Complete Guide to Top Online Software Engineering Degrees

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Quick Facts
Accreditation: ABET
Degree Levels: Associate, Bachelor's, Master's, Doctoral, and Certificate
Avg Tuition: $22,943
Avg Salary: $90,086

Online software engineering degrees are available at every level, from associate to doctoral, and provide graduates with the skills to design and create computer programs using engineering processes. Students will learn how to evaluate a client’s software needs, upgrade existing programs, and collaborate with programmers and other engineers to develop large projects. Software engineering requires a unique blend of creativity and technical skills, and prospective students should look for programs that encourage creative thinking through project-based or interdisciplinary classes. In contrast, a software development degree will also prepare graduates to work on various aspects of software creation, but will not provide an engineering background.

Prospective students should take accreditation into account when choosing an online software engineering degree. Reviewing the 25 schools on our top online colleges ranking list, which offer academically strong software engineering programs at affordable prices, may also be helpful in choosing a degree.

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Comprehensive List of Accredited Online Schools - Software Engineering Degrees (55)

Top Online Colleges Offering Software Engineering Degrees

Software Engineering-Top Online Colleges-2017-Badge

These 25 schools offer academically rigorous and affordable online software engineering degrees, making them the best value options for aspiring software engineers. Carnegie Mellon University has the highest academic strength score on this list, an outstanding 89%, and offers two master's degrees and two certificates in software engineering. Students looking for online software engineering degrees at the undergraduate level will find an affordable option at Upper Iowa University, where tuition for the online Bachelor of Science - Software Engineering starts at $12,900 per year.

All schools considered for this list offer fully online software engineering degrees at the bachelor's level or higher. View our methodology for more details.

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Rank School Annual Tuition Academic Strength
#1 #1 North Dakota State University - Main Campus Annual Tuition $6,099 Academic Strength 68%
#2 #2 Kennesaw State University Annual Tuition $6,120 Academic Strength 67%
#3 #3 Carnegie Mellon University Annual Tuition $12,168 Academic Strength 89%
#4 #4 The University of West Florida Annual Tuition $6,465 Academic Strength 63%
#5 #5 Columbus State University Annual Tuition $5,922 Academic Strength 61%
#6 #6 California State University - Fullerton Annual Tuition $7,826 Academic Strength 64%
#7 #7 Mercer University Annual Tuition $13,230 Academic Strength 73%
#8 #8 University of Michigan - Dearborn Annual Tuition $12,750 Academic Strength 69%
#9 #9 Brandeis University Annual Tuition $16,625 Academic Strength 84%
#10 #10 Regis University Annual Tuition $13,140 Academic Strength 68%
#11 #11 Nova Southeastern University Annual Tuition $13,410 Academic Strength 67%
#12 #12 Lakeland University Annual Tuition $10,695 Academic Strength 55%
#13 #13 Lewis University Annual Tuition $12,720 Academic Strength 63%
#14 #14 Upper Iowa University Annual Tuition $12,900 Academic Strength 62%
#15 #15 Champlain College Annual Tuition $15,395 Academic Strength 69%
#16 #16 The College of Saint Scholastica Annual Tuition $13,280 Academic Strength 58%
#17 #17 East Carolina University Annual Tuition $15,024 Academic Strength 64%
#18 #18 Southern Methodist University Annual Tuition $20,250 Academic Strength 81%
#19 #19 Pennsylvania State University-World Campus Annual Tuition $16,740 Academic Strength 61%
#20 #20 Texas Tech University Annual Tuition $18,600 Academic Strength 68%
#21 #21 Illinois Institute of Technology Annual Tuition $21,000 Academic Strength 77%
#22 #22 Arizona State University Annual Tuition $18,810 Academic Strength 66%
#23 #23 DePaul University Annual Tuition $21,190 Academic Strength 72%
#24 #24 Elmhurst College Annual Tuition $19,040 Academic Strength 63%
#25 #25 West Virginia University Annual Tuition $21,960 Academic Strength 65%
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Online Software Engineering Degree Overview & Career Information

Online degree programs in software engineering are available at the associate, bachelor's, master's, doctoral, and certificate levels. Associate programs are two-year degrees that give individuals a basic foundation in software engineering skills, preparing graduates to enter baccalaureate programs or gain entry-level positions. Bachelor's degree programs will prepare students to find work as a full software engineer in the fields of software application engineering, computer system administration, security systems, video game creation, and many others, while master's degree programs are available for professionals who want to update their skill set or move into more project management or managerial roles. Online doctoral degrees in software engineering will prepare professionals to conduct advanced research or teach at the university level. Graduate certificates in software engineering are also available, and can help students decide whether to pursue a full master's degree. Certificate coursework can usually be applied toward master's degree's completion requirements at a later date or can be used to learn specific skills to assist with finding more job opportunities.

