Pursue a Software Development Degree

Online Software Developer degree programs help students gain solid technical computer skills while giving them a chance to explore their creative vision. Courses often focus on computer programming, web and application development.

With faster than average job growth in the computer technology sector, now is a perfect time to pursue a software developer degree online. i  

If you like to solve problems and are fascinated by innovation, Education Connection can match you with a program for free.

What Education is Needed to Become a Software Developer?

A bachelor’s degree in computer science or software engineering is the entry-level education needed to become a software developer.ii

But software developers can also keep their fingers on the pulse of new tools and computer languages through certificates and graduate degrees.

Some bachelor’s in software engineering online programs culminate with a capstone course. This may take the form of a comprehensive research project or portfolio of work. Either way, it allows students to show the knowledge and skills they have gained.

We will walk you through some of the basics of the industry and what to expect when you pursue a software developer degree online.

preparing for a career as a software developer

Software Engineer vs Software Developer

Is a Software Engineer a Software Developer? In the world of information technology (IT) there are some differences between software engineering and software development. 

For one, software engineering uses the concepts of engineering to create software. Software engineers take part in the life cycle development of software. They do so by connecting the client’s needs with applicable technology solutions. Thus, they are systematical about developing processes to provide specific functions.

Software engineers should also know how to create and maintain IT architecture, large scale data stores and cloud-based systems. They should also be familiar with how to build:

  • Scalable data pipelines
  • Domain-specific languages

Finally, most entry-level computer hardware engineers have a bachelor’s degree in computer engineering, electrical engineering or computer science. With more experience under their belts, many engineers go onto earn a Master of Business Administration (MBA).iii

What Is a Software Developer?

Software developers are the brains behind smart phones, video games, computer Apps and digital animation. A few of the other things software developers do include: iv

  • Analyzing user needs
  • Designing, testing and developing software to meet these needs
  • Figuring out core functionality
  • Determining the level of security
  • Collaborating with Computer Programmers
  • Writing code or give instructions

It’s also interesting to note that many Software Developers prefer certain types of work projects over others. There’s a brief synopsis of two main types of developers below.

Which type of software developer do you identify with? It may be helpful to put some thought into your strengths. This way, you can select a program that seems to line up with your goals.

Applications Software Developers

Would you like to create the applications that allow us to perform specific tasks on devices? Applications Software Developers create custom software, word processors and other computer applications that are sold to the public. They might also design programs used over the internet or intranet.

Some of the top industries for Applications Software Developers are: v

  • Software publishers
  • Manufacturing
  • Finance and Insurance
  • Management
  • Computer systems design

Systems Software Developers

You don’t have to be a math whiz – but certainly might be. If so, other developers are the masterminds who develop the systems on which run the devices or that control networks. Referred to as Systems Software Developers, these persons work on operating systems. They also build a system’s interface. The interface is the means by which a user interacts with a computer.

Some of the top industries for Systems Software Developers are:

  • Computer Systems Design
  • Manufacturing
  • Software Publishers
  • Finance and Insurance
  • Engineering services

How Much Does a Software Developer Make?

Based on data from the United States Bureau of Statistics (BLS), we know that in May 2017, the average annual salary for:

  • Applications Software Developers was $101,790vi
  • Systems Software Developers was $107,600

In both sectors, the BLS predicts much faster than average job growth through the year 2026. vii

  • Applications Software Developers: 31%
  • Systems Software Developers: 11%

Should I Pursue a Degree in Software Development Online?

One potential advantage to pursuing an online software developer degree today is that you could learn up-to-date programming tools and computer languages. Plus, distance learning is adaptive to your schedule. Many schools offer:

  • 24/7 access to courses
  • Multiple start dates through the year
  • Tech support
  • Self-paced study
  • Virtual labs

A few online colleges with such programs include:

  • Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU)
  • Herzing University
  • Purdue University Global
  • Strayer University
  • Walden University  


77% of Software Developers have a bachelor’s degree, 17% a master’s degree and 4% an Associate’s degree.viii

Associate of Science in Software Development

Some students may want to begin their studies after high school with an Associate of Science (AS) or Associate of Applied Science (AAS) degree in software development. Apart from general education courses, these programs may cover the fundamentals of:

  • Networking
  • Programming
  • Troubleshooting

Associate’s degrees may entail 60 credits in total. Some are designed to be completed in from 20 months to two-years (full time). Graduates who earn their degree at an accredited online college might roll their credits into either the Software Development or Technology Management bachelor's degree programs for a wider net of possible career opportunities.

