Online Master’s in Software Engineering 2021

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A branch of computer science, software engineering involves establishing user requirements and creating software to meet these requirements. Software engineers document the creation process, test the software, and sometimes perform maintenance and upgrading.

Online master’s in software engineering degrees meet the degree requirements for many lucrative computer and information technology occupations. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), these careers offer a median annual salary of $88,240. Many of these careers also offer strong job growth projections. For instance, the BLS projects jobs for software developers to grow 22% between 2019-2029.

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Top 5 Programs for Software Engineering

Rank School Location
1 California State University-Fullerton Fullerton, CA
2 East Carolina University Greenville, NC
3 University of Houston-Clear Lake Houston, TX
4 Texas Tech University Lubbock, TX
5 Kennesaw State University Kennesaw, GA

Learn More About Software Engineering


  • Q. Is a software engineer degree worth it?

    March 2021 PayScale salary data indicates that software engineering master’s graduates earn an average salary of $88,370 annually, making the degree a worthwhile investment for many students.


  • Q. What can you do with a software engineering degree?

    Graduates with an online master’s in software engineering can pursue roles like information security analyst, computer programmer, web developer, and software developer.


  • Q. Do software engineers get paid well?

    According to March 2021 PayScale data, software engineers make an average salary of $86,980 annually.


  • Q. What is the difference between a software engineer and software developer?

    Software engineers often work on a larger scale and collaborate with other IT professionals, while software developers often work independently on smaller-scale projects.


Why Get a Degree in Software Engineering?

A bachelor’s degree meets the minimum degree requirements for many computer and IT careers, but a master’s degree positions graduates for leadership roles in the field. This degree often leads to promotions and networking opportunities. Graduates can pursue jobs such as computer and information research scientist. These professionals make a median annual salary of $122,840.

Earning a software engineering degree online often costs less than on-campus programs and gives students the flexibility to balance their studies with personal and professional obligations.

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How Much Does a Software Engineering Degree Cost?



The U.S. News & World Report reports that online software engineering master’s degrees often cost between $7,000-$38,000. However, degree prices vary widely based on factors like program, school, and location.

The College Board’s 2020 college pricing report suggests that attending an in-state public school rather than a private school or an out-of-state public school can cut expenses down by nearly 75%. Additionally, the College Board report indicates that colleges in states like California and New Mexico cost much less than many schools in New England.

Earning a software engineering degree online can save students money. Many schools offer tuition discounts to online students. Additionally, online students can often avoid many of the expenses that on-campus students incur, such as transportation costs.

Calculating the Cost of a College Degree



Affordable Colleges Online helps prospective students estimate college costs through its college affordability calculator tool. Prospective students can enter their income, living expenses, estimated books and fees, and financial aid prospects to learn how much they can afford to pay for an online master’s in software engineering.

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How Much Do Software Engineering Majors Make?

Salaries vary widely based on factors like position, experience, employer, and industry, but software engineering graduates typically earn ample salaries. For instance, computer programmers and software developers make median annual salaries of $86,550 and $107,510, respectively.

A master’s degree may also qualify graduates for computer and information research scientist and computer and information systems manager jobs. These advanced careers offer median annual salaries ranging from $79,540-$146,360.

Courses in Software Engineering



Master’s in software engineering degree programs usually require 30-39 credits. Enrollees typically complete core coursework in software engineering fundamentals, software requirements analysis, agile methods for software development, and software testing and quality assurance. Core requirements may also include a capstone project that showcases key skills in analysis, engineering, and development.

Some online master’s in software engineering programs offer concentrations in areas such as geographic information systems, modeling and simulations, digital and embedded systems, and network-centric systems. Additionally, software engineering may be a concentration of a broader computer science degree.

Courses vary by program, but the following list outlines courses commonly found in online master’s in software engineering programs.


  • Fundamentals of Software Engineering

    This introductory course familiarizes participants with key software development processes and practices. Enrollees learn about heavy- and light-weight software lifecycle process models. They use industry-standard software engineering tools and build skills in object-oriented analysis and design and project management.


  • Software Requirements Analysis

    This course explores techniques for identifying and eliciting requirements from stakeholders. Participants learn how to convert this information into more detailed requirements suitable for creating a software product. The course surveys requirement specification, modeling, and analysis methods.


  • Agile Methods for Software Development

    This course examines agile software development practices. Enrollees learn agile methods such as Scrum, Lean, Extreme Programming, and Crystal. Other topics include feature-driven development and dynamic systems development. This project-based course covers the use of agile methods during all development stages.


Certifications and Licensure for Software Engineering



Certifications can help master’s graduates stand out in the job market. Some industry vendors, such as Microsoft, Citrix, Amazon, and Google, offer related certificate and certification programs. Nonprofit organizations also offer software engineering credentials. The following list outlines several certifications for software engineers.

Microsoft Technology Associate Developer


This set of software certifications helps professionals demonstrate specialized skills in areas including Windows software and mobile applications and games. Candidates can pursue multiple certifications simultaneously.

