Best Online Bachelor’s in Software Engineering Programs

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Software engineers are the technical minds behind computing programs, systems, and networks. Engineers are present at every stage of software creation, including design, development, testing, and evaluation. They also review market research to determine which software products and services are in highest demand, and may be required to revisit their work in order to address glitches and other program errors. Most software engineers are well-versed in computer science and programming, as well as other related fields like web development, digital design, and project management.

Software engineers often begin their career by earning a bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university. These degree programs cover computer science, programming languages, systems analysis, computing architecture, quality assurance, and database management, along with calculus, physics, and mechanics.

Today, many students are choosing to earn their bachelor’s in software engineering online. Web-based students follow the same rigorous curriculum as their brick-and-mortar counterparts, leading to the same number of job opportunities after graduation. The asynchronous (or self-paced) schedule and study-from-home format are also ideal for students with part-time jobs, childcare obligations, and other responsibilities that could possibly interfere with campus-based learning.

Read on to learn more about what you can do with an online bachelor’s in software engineering, and what kind of career opportunities you can pursue after earning your degree.

WILL AN ONLINE SOFTWARE ENGINEERING DEGREE PROGRAM PROVIDE ME WITH THE SKILLS I NEED TO ADVANCE MY CAREER?

A bachelor’s degree is considered the minimum requirement for most entry-level software engineering positions. Students who pursue this degree will learn how to perform key processes at different stages of software creation, along with the fundamental theories that guide this cutting-edge field. Some bachelor’s in software engineering online programs culminate with a capstone course, which allows students to demonstrate the knowledge and skills they have gained with a comprehensive research project; other programs require students to submit a portfolio of their best work.

WILL AN ONLINE SOFTWARE ENGINEERING DEGREE PROGRAM WORK WITH MY SCHEDULE?

Bachelor’s in software engineering online programs offer a flexible alternative to traditional education. Students are able to download course lectures and readings, participate in virtual discussions with other students, submit written assignments, take exams, and communicate with their professors on their own schedule. Current educational technology also enables them to study away from their home computer using a laptop, tablet, smartphone, and other portable Wi-Fi compatible devices.

WHAT JOBS CAN I GET WITH MY BACHELOR’S IN SOFTWARE ENGINEERING?

Most software engineering bachelor’s degree recipients go on to pursue careers directly related to software design and development. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the most popular industries among software developers include computer systems design and related services (33%), software publishers (8%), finance and insurance (8%), and computer and electronic product manufacturing (8%). Others find work as web developers, computer programmers, and network architects.

WHAT ARE THE BEST ONLINE SOFTWARE ENGINEERING DEGREE PROGRAMS?

Choosing a program is an incredibly personal decision, and only you can properly evaluate whether a target school’s strengths match your educational needs. The following ranked list of schools should serve as a helpful starting point in your search for the best online bachelor’s in software engineering programs in the United States. If you are considering an online bachelor’s in software engineering, be sure to contact admissions specialists at different colleges and universities to learn more their about specific requirements and offerings.

Rank School Name Ranking Score Relative Cost Location Description
1 Arizona State University-Tempe 76.33 2/5 Tempe, AZ

Ranked the Most Innovative School in the country for the past two years by U.S. News & World Report, ASU serves more than 80,000 students from around the globe. More than 90 of ASU's undergraduate degree programs are offered entirely online, including an online bachelor's in software engineering. Courses are constructed and delivered by ASU's on-campus faculty, who interact with students in real-time and through various platforms on the Blackboard LMS. ASU's software engineering degree online uses a unique project-driven curriculum that builds both academic and professional skills in communication, critical thinking, and teamwork. Classes are typically taught in 7.5 week increments, though some courses are 15 weeks long. Courses are taught in a structured sequence, and all distance learners are required to take an introductory class welcoming them to ASU and reviewing basic campus and online learning policies. Graduates are prepared to enter the workforce as application software engineers or pursue advanced study in computing or a related field.

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2 University of Maryland-University College 68.92 2/5 Adelphi, MD

UMUC is one of 12 members of the University System of Maryland that offers more than 90 degrees, certificates, and specializations online. UMUC's students can gain credits quickly based on previous training and on-the-job experience. UMUC's strong cyber security educational track, which was recognized by the U.S. Department of Defense in 2015, provides an online bachelor's in software development and security. The program is delivered through UMUC's new online learning platform (Learning Experience Online) and it provides novel interactive features accessible on a smartphone or tablet. Classes are available entirely online, though select courses are also available in a hybrid format for students who want to take some material on campus. Distance learners must complete 120 credits to graduate; students with previous college credits can transfer up to 90 credits into UMUC. The software development and security program teaches students popular programming languages and best practices in software development.

