Few fields are as multifaceted and dynamic as software engineering. A master’s degree can give you a competitive edge in this industry.
Software engineering encompasses the development of computer systems, applications, web-based software, and embedded systems. By earning your graduate degree in software engineering, you can become a specialist in one or more of these areas.
A master’s degree program is a major financial commitment. The schools on our list provide exceptional value for your tuition dollar.
What kind of Software Engineering degree should you get?
Do you prefer to learn in a physical classroom, interacting in real-time with teachers and peers? If so, an on-campus master’s degree program is likely the right choice for you.
Do you have a full-time job, a family, or other demands on your time that prevent you from attending a traditional graduate program? Online degrees offer more convenience and flexibility than their on-campus counterparts.
If you have yet to earn a bachelor's degree, visit our ranking of the Most Affordable Online Bachelor’s in Computer Science Degrees to see undergraduate options in distance education.
How much money do people make with a Master’s degree in Software Engineering?
The Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates that the average salary for software developers is $102,280 per year. That comes to roughly $49.17 per hour.
The expected job growth rate for software developers is 24 percent—almost four times the average growth rate for all occupations.
What can you do with a Master’s degree in Software Engineering?
Depending on the degree program that you choose, you may be qualified to work as a network administrator, database analyst, software engineer for applications or systems, director of computer support, or data communications specialist.
What are the requirements for a Master’s degree in Software Engineering?
Most graduate programs require you to have earned a bachelor’s degree in computer science or in an engineering discipline. For competitive graduate programs, you’ll typically need an undergraduate GPA of 3.0 to be considered.
If your bachelor’s degree is in another field, you may be able to take prerequisite undergraduate coursework prior to enrolling in graduate-level software engineering classes.
What are the most affordable online Master’s degrees in Software Engineering?
This ranking was compiled using data from individual college websites, the IPEDS database, and U.S. News & World Report. To determine affordability, we examine tuition rates as well as average financial aid packages.
If you’ve considered a master’s degree but hesitated because of the cost, we hope this ranking puts the next phase of your education within reach.
1. California State University, Fullerton
As a leading institution in the CSU, California State University, Fullerton has a total enrollment of over 40,000. CSUF ranks among the top 25 "Most Innovative Schools" in the nation, according to U.S. News & World Report. The highly acclaimed College of Engineering and Computer Science at CSUF offers a range of undergraduate and graduate programs in fields such as Civil and Environmental Engineering, Computer Engineering, and Software Engineering.
The fully online program at CSUF leads to a Master of Science in Software Engineering. The program includes an orientation seminar and midpoint symposium that are held on campus, but students who are unable to attend in-person may participate online. This degree incorporates 10 courses and is designed to be completed in 22 months, with students taking two courses per semester. Required coursework includes:
- Systems and Software Standards and Requirements
- Software Verification and Validation
- Software Design and Architecture
- Professional, Ethical, and Legal Issues for Software Engineers
A 2017 economic impact analysis found that CSUF drives over $2.26 billion in economic activity statewide, primarily in Orange and Los Angeles Counties. As of the Spring 2018 semester, the cost of attendance is roughly $2,638 per semester for California graduate students enrolled in six or fewer credit hours.
2. The University of West Florida
U.S. News & World Report ranks the University of West Florida as one of the best colleges in the Southeastern region. With a main campus in Pensacola, UWF serves over 10,000 undergraduates and 2,900 graduate students through traditional and distance learning programs. UWF’s innovative Master of Science in Computer Science features an optional specialization in Software Engineering.
The Software Engineering program offers a thesis track, which is intended for students interested in professional or doctoral research, and a project track, which is designed for students with a more industrial focus. Both tracks require a minimum of 30 credit hours, including nine credit hours in advisor-approved electives. Required coursework for the Software Engineering specialization includes the following:
- Software Engineering Foundations: Java Programming
- Software Engineering Process
- Database Systems
- Software Engineering Practice and Tools
The Master of Science in Computer Science program is also available with a specialization in Database Systems or through a general Computer Science track. The cost per credit hour for Florida residents taking graduate-level coursework is $377.60. For non-resident graduate students, the cost is $1,037.24 per credit hour. Graduate students who are residents of Alabama are eligible for a discounted tuition rate of $482.60 per credit hour.
3. East Carolina University
Home to 12 academic colleges and schools, East Carolina University offers 84 bachelor’s degrees, 71 master’s degrees, and 18 doctoral degrees. The University is a noted leader in STEM fields, with 43 percent of all degree-seeking students enrolled in a healthcare or STEM program. One of the numerous acclaimed technology programs at ECU is the M.S. in Software Engineering.
