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Students who participate in an online master’s in software engineering will build upon their existing computer skills to prepare them 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 that are available that will allow students to complete everything in only 15 months.

According to U.S. News, the cost of this graduate degree ranges from $7,000 to $38,000, which means that it may cost more or less than an undergraduate degree (typically around $26,000). Once students graduate, they may qualify for a job as a software developer, and they can expect an average salary of $109,000.

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

Choose your area of study

Many online master’s in software engineering programs offer different areas of study for students to specialize in. These areas may include software development, cybersecurity, project management, software architecture, and data analysis.

While each concentration will help students learn more about software engineering, the more specialized courses are designed to prepare students for equally technical careers. Because of this, it is helpful if students strongly consider what direction they’d like to take their job in before choosing any specific programs. This clarity can help students discover a program tailored to their specific needs and that will best prepare them for their future careers in software engineering.

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.

The most important thing is to dismiss any schools that are not properly accredited: degrees from these schools will not be honored by most employers, and it will be impossible for students to get federal financial aid. For example, it’s important to focus primarily on schools within budget to avoid post-graduation debt. Beyond those qualities, students may 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.

Prepare for tests and applications

While some online master’s in software engineering programs no longer require students to complete the GRE, many still 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 any application essays along with the rest of their paperwork.

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.

Determine how you’ll pay for your degree

Students who anticipate the need for financial aid 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.

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.

Most programs on this list have regional accreditation, while a few have national accreditation. Degrees and credits from regionally accredited schools are more widely recognized and transferable.

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 threads, 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 emphasizing 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 software to life.
  • Software Systems Architecture. This course helps students understand the underlying architecture to simplify things. Specifically, students will learn 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 about designing 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.

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 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?

U.S. News reports that a master’s degree in software engineering may cost between $7,000 and $38,000. As a general rule, private schools will be more expensive than public schools, and out-of-state tuition will always be higher than in-state tuition — 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.

Fortunately, an online graduate degree can cost less than an in-person degree because students won’t have to pay to relocate, nor will they have to pay for things like campus parking passes or on-campus student activities fees.

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.

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