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Published on February 4, 2021

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Due to the increasing need for innovative software, constantly changing code, and the complexity of modern computing, software engineers should continue to see rapid growth in the demand for their expertise for the foreseeable future. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects 22% job growth between 2019 and 2029 for software developers, which is much faster than average.

The following guide features insights related to online master's in software engineering programs, covering career options, salary data, common coursework, admission requirements, and answers to frequently asked questions.

What Are the Best Online Master's in Software Engineering Programs? Here Are Our Top 10:

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#1 Harvard University Cambridge, MA
#2 University of Southern California Los Angeles, CA
#3 California State University, Fullerton Fullerton, CA
#4 Stevens Institute of Technology Hoboken, NJ
#5 Brandeis University Waltham, MA
#6 University of Houston-Clear Lake Houston, TX
#7 Illinois Institute of Technology Chicago, IL
#8 Drexel University Philadelphia, PA
#9 University of West Florida Pensacola, FL
#10 East Carolina University Greenville, NC
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Our rankings are grounded in a few guiding principles and use the latest statistical data available from trusted sources. Read our Ranking Methodology. We hope our approach helps you find the school that is best for you.

2020 Best Accredited Online Master's in Software Engineering Programs

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Harvard University View School Profile Cambridge, MA

Harvard's master's in software engineering program allows online learners from all over the world to learn in-demand skills. The 48-credit curriculum includes coursework in theoretical foundations, cloud computing, and software design. Students choose between thesis and non-thesis tracks.

Degree-seekers can prepare for a new career or pursue professional advancement by earning a certificate in backend web development, cybersecurity, or data science. Harvard supports distance learners by offering free workshops, advising, and interviewing guides.

The admissions process for this program requires prospective students to pass two introductory courses with a minimum 3.0 GPA. Applicants must also take a critical reading and writing skills test.

University of Southern California View School Profile Los Angeles, CA

USC's master's in software engineering program features a 32-credit curriculum with courses in analysis of algorithms, software architecture, and web technologies. Students can personalize the curriculum through electives. The program concludes with a research colloquium and a directed research project.

Over 70% of USC's engineering alumni start a job soon after graduation. Students can research lucrative job openings, access informational videos, and receive cover letter critiques through USC's career center.

This program admits new students in the spring, summer, and fall semesters. Admission requirements include a bachelor's in computer science and GRE scores. All students pay the same tuition and fees. Low-income applicants may qualify for institutional grants.

California State University, Fullerton View School Profile Fullerton, CA

Professionals who already work in the computer science field may be interested in earning CSUF's online master's degree in software engineering to increase their earning potential. Students analyze software standards, advanced software processes, and ethical and legal issues. Full-time learners can graduate in 22 months.

CSUF's College of Engineering and Computer Science oversees its own career center, which offers advising appointments and internship opportunities.

CSUF admits new software engineering students in the fall. Prospective students who do not hold a bachelor's in computer science but have relevant work experience may apply. California residents receive a significant tuition discount.

Stevens Institute of Technology View School Profile Hoboken, NJ

Stevens oversees an online master's in software engineering program that prepares learners to work as software developers, testing engineers, and requirements engineers. The curriculum stresses agile methods for software development, software architecture, and cost estimation and measurement. Additional requirements include a software engineering studio course, which serves as a capstone.

The vast majority of program alumni experience a positive career outcome and earn an above-average starting salary within six months of graduating. Students can prepare for life after graduation by accessing virtual career resources, including one-on-one counseling sessions hosted through Zoom.

Admission requirements include two recommendation letters, undergraduate transcripts, and GRE scores. All software engineering students pay the same semester-based tuition rate. Financial aid options include federal grants, an employer reimbursement program, and a monthly payment plan.

Brandeis University View School Profile Waltham, MA

Part-time students can enroll in Brandeis' master's in software engineering program. The 30-credit curriculum features core courses in object-orientated design with UML, software engineering studio, and expert software development in Java. Students personalize 40% of their credits by selecting electives.

Recent software engineering graduates have gone on to work at companies like Bose Corporation, Phillips, and General Dynamics. Students can find potential employers by taking advantage of the school's alumni network, Handshake software, and virtual counseling appointments.

Prospective students should have relevant work experience or an undergraduate degree in computer science or a related field. Brandeis does not charge out-of-state tuition rates. Financial aid opportunities include federal and private loans and employer reimbursement.

