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Students in an online master’s in software engineering program will build upon their existing computer skills to prepare for any credentials they may need to obtain as part of their professional journey. Fortunately, the academic journey isn’t very long. With programs ranging from 30 to 40 credits, it’s possible to complete most programs in two years, and some accelerated programs are available that will allow students to complete everything in only 15 months.

According to U.S. News & World Report, the total cost of tuition for this degree ranges from $7,000 to $38,000. Once students graduate, they will qualify for a job as a software developer — this occupation has an average salary of $124,200.

How to Choose an Online Master’s in Software Engineering Program

Choose your area of study

This degree is typically offered as a Master of Science (MS). Many programs will allow you to select a concentration and focus your studies on a particular niche in this field, such as software development, cybersecurity, project management, software architecture, or data analysis. If you already know what you would like to do after you graduate, look for programs that closely match these career goals.

Research schools and programs

There are so many online master’s programs in software engineering to choose from that students need to quickly develop ways of narrowing the list down to just a few schools.

Only consider institutions that have been approved by a DOE-recognized regional accrediting organization, such as the New England Commission of Higher Education or Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities. These organizations evaluate schools to ensure they provide students with a high-quality education. Those who attend a school that isn’t regionally accredited may be unable to access financial aid or transfer credits to another institution if needed.

You should focus primarily on schools within budget to avoid post-graduation debt. Students may also want to dismiss schools that don’t offer enough academic support for remote students or opportunities to engage with other students in the same program.

To learn more about any schools that you’re interested in, you can visit the school’s website, contact an admissions counselor, follow the school on social media, or attend an in-person or virtual open house.

Prepare for tests and applications

Application requirements vary by school and program. While some online master’s in software engineering programs no longer require students to complete the GRE, many still do require it (although some schools will waive the requirement if a student’s undergraduate GPA is high enough). Students who have never taken this exam before should be aware that it can take up to three months to study and up to 15 days to receive results, so it’s important to budget enough time ahead of any application deadlines.

In addition to GRE requirements, students should review online applications and verify if they will need to provide letters of recommendation or a personal statement along with the rest of their paperwork. Undergraduate transcripts will likely be required as well.

Before submitting an application, always contact an admissions counselor to ensure you have the most accurate information regarding requirements and deadlines.

Select your program

The best programs usually have a reasonable price, a solid track record of job placement, and professors known as thought leaders within their fields. If a particular area of study sounds more interesting, it’s okay for students to limit their applications to schools offering that concentration. It’s also wise for students to focus on schools that provide the kind of schedule flexibility they may need, especially if the student will be balancing a job and family life with their academic schedule.

Before making your final decision, review your needs and goals again. Do you plan to attend school full-time or part-time? Do you want your program to be as online as possible, or are you fine with a hybrid program that has a fair amount of in-person requirements? Some programs offer asynchronous courses, which can be completed at your own pace, while others only offer synchronous courses, which involve remotely attending lectures and completing assignments at the same time as other students — which of these two online learning formats do you prefer? Your school should accommodate your scheduling needs and learning preferences.

Determine how you’ll pay for your degree

Students who anticipate the need for financial assistance should complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) every academic year to help pay for their online master’s in software engineering.

Completing this application will qualify students for federal student loans, and if they discover any grants or scholarships they may qualify for (there aren’t as many of these on the graduate level), a completed FAFSA may help students qualify for this additional aid. It’s always beneficial to contact the financial aid departments of prospective schools in order to inquire about support that may be available through either the school or the state. Those who already work in the field should see if their employer offers tuition assistance benefits as well.

Best 50 Accredited Online Master’s in Software Engineering Programs

Best Online Master's in Software Engineering Degree Programs

California State University at Fullerton

Harvard Extension School

Carnegie Mellon University

Stevens Institute of Technology

Columbia University Engineering

Auburn University

East Carolina University

Kennesaw State University

USC Viterbi School of Engineering

Lewis University

DePaul University

Drexel University

Kansas State University

Penn State World Campus

Brandeis University

Texas Tech University

University of West Florida

Mercer University

NSU Florida College of Computing and Engineering

University of Houston at Clear Lake

West Virginia University

The University of Alabama in Huntsville

Regis University

North Dakota State University

Washington State University

Arizona State University

University of Michigan at Dearborn

Baylor University

University of Utah

Johns Hopkins Engineering for Professionals

University of Maryland Electrical and Computer Engineering

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How We Rank Schools

Our research focused on finding the best master’s degrees in software engineering. The most common graduate-level degree in this field is a Master of Science (MS).

We sought programs delivered primarily or entirely online to guarantee access for the most significant number of students, regardless of schedule or geographic location. In instances where coursework is offered both online and on-campus, students may have the option to complete the program in a hybrid format.

Once we narrowed our list, we evaluated the programs based on outcomes, flexibility, price, faculty, and reputation. Then, we calculated an Intelligent Score for each on a scale of 0 to 100. For a more extensive explanation, check out Our Ranking Methodology.

