Organizations of all sizes need skilled computer professionals to maintain complex networks and program cutting-edge technologies. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects the creation of 550,000 new computer and information technology positions between 2016 and 2026. The growth is likely due to an increased focus on cloud computing and big data across sectors.

Due to the growing demand for new and improved software, the BLS projects a 31% increase in jobs for applications developers during the same period. A software engineering degree provides the tools and skills necessary to find a job in the technology industry. This guide introduces common features of software engineering bachelor's programs, including courses, concentrations, and requirements. The page also includes information on career paths and salaries for software engineering graduates.

Should I Get a Bachelor's in Software Engineering?

A software engineering degree is ideal for students planning to pursue a career in software development or computer programming. Software engineering programs familiarize students with the lifecycle of applications and provide skills necessary to succeed in the technology industry. Learners gain skills in software design, development, implementation, and maintenance.

Coursework introduces students to fundamental topics in computer science, such as algorithms and database architecture. Students then master essential programming languages and gain experience coding software projects. Software engineering programs also emphasize skills in quality assurance and debugging.

Earning a software engineering degree can also help students network and find a job. Students have opportunities to develop relationships with professors, classmates, and alumni, which can result in professional opportunities after graduation. In addition, universities often sponsor events such as job fairs and provide resources through career centers. Career counselors can guide students toward an appropriate field and help them find a job or internship.

On-campus programs usually attract recent high school graduates who want the structure of in-person classes. On the other hand, online programs often appeal to working professionals or busy students who need flexible scheduling options.

What Can I Do With a Bachelor's in Software Engineering?

Professionals with a software engineering degree work in a variety of roles and settings. Graduates may become software developers, who design and plan new programs. Others code new applications and websites. Some enter the IT industry, working to maintain the computer systems that are essential to businesses and other organizations.

Many types of enterprises rely on complex technologies and value employees who understand software and computers. A software engineering degree prepares students for positions with small startups, multinational corporations, and nonprofit organizations.

Software Developer

These professionals design, develop, and improve new software. They create concepts for new applications and work with computer programmers to write the code. Software developers build programs and operating systems. Most software developers hold a bachelor's degree in software engineering or a related field.

Median Annual Salary: $103,560
Projected Growth Rate: 24%

Computer and Information Systems Manager

Often referred to as information technology (IT) managers, these specialists oversee an organization's computer systems and infrastructures. They help management determine the organization's hardware and software needs, and they maintain current systems and networks. Most organizations require IT managers to hold a bachelor's degree in a computer-related discipline.

Median Annual Salary: $139,220
Projected Growth Rate: 12%

Computer Programmer

Computer programmers help software developers implement their ideas. They interpret software developers' designs and models and build the necessary algorithms and code. In bachelor's programs, programming students typically master one or more coding languages and gain experience creating functioning programs and applications.

Median Annual Salary: $89,240
Projected Growth Rate: -7%

Computer Systems Analyst

These computer professionals, sometimes called systems architects, work with managers to procure and implement hardware and software systems. They evaluate the systems in place and propose changes to improve overall efficiency and productivity. Computer systems analysts typically specialize in an area such as healthcare, finance, or government.

Median Annual Salary: $88,270
Projected Growth Rate: 9%

Web Developer

Web developers design and create web pages and websites. They build the appearance and interface of the site. They also code the underlying processes that make the site function. Software engineering programs often cover the programming languages that web developers use.

Median Annual Salary: $67,990
Projected Growth Rate: 15%

How to Choose a Bachelor's in Software Engineering Program

Choosing a bachelor's program in software engineering can be challenging. Programs vary widely, and each student has particular needs and preferences. Prospective students should carefully assess each program, considering factors such as cost and academic requirements.

Students should make sure the program cost fits their budget. Along with calculating tuition costs, learners should factor in fees. On-campus students should also consider the cost of relocating, the cost of living in the new area, and potential job opportunities for after graduation.

A program's curriculum is another important consideration. Students who plan to concentrate in a particular area of software development, such as web design or computer programming, should ensure prospective programs offer relevant specializations and electives. Students who value experiential learning should choose a program that includes opportunities for students to develop their own software.

