The Top Online Master’s in Software Engineering Degrees 2024

Learn what you can do with an online master's in software engineering and where this degree can take you.
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Best Online Master's Degree Programs in Software Engineering

The tech landscape is only getting more complicated and specialized, making it a good time for you to consider a master's degree in software engineering. Here are the best online software engineering programs of 2024, including our top-rated school, California State University, Fullerton (CSUF).

The research team at BestColleges ranked colleges based on metrics like affordability, student outcomes, reputation, and diversity and social mobility. Overall, California State University, Fullerton, ranked highest due to its high retention rate and affordability.

  • CSUF boasts an 87% retention rate and a 71% graduation rate.
  • Tuition comes in at less than $7,200 a year, making it one of the most affordable graduate programs on the list.
  • CSUF also has one of the lowest federal student loan default rates compared to others on the list — less than 1%. (A high federal student loan default rate may signal that graduates are having difficulty making their student loan payments.)

Prefer a bigger cohort? While costlier than CSUF, Carnegie Mellon University is the largest program on our list, with a graduating class size of 140 students. It also reports the highest graduation rate, at 93%.

For a smaller class size, check out Texas Tech University, number two on our list. It had a graduating class of just four people and a tuition price of just $7,000 per year.

Keep reading for the full list of top online master's programs in software engineering of 2024.

Popular Online Programs

Learn about start dates, transferring credits, availability of financial aid, and more by contacting the universities below.

Best Online Software Engineering Master's Degrees 2024

We use trusted sources like Peterson's Data and the National Center for Education Statistics to inform the data for these schools. BestColleges.com is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site. from our partners appear among these rankings and are indicated as such.

BestColleges.com is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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#1 The Top Online Master’s in Software Engineering Degrees 2024

California State University-Fullerton

  • Fullerton, CA
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Cost per Unit:
In-State | $481
Out-of-State | $877

Credits to Graduate: 30

Cal State Fullerton's master of science in software engineering helps working professionals to enhance their skills in software engineering. Courses include software verification and validation, software measurement, modern software management, and a final project.

Taking two courses per semester, students can finish in five semesters. This 100% online program does not require a GRE for admission, but applicants do need a 2.5 GPA in the last 60 credits or extensive experience in the field. If you don't have a BS in computer science, you'll need to send them your resume to prove work experience. 

Average Undergrad Tuition
In-state
$5,742
Out-of-state
$17,622
Average Graduate Tuition
In-state
$7,176
Out-of-state
$16,680
Retention Rate
87%
Acceptance Rate
59%
Students Enrolled
40,738
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
80% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission
#2 The Top Online Master’s in Software Engineering Degrees 2024

Texas Tech University

  • Lubbock, TX
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Cost per Credit:
In-State | $817
Out-of-State | $1,460

Credits to Graduate: Varies

Using engineering process methods, students in Texas Tech's online master of science in software and security engineering explore software design and quality assurance methods for production.

Enrollees take six core credits, followed by electives in engineering and security. They may elect to write a thesis, complete a project, or produce a report, but all graduates must pass a final exam. Applicants who do not hold a BS in computer science or a related field can take leveling courses through Texas Tech.

Average Undergrad Tuition
In-state
$8,935
Out-of-state
$21,204
Average Graduate Tuition
In-state
$6,956
Out-of-state
$15,136
Retention Rate
85%
Acceptance Rate
68%
Students Enrolled
40,542
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
68% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
#3 The Top Online Master’s in Software Engineering Degrees 2024

North Dakota State University

  • Fargo, ND
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Cost per Credit:
In-State | $464
Out-of-State | $464

Credits to Graduate: 30

NDSU's master of software engineering helps working professionals upgrade their skills and credentials in software engineering. This 100% online degree is partially customizable, with students choosing to adapt larger projects to their own interests and goals.

