online software engineering degree

Software engineers and developers create information-technology-based solutions to address business needs. Working in multidisciplinary teams, software engineers scope, develop, test, and deliver programs for computers, network devices, and other hardware, such as printers. The growth of global trade and telecommunications fuels occupational growth in this industry. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects that software development positions will increase by 21% from 2018 to 2028, adding approximately 284,100 jobs to the U.S. economy.

What are the best Software Engineering programs of 2020? Here are our top 10:


  1. Arizona State University – Scottsdale, AZ
  2. Pennsylvania State University – University Park, PA
  3. Western Governors University – Salt Lake City, UT
  4. Washington State University – Everett – Pullman, WA
  5. Saint Cloud State University – Saint Cloud, MN
  6. Champlain College – Burlington, VT
  7. University of Maryland – Global Campus – Adelphi, MD
  8. Bellevue University – Bellevue, NE
  9. The College of St. Scholastica – Duluth, MN
  10. Southern New Hampshire University – Manchester, NH

Although an associate degree can qualify you for some entry-level IT positions, you generally need at least a bachelor’s to work as a software engineer or developer. Bachelor’s programs in computer science typically take 2-4 years to complete and provide comprehensive training in areas like engineering logistics and game development. Degree candidates also gain career-relevant skills by completing internships and capstone projects.

Many software developers go on to earn their master’s degree in computer science or software engineering. Graduate programs emphasize research and leadership, preparing online software engineering degree candidates for expanded career opportunities and better pay. BLS data reveals that, regardless of profession, professionals with a master’s degree earn $12,000 more in average annual salary than individuals with baccalaureate credentials.

2019’s Best Accredited Online Software Engineering Programs

Each year, more students enroll in online academic programs to take advantage of their flexible schedules and affordable tuition rates. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, more than 30% of U.S. college students pursue some form of distance education. Approximately 20% of students attending private and public institutions enroll in fully online programs.

If you want to attend a software engineering school online, your options abound — that may make finding the right program difficult. Distance learners need to consider cost, degree focus, and program outcomes. They should also seek programs that offer dedicated academic resources and career services.

The following list ranks the best software engineering online programs. These profiles will help you pick the school that supports your academic and professional goals. You can examine tuition rates, course offerings, graduation timelines, and application requirements. Students who want to learn more about certain colleges and universities on the list should contact institutions’ admissions departments.EXPAND ALL

1Arizona State UniversityScottsdale, AZCOST:$$$$$GRADUATION RATE: 48%
2Pennsylvania State UniversityUniversity Park, PACOST:$$$$$GRADUATION RATE: 29%
3Western Governors UniversitySalt Lake City, UTCOST:$$$$$GRADUATION RATE: 29%
4Washington State University – EverettPullman, WACOST:$$$$$GRADUATION RATE: 59%
5Saint Cloud State UniversitySaint Cloud, MNCOST:$$$$$GRADUATION RATE: 44%
6Champlain CollegeBurlington, VTCOST:$$$$$GRADUATION RATE: 64%
7University of Maryland – Global CampusAdelphi, MDCOST:$$$$$GRADUATION RATE: 15%
8Bellevue UniversityBellevue, NECOST:$$$$$GRADUATION RATE: 15%
9The College of St. ScholasticaDuluth, MNCOST:$$$$$GRADUATION RATE: 69%
10Southern New Hampshire UniversityManchester, NHCOST:$$$$$GRADUATION RATE: 54%
11Pennsylvania State UniversityUniversity Park, PACOST:$$$$$GRADUATION RATE: 85%
12Upper Iowa UniversityFayette, IACOST:$$$$$GRADUATION RATE: 43%
13Middle Georgia State UniversityMacon, GACOST:$$$$$GRADUATION RATE: 18%
14Hodges UniversityNaples, FLCOST:$$$$$GRADUATION RATE: 22%
15University of Maine at AugustaAugusta, MECOST:$$$$$GRADUATION RATE: 18%

BACHELOR’S IN SOFTWARE ENGINEERING GUIDEThe complete degree guide helps students find the best bachelor of software engineering programs for their academic interests and career objectives. Learners gain insight on degree structure, concentration options, and professional development resources.COMPUTER SCIENCE CAREERS GUIDEStudents can prepare for job advancement by consulting the in-depth career guide. This page provides information on different computer science occupations, their salary potential, and entry requirements.SCHOLARSHIPS FOR COMPUTER SCIENCE MAJORSOnline software engineering degree candidates should access this in-depth scholarships page, which contains information on 40 award opportunities. You will learn about deadlines, award amounts, and application requirements.

Online degree programs are revolutionizing the way education is delivered in America, but it still has some limitations. Some careers require clinical experience while others may benefit from having hands-on instruction. However, earning a software engineering degree online isn’t a problem.

Computer technology makes it easy to electronically teach software engineering basics, assess student progress, and expand upon specialized skills. Using a variety of communication tools from Skype to Blackboard to Adobe Connect, students can collaborative with their peers and receive immediate feedback from instructors. Assignments can be completed remotely and submitted via email or the web.


Angela wasn’t sure she wanted to commit to a four-year degree and enrolled in an online associate degree program instead. She liked the ability to log on and do her coursework whenever was convenient for her. Before graduation, she decided she liked the software engineering enough to continue on to a bachelor’s degree. Angela spoke to her school’s career counselor who helped her go through the process of transferring to a four-year program.


The online associate degree in software engineering is a two-year program that provides students with the basic knowledge to become software developers. The first year may focus more on general concepts while the second year is devoted to learning specific programming languages. Students often graduated with an Associate of Applied Science in Software Engineering. The table below illustrates a typical associate degree curriculum, but specific courses and requirements will vary by school.