Students should choose a program that fits their lifestyle and time constraints. Online programs are ideal for working professionals, while recent high school graduates often prefer on-campus programs. Online software engineering programs generally afford students a great deal of flexibility, and many allow learners to complete assignments at their own pace. On-campus programs usually follow a more rigid schedule.

Programmatic Accreditation for Bachelor's Programs in Software Engineering

Students should attend an accredited school to ensure other institutions and future employers recognize their software engineering degree. Accreditation requires a lengthy review process and indicates that an institution meets academic standards. The federal government only offers financial aid to students at accredited institutions. Most employers and graduate programs require candidates to hold a degree from an accredited school.

Schools can earn institutional accreditation, while programs can receive field-specific accreditation. Software development students should look for programs with accreditation from the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET). Programs may also receive accreditation from the Computing Accreditation Commission, a body within ABET.

Bachelor's in Software Engineering Program Admissions

Students should research application requirements in advance to avoid last-minute issues. Admissions requirements typically include an application. Most colleges in the U.S. accept the Common App, a standard application comprising a single form and essay, which students can submit to many schools. Some schools require a supplemental application or an additional essay.

Most schools require official high school transcripts and SAT or ACT scores. Some admissions processes include an interview component. Most students apply to six to nine institutions, including safety schools, target schools, and reach schools. The admissions process for online programs is typically more time-consuming than that for on-campus programs.


  • Minimum GPA: Schools generally require applicants to have a minimum 3.0 GPA. Most institutions consider applicants with lower GPAs who excel in other areas.

Admissions Materials

  • Application: Applications generally require basic information and a short essay. Most schools accept the Common App, though some require supplemental materials. Applicants should expect to spend significant time revising their essay.
  • Transcripts: Applicants must typically submit official high school transcripts. Students can obtain official transcripts from their high school, often for a small fee.
  • Letters of Recommendation: Some colleges require letters of recommendation from teachers, coaches, or employers. Students should request letters well in advance of the application deadline.
  • Test Scores: Though optional at some schools, most institutions require SAT or ACT scores. Some institutions post minimum standardized test scores online.
  • Application Fee: Though not all universities charge an application fee, those that do typically charge $25-90 per application. Students with financial need can apply for fee waivers.

What Else Can I Expect From a Bachelor's in Software Engineering Program?

Students pursuing a software engineering degree should research their program's academic requirements, cost, and length. Though curricula vary by school and specialization, the courses and concentration options below are common to many software engineering bachelor's programs.

Concentrations Offered for a Bachelor's Degree in Software Engineering
Concentration Description Careers
Computer Programming Students in this concentration learn how to turn software ideas into commands that a computer can understand. Computer programming students learn to write code in coding languages such as Python, Java, and C++. They learn to build custom code and utilize code libraries to accelerate the programming process. Computer Programmer, Software Developer, Software Engineer
Web Design Software engineering students who specialize in web design learn to develop user-friendly and aesthetically pleasing web pages. They learn to apply the principles of software development and design to the web. Web design students may concentrate on front-end or back-end development. Web Developer, Computer Programmer, Software Engineer
Project Management Students who plan to lead a team or a division can gain project management skills while earning a software engineering degree. Project management courses introduce general organizational techniques, as well as strategies specific to the software field. Students learn to supervise employees and set long-term goals. Senior Software Engineer, Lead Software Engineer, Software Project Manager
Software Design Software design involves planning and modeling new programs. Software design students learn to assess a user's needs to create a relevant software strategy. Coursework covers techniques related to designing individual processes as well as the overall architecture of a program. Software Designer, Software Developer, Software Engineer
Information Technology Students concentrating in information technology learn to build and maintain computer networks and systems. IT students gain knowledge of common hardware systems and software packages. They learn to troubleshoot issues, interface with users, and identify a firm's technology needs. Computer and Information Systems Manager, Computer Systems Analyst

Courses in a Bachelor's in Software Engineering Program

Required courses depend on the specific school and program. However, most software engineering curricula cover the same basic principles and techniques in programming and software design. Below are common courses for software engineering students.