The Master of Science in Software Engineering (MSSE) is offered both fully online and on campus. The curriculum requires at least 30 credit hours, including either six credit hours in a thesis or three credit hours in a capstone project. Students will complete between six and nine credit hours in elective coursework. A wide variety of electives are available to Software Engineering students, including:
- Mobile Communications and Wireless Security
- Developing e-Commerce Systems
- Process Management and Lifecycle Modeling
- Data Base Management Systems
To apply for the MSSE program, students must submit satisfactory scores on either the Miller Analogies Test (MAT) or the Graduate Record Examinations (GRE). A bachelor’s degree in computer science, software engineering, computer engineering, electrical engineering, information systems, or a related discipline is recommended, but not required. ECU’s student financial aid department provides support for students seeking state, federal, and institutional aid.
4. Drexel University
Drexel University has been ranked number 70 in U.S. News & World Report’s 2018 list of the “Best Value Schools—National Universities.” Additionally, Drexel holds the number 10 slot for the best online graduate computer information technology programs. The M.S. in Software Engineering offers an industry-relevant curriculum that focuses on the behavioral, managerial, and technical aspects of the field.
The Software Engineering program requires 45 quarter credits in total, including 21 credits in core courses. Beyond this core, students will be able to select from a number of options to fulfill the required 12 credits in “Breadth” courses and 12 credits in “Depth” courses. Available coursework for Software Engineering students includes:
- Web Services and Mobile Architectures
- Performance Analysis of Computer Networks
- Introduction to Geographic Information Systems
- Design of Interactive Systems
Rather than the traditional two-semester format, Drexel’s online programs feature four 10-week quarters per year. This schedule allows students to earn their degree faster than the conventional academic calendar. The 2017-2018 tuition rate for the Software Engineering program is $1,228 per credit. Discounted tuition rates are available for Drexel University alumni, military members, and members of Drexel’s partner organizations. Approximately 54 percent of Drexel students receive need-based grants as part of their financial aid packages.
5. Arizona State University
The Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering at Arizona State University represent 20,000 students from all 50 states and 121 countries. The online engineering graduate programs at ASU have been named 11th in the nation by U.S. News & World Report. Online students can enroll in ASU’s esteemed Master of Science in Engineering for Software Engineering.
Housed in the School of Computing, Informatics, and Decision Systems Engineering, the online Software Engineering program at ASU features 10 courses that total 30 credit hours. Each of these courses is 15 weeks long. Candidates for this degree will choose between a thesis (worth three credit hours) and a portfolio (worth zero credit hours) as their culminating experience. Regardless of which track a student chooses, the following coursework will be required:
- Information Assurance and Security
- Software Verification, Validation, and Testing
- Software Project, Process, and Quality Management
- Software Engineering Principles and Concepts
In addition to the required courses, candidates for this degree will select either five electives (for students in the thesis track) or six electives (for students in the portfolio track). For full-time students with a course load of nine credit hours per semester or more, the total estimated cost for the academic year is $16,650.
6. The University of Alabama in Huntsville
A public Tier 1 national university, the University of Alabama in Huntsville boasts 16 on-campus research centers and $97 million in research and development expenditures. A total of 89 degrees in more than 100 fields of study are available through UAH. Many of these degrees, such as the Master of Science in Software Engineering, can be earned fully online.
UAH’s Software Engineering graduate program is offered through a collaboration between the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department in the College of Engineering and the Computer Science Department in the College of Science. Students in the program will choose a home Department based on the aspects of Software Engineering in which they are most interested. Degree requirements vary depending on the home Department that a student chooses. All Software Engineering candidates will complete courses such as:
- Software Engineering Process
- Analysis of Algorithms
- Object-Oriented Design
- Internals of Modern Operating Systems (or another systems architecture course)
Students in the Software Engineering program will choose one of five available concentrations: Big Data or Data Mining, Project Management, Parallel Programming, Embedded Systems, or Advanced Cybersecurity. An optional thesis track, requiring six credit hours of research, is available. UAH has been repeatedly ranked by PayScale as the number one school in Alabama for return on investment.
7. Texas Tech University
In 2016, Texas Tech University awarded 1,639 master's degrees, a record high in the University’s history. TTU continues to grow and flourish, with an expanding selection of undergraduate and graduate academic programs. The University has earned the number six slot in U.S. News & World Report’s Best Online Graduate Computer Information Technology Programs ranking.
