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Doctorate in Software Engineering

Learn what classes are offered as part of doctoral degrees in software engineering. Find out about job options and the employment outlook in the field.

What Requirements Must I Fulfill For a Doctorate in Software Engineering?

You may find Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Software Engineering programs offered at several schools. For admittance to a doctoral degree program, you usually need to demonstrate proficiency in computer science and experience in software development. A bachelor's and/or master's degree in software engineering, computer science, or a similar field is generally a prerequisite.

Although program requirements vary, you'll typically be expected to pass a comprehensive exam after completing coursework and before advancing to candidacy. You're required to write and orally defend a dissertation, which is based on your original research in a specific area of software engineering. You may also be required to participate in an internship. An average grade of B or better is usually required in Ph.D. programs.

PrerequisitesBachelor's and/or master's degree in a related field, completion of a dissertation; internship completion and a high GPA may also be required.
Common CoursesDesign and engineering, programming language semantics, privacy policies
Distance Learning OpportunitiesOnline doctoral programs are unavailable, but online master's programs are offered.
Career OptionsResearcher, collegiate professor, independent consultant
Median Salary (2019) $83,473 (for all research software engineers)*

Source: *PayScale.com

What Type of Courses Will I Take?

Your program of study may combine required and elective courses, teaching assistantships, and a practicum. You'll be actively working on a research project throughout the program. Your dissertation research topic must be approved by the faculty. Some topics of study in a software engineering doctoral degree program include:

  • Fault-tolerant distributed systems
  • Design and engineering
  • Programming language semantics
  • Multiple processor systems
  • Applying engineering solutions
  • Planning techniques
  • Operating system and network security
  • Privacy policies

Can I Earn a Degree Online?

It is typically not possible to earn a doctorate in software engineering through distance learning. Online software engineering programs at the master's degree level are more common. Courses are offered both synchronously and asynchronously, with video teleconferencing and Internet-based learning delivery systems. Such programs allow you to interact with other students and your instructor, while also allowing you to work at your convenience. You'll need a computer with high-speed Internet access and an e-mail account.

Lab components may be completed over the Web through downloadable software simulations or on campus. You might be able to satisfy residency requirements in several ways, including participating in an on-campus intensive or directed study, attending software engineering seminars, or conducting thesis research on campus each quarter.

How Can a Degree Help My Career?

As a doctoral degree holder, you're prepared to take on leadership positions in the computer industry, perform research in labs, teach at the college level, and work as an independent consultant. You'll have the knowledge to identify research problems, analyze solutions, and evaluate the best results. As computer networking continues to grow, so will the need for computer software engineers. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, software developers were projected to see an employment growth of 24% from 2016-2026 (www.bls.gov). A Ph.D. in Software Engineering provides you with various career options and a higher earning potential.