Bachelor of Science in Computer Science – Software Engineering

An online Bachelor of Science (BS) in Computer Science with a focus in Software Engineering could help you learn basic concepts and principles. Most online programs span a total of 120 credits and may take from 36 months to 4 years full time.

Software engineering courses typically cover the systematic approaches used to develop software on time, on budget and within specifications. Other possible topics include:

  • Emerging Systems Architecture and Technologies
  • Mobile Architecture and Programming
  • Reverse Software Engineering

Bachelor of Science in Software Development

Another form of degree is a software developer bachelor’s degree program (BSSD). This type of program may be helpful if your goal is to learn the programming or coding side of computers.

Students may gain the knowledge and skills to understand, analyze, test and design the software and systems. Topics of study could include things such as:

  • Programming Logic
  • Object-oriented Programming
  • Security Concepts
  • Applications Development
  • Business Analysis

Apart from the core courses, you might also deepen your grasp of information technology and software development techniques, as well business management concepts.

Master of Science in Information Technology – Software Engineering

Post-bachelor’s students who want to fine-tune skills might pursue a Master of Science in IT with a focus in software development. Many programs are about 35 credits and take about 2 years to complete full time.

Master level programs often begin with a series of core topics in areas such as:

  • Programming
  • Networking
  • Database Management
  • Development

Participants also take advanced courses to evolve their technical ability. This may involve learning how to analyze user needs and software quality management. A final project may help students showcase their applied research skills.

Is an Online Software Development Degree PROGRAM FOR YOU?

By studying to pursue a career as a software developer using an online program, you may be able to pursue an education without drastically changing your personal schedule. Online programs vary, but many help bring you into the complex world of software design without harshly disrupting your life in the process. What's more, the courses may be studied at your own pace, which you could find beneficial.


We’ve touched on the several potential career paths that may be on your radar if studying software development is your educational goal. Here are a few other possibilities.

Web Developers 

Entry level education: Associate’s Degreeix

Average annual salary (May 2017) $67,990

Job growth through 2026: 15% (Much faster than average)

Computer Hardware Engineers

Entry level education: Bachelor’s Degreex

Average annual salary (May 2017) $115,120

Job growth through 2026: 5% (As fast as average)

Computer Information Research Scientists

Entry level education: Master’s Degree xi

Average annual salary (May 2017) $114,520

Job growth through 2026: 19% (Much faster than average)

Get Matched with an Online Software Developer Degree

Choosing a software developer degree program is an incredibly personal decision. We realize that only you can properly evaluate whether a target school’s syllabus lines up with your educational needs. We are here to help you find programs to evaluate and apply to. If you are ready to begin the process, let our easy-to-use matching tools guide you today.

(i) bls.gov/ooh/computer-and-information-technology/home.htm | (ii) bls.gov/ooh/computer-and-information-technology/software-developers.htm#tab-4 | (iii) bls.gov/ooh/architecture-and-engineering/computer-hardware-engineers.htm#tab-4 (iv) bls.gov/ooh/architecture-and-engineering/computer-hardware-engineers.htm#tab-4 (v) bls.gov/ooh/computer-and-information-technology/software-developers.htm#tab-3 (vi) bls.gov/ooh/computer-and-information-technology/software-developers.htm#tab-3 (vii) bls.gov/ooh/computer-and-information-technology/software-developers.htm#tab-6 (viii) onetonline.org/link/summary/15-1133.00 (ix) bls.gov/ooh/computer-and-information-technology/web-developers.htm (x) bls.gov/ooh/architecture-and-engineering/computer-hardware-engineers.htm (xi) bls.gov/ooh/architecture-and-engineering/computer-hardware-engineers.htm