Top Online Software Engineer Degree Programs for 2020

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What is an Online Software Engineer Degree?

An online software engineering degree program teaches how to design and build software. You’ll study a variety of programming languages such as Java. Learn math principals that you will then need to apply to design. And take on trending concepts such as cyber security. Software Engineering Degrees are awarded at all levels, though the most popular is a Masters Degree.

If you are interested in a certificate or associates software developer degree, it is more likely you will want to look at a program that covers a specific application. These might include Microsoft Office or network security.  In 2016, there were 2,220 of these degrees awarded.

You may also want to consider a degree in computer science. This is more of a general degree that also covers software. Because it does teach broad topics, it may allow you to branch out into certain areas at a later time. Food for thought when choosing from different degree options!

Associate’s DegreeBachelor’s DegreeMaster’s Degree
AS in Software DevelopmentBS in Computer Science – Software DevelopmentMS in Information Technology – Software Application Development
The goal of this degree is to build base knowledge in software development. 101 course work in areas like computer systems, networks, and programming.  Related courses like project management may also be offered.Students take courses in computer science and learn the basics of programming. Learn how to create software, debug it and maintain it across many platforms such as mobile.Explore complex software systems. Use knowledge of design and development with leadership skills to help prepare for your next career move.
  • Relational Database Design & SQL
  • C++
  • Database Fundamentals
  • System Design
  • Computer Organization and Architecture
  • Intro to Programming
  • Computer Systems architecture
  • Software Design
  • Software Systems Engineering Process
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Online Software Engineer Degree Programs

Most software developers need at least a Bachelor’s degree. The goal of such a program is to lay the ground work to build good software. This includes working on your coding skills. Even though coding is not the main duty for developers, they must still have these skills. So, expect to study coding languages like Java, C#, C++, Python, and SQL.

You’ll also discover the many concepts and moving parts that go into building software. For instance, you could study the user experience, and how to design intuitive programs. You could learn to build databases that make it easy for users to search for information. And, take courses that review cyber security across areas like the cloud.

Your program may also cover courses in IT business. Software developers often work as part of a team, managing projects and other people. So, areas like project management or tech management may be important. In recent years, companies have been looking for workers who have soft skills such as writing and critical thinking. These areas can be an important part of a degree program.

Look for programs like:

  • Associate’s in Software Application Development
  • Bachelor of Science (BS) in Software Development
  • BS in Computer Science – Software Development

Masters in Software Engineering Programs

In some cases, to advance to a leadership position, you may need a higher level degree like a Master’s degrees. A Master’s should build on your past learning or experience in the computer science field. In some cases, you may not need prior education in software development to earn the degree.

An MS in Software Development or MS in Information Technology with a focus on Software Application Development may cover advanced topics in designing and building software.  This may include complex programming techniques or machine learning and AI.  The program may also cover more management oriented course work. For instance, you could study agile development, a method for working on software more efficiently. For the final course, some programs may ask you to do a final project. In this project, you will apply what you learned in your courses to show you grasp software engineering.

What Software Development Courses Will I Take?

You’ll take course work across many areas. Some common courses include:

Introduction to Programming Using Java: Learning how to code is critical for developers. A course like this introduces you to the basics of coding. You’ll study programming language syntax – in this case, Java. You’ll also learn how to code, document, debug, and more.

Data Structures and Algorithms: Data structures and algorithms are key to creating working software. So, in this course, you’ll learn how to design, analyze, and use them. You’ll study abstract data types, plus algorithms for searching, sorting, and more.

Database Design: Databases are made of data sets. This course covers how to design them, so that they are useful in settings like business. You’ll also study the relational and object relational tools and techniques you need to build them.

Project Management: Developers often need to juggle many areas of a project. This course covers concepts that make that possible. For instance, you could learn how to create a work breakdown structure and task plan. You may also study management and communication techniques that help teams work together.

How Long Does It Take to Earn a Software Engineering Degree Online?

An Associate’s degree program may take around two years to earn. The degree is usually 60 credits total, with 15 credits divided into 4 semesters. Of course, you could earn a degree faster by taking more credits per semester, or, taking more than 2 semesters per year. A Bachelor’s degree usually takes at least four years to earn, as there are double the amount of credits. It is typical for a Master’s degree to range from 30 to 36 credits, and take two years to finish. That said, length can vary by program and other factors. That includes whether you study part time or full time.

Online Degree Examples

SchoolDegree Level# of CreditsWhen Can I Start?Finish In As Few As
RasmussenAssociate’s90Fall, Winter, Spring, Summer Dates18 months
University of Maryland Global CollegeBachelor’s12011 Start Sessions Spanning the YearNA
WGU (Western Governors)Bachelor’s1201st of each Month9 months
Boston UniversityMaster’s326 Start Dates Through Fall, Summer, Spring16 months
ASU OnlineMaster’s30Fall, Spring, Summer Dates12 months
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Software Developer School Costs

According to NCES, the average annual cost of attending a public, four year school is $19,189. Average tuition was higher for private and for profit schools, at $39,529. Here are schools with some of the cheapest online software engineering degree options. Rates of course are subject to change, so be sure to check with your school before applying.

