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Best Online Master's Degree Programs in Software Engineering

Explore the top schools that offer online software engineering master's degree programs. Learn about program length, what classes you will take and what types of careers you can pursue after graduation.

Top Schools for Online Software Engineering Master's Programs

When determining the top schools for online software engineering master's degree programs, you should take into account factors such as accreditation, admissions requirements, flexibility and program length. The top 10 schools with online software engineering master's degree programs are listed below.

1. East Carolina University

Location Tuition & Fees (in-state)
Greenville, NC $7,485

East Carolina University provides diverse and success-driven programs to students from 47 states and 73 countries. The school has been accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC) for almost 100 years and employs more than 2,000 faculty. Students can obtain a Master of Science in Software Engineering completely online by completing 30 credit hours of coursework, including courses in project management and software engineering topics. The program has a tuition rate of $249 (in-state) or $894 (out-of-state) per credit hour and offers significant flexibility by allowing students to choose elective classes to account for 21 credit hours of the curriculum.

2. West Virginia University

Location Tuition & Fees (in-state)
Morgantown, WV $9,990

West Virginia University boasts a 9:1 student-to-faculty ratio and employs nearly 3,000 faculty. Founded in 1867 and accredited by the Higher Learning Commission, WVU offers more than 480 student organizations and holds the R1 doctoral classification because of its prestigious research. The school's Master of Software Engineering can be completed entirely online through a part-time synchronous program that features live meetings via video conferencing. The program has a tuition rate of $669 per credit for all students and consists of 33 credit hours of coursework, including classes in the evolution of software, project management and software development.

3. Mercer University

Location Tuition & Fees (in-state)
Macon, GA $14,674

Accredited by the SACSCOC, Mercer University emphasizes positive contributions to society and success in its operations and academic programs. The school offers a student-to-faculty ratio of 11:1 and had a retention rate of 89% for students entering in 2017. Students at Mercer University can earn a Master of Science in Engineering in Software Engineering completely online by completing 30 credit hours of coursework. The program has a tuition rate of $938 per credit hour and includes courses in object-oriented design topics, computational techniques and engineering data analysis.

4. Washington State University

Location Tuition & Fees (in-state)
Pullman, WA $12,802

Washington State University was founded in 1890 and represents more than 31,000 students, with more than 3,000 completing programs entirely online. The school boasts a student-to-faculty ratio of 15:1 and is accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities. Its online Master of Science in Software Engineering program consists of 30 credit hours and takes less than two years to complete (if taken full-time). The program includes courses in software testing, quality and design. Tuition here runs $5,594 per semester for students taking 10 to 18 credit hours.

5. Texas Tech University

Location Tuition & Fees (in-state)
Lubbock, TX $8,015

Texas Tech University enables online students from any state to have the same low tuition rates as in-state residents, with graduate engineering students paying $343 per credit hour. Texas Tech was founded in 1925 and has earned recognition from the prestigious Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education. The school offers a Master of Science in Software Engineering program online that has a focus in advanced software engineering concepts. The number of credits required to complete the program vary based on student prerequisites, but students typically take courses in software project management, verification and architecture.

Rank School Name Location Tuition & Fees (in-state)
6 Drexel University Philadelphia, PA $34,995
7 California State University-Fullerton Fullerton, CA $8,320
8 Kennesaw State University Kennesaw, GA $7,226
9 Fairfax University of America Fairfax, VA $13,268
10 Stevens Institute of Technology Hoboken, NJ $37,250

All table statistics provided by the National Center for Education Statistics, tuition represents the 2018 to 2019 school year

Learn.org's school ranking methodology categorizes and assesses data from schools and other reliable sources, such as the U.S. Department of Education, and weighs the information based on quality, cost, value and other factors critical to students' academic decisions.

How to Choose an Online Software Engineering Master's Program

There are several things that you should consider as you narrow your search for an online software engineering master's degree.

Flexibility

Many online programs allow students to select the number of courses that fits their schedule, allowing both full-time and part-time study as students progress through the program. However, there are schools that only offer programs as one format (such as full-time) and/or offer courses in a predetermined order.

Cost

Cost varies by school and student residency. Tuition is the largest cost of online software engineering programs but students typically have other fees as well. You should ask your candidate schools for a comprehensive list of costs associated with your program.

