Online Bachelor’s Degree Programs in Software Engineering

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Software engineers develop the algorithms used in designing, applying, and maintaining computer applications and software. Their work provides the structure for various operating, navigation, and network distribution systems that run smartphones, cars, and businesses. Software engineers create the instructions that tell a computer how to perform specific functions. Software engineers who work for small employers may take on programming responsibilities such as writing code, while professionals in large companies often supervise the work of computer programmers.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects the addition of roughly 175,000 jobs in the computer software engineering field from 2008-2018. Because practically every industry requires computer software professionals, graduates with a bachelor’s degree in software engineering can pursue jobs in a variety of industries, including manufacturing, design, aeronautics, and construction.

This guide provides an overview of the software engineering field and covers topics including occupation and salary outlook, coursework, and financial aid and scholarships.

Top 10 Online Bachelor’s Degree Programs in Software Engineering

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Best Online Bachelor’s Programs in Software Engineering


  • Methodology

    Best Online Software Engineering Programs

    Deciding which college to go to is no easy task, so ACO evaluated more than 3,500 colleges to give you the information you need to make the search more manageable. Our college rankings are based on statistical data from trusted sources, eligibility criteria and various ranking factors
    Data Sources:

    All rankings: Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS)
    Best Online MBA Programs: Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (GMAT scores)
    Some nursing programs: NCLEX
    Nursing bridge programs: American Association of Colleges of Nursing and DiscoverNursing.com
    Accreditation: ABET and the US Department of Education’s Office of Postsecondary Education

    Eligibility Criteria:

    Each college must be accredited
    Each college must be a not-for-profit institution
    Each college must be located in a state (US territories and Washington DC were excluded)
    Each college must have at least one online program 1
    Each college must have a maximum four-year tuition of $25,000 or a maximum two-year tuition of $5,000

    Ranking Factors:

    Affordability
    Quality
    Flexibility
    Program

    Several individual data points were objectively evaluated to calculate a score for each ranking factor listed above. For affordability, the most impactful data points were tuition2 and grants; for quality, graduation and acceptance rates; for flexibility, part-time enrollment options; and for program, degrees granted in that specific program area. Each score was then weighted, with affordability being the most highly weighted factor for all ACO rankings.

    1 Best Vocational Programs included data for both online and campus programs.

    2 Both in-state and out-of-state tuition rates were used in our methodology; however, our rankings tool currently only displays in-state rates.

Many schools offer on-campus and online software engineering degrees. Because of the variety of options, choosing the software engineering program that best fits your needs can be overwhelming. The list below can help prospective students narrow down their options. When creating the list, we considered factors including tuition, variety of online coursework, and available online and on-campus resources.

How Much Can You Make in a Software Engineering Career?

Although no degree can guarantee a job or a specific salary, a bachelor’s in software engineering can enhance professional opportunities. Graduates can pursue a variety of positions, including information systems manager, systems analyst, and security specialist. Additionally, software engineering professionals can work in almost any industry. After earning an on-campus or online software engineering degree, graduates enter a growing field; according to the BLS, employment for software engineers increased 34% from 2008-2018.

The table below includes descriptions of common career paths for software engineering graduates, along with salary expectations and projected job growth.

  • Software Developers, Application

    Median Annual Salary: $103,560
    JOB GROWTH 2016-2026: +30.7%
    Job Description

    Software developers design the underlying systems that control the different functions of an electronic device or a computer program. They develop, implement, and maintain application systems, and they document every aspect of software development for troubleshooting purposes and/or future upgrades. Software developers often direct and supervise computer programmers in creating code. However, software developers sometimes write code themselves, especially when working for smaller companies.

  • Computer and Information Systems Manager

    Median Annual Salary: $139,220

    JOB GROWTH 2016-2026: +12%

    Job Description

    Some companies refer to computer and information systems managers as IT project managers, or simply IT managers. These professionals help define the technological needs and objectives of a company and develop the systems that meet those objectives. They may also review the integrity of an organization’s digital infrastructure and make recommendations to preserve or enhance the system’s security.

  • Computer Systems Analyst

    Median Annual Salary: $88,270

    JOB GROWTH 2016-2026: +9.1%

    Job Description

    Most computer systems analysts work in the nexus of business and technology. They apply current or emerging technologies to business processes to improve functionality and increase profitability. Computer systems analysts help select new computer or IT systems for a company and often customize these systems to meet the company’s specific needs. They also train and teach personnel using new systems.