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3 Bellevue University 59.33 4/5 Bellevue, NE

Bellevue is a private, nonprofit institution offering more than 70 degree programs to students around the globe. The online bachelor's in software engineering program is an accelerated “cohort” degree program geared towards distance learners who already have some experience or education in the field. In cohort programs, students on the same degree track are placed into the same online classes, so they are able to learn together and from one another. The program requires students to complete a total of 49 credits delivered over 72 weeks. This includes degree-specific training, a foundational course in professional skills, and a capstone course series in American democracy and entrepreneurship. Bellevue also offers its students free services to help them succeed, including those from the writing center and the tutoring and study skills center.

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4 Park University 56.33 3/5 Parkville, MO

Consistently ranked as a top school for affordability and value, Park offers more than 20 online bachelor's degree programs to students around the globe, including an online bachelor's in information and computer science. While not explicitly an online software engineering degree program, students can pursue a concentration in software engineering; those interested must complete nine courses in the specialty, including classes in computer architecture, user interface design, and computer operating systems. They must also complete 12 classes in core courses that all information and computer science students take. Distance learners are taught the problem-solving, critical-thinking, teamwork, and programming skills required to succeed in the field. They also learn how to design and implement logical and practical software programs. With the help of faculty, peers, and a variety of free services through Park's Academic Support Center, online ICS/SE students are provided with a comprehensive education that prepares them for a successful career in software engineering.

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5 Western Governors University 57.00 3/5 Salt Lake City, UT

WGU is a nonprofit, online university that was established in 1995 by 19 U.S. governors to provide quality and affordable education to America's working professionals. WGU developed the nation's first competency-based learning model, which allows students to quickly move through educational requirements in which they are already proficient. The model saves students time and money, and has received high praise from Barack Obama and Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates. The online software development bachelor's degree program leverages this model to help professionals and students with IT experience or some education in the field obtain a BS in just two years. Students are paired with a faculty mentor to develop a detailed degree plan that includes six industry-recognized certifications at no additional cost. The program culminates with a capstone project where students develop a software solution with real-world application in their place of business.

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6 Eastern Florida State College 53.75 2/5 Cocoa, FL

Formerly known as Brevard Community College, EFSC now offers more than 100 associate and bachelor's degrees online and across four campus locations. EFSC's online bachelor's in program and software development degree prepares students for entry-level positions involving computer software applications. This program teaches students the fundamentals of data structuring and programming languages, in addition to the design and development of elegant computer programs. Online classes are delivered by dedicated faculty through Canvas, though courses are not self-paced. Students are expected to take classes in general physics and calculus. They should also plan to take an introductory course in C++. Distance learners have the opportunity to pursue one of five concentrations, including offerings in cybersecurity, data science, networking systems, computer project management, and program & software development. EFSC's dedicated academic advising staff can help you design a curriculum tailored to your interests and professional goals.

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Timeline
3 to 4 years
Program Costs (when available)
$8,000 to $25,000 in annual tuition
Concentrations
Computer Science, Computer Programming, Information Technology, Software Architecture, Software Design and Development, Software Quality Assurance, Network Architecture, Web Design, Project Management
Accreditation
There is no formally recognized accreditor for bachelor’s degree programs in this field. Please defer to an individual school’s regional or national accreditation status.

Employment Outlook for Bachelor’s in Software Engineering Graduates

Job Placement: Master’s in Marriage and Family Counseling

The BLS projects that jobs in the computer and information technology sector will rise 12% between 2014 and 2024, resulting in approximately 488,500 new positions. Furthermore, computer and IT professionals face low unemployment rates due to the high public demand for tech products and services. Consequently, the job outlook for software engineers and developers is quite strong.

The next table features the unemployment rates for software developers, as well as eight other computing and IT occupations. All nine entries were included on the Best Technology Jobs list published by U.S. News & World Report in 2016.

Occupation Unemployment Rate (2016)
Information Security Analyst 1.4%
Information Technology Manager 1.8%
Computer Systems Administrator 2.0%
Database Administrator 2.0%
Computer Programmer 2.5%
Software Developer 2.5%
Computer Systems Analyst 2.6%
Computer Support Specialist 3.3%
Web Developer 3.4%

Source: U.S. News & World Report

It’s important to note that the unemployment rates for all nine jobs are significantly lower than the national unemployment rate for all industries, which is currently 4.6%.

Earning a Living

According to the 2015-16 PayScale College Salary Report, students that graduate with a bachelor’s degree in software engineering earn a median annual salary of $64,700 during their first five years on the job, and $98,100 after 10 years in the workforce. However, salary expectations for software engineering degree-holders also depend on the graduate’s specific job title. The next table looks at career salary growth projections for five of the most common careers for software engineering majors.

Profession Median Annual Salary for Entry-Level Employees (0-5 years) Median Annual Salary for Mid-Career Employees (5-10 years) Median Annual Salary for Experienced Employees (10-20 years) Median Annual Salary for Late-Career Employees (20+ years)
Software Engineer $72,790 $84,821 $97,695 $103,558
Software Developer $62,448 $76,168 $86,399 $90,105
Web Developer $51,067 $61,591 $69,435 $78,925
Network Architect $86,246 $100,535 $117,227 $120,178
Computer Programmer $53,264 $67,559 $78,285 $85,243

Source: PayScale

All five occupations reported career salary growth of at least 39%. Computer programmers experience the highest rate of salary growth: a 60.0% increase between entry-level and late-career positions. Web developers finished second with 54.6% salary growth after 20 years in the workforce, followed by software developers with 44.3% growth.