The Master of Science in Software Engineering features 36 credit hours and does not require a thesis. For this flexible degree track, there is no requirement for the number of courses taken per semester, so students can progress through the course sequence at whatever pace they choose. All candidates for this degree will take three required courses, four elective courses in computer science, and five elective courses in software engineering. Available software engineering electives include:
- Real Time and Time Sharing Systems
- Distributed Systems
- Parallel Processors and Processing
- Fault-Tolerant Computer Systems
TTU also offers a fully online Master of Science in Systems and Engineering Management. In terms of graduate salary, Business Insider ranks TTU’s Whitacre College of Engineering among the best in the nation. The University has also garnered recognition for an outstanding commitment to affordability: In 2018, College Factual named TTU the Best College for the Money in the Southwest.
8. Kansas State University
Established in 1863, Kansas State University has evolved continuously throughout the past 150 years and now thrives as a 21st-century institution. K-State’s Global Campus offers over 70 online programs at every level from certificates to doctorates. The fully online Software Engineering program can prepare students to apply their knowledge in fields such as communication, education, entertainment, and much more.
Students enrolled in the Master of Software Engineering track through Kansas State’s online program will never need to visit campus, making this degree ideal for students all over the United States as well as for international students. The curriculum requires 33 credit hours, including 15 credit hours in a core sequence, six credit hours in a specialty sequence, six credit hours in technical electives, and six credit hours in a capstone course. The specialty sequence consists of pairs of courses in concentrations such as:
- Data Mining and Information Retrieval
- Intelligent Systems
- Web-based Systems
Online classes are available during the fall, spring, and summer terms. The fall and spring semesters are 16 weeks long. Summer courses are between eight and 12 weeks long. K-State Global Campus students have access to extensive scholarship and financial assistance opportunities, such as the K-State Global Campus Dean’s Merit scholarship (a $1,500 award for graduate students with a GPA above 3.5).
9. Kennesaw State University
With a student body of more than 35,000, Kennesaw State University is an anchor institution of the University System of Georgia. The Carnegie Foundation named Kennesaw State among the top 10 percent of institutions nationally for "Engaged Citizenship," a designation that recognizes KSU’s ongoing collaborative efforts with the larger community. This commitment to engagement and real-world impact is equally present in KSU’s on-campus and online programs, including the Master of Science in Software Engineering.
Coursework for the M.S. in Software Engineering is available both fully online and face-to-face. Students may choose the capstone project track, which includes four elective courses, or the thesis track, which requires three elective courses. For both options, students will complete the same seven core courses. This required core includes:
- Software Project Planning and Management
- Software Quality Engineering and Assurance
- Object-Oriented Analysis and Design
- Formal Methods in Software Engineering
KSU also offers an online Master of Science in Information Technology. A Master of Science in Computer Science is available for on-campus students. Kennesaw charges a specific “e-tuition” rate for online courses. The e-tuition rate is the same for all students, regardless of residency status. For the 2017 academic year, the e-tuition rate (before fees) for graduate students is $383 per credit hour.
10. Colorado Technical University
Established in 1965, Colorado Technical University has offered career-centric, highly accessible academic programs for more than 50 years. U.S. News & World Report recently ranked the online Master of Science in Computer Science program among the Best Online Graduate Computer Information Technology Programs nationwide. 2018 marks the fourth consecutive year that CTU’s program has earned this distinction.
The M.S. in Computer Science allows students to choose one of four concentrations: database systems, general computer science, computer system security, and software engineering. The software engineering specialization is offered both online and through the Aurora campus. This program requires 48 credit hours, including 28 credit hours in core computer science courses and 20 credit hours within the software engineering specialization. Coursework specific to the software engineering concentration includes:
- Software Requirements Engineering
- Computer Systems Architecture
- Software Design
- Software Systems Engineering Process
The 2017 cost per credit hour for the M.S. in Computer Science is $585. Altogether, the expected cost of the degree program is $28,080. This cost will be lower for military members on active duty and for students who are eligible for a Corporate Alliances Grant. Numerous additional grants and scholarships are available to CTU graduate students, including the Advantage Grant and the Lifelong Learning Grant.
11. Lewis University
Serving over 7,000 traditional and adult students, Lewis University is a Catholic institution that is partnered with the De La Salle Christian Brothers. Lewis University has been designated a Military Friendly School by G.I. Jobs, and it is consistently recognized as one of the "Best Midwestern Universities" by the Princeton Review. The University offers a number of fully online graduate programs, including degrees in Organizational Leadership, Data Science, and Computer Science.
