field. Most jobs for associate-holders, however, will not be technical. More commonly, an associate program serves as a stepping-stone to a bachelor’s degree, which is required for most job opportunities. Given that an associate program is often less expensive than the first two years of school at a four-year college, many students opt to earn their associate before continuing on to a bachelor’s program. Graduate-level degrees, including a master’s in software engineering online, are generally intended for students in pursuit of executive-level corporate positions or careers in academia.

Degree Avg Degree Cost Avg Loan Default Rate Time Commitment Early Career Pay Mid-Career Pay Unemployment Rate
Associate $18,415 9.35% 2 years $48,625 N/A N/A
Bachelor's $27,470 5.63% 4 years $61,224 $72,750 5.8%
Master's $21,607 5.86% 2 years $66,500 $80,115 N/A
Whether you are new to the field, or looking to advance in your current career, you should weigh the costs and time of getting a new degree against its benefits. There is no one-size-fits-all degree. The best choice for you will depend on your current educational background, financial standing, employment history, and area of interest. For instance, those with no experience may want to consider an associate degree, due to its shorter time commitment and lower cost. If finances are tight for you, then you should prioritize the student loan debt and default categories, as you will want to choose a degree that offers you the best chance of improving your financial standing with minimal risk. If your employer or someone else is paying for your education, then you might want to consider the degree that will offer you the highest salary. All salary information is sourced from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and/or PayScale

Online Software Engineering Degrees

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Online Associate’s Degree in Software Engineering

Associate software engineering degrees provide instruction in introductory programming, database design, and web design. Courses lay the foundation for further study in the field, and many associate-holders eventually pursue a bachelor’s degree. Those with associate degrees can pursue introductory positions as computer support specialists, but more technical positions require a bachelor’s degree.

  • SAMPLE COURSES

    Advanced Mathematics, Organization of Data, Introduction to Web Design and Development, and programming languages such as C and C++, Java, and SQL

  • COMMON MAJORS

    Software engineering degrees at the associate level are offered in a general capacity (e.g. associate in software engineering) or as a specific aspect of the field, including software development technology, information technology, and computer science information systems.

  • POTENTIAL JOBS

    Computer Support Specialists

  • AVERAGE INCOME

    $51,470 annually for computer support specialists

  • EMPLOYMENT PROSPECTS

    Web developers have an extremely positive job outlook, with 27% growth expected in the field between 2014 and 2024. Job prospects for computer support specialists are also on the rise, with 12% growth projected within the same time period.

Online Bachelor’s Degree in Software Engineering

A bachelor’s degree in software engineering is adequate preparation for most positions in the field, including common jobs as software developers, computer programmers, and database administrators. Given the acceleration of technical development and the widespread use of mobile devices, career opportunities in software engineering are abundant and most degree-holders find jobs quickly after school.

  • SAMPLE COURSES

    Calculus, Data Structures, Software Architecture, Computer Networks, and Human-Computer Interactions

  • COMMON MAJORS

    Online software engineering degrees at this level are typically awarded as bachelor of science degrees in information technology, with majors including software engineering and software systems engineering. Alternatively, they may simply be bachelor of science degrees or bachelor of applied science degrees.

  • POTENTIAL JOBS

    Software Developers, Computer Programmers, and Database Administrators

  • AVERAGE INCOME

    $100,690 annually for software developers, $79,530 for computer programmers, and $81,710 for database administrators.

  • EMPLOYMENT PROSPECTS

    Between 2014 and 2024, job opportunities for software developers are projected to increase by 17%, and by 11% for database administrators. Computer programming positions are expected to decline by 8% in the United States, as many companies outsource the position overseas.

Online Master’s Degree in Software Engineering

A master’s degree in software engineering degree will prepare you to focus on a small subfield in the discipline, and can potentially prepare you for executive-level positions in the field. Software engineers seeking to become lead software engineers or project managers typically must hold a master’s degree. Those planning to teach software engineering in college can potentially do so with a master’s in software engineering online, though you may need a doctorate as well.

  • SAMPLE COURSES

    Software System Design, Enterprise Integration, Software Construction, Applied Human Computer Interaction, and Software Testing and Debugging

  • COMMON MAJORS

    At this level, software engineering degrees online are typically awarded as either a master of science in software engineering, or a master of software engineering.

  • POTENTIAL JOBS

    Advanced, lead, and management positions in software engineering

  • AVERAGE INCOME

    $100,690 annually for software developers, $79,530 for computer programmers, and $81,710 for database administrators

  • EMPLOYMENT PROSPECTS

    Between 2014 and 2024, job opportunities for software developers are projected to increase by 17%, and by 11% for database administrators. Computer programming positions are expected to decline by 8% in the United States, as many companies outsource the position overseas.

