Online Computer Software Engineering Degree Program Information

Find out about online computer software engineering courses and in which degree programs they're most commonly offered. Get course descriptions, program info and online requirements to make an informed decision.

Essential Information

Many schools offer degrees in computer software engineering that can be completed entirely through online study. These programs require an up-to-date computer with a fast Internet connection. Some courses may call for specific equipment and software. In online study, students can view lessons and complete assignments at any time, within established guidelines. Some programs call for real-time class discussions.

Associate's and bachelor's degree programs are open to students who have high school diplomas or GED certificates. They must complete general education courses in subjects including English composition, mathematics and social studies. In their major classes, students learn the basics of computer programming and software design. Bachelor's degree programs offer more advanced topics such as object-oriented Java programming.

Students pursuing a master's degree in this field must hold a bachelor's degree in computer engineering or another relevant field. Students explore advanced topics in programming as well as developing their skills in teamwork, communication, research and critical thinking. A thesis or a final project may be required.

Associate's Degree in Software Engineering

Students who want to pursue a career in the computer industry can benefit from enrolling in an Associate of Science (A.S.) or Associate's of Applied Science (A.A.S.) in Software Development program. Either option introduces learners to the necessary skills to work as programmers, software designers, computer manufacturers, data managers and information systems developers. Prospective enrollees do not need to have any computing experience prior to enrollment; they must often only have a high school diploma or its equivalent. From a basic level, this program introduces problem-solving techniques, analytical practices and programming languages such as C, C++ and Java.

Program Information and Requirements

This program can be completed in about 45-72 semester hours, entirely online. Programs vary in structure; some offer structured course schedules, while others allow students to complete material on their own time.

Students must have a computer with a high-speed Internet connection. It is helpful if the computer has an updated Web browser and operating system, such as Windows. Course material is often delivered via recorded and streaming media, so the computer must have the capacity to play these files.

Course Topics

Associate-level programs usually have general education requirements, including courses in basic sciences, mathematics, liberal arts and business. Class credits can often be applied toward a bachelor's degree in a related field.

Linux and Unix Programming

Students learn about the system administration of Linux and Unix programs. They study basic hardware, account management, administration, networking, security and printing.

C++ Programming

This course trains students to write a variety of computer programs using the C++ language. Those enrollees use graphic user interfaces, case studies and game theory to further their study of programming language.

Advanced Programming

Students design, apply, test and analyze object-oriented Java programs. Java tutelage covers classes, data abstraction, graphical user interfaces and exception handling.


Bachelor's Degree in Software Engineering

Students who want to pursue an education path in software engineering can declare it as a concentration within a Bachelor of Science (B.S.) of Computer Science or Information Technology. This program trains students in core computer science competencies, including programming, database formats, systems analysis and network structure. It also discusses the management, design, analysis and activation of Web-based technologies. Enrollees gain an understanding of computer functions by analyzing, designing and testing the software systems that direct them.

Program Information and Requirements

A B.S. in Software Engineering program can be completed entirely online within 120-140 semester-hours. Students often enroll into orientation seminars and training courses that help them to acclimate to the online learning environment. Students access course material through online learning platforms such as Blackboard. Due to the nature of the course material, certain programs may need to be installed, such as Adobe Flash Player and Java.

Course Topics

This program has general education requirements in English, mathematics, general science, social science and the humanities. It also consists of electives and the following common core classes.

Software Engineering

This 2-semester class addresses the fundamental theories, functions and practices of software engineering. Lessons span the planning, designing, development, implementation, documentation and testing of complex software systems. Students learn the importance of assuring quality control over newly developed software products through the administration of testing procedures.

.NET Programming

This focus of this course, which is often taught over two semesters, is object-oriented programming for business applications. Students learn to produce event-driven programs with graphical user interfaces. Other topics include Visual Basic design, troubleshooting programs, data files, databases, printing and standard Windows procedures.

Systems Analysis

Enrollees study the role that prototyping plays in the improvement of the life-cycle of software-based technology. They also determine a business' information network requirements through using object-oriented and agile analysis. Emphasis is placed on the designing and maintenance of new software systems. This course is commonly taught over two semesters.


Master of Science (M.S.) in Software Engineering

Many of these programs are designed to for working professionals in the computer science field who want to advance their careers by supplementing their education. Students learn current software development practices and technologies that include middleware, object-oriented design, Java, enterprise design and C# programming. To enroll, they need to have a bachelor's degree in a related field; some institutions also require prospective students to have 1-2 years of relevant work experience.

Program Information and Requirements

The average length of time needed to complete a M.S. in Software Engineering program is 30-36 semester-hours or two years. The course material is delivered via downloadable lectures, websites, purchased books and streaming video. Students often communicate to peers and instructors through online discussion boards and forums.

Some programs recommend for students to have a headset microphone so that they may communicate to each other in real time during online discussion forums.

Course Topics

Master's degree program are comprised of high-level theoretical courses as well as practical units and may include a thesis. Depending on the type of undergraduate degree that students hold, prerequisite courses may be needed to prepare them for the following advanced courses.

Software Engineering Standards

This course introduces the software engineering standards set by the Software and Systems Engineering Standards Committee within the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers. Topics include software life-cycles, work product standards, development standards and system integration.

Software Maintenance

This course covers the theory and techniques used in the maintenance of large-scale software systems. Additionally, students learn to troubleshoot software systems and build new software with preventative maintenance measures and applied management.

Human-Computer Interaction

This course emphasizes the evaluation and design practices of software that benefit the future user of the software program. Through examining current interfaces, consulting case studies and developing test models, students gain an understanding of core concepts.


Career Information

With a 2-year degree, graduates often find employment as a computer support specialist, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). In May 2015 the BLS reported that the median annual wage for this position when specialized for user support was $48,620 and for network support specialists it was $62,250. Employment in this field is expected to rise by 12% between 2014 and 2024 (www.bls.gov).

Graduates of bachelor's degree programs often find employment as computer software developers. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported in 2014 that computer software developers held 1,114,000 jobs and that the number is expected to increase by 17% from 2014 to 2024. The same source reported in May 2014 that the average annual salary for software developers who worked on applications was $102,160.

Master's degree graduates are also qualified to gain employment as a software developer. In May 2015, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that this occupation received a median annual salary of $100,690 per year. The industries with the highest levels of employment for this occupation include computer and electronic product manufacturing, software publishing, finance and insurance, and the management of companies and information services.

Students can complete associate's, bachelor's and master's degree in computer software engineering online. How they select a program will depend on their career goals and work history, since master's programs may require a couple years of experience and will generally position graduates for more advanced jobs.


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