  • Information Security Analyst

    Median Annual Salary: $95,510

    JOB GROWTH 2016-2026: +28.5%

    Job Description

    An information security analyst’s typical responsibilities include monitoring networks for security breaches, installing firewalls and data encryption programs, and conducting penetration testing to find vulnerable areas. They also research IT security applications and trends and assess their relevance to a company’s security objectives.

  • Database Administrator

    Median Annual Salary: $87,020

    JOB GROWTH 2016-2026: +11%

    Job Description

    A database administrator ensures that an organization’s information is secure, up-to-date, and accurate. Database administrators organize data for stakeholders, modify database structures to improve efficiency, update permissions, and back up databases. Some database administrators are responsible for the physical and technical aspects of an entire database, while others deal with specific applications.

Sources: BLS 2018

Job growth and salaries vary greatly between states and industries. According to the BLS, the states with the highest employment levels for applications software developers are California, Texas, Washington, New York, and New Jersey. The annual mean salaries for software developers in these states range from $103,390-$131,430, and Washington professionals earn the highest salaries. The computer systems design industry employs the highest concentration of software developers, followed by the software publishing industry.


  • Alabama
    Median Annual Salary: $89,440

    Number Currently Employed: 5,230

    Projected Job Growth: +34.1 percent


  • Alaska
    Median Annual Salary: N/A

    Number Currently Employed: 180

    Projected Job Growth: +4.4 percent


  • Arizona
    Median Annual Salary: $94,740

    Number Currently Employed: N/A

    Projected Job Growth: N/A


  • Arkansas
    Median Annual Salary: $83,830

    Number Currently Employed: 2,280

    Projected Job Growth: +35.8 percent


  • California
    Median Annual Salary: $121,210

    Number Currently Employed: 134,200

    Projected Job Growth: +40.1 percent


  • Colorado
    Median Annual Salary: $102,530

    Number Currently Employed: 26,370

    Projected Job Growth: +31.1 percent


  • District of Columbia (DC)
    Median Annual Salary: $116,680

    Number Currently Employed: 2,430

    Projected Job Growth: +34.2 percent


  • Connecticut
    Median Annual Salary: $99,790

    Number Currently Employed: 9,490

    Projected Job Growth: +29.3 percent


  • Delaware
    Median Annual Salary: $98,870

    Number Currently Employed: 2,560

    Projected Job Growth: +31.4 percent


  • Florida
    Median Annual Salary: $88,030

    Number Currently Employed: 34,750

    Projected Job Growth: +40 percent


  • Georgia
    Median Annual Salary: $97,780

    Number Currently Employed: 23,350

    Projected Job Growth: +27.4 percent


  • Hawaii
    Median Annual Salary: $77,660

    Number Currently Employed: 830

    Projected Job Growth: +28.1 percent


  • Idaho
    Median Annual Salary: $85,680

    Number Currently Employed: 2,030

    Projected Job Growth: +30.2 percent


  • Illinois
    Median Annual Salary: $93,510

    Number Currently Employed: 26,930

    Projected Job Growth: +28.4 percent


  • Indiana
    Median Annual Salary: $79,810

    Number Currently Employed: 8,490

    Projected Job Growth: +36.6 percent


  • Iowa
    Median Annual Salary: $86,830

    Number Currently Employed: 4,230

    Projected Job Growth: +23.3 percent


  • Kansas
    Median Annual Salary: $86,130

    Number Currently Employed: 5,500

    Projected Job Growth: +28.7 percent


  • Kentucky
    Median Annual Salary: $76,290

    Number Currently Employed: 5,220

    Projected Job Growth: +33.4 percent


  • Lousiana
    Median Annual Salary: $73,620

    Number Currently Employed: 1,410

    Projected Job Growth: +63.7 percent


  • Maine
    Median Annual Salary: $85,690

    Number Currently Employed: 1,740

    Projected Job Growth: +21.5 percent


  • Maryland
    Median Annual Salary: $103,290

    Number Currently Employed: 13,260

    Projected Job Growth: +7.4 percent


  • Massachusuetts
    Median Annual Salary: $103,700

    Number Currently Employed: 29,060

    Projected Job Growth: +26 percent


  • Michigan
    Median Annual Salary: $87,880

    Number Currently Employed: 20,840

    Projected Job Growth: +31 percent


  • Minnesota
    Median Annual Salary: $90,200

    Number Currently Employed: 15,120

    Projected Job Growth: +23.8 percent