University of Houston-Clear Lake View School Profile Houston, TX

UHCL's online master's in software engineering program awards an MS and features four concentrations: gaming, robotics software, software project management, and software development. Core courses include software architecture, reuse and reengineering, and

requirements engineering. Full-time learners who take three courses per semester can graduate in 15 months.

UHCL's resources for students and alumni include career counseling, mock interviews, and virtual networking events. Learners can also access Jobs4Hawks — UHCL's private job board.

Applicants with a minimum 3.0 undergraduate GPA do not need to submit GRE scores. Additional requirements include prerequisite courses in C++ and Java. UHCL admits students without professional experience. Texas residents receive a significant tuition discount.

Illinois Institute of Technology View School Profile Chicago, IL

Students at IIT can specialize in software engineering while earning an online master of computer science degree. After completing the core curriculum, students select four electives from seven options, including the science of programming, software metrics, and software testing and analysis.

More than 85% of IIT alumni find a job or enter a graduate program within six months of earning a degree. Career advisors help students and alumni achieve positive career outcomes by providing them with internship opportunities and an informational blog.

Applicants do not need a computer science bachelor's degree or professional experience. Admission requirements include a minimum 3.0 undergraduate GPA, two recommendation letters, and a personal statement. All students pay the same per-credit tuition rate, regardless of residency.

Drexel University View School Profile Philadelphia, PA

Drexel's online MS in software engineering program follows a quarter system and features 10-week courses. The curriculum includes core and breadth courses, with classes like network security, human-computer interaction, and information visualization. The 45-credit degree does not require a thesis or capstone.

At Drexel's career development center, current students and alumni can receive career counseling and explore postgraduate opportunities. These resources help nearly 90% of Drexel alumni find employment within 12 months of graduating.

Applicants without a bachelor's degree in computer science can apply. Application materials include GRE scores, a 500-word personal essay, and one recommendation letter. Active-duty military members receive an automatic 40% tuition discount. Online software engineering students may also qualify for institutional financial aid.

University of West Florida View School Profile Pensacola, FL

UWF's master's in software engineering program features an entirely online curriculum with coursework in advanced algorithms, parallel and distributed programming, and continuous software engineering. Students customize their degree by selecting two electives from multiple options. The program concludes with a thesis or an advanced project.

Approximately 25% of UWF students accept a job offer before graduation day. UWF provides students with job search strategies, internship opportunities, and resume guides.

Admission requirements include a minimum 3.0 undergraduate GPA and GRE scores. UWF prefers applicants with work experience. The university admits some applicants without a computer science background, although these individuals must complete three additional courses. Students with financial need can apply for a UWF Graduate Grant.

East Carolina University View School Profile Greenville, NC

Prospective students who want a software engineering education that stresses computer science fundamentals may be interested in ECU's online master's degree in software engineering. The 30-credit curriculum includes core coursework in software engineering foundations, software project management, and the foundations of software testing. Students without a relevant bachelor's degree must complete eight additional credits.

ECU offers online workshops that cover transitioning from college to a career. Students can also read guides that provide advice regarding resumes, networking, and interviewing.

Applicants must have a minimum 3.0 GPA and submit GRE scores. North Carolina residents receive a tuition discount. Incoming students can speak with an advisor to explore institutional and private financial aid opportunities.

Related Programs That Might Interest You

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

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

Master's in software engineering students often possess strong time management skills, the ability to work well on teams, and a willingness to teach and help others.

Individuals with certain traits tend to do well when enrolled in an online master's in software engineering program. These characteristics include strong time management skills, the ability to work well on teams, and a willingness to teach and help others. Students also do well if they can assess problems and develop sound solutions.

Most master's in software engineering degrees require 30-33 credits. Full-time students complete their degrees in 18-24 months. Part-time students may take three years or more to graduate. Some programs provide accelerated options for learners who wish to secure their master's in software engineering as quickly as possible.

These programs usually offer concentrations, such as cybersecurity, data analysis, project management, software architecture, and software development. Students can choose a concentration that meets their career goals and interests.

Students often complete an internship as part of their master's program. These experiences allow them to work alongside experienced software engineers to learn best practices in the field.

Admission Requirements for Online Master's in Software Engineering Programs

To apply to an online master's in software engineering program, students typically must hold a bachelor's degree in computer science or a related field from a regionally accredited postsecondary institution. Most programs require GRE scores, a personal essay, and recommendation letters.