What Can You Expect from an Online Master’s in Software Engineering Program?

Students pursuing an online master’s in software engineering can expect coursework that blends the development of communication and problem-solving skills with classes that help students stay on the cutting edge of software development.

If the student has chosen a particular concentration, their coursework will reflect that specific area of study. For example, a cybersecurity focus helps students learn more about protecting computers from software-based threats, while a project management focus helps students learn more about becoming a project lead within a software company. Regardless of the concentration, all courses strongly emphasize hands-on learning and developing problem-solving skills, which helps students prepare for some of the vocational challenges they are likely to face after graduation.

Most of these online programs are designed to be completed by full-time students in two years and part-time students in three years. Accelerated programs, meanwhile, can help students complete all required coursework in as little as 15 months.

Potential courses you’ll take in an online master’s in software engineering degree program

  • Software Construction. This course helps students learn more about creating large-scale distributed software systems on their own, including its history and best practices of such an endeavor, plus more about the modern hardware and software that will help them bring their ideas to life.
  • Software Systems Architecture. This course covers architectural design principles, architecture evaluation, and how to strategically reuse certain aspects to save time and effort (always important when deadlines are approaching).
  • Database Design Concepts. This course helps students learn everything they need to know to design database systems, including developing relational databases and designing specific systems for specific needs. Along similar lines, the course places particular emphasis on how students can apply all of these skills and concepts within the business setting of a modern corporation.
  • Foundations of Artificial Intelligence. This course helps students master foundational concepts in AI, including the Markov decision process, reinforcement learning, computational learning, and more. These concepts can help students integrate AI into their future software engineering tasks, and the class ensures that students stay on the cutting edge of the AI revolution that is continuing to transform the computer world.

What Can You Do With an Online Master’s in Software Engineering?

Career outlook

Earning a master’s degree in software engineering opens doors to many possibilities in IT. This advanced qualification equips individuals with the skills and expertise to excel in software development, artificial intelligence, cybersecurity, and more. Here are a few of the possible career paths available to those with a master’s in software engineering, showcasing the multifaceted nature of this qualification and its impact on shaping the future of the tech industry:

  • Software developer or quality assurance tester — Design, develop, and test software programs.
    • Median annual salary: $124,200
    • Projected employment growth (through 2032): 25%
    • New job openings projected: 153,900 annually
  • Database administrator or architect — Design databases, ensure databases are secure and operating efficiently, and keep user permissions up to date.
    • Median annual salary: $112,120
    • Projected employment growth (through 2032): 8%
    • New job openings projected: 10,200 annually
  • Information security analyst — Monitor networks, identify vulnerabilities, train staff on how to prevent security breaches, and recommend security upgrades.
    • Median annual salary: $112,000
    • Projected employment growth (through 2032): 32%
    • New job openings projected: 16,800 annually

Online Master’s in Software Engineering Degree Frequently Asked Questions

How do I apply to an online master’s in software engineering degree program?

All students must do to apply to an online master’s in software engineering program is visit the university’s website and fill out the online application. That application will specify additional steps students may need to complete, including attaching undergraduate transcripts, application essays, and letters of recommendation. Applications will also identify if students must submit GRE scores and, if so, what the minimum score requirements are.

Applicants are always encouraged to contact the admissions office of prospective schools if they have any questions. The counselors can answer questions about the application and, if needed, about the program and the school itself.

How much does an online master’s in software engineering degree cost?

According to U.S. News & World Report, a master’s degree in software engineering typically costs between $7,000 and $38,000.

As a general rule, private schools will be more expensive than public schools. Also, most public schools charge out-of-state students a higher tuition rate than in-state students. These should be considerations for students on a tight budget. After all, picking an affordable school can mean the difference between amassing plenty of student debt or graduating without having to pay anything back.

How long does it take to earn an online master’s in software engineering degree?

Most online master’s in software engineering programs can be completed in two years by students attending full-time.

Students attending part-time may take three years to complete the required coursework. In some cases, a student can find accelerated programs online that can be completed in as little as 15 months.

As with any other graduate program, the most important thing is for students to find flexible and accommodating programs to work with remote learners, especially when such learners may be busy juggling other responsibilities along with their education.

Is an online master's in software engineering worth it?

Earning an online master’s degree in software engineering offers many advantages for aspiring professionals in the tech industry. The program provides a comprehensive and specialized curriculum, equipping students with advanced knowledge and skills essential for leadership roles in software development, AI, and cybersecurity. The flexibility of online learning allows individuals to pursue their education while maintaining professional commitments, making it accessible to working professionals worldwide.

Online master’s programs often provide a collaborative virtual environment, fostering diverse perspectives and global networking opportunities. This connectivity enables students to engage with industry experts, participate in real-world projects, and build a robust professional network. Moreover, the asynchronous nature of many online courses accommodates varied learning styles and time zones, promoting a personalized and adaptive learning experience.

Also, completing an online master’s in software engineering program demonstrates adaptability and self-motivation—traits highly valued by employers.

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