  • Mississippi
    Median Annual Salary: $87,030

    Number Currently Employed: 790

    Projected Job Growth: +27.2 percent


  • Missouri
    Median Annual Salary: $94,760

    Number Currently Employed: 14,050

    Projected Job Growth: +40.1 percent


  • Montana
    Median Annual Salary: $74,600

    Number Currently Employed: 800

    Projected Job Growth: +34.2 percent


  • Nebraska
    Median Annual Salary: $85,510

    Number Currently Employed: 5,140

    Projected Job Growth: +31.4 percent


  • Nevada
    Median Annual Salary: $101,040

    Number Currently Employed: 2,460

    Projected Job Growth: +47.7 percent


  • New Hampsire
    Median Annual Salary: $101,460

    Number Currently Employed: 5,050

    Projected Job Growth: +28.8 percent


  • New Jersey
    Median Annual Salary: $100,850

    Number Currently Employed: 45,450

    Projected Job Growth: +22.5 percent


  • New Mexico
    Median Annual Salary: $76,600

    Number Currently Employed: 1,250

    Projected Job Growth: +21.7 percent


  • New York
    Median Annual Salary: $110,050

    Number Currently Employed: 51,670

    Projected Job Growth: +36.5 percent


  • North Carolina
    Median Annual Salary: $97,610

    Number Currently Employed: 25,500

    Projected Job Growth: +37.9 percent


  • North Dakota
    Median Annual Salary: $72,900

    Number Currently Employed: 1,250

    Projected Job Growth: +32.8 percent


  • Ohio
    Median Annual Salary: $89,200

    Number Currently Employed: 35,100

    Projected Job Growth: +17.3 percent


  • Oklahoma
    Median Annual Salary: $83,910

    Number Currently Employed: 4,540

    Projected Job Growth: +24.4 percent


  • Oregon
    Median Annual Salary: $101,510

    Number Currently Employed: 12,820

    Projected Job Growth: +32.3 percent


  • Pennsylvania
    Median Annual Salary: $92,770

    Number Currently Employed: 25,130

    Projected Job Growth: +26.5 percent


  • Rhode Island
    Median Annual Salary: $91,250

    Number Currently Employed: 2,250

    Projected Job Growth: +28.4 percent


  • South Carolina
    Median Annual Salary: $87,120

    Number Currently Employed: 3,710

    Projected Job Growth: +33.7 percent


  • South Dakota
    Median Annual Salary: $74,030

    Number Currently Employed: 1,170

    Projected Job Growth: +29.1 percent


  • Tennessee
    Median Annual Salary: $87,890

    Number Currently Employed: 6,230

    Projected Job Growth: +52.5 percent


  • Texas
    Median Annual Salary: $107,720

    Number Currently Employed: N/A

    Projected Job Growth: N/A


  • Utah
    Median Annual Salary: $94,320

    Number Currently Employed: 9,880

    Projected Job Growth: +71.3 percent


  • Vermont
    Median Annual Salary: $93,180

    Number Currently Employed: 1,100

    Projected Job Growth: +25.5 percent


  • Virginia
    Median Annual Salary: $106,500

    Number Currently Employed: 35,800

    Projected Job Growth: +32.7 percent


  • Washington
    Median Annual Salary: $127,770

    Number Currently Employed: 60,500

    Projected Job Growth: +62.7 percent


  • West Virginia
    Median Annual Salary: $78,840

    Number Currently Employed: 1,270

    Projected Job Growth: +29.1 percent


  • Wisconsin
    Median Annual Salary: $82,790

    Number Currently Employed: 11,990

    Projected Job Growth: +31.7 percent


  • Wyoming
    Median Annual Salary: $64,540

    Number Currently Employed: 250

    Projected Job Growth: +27.4 percent


What Courses Can Be Taken for an Online Software Engineering Degree?

Students earning an online bachelor’s degree in software engineering typically complete the same courses as on-campus students. However, because each school provides a curriculum geared toward specific academic objectives, systems engineering coursework varies by school. Along with major coursework, learners generally take courses in related disciplines, such as computer science, applied statistics, and calculus. The courses below are common to most software engineering programs. Students should contact their prospective school for specific course requirements.

Algorithmic Foundations for Software Systems

Students gain in-depth knowledge about algorithmic design theories, matrix algorithms, and fundamental data structures. They complete programming assignments to learn how to implement and test algorithms.

Computer Graphics

In this introductory course, students learn about current topics and emerging trends in computer graphics, such as geometric modeling, image synthesis, interactive techniques, and object-modeling techniques.