Online Doctorate Degree in Software Engineering

Post-doctoral students can pursue a variety of opportunities in research & development and as professors in institutions of higher education. Many also find work as computer and information research scientists. These programs are intensive, and require a heavily-researched dissertation. While you will take some classes, the bulk of your work in a doctoral program will be spent researching your dissertation subject.

  • SAMPLE COURSES

    Algorithm Applications, Software Metrics and Quality Engineering, Software Architecture and Design, and a researched dissertation

  • POTENTIAL JOBS

    Computer and information research scientists and post-secondary teachers

  • AVERAGE INCOME

    $110,620 per year for computer and information research scientists and $72,470 for post-secondary teachers.

  • EMPLOYMENT PROSPECTS

    Job prospects for computer and information research scientists are expected to increase by 11% between 2014 and 2024. Post-secondary teachers will enjoy a 13% increase.

Online Software Engineering Choose Your Career

Average Software Engineering Salaries

$110,620
$81,710
$64,970
$79,530
$100,690

Computer and Information Research Scientists

Salary: $110,620
Growth Rate 2014-2024 Number of Jobs: 2014 Degree Certifications
11% 25,600 Doctorate N/A

Computer and information research scientists are essentially inventors. They innovate solutions to computer problems, usually by developing new software and hardware. They concentrate on algorithms, which they simplify to improve efficiencies. These scientists often work closely with electrical engineers and computer hardware engineers. They can specialize in robotics, data mining, and programming. Computer and information research scientists are innovative, logical, analytical, and have exceptional math, critical-thinking, and communication skills.

Database Administrators

Salary: $81,710
Growth Rate 2014-2024 Number of Jobs: 2014 Degree Certifications
11% 120,000 Bachelor's Varies

Database administrators (DBAs) store, organize, backup, and secure confidential data using specialized software. They may also design and manage new databases. Some DBAs perform all of these tasks, but a division of labor between system and application DBAs is not uncommon. System DBAs work on the technical parts of a database, while application DBAs work solely on a database created for a certain application or set of them. DBAs are generally logical, analytical, detail-oriented, problem-solvers, and excellent communicators. An online software engineering bachelor’s degree can lead to employment as a database administrator.

Web Developers

Salary: $64,970
Growth Rate 2014-2024 Number of Jobs: 2014 Degree Certifications
27% 148,500 Associates N/A

Web developers design, develop, and test websites by writing code in different programming languages. They may also create content, applications, and graphics. While some developers are responsible for entire websites, back-end web developers focus on the technical aspects of a website’s design. Front-end developers work on a site’s functionality and presentation, and webmasters monitor and maintain sites. Web developers often meet and interact with clients, so they must have strong communication skills. Additionally, they should be detail-oriented, creative, and able to concentrate for long periods of time.

Computer Programmers

Salary: $79,530
Growth Rate 2014-2024 Number of Jobs: 2014 Degree Certifications
-8% 328,600 Bachelor's N/A

Using a variety of computer languages, computer programmers write the code that makes software programs function. They also test code for functionality and update existing code to make programs run more efficiently. In some businesses, software developers and computer programmers share similar or overlapping responsibilities. Programmers must be strong analytical thinkers, have the ability to concentrate for long periods of time, excel at troubleshooting, and have a keen attention to detail. A slight decline in job growth is forecasted due to a trend among companies to hire programmers in countries where wages are lower. However, the high cost of managing projects overseas sometimes offsets any savings, and more companies are turning to programmers in the U.S. to fill positions.

Software Developers

Salary: $100,690
Growth Rate 2014-2024 Number of Jobs: 2014 Degree Certifications
17% 1,114,000 Bachelor's N/A

Software developers design, develop, test, and maintain software programs. In some cases, they write code for their programs; often, they’ll build models and articulate ideas for computer programmers to execute. Software developers are responsible for the functionality of their programs, and any subsequent upgrades. Successful software developers are analytical thinkers, excellent communicators, problem-solvers by nature, detail-oriented, and creative. An online software engineering bachelor’s degree will prepare students for employment opportunities in software development.

Online Software Engineering Professional Requirements

NCEES State Board

The National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying (NCEES) is a non-profit organization providing licensing through state boards for professional engineers and surveyors. The Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) and Principles and Practice of Engineering (PE) exams are offered in every engineering discipline, and the PE has a specific software engineering exam. Software engineers must have at least four years of work experience prior to taking the PE exam. The FE is a 110-question multiple choice exam that lasts for six hours. The PE is an eight-hour exam.

Is it required?

No

How long will it take?

6-8 hours