Computer Programming

Students learn to code using essential programming languages. These courses cover basic principles of computer programming, as well as good coding practices and style. Software engineering programs often include introductory and advanced computer programming courses, which prepare students for jobs as software developers and computer programmers.

Software Specification and Design

This course covers various techniques that software professionals use to determine the specifications and overall design of a new program. Students learn to interview potential users and build prototypes and gain essential skills for future software developers and engineers.

Software Project Management

This course prepares students to lead teams of software developers. They learn to apply project management techniques and principles to the software industry. Students prepare to oversee, organize, and plan complex projects in software design and creation. This course is ideal for aspiring senior software developers and project managers.

Software Architecture

Students explore essential structures of software systems and learn to identify common architectural styles and standards. Learners study the frameworks that are essential to popular off-the-shelf applications and programs and prepare for careers as software engineers or developers.

Systems Programming

This course provides an overview of computer systems and the relationship between hardware and software. Students learn how operating systems connect hardware and software. They gain a basic understanding of computing processes and memory, which is necessary for aspiring IT professionals, software engineers, and computer programmers.

How Long Does It Take to Get a Bachelor's in Software Engineering?

Students typically complete a bachelor's degree in software engineering in four years, or eight semesters. Several program characteristics can affect degree completion time, including program requirements, transfer policy, and availability of summer and winter courses. Some programs accept credits from college-level courses students completed during high school, which can reduce completion time.

Most bachelor's programs in software engineering require about 120 credits. Some schools allow students to take additional courses each semester to finish in less time. On the other hand, some students take fewer than the recommended number of credits each semester, which delays graduation but often appeals to working professionals and students with personal responsibilities. Online programs generally offer the most flexibility, and many allow learners to complete coursework asynchronously.

How Much Is a Bachelor's in Software Engineering?

Each bachelor's program in software engineering charges a different tuition rate. Undergraduate tuition ranges from less than $10,000 to more than $40,000 per year. Public institutions generally charge lower tuition rates, while tuition at private institutions typically costs more. To save on tuition costs, students should consider in-state public universities. Learners can also apply for scholarships and financial aid to reduce the cost of their education. Students should complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to learn whether they qualify for federal financial assistance.

In addition to tuition, students pursuing a software development degree should consider expenses such as room and board, fees, and textbooks. Many universities require first-year students to live on campus and purchase a meal plan, and students who plan to commute should factor in transportation costs.

Certifications and Licenses a Bachelor's in Software Engineering Prepares For

Microsoft Certified Professional

This certification demonstrates a software developer's expertise in Microsoft products. After passing the initial exam to become a Microsoft certified professional, developers can take additional exams to earn advanced credentials.

AWS Certified Developer

This credential indicates an engineer's ability to develop and maintain applications on the Amazon Web Services platform. Candidates must have one year of experience with AWS applications and detailed knowledge of at least one high-level programming language. Candidates must pass an examination.

Professional Software Engineering Master Certification
The IEEE Computer Society offers this credential to entry-level software professionals. The organization recommends that candidates have four years of college-level computer science education and four years of industry experience. Candidates pass two online exams.

Resources for Software Engineering Students

IET Software

The Institute of Engineering and Technology publishes this peer-reviewed journal, which covers software design, development, and maintenance. Readers can stay informed about software engineering methods and theories.

ACM Digital Library

This database allows visitors to search Association for Computing Machinery journals, conference proceedings, and magazines. Students can use the database to research topics in computing and computer science.

Stack Overflow

Stack Overflow is a question-and-answer platform for software developers and computer programmers. Answers are user-submitted, so students should independently verify information.

Google Code Archive

This archive contains more than 1.4 million projects that users uploaded to the Google Code Project Hosting Service. Students can search the archive to find relevant and useful pieces of code.

IEEE Xplore

IEEE Xplore is a research database for various types of materials related to computer science and electrical engineering. Students can search more than 4.5 million records using the database.

Professional Organizations in Software Engineering

Software engineering students and recent graduates can benefit from joining professional associations and organizations. Many organizations offer networking and continuing education opportunities that can help software engineers and developers advance their careers. Associations may also offer career services and host conferences and training workshops.