If becoming a software engineer seems like an unreachable goal because your current situation makes attending college difficult, earning an online degree may be the ideal solution. Learn what it takes to become a software engineer and how online software engineering programs can help you obtain your goal.
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When choosing a school to pursue your software engineering degree, it's important to choose a school that's accredited. ABET, formerly known as the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology, is an agency that accredits many engineering programs. Aspiring software engineers can also find a list of ABET-accredited schools on the ABET website. Another site that can be helpful in finding both online and on-campus software engineering programs is the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES).
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Software engineers typically have bachelor’s degrees in software engineering, computer science or computer information systems. Individuals who want careers in academics or research may pursue graduate degrees in software engineering or similar fields. Some may find entry-level positions with only an associate degree; however, bachelor’s degrees are the norm for this career. These are generally four-year programs, although, earning the degree through distance learning may allow you more time.
Online Software Engineering Schools
If earning the degree online appeals to you, the thing you’ll need to do is find a school that offers software engineering degree programs through distance learning. Some master degree online programs may require that the student already have a degree in a computer-based field. Like many other fields, software engineering is offered online at many colleges and universities. Following is a list of just a few colleges of the many schools that offer this program.
- Arizona State University
- University of Southern California in Viterbi
- The Pennsylvania State University (Penn State)
- Michigan Technological University
- Colorado Technical University
- Harvard Extension School
- Florida Institute of Technology
- Carnegie Mellon University
In addition to meeting school-specific admission requirements, software engineering students are required to complete prerequisite or general education courses such as English, math, science, language and fine arts. Applicants to this program should have a strong background in mathematics and science. The program teaches students how to design, create and install software in computer-embedded systems. Courses typically include learning how to assess a computer system, determine its software needs and integrate the software into the system as well as troubleshoot it.
Online Bachelor’s in Software Engineering
Students in the bachelor’s degree program may take courses like computer systems fundamentals, engineering statistics, microcomputer architecture and programming, discrete mathematical structures and web application programming, among others. Prior to graduating, students may also be required to complete a capstone project that demonstrates practical experience utilizing what was learned through assignments and lectures.
Online Master’s in Software Engineering
A student pursuing a master’s degree program, like the one offered at USC in Viterbi, would already have a bachelor’s degree and may take courses like database systems, software engineering, analysis of algorithms and artificial intelligence. The graduate program at USC offers a degree in computer science with software engineering as its concentration. Carnegie Mellon University offers both a master’s degree and a certificate in software engineering program. Students learn through tools like online lectures, slides and DVDS.
Specific Software Concentrations
Software engineering is typically offered as a concentration in a computer-related degree program such as Information Technology. The advantage of taking software engineering as a concentration is that you’ll have a much broader area from which to choose when seeking employment. You’ll not only be knowledgeable in software engineering but also in fields such as computer engineering, computer science and computer programming.
It’s fairly easy to find a software engineering graduate program that’s offered 100% online. Bachelor’s degree programs are also offered online but students may have to find internships as part of the curriculum requirements. Even if internships aren’t required, they can be beneficial in providing students with hands-on training and are also preferred by potential employers. The bachelor’s degree program at Florida Institute of Technology offers online courses and still provides both internship opportunities and opportunities to work in the school’s computer laboratories. FIT also offers cooperative education which allows the student to work in their chosen field while earning the degree.
Career Outlook for Software Engineers
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that software developers earned annual wages ranging from $63,250 to more than $154,000 as of May 2014. The average yearly salary for this profession in 2014 was $102,880. According to the BLS, these professionals could expect employment to grow up to twenty-two percent between 2012 and 2022. U.S. News & World Report states that software engineers and developers are consistently ranked amount the top jobs in the nation based on wages and job outlook. They also report that almost 271,000 software developer jobs should be created by 2020.