Software Engineer Degree Program Overviews

Software engineering involves developing computer programs to address information technology requirements. This subject may be studied in a standalone program or within computer science and information technology degree programs.

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Essential Information

Associate's and bachelor's degree students studying software engineering will learn about basic programming languages and applications. They will learn how to design, test and implement new software. Advanced programs, such as master's degree programs, will offer studies in systems architecture, validation processes, algorithm applications and research methodologies. Master's and doctoral studies can lead to upper management or academic careers in the field. The length of these programs varies according to the program level.


Associate's Degree in Software Engineering

Many of these programs are designed for students with little to no experience in computer technology. Prior to enrollment students only need to have a high school diploma or GED for most programs. Candidates learn how to develop and maintain software and database systems. Technical concepts are taught in areas such as algorithms and analysis. By graduation, students are expected to know the basics of software engineering and database management.

Computer science classes cover different programming languages and operating systems. Typical coursework may include such classes as:

  • C++ programming
  • Introductory C++
  • Engineering calculus
  • Internet basics
  • Programming in Java
  • Testing software

Bachelor's Degree in Software Engineering

Bachelor's degree programs in software engineering are designed to educate students in creating and supporting software systems. They involve the application of math and science to analyze and design software for professional use. Students address complex problems and issues in software development. Prerequisites for these programs include a high school diploma or GED.

Team projects may play a part in this degree program. Foundational math and science courses are required, along with the following common courses:

  • Architecture of systems
  • Constructing software
  • Engineering physics
  • Project design
  • Statistical engineering
  • Visual C++

Master's Degree in Software Engineering

A master's degree in software engineering is intended for working professionals wanting to advance their careers and increase their earning potentials. Student in these programs come in with a bachelor's degree in software engineering or a related field. An area of specialty, such as management or systems, may be chosen. Techniques and processes of software engineering are advanced at this level. Students learn to further verify and implement computer software systems.

Communication skills are emphasized at this level to prepare candidates for management positions in software engineering. Coursework may include:

  • Software architecture
  • Engineering and validation
  • Measurement and management
  • Software engineering communication
  • System security
  • Testing and implementation

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Doctorate in Software Engineering

A software engineering doctoral program is research intensive. A student chooses his or her area of interest within the field and specializes in it. Specializations may include client relations, database management or software architecture. Each doctoral candidate proposes a thesis and researches, writes and defends it as part of the dissertation process. A master's degree in software engineering or related subject is mandatory for acceptance into the program.

Many classes revolve around the thesis and preparing for qualification exams. Coursework may include:

  • Algorithm applications
  • Economics of engineering
  • Maintenance and testing
  • Networks and systems
  • Research methods
  • Software verification

Popular Career Options

There are many entry-level technical positions available in the software engineering field. Some of the available positions are as follows:

  • Database administrator
  • Software publisher
  • Website designer

Graduates of bachelor's programs are prepared to enter public and private positions in software engineering. Common job titles include:

  • Software developer
  • Software engineer
  • Software technician

Graduates of doctoral programs are qualified for academic research and teaching positions, as well as senior level industry positions. Common job titles include:

  • Industrial developer
  • Senior software developer
  • Software engineering professor

Salary Information and Employment Outlook

Careers in software development are expected to grow by 17% from 2014-2024, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS, www.bls.gov). In May 2015, the BLS reported that the median annual salary was $98,260 for applications software developers and $105,570 for systems software developers.

Students wanting to start a career in software engineering and development may learn the technical skills needed from an associate's or bachelor's degree in software engineering. Individuals who already have a degree and are looking to advance their career or get involved in related research may want to pursue a master's degree or doctorate in the field.

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