Data Engineering

Students explore the role of data in the design and development of computer and information systems. They study topics such as database design, data access and security, and the languages used in data definition and description.

Distributed Information System Security

This course focuses on engineering techniques commonly used to secure a networked information system environment. Students learn about evolving security threats and countermeasures to address them.

Mobile Computing

Students examine the impact of mobile computing on software development and design. Students learn how the increasing demand for mobile applications influences and complicates the field of software engineering.

How to Choose the Best Online Software Engineering Program

Students pursuing a software engineering bachelor’s degree online should consider several factors. Program cost is an important consideration for most students. Other key aspects of a program include accreditation status, graduation and retention rates, and course and project requirements. The following section answers five common questions about online software engineering degrees.

Is the Quality of an Online Bachelor’s Degree in Software Engineering the Same as an On-Campus Degree?

Online software engineering courses typically have the same rigor and requirements as their on-campus counterparts. Because digital learning is quickly becoming integral to the educational landscape, schools design and develop online courses that provide the same challenges and learning opportunities as on-campus classes.

Should I Look for a Specific Curriculum Focus?

Most undergraduate programs offer a variety of courses, which cover key aspects of the software engineering field. This provides students with the general skills and knowledge they need for various professional roles and settings. Broad curricula also provide a foundation for future studies. Students interested in a certain specialization area should enroll in relevant courses.

What Kind of Culminating Experience Is Required for an Online Bachelor’s Degree in Software Engineering?

Some programs require a practicum, while others culminate in a capstone project. Most schools provide this information online. If a program offers ideal coursework but not the culminating experience of your choice, ask whether students can pursue their preference. Some schools allow students who present concrete and convincing requests to pursue alternate projects.

How Long Will It Take to Complete a Software Engineering Bachelor’s Degree Online?

Like most on-campus undergraduate programs, an online bachelor’s in software engineering typically requires about 120 credits and takes four years of full-time enrollment to complete. Students can accelerate completion time by choosing a program with asynchronous classes and several start dates per year.

How Easy (Or Difficult) Is It to Transfer Software Engineering Credits From One School to Another?

Each school has a unique transfer policy, so students should check their school’s website and contact the school directly for more information. Typically, transferring credits is easier when the earned credits are from an accredited institution. In the U.S., the Accrediting Board for Engineering and Technology is the most widely recognized accrediting body for software engineering programs.

Scholarships & Financial Aid for Software Engineering Programs

Many students take out private or federal student loans to help pay for college. Payments for some private student loans begin even while the student is in school. Because there is high demand for professionals in STEM fields, there are several scholarship programs for students pursuing STEM degrees. The list below is an ideal starting place for students researching software engineering scholarships.

Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship

This scholarship program awards up to $7,500 to junior and senior undergraduate students. However, the program does not accept applications directly from students. Only accredited two- and four-year institutions with a Goldwater campus representative can nominate candidates for the scholarship. Nominees must be full-time STEM students, have at least a 3.0 GPA, and be U.S. citizens or noncitizen permanent residents.

Delphix Technology Scholarship

This scholarship is reserved for female college students enrolled full time in an accredited college or university. Applicants must be pursuing a technical degree in an area such as computer science, information technology, or software engineering. Applicants participate in a coding competition and submit a software project. Students must demonstrate financial need to be eligible for this $5,000 scholarship.

Generation Google Scholarship

This $10,000 scholarship is open to African-American, Hispanic, American Indian, and female high school seniors. Applicants must show proof of acceptance to or enrollment in a computer science, software engineering, or related program at an accredited U.S. college or university. Applicants must submit a letter of recommendation from a STEM teacher. Recipients can participate in Google’s Computer Science Summer Institute.

National Space Club and Foundation Keynote Scholarship

The recipient of this $10,000 scholarship gives the keynote address at the National Space Club and Foundation’s Goddard Memorial Dinner. The scholarship program is open to high school seniors as well as college and graduate students who plan to pursue a career in a STEM field. Recipients can only apply the award toward tuition; the foundation delivers the funds directly to the recipient’s institution.

Northrop Grumman Engineering Scholarships

Graduating high school seniors who plan to major in a STEM field can apply for one of several scholarships from Northrop Grumman, each worth $10,000. Applicants must reside in a state in which Northrop Grumman has a significant presence (California, Florida, Illinois, Maryland, New York, Ohio, Utah, or Virginia). Applicants must have a minimum 3.0 GPA and a composite SAT score of at least 1700.

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