The most common distance learning master's degree program focusing on software systems engineering is the Master of Science in Software Engineering. These degree programs focus on combining computer science with the software engineering skills needed to develop, test and monitor software programs and systems.
Online software systems engineering master's programs are typically designed for industry professionals or those with an academic background in the field. Schools often require students to have a relevant bachelor's degree or have an unrelated bachelor's degree with a minimum number of undergraduate credits in computer science or software engineering. These fully online programs may have certain computer requirements, including the ability to live stream.
Software engineering programs are generally taught following the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) Software Engineering Standards, which includes work product standards, software life cycle processes, requirement analysis and management, system integration and process standards. Most programs offer a process-oriented approach in software development and coursework usually focuses on software engineering theory, research, principles and practice through Capability Maturity Model Integration (CMMI), Unified Modeling Language (UML), Rational Unified Process (RUP) design patterns.
Common courses in a master's-level software systems engineering program include:
- Software Design
- Fundamentals of Computer Engineering
- Software Process Definition
- Software Project Management
- Real Time and Time Sharing Systems
- Software Verification and Validation
- Software Design and Architecture
- Parallel Processors
- Information Systems Analysis and Design
While some programs may require or give the option to complete a thesis, many online programs in this field instead require a capstone course involving a significant software engineering project.
Coursework is most often delivered through Web-based instruction and interactive video conferences, but can also be delivered using multimedia live classroom instruction in which students may choose a live feed or to view coursework at another time. Most software engineering distance education programs provide a messaging board so students may ask instructors questions during the courses. Lecture notes, learning aids and assignments are available in the online classroom as well. These programs usually do not have any on-site requirements, but some schools allow professionals in the field to use a portion of their existing work duties to fulfill selected coursework requirements.
Emphasis on computer security is increasing and software engineers with advanced degrees will be in demand from software developers, consulting firms and government agencies that specialize in information assurance and security. There is also high demand for software engineers and software process managers in government and industry agencies. Graduates of a distance learning master's degree in software engineering are eligible for positions such as the following:
- Computer systems software engineer
- Computer systems designer
- Computer application project manager
- Chief information officer
- Computer systems analyst
According to data gathered by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of software developers is expected to grow overall 17% in 2014-2024 while opportunities specifically for systems developers are projected to increase 13% in the same time frame (www.bls.gov).
At the master's level, there are fully online program options in the field of software systems engineering. In addition to completing core courses, students may either need to write a thesis or complete some sort of large engineering project.