First Semester (Freshman)CreditsOverview
Introduction to Computer Science3An overview of the key concepts of computer science and an introduction to programming basics.
Business Practices3.5Introduction to how computer science applies to modern business practices.
Elementary Database4.5An introductory course to database concepts.
Technical Mathematics I3First of a two-course series that teaches intermediate algebra and trigonometry and their technical application.
Second Semester (Freshman)CreditsOverview
Technical Communications3Practical review of how to communicate technical information and data.
Database Systems4.5A more in-depth look of database systems.
Matrix Algebra and Problem Solving3Overview of matrix theory and linear algebra.
Technical Mathematics II3Expands on the technical application of algebra and trigonometry.
Success Planning2Provides strategies to map out a successful career.
Third Semester (Sophomore)CreditsOverview
Competing for Employment and Promotions3Career-focus course designed to assist students in their job search.
Elementary Java4.5Introduction to the programming language Java.
Elementary Visual C++4.5Introduction to the programming language C++ with a focus on theory and the use of sample code.
Calculus I3First of a two-course series on Calculus theory and practice.
Fourth Semester (Sophomore)CreditsOverview
Intermediate Java4.5Expands on basic Java skills to reinforce exception handling and event handling. Begins to introduce advanced concepts.
Intermediate Visual C++4.5Provides intermediate C++ programming skills including creating and troubleshooting actual code.
Calculus II3Conclusion of Calculus theory and practice.
Administering SQL Database4Covers starting, pausing and stopping a SQL server, importing and exporting data and managing security, servers and clients.
Team Building2Overview of basic teamwork concepts and team building strategies.


Always fascinated by computers, Jeremy enrolled in a software engineering program right out of high school. After his first two years, he decided to concentrate on security systems software. He completed an internship with a data security firm his senior year and was offered a job by that company upon graduation.


Students may enter into a bachelor’s degree program directly from high school or they may earn an associate degree first before continuing their education in a four-year program. At the junior and senior level, students may gain more freedom to take elective courses and to specialize in a particular area of software development. Although classes will vary by school, the chart below shows what students can typically expect during years three and four of a bachelor degree program.

Fifth Semester (Junior)CreditsOverview
Software Process and Project Management3Overview of the principles, techniques and tools for model-based project management.
Secure Software System Development3Delves into common programming errors and how those can leave software vulnerable to security threats.
Engineering Fundamentals of Computer Systems4Introduction to data compression, data storage, digital systems and error detection.
Engineering Elective3An engineering class chosen by the student.
General Elective3A general education class chosen by the student.
Sixth Semester (Junior)CreditsOverview
Software Systems Architecture4Overview of software architecture and review of methods to document and evaluate systems.
Applications Elective3Class chosen by student that focuses on application software.
Software Process Elective3Class chosen by student that focuses on a software process model.
Software Verification and Validation3Theory and practice of software testing procedures.
General Elective3A general education class chosen by the student.
Seventh Semester (Senior)CreditsOverview
Software Engineering Project I3The first half of a capstone project related to the student’s academic focus. May focus heavily on conceptualization.
Software Project Management3Review of project management methodologies as they relate to software development.
Wireless Mobile Software Development4Design and deploy a mobile application for an Android device.
General Elective3A general education class chosen by the student.
Eighth Semester (Senior)CreditsOverview
Software Engineering Project II3The second half of the senior capstone project. May involve implementation, testing and review.
Computer Ethics3Ethical implications of computer technology, data collection and store and analysis of developer responsibilities.
Technical Elective (Based on Specialty)4A technical elective that allows the student to learn a skill or explore an interest in the technical field but not necessarily aligned with the major.
General Elective3A general education class chosen by the student.


Eric already had a bachelor’s degree in software engineering, but his employer wanted him to take on more complex projects. Through a benefit program offered by his employer, Eric was able to receive tuition assistance that allowed him to go back to school for a master’s degree that let him learn advanced skills. After graduation, his company offered him a raise and a promotion.


Students wishing to learn advanced techniques should consider earning an online master’s degree in software engineering. Some master’s programs may cater specifically to career-minded individuals and focus on practical, hands-on learning opportunities. Others are intended to prepare students for doctoral degrees and may have a heavy emphasis on theory. Students should take care to enroll in a master’s degree program that caters to their education and career goals.

While there may be differences from school to school, most programs combine a set of core courses with an individually chosen “track.” These tracks provide the opportunity to specialize and examples of master degree concentrations within software engineering include artificial intelligence, programming languages, and theory and scientific computation.

Concentration tracks will differ significantly depending on the student and institution. However, the following chart illustrates some of the common core courses a software engineering student might take at the graduate degree level.

Master’s Program Core CoursesOverview
Software DesignIntroduces the fundamentals of software design with students designing and implementing a service-oriented project.
Dependable Software SystemsIn-depth look at software testing and software reliability. Topics may include syntax testing, N-version programming and test execution automation.
Requirements of Engineering and ManagementAdvanced focus on the intersection of engineering, business planning and information systems.
Software Project ManagementAdvanced review of software project management theory and practice.
Fundamentals of Computer HardwareCovers the organization and architecture of all elements of computer hardware, processors, control units and memories.
Information Technology IntegrationAdvanced topics in software measurement, estimation and technology alternatives.


While a master’s degree in sufficient for most practical needs, software engineers interested in research or working in academia may need a doctoral degree. Earning an online PhD in software engineering can take up to four years or more of post-master’s degree coursework.

Unlike undergraduate and master’s degree programs, doctoral degrees are highly individualized. Coursework will depend upon the student’s particular interests and specialty. However, all PhD candidates work closely with a faculty advisor as they select courses and prepare a final dissertation project.