Admission Requirements

Although some programs are open to students with any bachelor's degree, some programs require entering students to have an undergraduate degree in a computer-related field and/or have earned a specific score on a graduate entrance exam.

Faculty

Having experience and responsive faculty for your online software engineering program can make a significant difference in your educational experience. Ask your candidate schools about the standard response time for faculty communication as well as how many are experienced in the field.

Overview of Online Software Engineering Master's Degree Programs

Online software engineering master's degree programs can lead to different specific degrees, such as a Master of Science in Software Engineering or a Master of Science in Engineering with a concentration in Software Engineering. Students may take courses that are accelerated (such as 8-week courses) or standard length (16-week courses), depending on their school.

Admission Requirements

While admission requirements vary by school, students need to have earned a bachelor's degree to enter a software engineering master's degree program. In some cases, schools will require students who do not have an undergraduate degree in a field relating to computer science to complete some prerequisite or bridge courses. Other admission requirements can include relevant work experience, qualifying scores on an entrance exam (such as the GRE or GMAT) and a specific undergraduate GPA (such as 3.0).

Program Length

Online software engineering master's degree programs usually consist of 30 to 36 credit hours, although some programs are longer. The length of a program depends on the number of courses that students take each semester or term. The table below shows the estimated program length of a 36-credit-hour program based on the courses taken each term and term length (8-week or 16-week).

Term Length Credits per Term Courses Status Terms Required Program Length
8-Week 3 1 Part-time 12 2 years (year round)
8-Week 6 2 Full-time 6 1 year (year round)
16-Week 6 2 Part-time 6 3 years (no summer courses)
16-week 9 3 Full-time 4 2 years (no summer courses)
16-Week 12 4 Full-time 3 1.5 years (no summer courses)
16-Week (plus 10-week summer) 15 (plus 6 in summer) 5 (2 in summer) Full-time 2 (plus 1 summer) 1 year (year round)

As you can see from the table below, accelerated terms make it easier to maximize your academic year and take more courses because they are typically offered year-round. It's important to note that, while shorter semesters offer more flexibility, they progress at twice the speed of 16-week courses and take significantly more time from students each week.

If students have qualifying credits from another school, they can transfer those credits into their online program, decreasing the number of classes that they need to complete. Not only does this shorten their program time, but it also decreases the overall cost of their degree.

Common Courses

While the specific courses included in online software engineering master's degree programs vary, many include some of the courses listed below.

  • Object-Oriented Design - Students review fundamental programming languages, such as Java and C++, and develop a broad understanding of how to effectively apply them in programming.
  • Software Testing - This class examines different methods and tools used in testing software as well as applicable code, designs and stages of development.
  • Project Management in Software - This course provides an overview of best practices and role implications of leading software development projects and teams.
  • Agile Software - Students explore engineering topics for agile software, such as test-driven development, environments and sprint execution.
  • Architecture of Enterprise Software - Students learn about the characteristics of computer systems used in private and government organizations.
  • Data Analysis in Software Engineering - Courses like these are designed to teach students how to effectively collect and analyze data in software engineering as well as how to use that data for testing and improvements.
  • Software Design and Quality - Students learn how to assess software design and recognize how it affects performance quality; topics can include software reuse and maintenance.

Accreditation for Online Software Engineering Master's Programs

Colleges and universities can be accredited by several different organizations. For a school to earn accreditation, it must meet specific quality standards set by the accrediting agency. These standards can include things such as graduation rates, curriculum and faculty experience. Students who plan to use federal financial aid are required to attend an accredited school, and some private financial aid suppliers may also require recipients to be students of accredited schools.

There are two types of institutional accreditation: national and regional. While both represent quality standards, regional accreditation is usually considered to be the more prestigious option because it involves higher standards than those from national accrediting bodies. In addition, if students choose to pursue further education, they should note that credits earned at a regionally accredited school can be transferred anywhere, but credits earned at a nationally accredited school can usually only be transferred to another regionally accredited school.

Financial Aid for Online Software Engineering Master's Degree Programs

There are several types of financial aid that online software engineering master's degree students can qualify for. Students should begin by filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). The application is free to students and allows them to submit their application results to schools of their choosing. Here are a few types of aid for which students might qualify.