SchoolDegree LevelUS News RankingCost Per CreditTotal Degree Cost
RasmussenAssociate’sNot Ranked$275$16,500
SNHU (Southern New Hampshire)Bachelor’sNorth 92$320$38,400
Grantham UniversityBachelor’sNot Ranked$295$35,400
Wilmington UniversityBachelor’sNot Ranked$372$44,640
Kennesaw StateMaster’sNational 293-381$383$13,788
StratfordMastersNot Ranked$495$26,730

Top Schools That Offer Software Engineer Degree Programs

NCES tells us that 3,113 degrees were awarded for this major in 2016. Compared to the prior year that is a 17% growth rate. The most common degree awarded in this field with 69% of the share is a Masters Degree. In 2016, 2,138 Masters were awarded. The next biggest share went to Bachelor’s Degrees. 860 were awarded in 2016.

School2016 Degrees awardedGrad Rate
San Jose State U56165%
International Technological University309NA
University of Houston – Clear Lake194 (online available)NA
Northeastern19088%
The University of Texas at Dallas11972%
Carnegie Mellon108 (online available)89%
Stratford University104 (online available)30%
Rochester Institute of Technology7467%
Bowling Green State University6956%
Stevens Institute of Technology69 (online available)87%

Choosing an Accredited Program

At a program level, one agency that may be important is ABET. This agency focuses on STEM fields, including computing. Choosing an ABET accredited program may help you be confident in the quality of your education. Currently, ABET only accredits computing programs at the Bachelor’s level. Do not worry if your preferred program does not have this accreditation. Just be sure that the school is accredited at the regional level.

Next Steps After Earning A Degree

The most valuable skills needed by software engineer’s are:

  • Programming
  • Systems Analysis
  • Systems Evaluation

Among the softer skills, the two most important would be complex problem solving and active learning. If you are looking to hone these skills, you may want to earn a certification. A few to look into would be:

  • Oracle Certified Professional (OCP): Java SE Programmer
  • IEEE Professional Software Developer Cert
  • PMI Agile Certified Practitioner®

Professional Organizations

There are many associations in tech. As a general rule, they aim to connect IT leaders. And, to innovate the tech industry by offering certs that help people advance in their careers. Two popular ones would be CompTIA and IEEE.

CompTIA: CompTIA offers several certs including the very popular A+. CompTIA claims that their A+ cert builds a foundation of IT skills. And, that it is the industry standard for starting any IT career. In addition to training, they also have a community of millions of IT professionals. Members have access to research reports, career advice and more.

IEEE: IEEE’s main goal is to foster tech innovation for the good of the world. One way they do this is by offering certs that act as continuing education credits. CEUs as they are known, are needed to maintain various certs.

Career Opportunities for Software Engineer Grads

NCES data tells us that there are over 4 million people in the software development work force.  And, that number grew from previous year by 5%.  At the same time, the job market is expected to grow much faster than average. BLS tells us that from 2018 to 2028 it will grow at a rate of 21%. That is a very fast growth rate.

Though men still dominate the class room, with 71% of degrees awarded. More women are earning degrees year over year.

Two industries in particular are expected to show growth over the coming year. Health and Insurance. As both areas shift toward digital records, systems and software will be needed to collect, manage and secure the data of millions of people.

Top States To Work In

Below shows the states with the mean wage for software developers according to the BLS.

StateEmploymentAnnual Mean Wage
WA53,860$131,790
CA148,550$127,950
NY52,640$116,830
VA38,110$113,690
DC2,520$112,510

Potential Jobs in Software Engineering

Software Developer

Software developers design and create software. Some focus on software applications that can be used on computers, smart phones, and other devices. Others develop underlying systems for devices or networks. Either way, developers work to understand user needs and design solutions. They then work with other professionals, like programmers, to create and test the software.

Median Salary: $105,590 per year

Job Growth to 2028: 21% (Much faster than avg.)

Entry Level Degree: Bachelor’s degree

Computer and Information Systems Manager

Computer and information systems managers plan and manage IT related aspects of a company. They determine the companies computing needs and offer the right strategies. They also plan for and monitor network security needs. And, they work with other professionals like software developers and computer support specialists to achieve IT goals.

Median Salary: $142,530 per year

Job Growth to 2028: 11% (Much faster than avg.)

Entry Level Degree: Bachelor’s degree

Computer Hardware Engineer

Computer hardware engineers design and create computer systems and components. These include circuit boards, memory devices, networks, routers, and a lot more. The process of engineering hardware involves various functions – from research to development and testing.   These engineers may design components for many uses, like cars and appliances.

Median Salary: $114,600 per year

Job Growth to 2028: 6% (As fast as avg.)

Entry Level Degree: Bachelor’s degree

© Education Connection 2019. All Rights Reserved.

EducationDynamics maintains business relationships with the schools it features.

Sources for school statistics is the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics.

This is an offer for educational opportunities that may lead to employment and not an offer for nor a guarantee of employment. Students should consult with a representative from the school they select to learn more about career opportunities in that field. Program outcomes vary according to each institution’s specific program curriculum.