The curriculum includes courses such as software design, software testing and debugging, and empirical methods in software engineering. Applicants need a BS with at least 12 credits in a computer science field and a GPA of 3.0, along with knowledge of a programming language. A year of fieldwork is acceptable if applicants lack a computer science BS.

Average Undergrad Tuition
In-state
$8,951
Out-of-state
$13,426
Average Graduate Tuition
In-state
$7,293
Out-of-state
$10,940
Retention Rate
76%
Acceptance Rate
95%
Students Enrolled
12,461
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
47% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Higher Learning Commission
#4 The Top Online Master’s in Software Engineering Degrees 2024

East Carolina University

  • Greenville, NC
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Cost per Credit:
In-State | $290
Out-of-State | $1,020

Credits to Graduate: 30-38

A broad-based degree, ECU's online master of science in software engineering combines software engineering with computer science. Students take foundations of software testing, software project management, and software engineering foundations among other courses. They may elect to finish with a thesis, project, or coursework online. Graduates can qualify to pursue admission to a Ph.D. 

Applicants should hold a 3.0 in their undergraduate studies and score in the 30th percentile or better on the GRE. Prospective students without adequate background in the field may complete preparatory coursework through ECU.

Average Undergrad Tuition
In-state
$4,452
Out-of-state
$20,729
Average Graduate Tuition
In-state
$4,749
Out-of-state
$17,898
Retention Rate
81%
Acceptance Rate
94%
Students Enrolled
28,021
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
74% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
#5 The Top Online Master’s in Software Engineering Degrees 2024

DePaul University

  • Chicago, IL
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Cost per Credit:
In-State | $918
Out-of-State | $918

Credits to Graduate: 48

DePaul's online master of science in software engineering prepares students to develop high-quality software systems using widely recognized processes, techniques, tools, and methodologies. The program offers four concentrations — software development, software architecture, real-time game systems, and entrepreneurship and technology leadership.

Graduates report earning a median annual salary of $95,000 within six months of completing this program. DePaul accepts new students four times per year. Applicants need a bachelor's degree with a 2.5 GPA or better. 

Average Undergrad Tuition
In-state
$41,361
Out-of-state
$41,361
Average Graduate Tuition
In-state
$17,951
Out-of-state
$17,951
Retention Rate
84%
Acceptance Rate
69%
Students Enrolled
21,670
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
66% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Higher Learning Commission
#6 The Top Online Master’s in Software Engineering Degrees 2024

Drexel University

  • Philadelphia, PA
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Cost per Credit:
In-State | $1,396
Out-of-State | $1,396

Credits to Graduate: 30

Students in Drexel's online master of science in software engineering follow an interdisciplinary, customized approach to their subject. The curriculum includes software design, distributed systems software, and software studio. Each course lasts ten weeks, and new students can transfer up to three courses into the program. Online grad programs at Drexel have an additional fee of $125/year

Applicants need a bachelor's degree in computer science or a related field, with a GPA of 3.0 or better. Prospective students who do not meet this criteria may seek alternative admissions options. 

Average Undergrad Tuition
In-state
$54,766
Out-of-state
$54,766
Average Graduate Tuition
In-state
$36,234
Out-of-state
$36,234
Retention Rate
90%
Acceptance Rate
83%
Students Enrolled
23,216
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
50% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Middle States Commission on Higher Education
#7 The Top Online Master’s in Software Engineering Degrees 2024

Stevens Institute of Technology

  • Hoboken, NJ
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Cost per Credit:
In-State | $1,776
Out-of-State | $1,776

Credits to Graduate: 30

Stevens' online software engineering master's degree requires 10 courses — seven core courses and three electives. Core courses include agile methods for software development and cost estimation and metrics. Students may also concentrate in areas of interest, including engineering management, systems engineering, and computer science. 

Online courses may be synchronous or asynchronous or involve elements of both approaches. Applicants should submit their transcripts, letters of reference, $60 application fee, and other admissions documents for consideration. Accepted students have six years to complete their degrees.

