2020 Best Online Software Engineering Degrees

By OnlineU Staff | Updated March 28, 2020

Software engineering students will learn to evaluate clients' software needs, upgrade existing programs, and collaborate with other engineers. Software engineering requires a unique blend of creativity and technical skills, and students should look for programs that encourage creative thinking through project-based or interdisciplinary classes. Prospective students should also take accreditation into account when choosing an online software engineering degree. Reviewing our top online colleges offering bachelor's degrees or our top online colleges offering master's degrees in software engineering lists may be helpful in choosing a school. In these two lists, programs are ranked by tuition rates and alumni salaries which were provided by PayScale.

2020 Best Online Colleges Offering Bachelor's in Software Engineering Degrees

2020 Best Online Colleges Offering Bachelor's in Software Engineering Badge

Ranked based on affordability and earning potential, these 7 schools offer the best online bachelor's degrees in software engineering. Arizona State University is the #1 school, with an average alumni salary of $123,800 and an average annual tuition of only $15,900 for their BS in Software Engineering. Hodges University, ranked #2, offers an annual tuition of only $20,700.

Alumni salaries were provided by PayScale. View our methodology for more details or learn more about OnlineU.

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2020 Online Colleges Offering Software Engineering Degrees - Ranking Details

Online Software Engineering Degree Overview & Career Information

Online degree programs in software engineering are available at the associate, bachelor's, master's, doctoral, and certificate levels. Associate programs are two-year degrees that give individuals a basic foundation in software engineering skills, preparing graduates to enter baccalaureate programs or gain entry-level positions. Bachelor's degree programs will prepare students to find work as a software engineer in the fields of software application engineering, computer system administration, security systems, video game creation, and many others, while master's degree programs are available for professionals who want to update their skill set or move into more project management or managerial roles. Online doctoral degrees in software engineering will prepare professionals to conduct advanced research or teach at the university level. Graduate certificates in software engineering are also available, and can help students decide whether to pursue a full master's degree. Certificate coursework can usually be applied toward master's degree's completion requirements at a later date or can be used to learn specific skills to assist with finding more job opportunities.

Online Associate Degrees in Software Engineering

Online software engineering degrees at the associate level are not as common as more advanced degrees. However, there are some programs available that will teach students the fundamental skills they need to begin their career. An individual looking to pursue a software engineering education at the associate level might enroll in a program in software engineering technology. An associate degree will prepare students for entry-level jobs and also provide a spring board for moving on to a bachelor's degree. A student enrolled in an associate program should expect to spend about two years completing their degree, and will take classes in areas such as systems analysis and design, database management, and programming. This type of degree is usually offered at technical schools. A high school diploma or equivalent is required in order to be accepted.

Online Bachelor's Degrees in Software Engineering

A bachelor's degree in software engineering is the typical minimum requirement for finding work in the field. Individuals with this degree can work in areas such as software application engineering, computer system administration, security systems, video game creation, and many other related fields. The bachelor's degree takes an average of four years, or 120 semester credit hours to finish. An online bachelor's in software engineering can be earned through colleges, universities, and technical schools. Coursework for the software engineering bachelor's degree includes classes in web engineering, computer security, human-computer interaction, technical communication, and data structures. It is also not uncommon for students to be required to complete an internship and/or some kind of senior project in order to graduate. The usual requirement for enrolling in a bachelor's degree is a high school diploma or equivalent.

Online Master's Degrees in Software Engineering

Online master's degree programs in software engineering are designed for professionals who want to advance in their career. In order to gain entrance to one of these programs, a student must have a bachelor's degree and a strong background in math and computer science, as well as some knowledge of a programming language such as Java. To learn more about online master's programs in software engineering, see our master's overview which includes a list of the best programs.

Online Doctoral Degrees in Software Engineering

Engineers that are interested in conducting large, complicated software research projects can complete a doctoral program. These degrees require advanced coursework, followed by the completion of the research project and a dissertation. Advanced courses and the research project usually revolve around the student’s particular interest area, such as artificial intelligence, networks, database systems, or systems engineering design. Online doctorate programs in software engineering are beneficial for someone who wants to make a career out of researching new types of software, or for people who want to teach at the university level. The length of time it takes to complete a Ph.D can vary depending on how long an individual takes to complete their dissertation, though a student can plan on spending four to five years in their program. Coursework for a software engineering Ph.D includes classes in the areas of advanced mathematics, design and engineering of software systems, research, and the study of how software interacts with society as a whole. Admission requirements to a doctorate program usually include the completion of a bachelor's degree in a related field, work experience, a firm grasp on various software technologies, and letters of recommendation.

Online Certificates in Software Engineering

Individuals who want to receive advanced training in the field of software engineering but who aren't sure if they are ready to commit to a full master's program might consider pursuing a certificate in software engineering. These certificates are most often found at the graduate level, meaning that a student would need to have already completed a bachelor's degree before being admitted to the program. Online certificate programs in software engineering usually take a year or less to complete. Students will take such classes as object-oriented design, software product and process evaluation, software testing and debugging, and software design. If a student completes a graduate certificate in software engineering and decides to then pursue a master's degree, the classes completed for the certificate can often be applied to completion of the degree. Completing a certificate program may be enough training to obtain an entry-level job in the software engineering field.

The Importance of an Accredited Online Software Engineering Degree

When choosing an online degree program, students should take into consideration whether or not a school or program is accredited. Accreditation means that an outside, independent organization has looked at the curriculum offered by a school and determined that it meets certain high standards for quality. Regional accreditation is when a particular group oversees the accreditation process for schools within a certain group of states.

There are also accrediting agencies that offer accreditation to specific programs within a school. For instance, the Accrediting Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET) provides accreditation for computing, engineering technology, applied science, and engineering degree programs across the country. ABET accreditation is voluntary, and schools that receive this endorsement have to undergo a rigorous examination process. The accreditation is only for specific programs, not the entire school. Individuals who wish to pursue an online degree program in software engineering may want to concentrate their search on programs that are ABET-accredited in order to ensure competitiveness in the job market.

Requirements for a Career in Software Engineering

As we live in a society where technology is so prevalent and necessary to our everyday lives, there is a lot of demand for software engineers. Becoming a software engineer requires specialized training, although licensing is not common in the field. Typically, a bachelor's degree is required to find work as an actual software engineer, though other types of computing jobs can be found with less formal education. Students who know that they want to pursue a software engineering career after college should earn their degree in software engineering, information technology, computer science, or a related field. Learning to program is also an important skill for software engineers to develop. While in school, students will want to try and complete an internship in order to gain valuable work experience and make professional contacts. Sometimes, it will be necessary to also earn a master's degree in order to be hired for certain jobs. However, this isn't usually the case, and a master's degree will only need to be earned if an individual wants to further advance their skill set and career. While many institutions offer certifications for software engineers and developers, such as the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) or the Software Engineering Institute", these are also usually not necessary for success in the field.


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