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Online Associate Degrees in Software Engineering

Online software engineering degrees at the associate level are not as common as more advanced degrees. However, there are some programs available that will teach students the fundamental skills they need to begin their career. An individual looking to pursue a software engineering education at the associate level might enroll in an program in software engineering technology. An associate degree will prepare students for entry-level jobs and also provide a spring board for moving on to a bachelor's degree. A student enrolled in an associate program should expect to spend about two years completing their degree, and will take classes in areas such as systems analysis and design, database management, and programming. This type of degree is usually offered at technical schools. A high school diploma or equivalent is required in order to be accepted.

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Online Bachelor's Degrees in Software Engineering

A bachelor's degree in software engineering is the typical minimum requirement for finding work in the field. Individuals with this degree can work in areas such as software application engineering, computer system administration, security systems, video game creation, and many other related fields. The bachelor's degree takes an average of four years, or 120 semester credit hours to finish. An online bachelor's in software engineering can be earned through colleges, universities, and technical schools. Coursework for the software engineering bachelor's degree includes classes in web engineering, computer security, human-computer interaction, technical communication, and data structures. It is also not uncommon for students to be required to complete an internship and/or some kind of senior project in order to graduate. The usual requirement for enrolling in a bachelor's degree is a high school diploma or equivalent.

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Online Master's in Software Engineering

Online master's degree programs in software engineering are designed for professionals who want to advance in their career. In order to gain entrance to one of these programs, a student must have a bachelor's degree and a strong background in math and computer science, as well as some knowledge of a programming language such as Java. The bachelor's degree usually has to be in a related field, such as mathematics, engineering, physics, or computer science, but a student may be able to gain admittance to a master's program with an unrelated bachelor's degree if they have appropriate experience. These programs usually take around two years to complete and require an average of 30-36 semester credit hours. A student enrolled in an online master's program in software engineering can expect to take such classes as pattern oriented design, enterprise integration, web security and privacy, computer systems architecture, and software systems engineering processes. Upon completing a master's program, an individual will be prepared for management positions and be equipped with the ability to lead various types of projects. A master's degree is also beneficial because it helps professionals keep their skills up-to-date.

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Online Doctoral Degrees in Software Engineering

Engineers that are interested in conducting large, complicated software research projects can complete a doctoral program. These degrees require advanced coursework, followed by the completion of the research project and a dissertation. Advanced courses and the research project usually revolve around the student’s particular interest area, such as artificial intelligence, networks, database systems, or systems engineering design. Online doctorate programs in software engineering are beneficial for someone who wants to make a career out of researching new types of software, or for people who want to teach at the university level. The length of time it takes to complete a Ph.D can vary depending on how long an individual takes to complete their dissertation, though a student can plan on spending four to five years in their program. Coursework for a software engineering Ph.D includes classes in the areas of advanced mathematics, design and engineering of software systems, research, and the study of how software interacts with society as a whole. Admission requirements to a doctorate program usually include the completion of a bachelor's degree in a related field, work experience, a firm grasp on various software technologies, and letters of recommendation.

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Online Certificates in Software Engineering

Individuals who want to receive advanced training in the field of software engineering but who aren't sure if they are ready to commit to a full master's program might consider pursuing a certificate in software engineering. These certificates are most often found at the graduate level, meaning that a student would need to have already completed a bachelor's degree before being admitted to the program. Online certificate programs in software engineering usually take a year or less to complete. Students will take such classes as object-oriented design, software product and process evaluation, software testing and debugging, and software design. If a student completes a graduate certificate in software engineering and decides to then pursue a master's degree, the classes completed for the certificate can often be applied to completion of the degree. Completing a certificate program may be enough training to obtain an entry-level job in the software engineering field.

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The Importance of an Accredited Online Software Engineering Degree

When choosing an online degree program, students should take into consideration is whether or not a school or program is accredited. Accreditation means that an outside, independent organization has looked at the curriculum offered by a school and determined that it meets certain high standards for quality. Regional accreditation is when a particular group oversees the accreditation process for schools within a certain group of states.

There are also accrediting agencies that offer accreditation to specific programs within a school. For instance, the Accrediting Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET) provides accreditation for computing, engineering technology, applied science, and engineering degree programs across the country. ABET accreditation is voluntary, and schools that receive this endorsement have to undergo a rigorous examination process. The accreditation is only for specific programs, not the entire school. Individuals who wish to pursue an online degree program in software engineering may want to concentrate their search on programs that are ABET-accredited in order to ensure competitiveness in the job market.

Requirements for a Career in Software Engineering

As we live in a society where technology is so prevalent and necessary to our everyday lives, there is a lot of demand for software engineers. Becoming a software engineer requires specialized training, although licensing is not common in the field. Typically, a bachelor's degree is required to find work as an actual software engineer, though other types of computing jobs can be found with less formal education. Students who know that they want to pursue a software engineering career after college should earn their degree in software engineering, information technology, computer science, or a related field. Learning to program is also an important skill for software engineers to develop. While in school, students will want to try and complete an internship in order to gain valuable work experience and make professional contacts. Sometimes, it will be necessary to also earn a master's degree in order to be hired for certain jobs. However, this isn't usually the case, and a master's degree will only need to be earned if an individual wants to further advance their skill set and career. While many institutions offer certifications for software engineers and developers, such as the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) or the Software Engineering Institute, these are also usually not necessary for success in the field.


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