Average Undergrad Tuition
In-state
$54,780
Out-of-state
$54,780
Average Graduate Tuition
In-state
$38,076
Out-of-state
$38,076
Retention Rate
93%
Acceptance Rate
53%
Students Enrolled
8,287
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
37% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Middle States Commission on Higher Education
#8 The Top Online Master’s in Software Engineering Degrees 2024

Washington State University

  • Pullman, WA
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Cost per Credit:
In-State | $652
Out-of-State | $652

Credits to Graduate: 31

Offered through the Voiland College of Engineering and Architecture and the WSU Global Campus, WSU's master of science in software engineering prepares students to create innovative software solutions. This 100% online degree requires nine credits of core courses, 13 of advanced courses, and nine of electives.

Students take big data, software maintenance, and software testing among other courses. A full-time schedule requires three semesters, and the part-time program takes five. The application fee is $90, and new classes begin in the fall and spring.

Average Undergrad Tuition
In-state
$10,457
Out-of-state
$25,773
Average Graduate Tuition
In-state
$12,076
Out-of-state
$26,526
Retention Rate
81%
Acceptance Rate
86%
Students Enrolled
29,843
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
29% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities
#9 The Top Online Master’s in Software Engineering Degrees 2024

West Virginia University

  • Morgantown, WV
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Cost per Credit:
In-State | $715
Out-of-State | $715

Credits to Graduate: 30

Offered through Coursera's learning platform, WVU's master of science in software engineering requires 10 classes and 24 months to complete the program. Courses in this 100% online degree include software evolution, software verification and validation, and enterprise architecture framework.

To graduate, students need a C or above in each course and an overall GPA of 3.0 or better. Applicants must hold a bachelor's degree in a related field and a minimum 3.0. Prospective students with a GPA above 3.5 may be exempt from submitting GRE scores.

Average Undergrad Tuition
In-state
$9,144
Out-of-state
$25,824
Average Graduate Tuition
In-state
$10,332
Out-of-state
$26,676
Retention Rate
81%
Acceptance Rate
90%
Students Enrolled
25,474
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
54% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Higher Learning Commission
#10 The Top Online Master’s in Software Engineering Degrees 2024

Carnegie Mellon University

  • Pittsburgh, PA
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Cost per Credit:
In-State | $756
Out-of-State | $756

Credits to Graduate: 84

CMU's master of software engineering is a part-time, online program for working professionals that takes 6-8 semesters to complete. Students take courses such as statistics for decision making, software architecture, and applied distributed systems. Each course generally lasts seven weeks. The program concludes with a thesis writing course and a term paper that should show depth of knowledge in a key area of software development.

Applicants need a bachelor's degree in a related field, knowledge of object-oriented programming languages, and experience in software development. No GRE scores required for this degree.

Average Undergrad Tuition
In-state
$57,560
Out-of-state
$57,560
Average Graduate Tuition
In-state
$46,441
Out-of-state
$46,441
Retention Rate
97%
Acceptance Rate
14%
Students Enrolled
15,057
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
31% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Middle States Commission on Higher Education

How We Rank Schools

To create this ranking, BestColleges sourced the most recent data available from the National Center for Education Statistics and the U.S. Department of Education College Scorecard. We then ranked each school according to the top variables college students selected in our College Choice and Admissions Survey. To learn more, check out our full rankings methodology or read the summary below.

Ranking Methodology Summary

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To qualify for our rankings lists, each school must be an accredited public or private, nonprofit institution. Each eligible school was then ranked based on a formula measuring:

  • Affordability (30%)
  • Student outcomes (30%)
  • Reputation (20%)
  • Diversity and social mobility (20%)

In addition, we only included colleges with graduation rates in the top third of all online colleges.

What Can I Expect From an Online Master's in Software Engineering Program?

Those considering online master's degrees in software engineering usually have some relevant experience. Candidates for this degree typically enjoy creative problem-solving, designing with innovation in mind, keeping up with the latest tech trends, and working in team environments.

