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

Software engineers work with computers, writing programming code and making sure software programs meet the requirements of a variety of businesses in nearly every sector. They develop new software applications and maintain and fix existing applications. With technology ever-evolving, software engineers are in high demand with continual job growth expected. Earning your master’s in software engineering enhances your ability to learn and grow with changing needs and sets you apart from your peers. Completing your degree online offers a flexible alternative to on-campus programs, especially for professionals already working in the field and looking to expand their knowledge and seeking career advancement. When choosing an online software engineering graduate degree programs, compare curriculum, concentrations, coursework delivery options and overall program requirements to find the best match for your personal and professional development.

Concentrations Offered for an Online Master’s in Software Engineering

Software engineering is often offered as a concentration within a master’s in engineering or computer science program. When software engineering is offered as its own master’s program, you’ll find numerous concentrations like the ones listed below.

Back-End Web Development Focuses on building and maintaining the technology needed to run the administrator side of a website, which includes learning the skills to manage communication between technology platforms and operate the back-end of a website. Web developer, computer programmer, computer systems administrator, software engineer
Web Technologies Covers the technical tools and techniques you need to build dynamic, database-driven web applications and websites, which includes mastering website development, designing mobile apps and implementing database systems. Website designer, web developer, web application developer, computer programmer, database administrator, software engineer
Data Science Explore how to analyze data and implement concepts of data computation to develop new strategies in diverse areas, such as marketing, finance and product design. Database administrator, computer support specialist, computer and information research scientist, software engineer
Cybersecurity Examines the critical measures you must take to protect a computer or computer systems from unauthorized access and various cyber threats, including developing your knowledge of security risks and weaknesses and the tactics needed to mitigate both. Cybersecurity analyst, cybersecurity engineer, information security analyst, IT security specialist, software engineer

Curriculum for an Online Master’s in Software Engineering

Software engineering master’s programs combine principles and practices that let you tackle increasingly complex software and systems challenges. Graduate programs thoroughly train you in all aspects of software creation with advanced knowledge in technical planning, risk management, project management and software architecture. Online master’s programs in software engineering differ from one school to another with electives geared toward your concentration. However, most programs have a similar curriculum with certain core courses common, including those listed below:

Web Development Explore programming use in web design and development and how writing code can shape the future of the internet.
Software Architecture Learn to select and use the appropriate software design patterns and when to use various types of programming.
Web Security and Privacy Covers the latest techniques in cybersecurity and how to effectively protect computer systems against unauthorized access and various cyber threats.
Software Verification and Validation Students gain an understanding of how to ensure development of high-quality software products with coverage of the various verification and validation theories and practices.
Courses in Professional, Ethical and Legal Issues for Software Engineers Examine computer privacy, intellectual property laws, professional codes of ethics and other professional, legal and ethical issues pertaining to software engineering.
Managing Software Development Provide the knowledge and skills required to lead a project team and manage resources in large scale software development.

How Long Does It Take to Get an Online Master’s in Software Engineering?

The amount of times it takes to finish an online software engineering master’s degree differs between programs. Course availability can sometimes slow your progress because some smaller schools may only offer required courses once per year. Other factors that affect completion time include whether you pursue your degree part-time or full-time, your concentration, whether the program requires a thesis or research project and the number of credit hours required. Online master’s in software engineering programs typically require 30 to 36 credits, which should take you about two years to finish as a full-time student. Some programs are offered in accelerated, six-week or eight-week term formats that let you finish sooner. Part-time students, however, usually take three to four years to finish the same program.

Certifications and Licenses an Online Master’s in Software Engineering Prepares For

Because there are numerous programming languages and software, database and computer systems vendors, there are literally hundreds of certifications suitable for software engineers. Your online master’s in software engineer can prepare you for any of the following, which is only a small sampling of the certifications available.

Certified Secure Software Lifecycle Professional This vendor-neutral credential is globally recognized, relevant to numerous programming and development projects and offered through (ISC)².
Microsoft Certified Solutions Developer App Builder This is Microsoft’s prevailing certification for programmers and application developers. It qualifies you for a position as an application developer and is offered exclusively through Microsoft.
Oracle Certification Any professional certification from Oracle can help enhance your chance of employment and advancement. Oracle offers numerous certifications beneficial to software engineering graduate students in databases, applications, Java, operating systems, systems and virtualization. Certifications are available on multiple levels, including professional, master, specialist and expert levels.
C/C++ Certifications Pearson|Vue offers numerous professional certifications for the popular C and C++ programing languages. These include C Certified Associate for basic coding tasks in the C programming language; C Certified Professional Programmer for advanced coding and design tasks related to advanced C programming; C++ Certified Associate Programmer for basic programming in the C++ language; and C++ Certified Professional Programmer for advanced coding tasks in C++.