Work-Study

Work-study programs allow students to earn money by working part-time while in school. When available, students can work in fields relating to their degree at participating sites near their home. Money earned is paid directly to students who can then use that money towards program costs, course materials or living expenses.

Student Loans

Students can obtain loans through private or government lenders. Loans from the federal government should be utilized before private loans because they have nationally set interest rates. In addition, federal loans offer flexible repayment plans to graduates, including those that are based on income.

Scholarships

There are countless scholarships available to online software engineering master's degree students that are offered by the government, colleges, private organizations and some employers. Students should check with their schools to see if there are any scholarships offered directly through their financial aid office, as well as search for outside scholarships on reputable websites, such as the U.S. Department of Labor's CareerOneStop. Scholarships have varying criteria and are awarded based on factors like field of study, academic performance, degree level and essay submission. Some of the scholarships that are available to online software engineering master's degree students are listed below.

  • AISES Oracle Academy Scholarship - Offered by Google LLC, this scholarship awards $2,500 or $10,000 to students pursuing a degree in computer or engineering fields.
  • Dolores Zohrab Liebmann Fund - Graduate School Fellowships - Students enrolled in graduate engineering and similar fields can apply to receive this $18,000 award.
  • Ralph W. Shrader Diversity Scholarship - Students enrolled in graduate programs such as computer and engineering with a GPA of at least 3.5 may qualify for this $3,000 award.
  • AFCEA STEM Teacher Graduate Scholarships - $2,500 is available to students enrolled in programs STEM fields, such as engineering or technology, who plan to become STEM educators.
  • Paul and Ellen Ruckes Scholarship - Students enrolled in computer, engineering and other eligible fields may qualify to receive one of two $2,000 scholarships.

Certification for Online Software Engineering Graduates

Depending on what career path graduates of online software engineering programs decide to take, obtaining optional certification can qualify them for more employment opportunities. Certificates for computer professionals can be obtained by taking knowledge assessments or examinations. For example, CompTIA offers various types of certifications in areas such as cloud essentials, network, Linux and CASP. Obtaining these types of certifications enables job seekers to articulate their knowledge in specific areas of the computer field. Individuals seeking the title of engineer should check with their state licensing board to see what the specific requirements are for licensure in their state. The National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying (NCEES) offers a Principles and Practice of Engineering (PE) Software examination that enables individuals to obtain a professional engineer certification and title.

Careers for Online Software Engineering Master's Degree Graduates

Graduates of online software engineering programs can pursue a variety of careers based on their interests and previous experience. Some careers that are available to software engineering graduates are listed below.

  • Software Developers - Software developers create systems software or applications that are used for various tasks on computer and other devices (such as tablets and phones).
  • Computer and Information Systems Managers - These individuals oversee and direct the activities of computer and similar departments within organizations.
  • Computer Network Architects - Computer network architects create the networks in which data communicate within connections, such as local area networks (LANs).
  • Computer Systems Analysts - Computer systems analysts review the operations of organizational computer systems and make recommendations to increase efficiency.
  • Database Administrators - Database administrators utilize advanced software to organize and sort through various types of data, such as purchase records and financial information.
  • Information Security Analysts - Information security analysts devise and implement strategies to test, maintain and improve the security of organizational computer systems and networks.
  • Postsecondary Teachers - Postsecondary teachers instruct students beyond high school in the field of their degree; master's degree graduates primarily work in community colleges.

Job Title Median Annual Salary (2018) Estimated Career Growth (2018-2028)
Software Developers $105,590 21%
Computer and Information Systems Managers $142,530 11%
Computer Network Architects $109,020 5%
Computer Systems Analysts $88,740 9%
Database Administrators $90,070 9%
Information Security Analysts $98,350 32%
Postsecondary Teachers, Computer Science $82,220 4%

Salary and outlook data provided by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Professional Organizations for Software Engineering Graduates

There are several organizations that cater to software engineering professionals, some of which are listed below.

  • CompTIA - CompTIA offers several types of memberships, including student membership, and gives members access to discounts, competitions, scholarships and career resources.
  • Association for Computing Machinery - ACM offers professional development, publications and networking to members and emphasizes collaboration for a better tomorrow.
  • Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers - IEEE connects individuals with varying specializations and provides publication, event and networking opportunities.