Earning a Master’s in Software Engineering Online

Should I Pursue a Master's in Software Engineering Online?

Software engineers are important to many industries, and careers exist outside of video games and big companies like Microsoft and Apple. An online master's in software engineering can help you advance an existing career or allow you to embark on a new one. These programs are best suited to those already familiar with information technology, though there are courses designed for those new to the field.

This guide was designed to help you determine if software engineering is the right career for you. It includes information on the careers and salaries you can find in the field, as well as what you can expect from your education. Online programs allow you to earn your degree without having to take time away from work or family.

Employment Outlook for Master's in Software Engineering Graduates

Master's in Software Engineering Salary

Software developers have significant income potential, but like any other career, salaries vary by employer, location, and experience. The first table below lists the highest paying states for these jobs, as well as employment in those states. The second table illustrates how much the average software developer makes at any given point in their careers. Earning a master's in software engineering online can begin or advance such careers.

Top Paying States for Software Developers

State Employment Annual Mean Wage
Washington 51,540 $131,430
California 141,870 $126,470
District of Columbia 2,400 $115,900
New York 49,190 $115,530
Maryland 12,710 $112,190
United States 849,230 $106,710

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Pay by Experience Level for Software Engineers

  • Entry-Level (0-5 Years):
    $77,889
  • Mid-Career (5-10 Years):
    $89,856
  • Experienced (10-20 Years):
    $100,306
  • Late-Career (20+ Years):
    $107,129

Source: PayScale

Master's in Software Engineering Careers

Below, we describe three common careers for people with degrees in software engineering. Many people with advanced careers have developed their own paths. If there is some field of knowledge in which you are trained or passionate about, you can likely find a way to combine that with your online master's in software engineering.

Software Developers

Annual Median Salary: $103,560
Projected Growth Rate: 24%

Software developers conceptualize and design software for various roles. Depending on the size of the company they work for, or their related skill sets, they may do the actual software programming as well. Software developers can begin working with a bachelor's degree, but can expect more earning potential and responsibilities with a master's degree.

Computer Programmers

Annual Median Salary: $82,240
Projected Growth Rate: -7%

Programmers create the code needed for programs to run. They work in a variety of industries and can begin their careers with a bachelor's degree. Having a master's degree can help increase salary and land more advanced positions.

Computer and Information Research Scientists

Annual Median Salary: $114,520
Projected Growth Rate: 19%

These professionals work to expand and develop what computers are capable of. They focus on researching and experimenting with new ways to solve existing problems and predict new ones. These positions usually require at least a master's degree.

What Can I Expect From an Online Master's in Software Engineering Program?

No two programs are the same, but most online master's in software engineering cover the same topics. The courses listed below are examples of those you might take, though the names and details may vary.

Curriculum for an Online Master's Degree in Software Engineering

  1. Distributed Computing: In these courses, you will learn how to manage computing processes which are distributed over multiple locations, whether directly connected in a local server or through the cloud. You will discuss topics like message passing, peer-to-peer systems, and replica management. These are usually required courses.
  2. Evaluating Software Design: These courses cover best practices used in designing software, with the intention of training you to apply these practices in your work and spot flaws in designs before they reach consumers. These courses may not be required unless you focus on design.
  3. Research Methods: These courses introduce the models and techniques software developers apply to research used in developing software and solving computing problems. You will usually propose and then perform a research project in such courses.
  4. Computer Graphics: In this course, you will discuss the challenges involved in creating and implementing user-facing graphics. Such courses cover turning raw code into something users can understand and manipulate through a visual interface. You might discuss animation, user interaction models, or system architecture.
  5. Software Architecture: These courses are usually required and cover concepts, techniques, tools, and methods for structuring software systems. This architecture has a significant impact on how a program works, so these courses often include hands-on experience.

Certifications and Licenses a Master's in Software Engineering Prepares For

  • Associate Software Developer Certification: This early career certification verifies that you understand the principles and the processes involved in designing, developing, building, and testing software. While these topics are covered by your program of study, this certificate shows you can apply these skills in the real world.
  • Certified Information Systems Security Professional: This certification verifies that you know enough about cybersecurity to adapt to problems and find ways to improve the security of whatever software you might develop, code, or maintain.