In addition to generalist coursework, many schools now offer a variety of concentrations to help you build knowledge in specific discipline areas. Concentration offerings vary among schools, but common ones include:

Most programs entail 30-40 credits and require two years of full-time study or three years of part-time study. Some accelerated degrees allow graduation in as little as 15 months.

When preparing for graduate school, make sure you understand what your prospective degree requires. If you majored in a different subject for your bachelor's, you may need an internship for some hands-on experience.

Be prepared to write a thesis, too. Programs for students interested in research or academia often require a thesis project.

What Courses Will I Take in an Online Master's in Software Engineering Program?

  • Natural Language Processing: Students learn to design a variety of applications, translate between languages, and answer questions. Topics include deep neural networks, text-to-speech generation, natural language understanding, language modeling, and natural language generation.
  • Software Engineering Processes: This course examines emerging processes within software engineering. Covered topics may include the software development life cycle; service-oriented architectures; database access technologies; waterfall, Scrum, and Agile development processes; and mobile-based event programming.
  • Software Management Theory: Students explore the relationships among knowledge creation, culture, business context, software development processes, and organizational structure. The course also covers ethics for software engineers using real-world case studies and applications.
  • Software Quality Assurance and Testing: Designed for use in the validation process, this course looks at the criteria and methods for software unit testing and integration, function and system performance measurements, and common modes of reliability evaluation.
  • Software Security Technologies: This course serves software engineers who build apps that require data sensitivity and protection. The class explores the tools and methods available for developing secure, centralized technologies able to withstand cyberattacks.

How Do I Get Into a Software Engineering Master's Program?

Graduate admission guides vary substantially among programs. Still, most online and on-campus admissions departments look for the same traits: Candidates with STEM-related bachelor's degrees.

Competitive programs may also ask for programming examples from you, or ask you to participate in an interview.

  • Application: College application systems typically accept both online and mailed applications. Most applications for master's in software engineering degrees ask for basic information such as your full name, mailing address, date of birth, and citizenship status.
  • Test Scores: Many graduate-level programs have stopped requiring standardized test scores, especially for students with high undergraduate GPAs or significant relevant experience. Still, some expect you to provide GRE scores. In this case, leave plenty of time for GRE prep.
  • Letters of Recommendation: Most master's in software engineering programs ask for 2-3 recommendation letters from people who can speak to candidates' preparedness for graduate-level study. Mentors such as professors, supervisors, volunteer overseers, and faith leaders can write letters of recommendation.
  • Resume and Work Experience: Work experience requirements can vary among programs. At Carnegie Mellon University, admitted students for the master's in software engineering program showed an average of four years of software engineering experience. When creating a college application resume, make sure you understand each program's expectations.
  • Essay: When writing a graduate school essay, try to stand out from other candidates by saying something memorable. In addition to highlighting life and professional experiences, discuss why you want to earn a master's in software engineering, how you plan to use the degree, and why you want to attend this particular program.
  • Official Transcripts: Official transcripts serve several purposes. They signal to admission officers whether a candidate meets undergraduate prerequisite requirements. Transcripts also help admission officers verify your GPA. For transfer students, transcripts can show which credits may transfer over to the new program.

How Much Is an Online Master's in Software Engineering Degree?

Online graduate programs tend to charge lower tuition rates than in-person degrees. For distance-education programs, schools don't have to maintain libraries, classrooms, offices, or cafeterias, and they pass on some of these cost-savings to students.

Before you choose a program based on tuition, calculate the real cost of attendance. Some public colleges and universities charge in-state tuition to out-of-state learners as a way of attracting more students.

Some private colleges may be more affordable than you think because they have fewer restrictions about where they spend their funds — and often provide profitable financial aid packages.

Average Annual Cost of a Master's in Software Engineering Degree

Online

$10,877

In-Person

$16,750

Source: National Center for Education Statistics

What Can I Do With an Online Master's in Software Engineering Degree?

An online master's in software engineering is a versatile, market-friendly degree that can open up potentially lucrative and engaging careers.