Accreditation for Online Master’s in Software Engineering

When comparing schools and programs, be sure they’re accredited by a legitimate credentialing agency recognized by the Department of Education or Council for Higher Education Accreditation. Accreditation ensures your online master’s in software engineering programs meets high educational standards and assures your eligibility for financial assistance through the federal and state government. While there are accrediting organizations at the national and regional levels, top level schools have regional accreditation. Besides institutional accreditation, some software engineering programs are accredited by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology.

Employment Outlook for Master’s in Software Engineering Graduates

Job Placement: Master’s v. Bachelor’s

An online master’s in software engineering can help you earn top level positions and advance in your career quicker. It can also help you earn a higher salary according to Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce. In 2015, computer science professionals with a bachelor’s degree earned a median salary of $83,000 while those with a master’s degree earned $100,00; Bachelor-level computer engineers earned $87,000 while graduate-level computer engineers earned $101,000.

Expected Salary

Depending on your concentration, your advanced degree in software engineering prepares you for a variety of jobs, including many upper level positions. Your field of expertise and level of experience factor into your expected salary. For an idea of what you could earn, compare the following salary ranges for popular careers for software engineering master’s degree graduates.

Software engineers have some of the most in-demand skills in the nation and around the world, and geography has a tremendous effect on your paycheck. Larger cities or cities home to the highest paying tech companies are smart choices for talented, well-educated software professionals. The following table demonstrates the states with the top salaries for two types of software developers. Notice that California, home to Silicon Valley, ranks high on both lists and employs the most professionals in both fields by far.

Systems Software Developers Number Employed Annual Mean Wage
California 82,630 $127,230
New Hampshire 1,310 $122,810
Colorado 13,260 $122,170
Delaware N/A $122,050
Virginia 24,650 $121,560
Software Application Developers Number Employed Annual Mean Wage
Washington 51,540 $131,430
California 141,870 $126,470
District of Columbia 2,400 $115,900
New York 49,190 $115,530
Maryland 12,710 $112,190

Career Opportunities

The job outlook for software engineers is tremendous. Software developers in all areas are expected to see a 24 percent growth between 2016 and 2026, and employment of software developers specializing in applications is projected to grow 31 percent. Your online master’s in software engineering helps you stand out from your peers and snag the highest paying jobs with the best career advancement opportunities. Some popular career choices for software engineers with a master’s degree include the following.

Software Developer Software developers create computer programs, develop applications and/or develop the underlying systems that run devices or control networks. $103,560 per year 24%
Computer Network Architects Computer network architects design and build data communication networks, including local area networks, wide area networks and Intranets that run small two-office connections or large cloud-based infrastructures. $104,650 per year 6%
Information Security Analysts Information security analysts plan and carry out security measures to protect computer networks and systems from hacking and other cyber threats. $95,510 per year 28%
Web Developers Web developers design and create websites. They’re also responsible for the website’s technical aspects and sometimes the site’s content. $67,990 per year 15%
Computer and Information Research Scientists Computer and information research scientists solve complex programs in computing in the business, science and medicine sectors, design new approaches to computing technology and find innovative uses for existing technology. $114,520 per year 19%

Professional Organizations

Affiliation with professional associations looks good on your resume, and membership offers numerous members-only benefits that help enhance your professional development. Many professional organizations also offer continuing education opportunities throughout your career and help you keep current on industry updates, which is important in the rapidly changing field of software and computer technology. Listed below are some notable professional organizations for software engineering professionals.

Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Computer Society Technical Council on Software Engineering: TCSE co-sponsors professional conferences and several informal workshops every year. It also offers professional publications for the latest industry news, professional awards, mentorship, online courses, practice exams, webinars and numerous other benefits.

Network Professional Association: A global organization for IT and network computing professionals, NPA provides resources and opportunities to grow and prosper in your career. Some of the many benefits of membership include career-building opportunities, peer-to-peer networking, leadership opportunities, industry related conferences, a job board and numerous members-only software, savings and programs.

American Society for Information Science and Technology: Membership in ASIS&T has many benefits, including education and networking opportunities, awards and scholarship programs, discounts for training, access to leadership and education experiences, a mentoring program, professional awards and industry publications.

Financing Your Online Master’s in Software Engineering

Online degree programs tend to be cheaper than on-campus programs, but many online software engineering graduate students still require financial assistance. Online students have many of the same sources of financial aid as traditional students. Begin your search by filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to explore grants and loans offered through the federal government. Many educational institutions also use the FAFSA to establish your eligibility for financial aid. Software engineering graduate students may also find numerous private scholarship opportunities. The resources below offer more information about financing your online master’s in software engineering.





Emmett D. Burnett Memorial Scholarship

Award: Up to $1,500

Deadline: April

Eligibility: New or continuing full-time engineering and computer science majors enrolled in the College of Engineering and Computer Science at California State University, Fullerton.

LGS Innovations STEM Scholarship Program

Award: $5,000

Deadline: March

Eligibility: Graduate students enrolled in an ABET-accredited STEM program, including computer science or computer engineering.

American Society of Certified Engineers

Award: $400-$750

Deadline: April

Eligibility: Members of ASCET enrolled in an engineering technology program at a two-year or four-year accredited school.