Career Opportunities

Students who graduate with a bachelor’s in software engineering will be qualified for dozens of entry-level and mid-level positions, although your eligibility for specific jobs will depend on additional factors, like employer type and location. Below, we reviewed four common career pathways in software engineering.

Software Developers: Software developers create the blueprints for computer programs, games, applications, and other software-based products. They often conduct market research in order to develop software that matches consumer needs, and will also beta-test their work and perform post-project evaluation to ensure that designs are in working order.

Computer Network Architects: Network architects specialize in creating different types of network systems, including small networks (also known as local area networks, or LANs) intended for light traffic and large-scale networks (known as wide area networks, or WANs) that can accommodate a large number of users. Architects also design tools and components that accompany networks, such as firewalls and other security programs, and will often be responsible for performing network upgrades.

Computer and Information Research Scientists: This specialized branch of science covers programming languages, software engineering, information systems, network security, and other cutting-edge areas of computing technology. Computer and information research scientists dedicate most of their time to research. They often publish articles in academic journals and present their findings at conferences and industry seminars as well.

Web Developers: Web developers design and evaluate the look and functionality of different internet-based programs, tools, and applications. Back-end developers handle code sequencing and other technical site components, while front-end developers are responsible for optimizing the site’s layout, graphics, multimedia, and sound quality.

Occupation Median Annual Salary Projected Industry Growth (2014-24)
Software Developers $100,690 17% (+186,600 jobs)
Computer Network Architects $100,240 9% (+12,700 jobs)
Computer and Information Research Scientists $110,620 11% (+2,700 jobs)
Web Developers $64,970 27% (+39,500 jobs)

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)

Professional Organizations

Making professional connections and learning as much as you can about software engineering is crucial to your professional success, and professional organizations offer a great entry point for students who want to learn more about their chosen career path. Below, you’ll find three of the country’s most prominent organizations established for software engineers. These organizations host networking events, provide online trainings, maintain active job boards, and offer other services for career-ready college graduates.

  • Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers: Founded in 1884 when electricity was in its infancy, the IEEE today represents nearly 400,000 members in more than 160 countries. The institute is open to students, established professionals, and retirees. Member benefits include discounts on continuing education courses, a complimentary subscription to the IEEE’s flagship Spectrum magazine, and information about networking opportunities.
  • Association of Software Professionals: The ASP is a trade organization dedicated to software developers and engineers who design programs, apps, and networks. The website features an extensive calendar of upcoming conferences and events, along with full issues of the ASPects monthly newsletter.
  • International Association of Engineers: A professional organization “for the engineers and the scholars in software engineering,” IAENG offers free membership for students and professionals. This nonprofit also operates 16 societies that oversee niche areas of software engineering, such as bioinformatics, data mining, operations research, and wireless networks. Members and non-members are also invited to submit entries for Engineering Letters, IAENG’s flagship academic journal.
  • Despite the relative affordability of online programs, most students still need financial assistance. Students should complete a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form to learn more about loans, grants, and other opportunities offered through the U.S. government. Additionally, private grants and scholarships are widely available through nonprofit organizations, companies, and other sources. Check out our collection of resources below to learn more about your financial aid options.

    AN OVERVIEW OF FINANCIAL AID

    Approximately two-thirds of today’s college students rely on loans to fund their education, but there are plenty of overlooked financing options you can use to reduce your overall student debt.

    UNDERSTANDING THE FAFSA

    Completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is a crucial first step for any student with financial needs. Our FAFSA guide features a step-by-step rundown on the process and answers to several frequently asked questions.

    FINANCIAL AID FOR ONLINE COLLEGE STUDENTS

    Financial aid for online learning is equivalent to what you’ll find for campus-based learning, but that hasn’t always been the case. Learn about the changes that have taken place, as well as the different funding opportunities available to online students.

    SCHOLARSHIPS FOR WOMEN

    Online programs can provide an affordable and flexible option for women trying to balance the demands of work, family, and earning their degree. We’ve curated a list of valuable scholarships specifically for women.

    SCHOLARSHIPS FOR SINGLE PARENTS

    Online college programs can be a flexible, affordable option for single parents who are interested in earning a degree and securing their family’s financial future. We’ve compiled a list of scholarships, grants, and other financial aid options geared toward single moms and dads.

    FINANCIAL AID FOR VETERANS AND ACTIVE MILITARY

    Millions of dollars in free money is available to U.S. military personnel, but much of it goes unused. Learn more about grants, scholarships, and other financial aid opportunities available to veterans, active-duty service members, and reservists.