With a background in both computer science theory and software design principles, graduates can pursue roles in database administration, network systems management, cybersecurity analysis, or web development.

In addition to a master's degree, some employers may require entry-level IT experience. Employers may also require professional certifications such as CompTIA's IT fundamentals certification for web developers.

Software engineering master's graduates can pursue doctoral work in software engineering or a related field. With a Ph.D. or professional doctorate, software engineers can become researchers or postsecondary teachers.

Software Engineering Career Paths
Jobs Details Salaries (May 2023)
Computer and Information Research Scientists Computer and information research scientists push the boundaries of knowledge in the field by creating new technologies./td> $145,080
Software Developers, Quality Assurance Analysts, and Testers These computer science professionals build, maintain, and test new programs and applications. $101,800
Computer and Information Systems Managers Computer and information systems managers provide oversight to a company's information technology resources. $169,510
Database Administrators and Architects Database architects design and build the data storage and retrieval systems that administrators use to secure information. $101,510
Computer Programmers Computer programmers write, test, and modify the code that runs applications and programs. $99,700
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

How Do I Choose an Online Software Engineering Program?

With so many online software engineering programs competing for your attention, how do you know which one to choose? The factors below are just a handful of considerations to keep in mind.

You also want to think about the school's career services support, alumni network, and financial aid packages available.

  • Accreditation: In addition to understanding online college accreditation, look for a master's in software engineering with programmatic accreditation. ABET accredits software engineering programs.
  • Cost: Cost is a significant deciding factor for a master's in software engineering. Make sure you understand the true program cost of any potential program. Compare the cost of online programs to on-campus programs.
  • Location: Decide whether to attend college online or on campus. Understand how location factors into this decision. Fully online programs with no in-person components allow you to select a school anywhere in the country. Programs with campus-based requirements may require you to live closer.
  • Program Format: Online master's in software engineering programs commonly offer both part-time and full-time options. Some also offer accelerated pathways for motivated learners. Consider whether synchronous or asynchronous formats work best with your learning style.
  • Student Support: Student services offerings can make a huge difference. Top-tier programs often offer college mentorship opportunities and help students find great internships. If you plan to pursue distance learning, make sure to ask about support services for online learners.

More Questions About Master's in Software Engineering Degrees

Can I get a master's in software engineering online?

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Yes, you can get a master's degree in software engineering online. Earning your degree online lets you keep up with your workplace, family, or community responsibilities while continuing your education. Online degrees may also cost less than traditional programs.

What can I do with a master's degree in software engineering?

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A master's degree in software engineering can position you for a career as a senior software engineer, software quality assurance engineer, and Android software developer, in addition to computer science management positions. This degree may also qualify you to apply for a Ph.D. in the discipline, putting you on the path to a research and teaching career.

Is an online master's in software engineering respected?

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Online education has accrued respect as it has grown more popular. As far back as 2018, Northeastern University found that 71% of employers had hired someone with an online degree or credential. In a post-pandemic world, when nearly every learner has studied online, that number may be much larger.

To earn a respected master's degree in software engineering, choose an institutionally accredited school with a brick-and-mortar campus, a robust alumni network, and strong faculty credentials.

Is a master's in software engineering program hard?

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A master's in software engineering covers many complex topics and skills, so students need a strong background in technology, programming languages, and discrete mathematics.

If you do not have an academic background in these areas, you can pursue non-formal education through MOOCs, certifications, or self-study. Depending on your prospective school's admissions criteria, you may need to take leveling courses, which you can complete online or at a local college.

Is a master's in software engineering degree worth it?

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In April 2024, Payscale reported that a master's in software engineering earned an average base salary of $116,000 a year. People with this degree worked as lead software engineers, data scientists, or IT consultants.

Note: The insights on this page — excluding school descriptions — were reviewed by an independent third party compensated for their time by BestColleges. Page last reviewed December 4, 2023.

BestColleges.com is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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