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Professional Software Engineering Master Certification


The IEEE grants this certification to candidates who pass an examination covering 11 knowledge areas. Candidates need at least four years of college education and four years of industry experience.

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Licensed Software Engineer


Some jobs require software engineering licensure, which state boards administer. Requirements vary by state, but they often include a four-year degree and four years of relevant professional experience. Candidates must pass two exams to earn licensure.

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Scholarships for Software Engineering



Software engineering students can take advantage of financial aid opportunities to help offset the cost of their degree. Unlike loans, scholarships do not require repayment, making them ideal forms of financial aid. The following list outlines several scholarship opportunities for software engineering students.

  • National Science Foundation Scholarships

    Who Can Apply: This program supports low-income U.S. students who show promise in STEM fields. Candidates must inquire at their school’s financial aid office to apply for an S-STEM project scholarship.

    Amount: Not specified

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  • Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association Graduate Diversity Scholarships

    Who Can Apply: This scholarship supports women, minorities, and Gold Star members seeking STEM-related graduate degrees at accredited schools. Candidates need a minimum 3.0 GPA and status as active-duty service members, veterans, or Gold Star Family Members.

    Amount: $3,000

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  • Fulbright Foreign Student Scholarship Program USA

    Who Can Apply: International graduate students seeking to study in the U.S. qualify for this opportunity. Each of the 155 participating countries specifies its own requirements. U.S. students can pursue Fulbright scholarships in other countries.

    Amount: Fulbright awards provide tuition, airfare, a living stipend, and health insurance.

    Explore Here

Online Master’s in Software Engineering Programs 2021



See Our Rankings Methodology
  1. California State University-Fullerton
    Location

    Fullerton, CA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    A public institution with over 40,000 students, Cal State Fullerton features the best online software engineering master's degree. The flexible program, designed for computer science professionals seeking career advancement, trains learners in industry standard models. Software engineering graduate enrollees study the software process, software testing, and software project management.

    Distance learners complete ten courses in 22 months to earn their degree. The curriculum includes coursework in software verification, advanced software process, and modern software management. Master's students complete a seminar and graduate project. Cal State Fullerton uses a cohort model to foster collaborative and team working skills.

    Prospective students must hold a bachelor's degree from an accredited college or university. The software engineering program requires a minimum 2.5 GPA in the final 60 credits of an undergraduate program. Cal State Fullerton is regionally accredited by the WASC Senior Colleges and University Commission.

  2. East Carolina University
    Location

    Greenville, NC

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Founded in 1907 as a public university in Greenville, North Carolina, today ECU offers many online programs. At ECU, graduate students can earn a master's in software engineering online. The program, which combines computer science and software engineering, trains graduates to design, develop, and test reliable software systems.

    The forward-thinking online software engineering degree blends innovative approaches into its coursework, covering topics like object-oriented design, systems architecture, and software project management. The program encourages collaboration and team building in its online courses. Graduate students choose between a 30-credit coursework only option, a project option, or a thesis option.

    Prospective students must hold a bachelor's degree with a recommended major in computer science, software engineering, or a related field. The program requires GRE or MAT scores and recommendation letters. ECU is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

  3. University of Houston-Clear Lake
    Location

    Houston, TX

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    A public university on a 524-acre nature preserve, UHCL enrolls over 9,000 students. In addition to its on-campus programs, UHCL offers online degrees, including an online master's in software engineering. The program, through the College of Science and Engineering, builds leaders in various software engineering specialties.

    Designed for working professionals, the online software engineering degree trains students in requirements engineering, software construction and architecture, and the software engineering life cycle. Degree-seekers focus their studies with an optional specialization. Options include gaming, robotics software, software project management, and data mining. The 30-credit master's program offers a 15-month route to a graduate degree.

    Applicants need a bachelor's in computer science, computer engineering, or a related field with a minimum 3.0 GPA. UHCL waives the GRE requirement for applicants meeting the GPA threshold or demonstrating one year of work experience in a computing field. Incoming software engineering students can transfer up to six credits toward their degree. UHCL is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

  4. Texas Tech University
    Location

    Lubbock, TX

    Tuition

    $$$$$

  5. Kennesaw State University
    Location

    Kennesaw, GA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    A public research institution in Georgia, Kennesaw State offers a flexible online master's in software engineering. Graduate students choose an online or in-person option for every course in the program, allowing local distance learners to modify their schedule each semester. The master's degree emphasizes real-time strategies for solving problems and developing mission-critical software.

    Enrollees take seven required courses and customize their degree with electives. The curriculum includes classes in requirements engineering, software project planning, and software testing. Kennesaw State features electives in emerging software engineering processes, game design, user interaction engineering, and cloud computing. The program offers a project option and a thesis option, letting degree-seekers choose between a software engineering capstone project or a thesis.

    The software engineering master's degree admits applicants with a bachelor's degree. Incoming students with a non-computing degree complete foundation courses. Kennesaw State is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

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