Additionally, master's in software engineering programs may require students to achieve a 2.0 GPA or better in certain prerequisite courses, such as introduction to software engineering, database management, and statistics.

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

Online master's in software engineering programs offer a variety of courses, including both required classes and electives. Students can largely take courses based on their interests, concentration, and career goals. While course requirements differ from program to program, the list below features some of the most common courses in an online master's in software engineering.

Software Engineering Methods

This course examines the common challenges software engineers encounter in their work. Students learn how individuals and teams need to adapt to continual changes and often work with peers on group projects to examine problems and develop actionable solutions.

Software Architecture and Design

Students learn the skills needed to serve as technical leads of software project teams. This course explores how to design and develop sound software architecture for enterprise-scale systems. Students gain a strong understanding of micro- and macro-architectural patterns, architectural analysis methods, and concepts in architecture modeling. The class typically involves multiple group projects.

Object-Oriented Design

This course covers modern techniques in design and analysis, focusing on unified modeling language and problem space analysis. Students learn how to leverage these concepts to create real-world solutions to design problems they are likely to encounter in their software engineering careers.

Python and JavaScript Web Programming

Students learn how to design and execute web applications using JavaScript, Python, and SQL, using Bootstrap, Django, Flask, and other frameworks. The course covers database design, security, and optimizing the user experience. Students gain the skills they need to create and deploy a variety of internet applications.

Big Data Analytics

This course helps students master Spark 2 and other key big data systems and technologies. Students learn how the popularity of social media has led to the collection, storage, and sharing of browsing data, videos, photographs, email messages, and other information. The course covers best practices in organizing big data and the creation of large-scale data pipelines.

Find the Tools You Need to Get Started on Your Degree

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

According to the BLS, software developers earned a median annual income of $107,510 in 2019. The BLS projects 22% growth for this field between 2019 and 2029, well outpacing the typical expected career growth in the United States.

As computing, software, and systems become more complex and an even greater part of everyday life, demand for individuals with a master's in software engineering will continue to grow.

See where a master's in software engineering can take you. Learn more about software engineering careers.

true Applications Software Developer device-mobile

Application software developers create many different applications, such as commercial software, word processors, and games, for computer and mobile device operating systems. In addition to designing applications, these developers code them and conduct tests for errors, functionality, performance, and security. They often consult with other tech professionals to develop these applications.

Software Architect

These professionals create the structures behind software systems, usually as part of a team. They may create new systems and applications or update and improve existing systems. Software architects conduct research to find the best tools for each project and take a step-by-step approach to break down large problems into more manageable stages.

Network Security Engineer

Network security engineers play a critical role in technology development by keeping computers, software, and systems safe. They conduct comprehensive tests to find potential vulnerabilities and develop solutions to protect businesses and organizations. These professionals remain in high demand as the technology used to breach computer systems becomes more complex.

User Experience Designer

This speciality field in software development centers on ensuring technology products remain user friendly and easy to navigate for consumers. User experience designers develop prototypes and interfaces. They must be open to feedback, incorporating data from users to continually improve software and applications.

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Frequently Asked Questions About Master's in Software Engineering Programs

Is a master's in software engineering worth it?

While a master's in software engineering requires an initial investment, the salary and job growth potential for graduates make getting an advanced degree well worth the time, energy, and tuition spent. Many professionals in this field earn six-figure salaries and benefit from considerable choice in the career paths they can pursue.

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

A master's in software engineering gives you options. Many graduates of these programs go on to serve as application developers, software architects, and network security engineers. Software engineers work at tech companies as well as organizations and businesses across many non-tech sectors such as healthcare, finance, media, education, and government.

Is software engineering in demand?

Yes. The BLS projects continued 22% job growth for software developers between 2019 and 2029. This projection far outpaces the average growth of 4% across all careers.

How much money can I make with a master's in software engineering?

While the money you make depends on your experience, level of training, location, and the specific job opportunities you pursue, PayScale reports that software engineers earn an average salary of $88,670. Experienced software engineers earn an average salary of $105,190 per year.

What are the highest paying jobs with a master's in software engineering?

The most lucrative careers for individuals with a master's in software engineering tend to focus on developing solutions to evolving technology challenges and security concerns. Computer information and research scientists, for example, made a median annual salary of $122,840 in 2019, according to the BLS. Computer network architects made a median salary of $112,690 that year, and software developers earned a median salary of $107,510.

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