Students of the Master of Science in Computer Science can choose a concentration in Cyber Security, in Intelligent Systems, or in Software Engineering. In addition to the Computer Science core, Software Engineering students will take four courses from a large number of available choices within their concentration as well as one elective outside of their concentration. The coursework for the Software Engineering track may include the following:
- Computer Graphics
- Data Visualization
- Pervasive Application Development
- Software Vulnerabilities and Defenses
All of Lewis’s online programs include access to 24/7 technical support and a personal Student Services Coordinator. Students can easily contact their Student Services Coordinator with a phone call or email for any questions or concerns relating to distance education. As of the 2017-2018 academic year, the tuition rate for the M.S. in Computer Science is $795 per credit hour.
12. Mercer University
With roots that go back to 1833, Mercer University is one of the South’s oldest and most well-respected institutions of higher learning. Mercer operates campuses in Macon, Atlanta, and Savannah; three Regional Academic Centers throughout Georgia; and an extensive distance learning program. The School of Engineering at Mercer offers eight undergraduate specialties and nine graduate specialties, including an outstanding M.S.E. in Software Engineering.
The Software Engineering program enables students to define, analyze, and solve complex problems in software systems. Through the industry-relevant curriculum, graduates will gain the skills needed to conduct a software development or maintenance project throughout its entire lifecycle. Coursework for this degree will cover topics such as:
- Object-oriented design
- Java, C++, or C# programming
- Software security
- Software architectures
For on-campus students, the M.S.E. at Mercer is also available with specializations in Computer Engineering, Biomedical Engineering, Engineering Management, Environmental Engineering, and more. The graduate tuition rate for the School of Engineering, as of the 2017-2018 academic year, is $900 per credit hour. In October 2017, Mercer was named a National Cyber Security Awareness Month Champion.
13. Auburn University
Originally affiliated with the Methodist Church, Auburn University transferred financial control to the state of Alabama in 1872. As a result, Auburn became the first land-grant college in the South to be established separate from the state university. First the East Alabama Male College and then Alabama Polytechnic Institute, the University acquired its current name in 1960. Today, Auburn offers highly ranked undergraduate and graduate degrees in agriculture, architecture, business, education, and engineering.
Auburn offers two tracks within their Computer Science and Software Engineering program. One leads to a non-thesis Master of Software Engineering (MSwE) degree, while the other leads to a research-oriented Master of Science degree. Both of these options are available through a distance learning program. The curriculum for these degree tracks is very flexible and may include courses such as:
- Network and Operating System Administration
- User Interface Design and Evaluation
- Intelligent and Interactive Systems
- Real Time and Embedded Systems
The Master of Science degree track requires 30 credit hours, including six credit hours earned through thesis research. The MSwE track, meanwhile, requires 33 credit hours, including three credit hours in a capstone design project. Candidates for both programs must submit GRE scores when they apply.
14. Penn State World Campus
The Pennsylvania State University has been a leader in higher education for more than 150 years. Penn State World Campus, the University’s distance learning division, offers over 150 degree and certificate programs. Through the acclaimed Software Engineering graduate program at Penn State World Campus, students will learn from and engage with the same award-winning faculty members who teach at Penn State’s 24 traditional campuses.
The Master of Software Engineering degree requires 36 credit hours and consists of 12 courses, which are offered in seven-week terms. By taking two courses in the fall, spring, and summer terms, students will complete the program in two calendar years. This program is designed to allow students to continue working full-time while pursuing their degree. The following coursework is required for the Master of Software Engineering:
- Database Design Concepts
- Applied Human-Computer Interaction
- Web Security and Privacy
- Software Project Management
In this cohort-based program, students will progress through the course sequence with the same group of peers, allowing them to forge long-lasting professional connections. The current tuition rate for the Master of Software Engineering degree is $930 per credit hour. Penn State World Campus also offers fully online programs leading to a Master of Engineering in Systems Engineering, a Master of Engineering Management, and numerous other related degrees.
15. Regis University
Regis University was founded in 1877 in Las Vegas, New Mexico before moving to its present home in Denver, Colorado. Today, Regis serves over 11,000 on-campus and online students. For 22 years running, Regis has earned a slot in U.S. News & World Report’s ranking of the Best Regional Universities in the West. Students at Regis can pursue over 130 degrees, including a highly respected M.S. in Software Engineering.
Graduates of the Software Engineering program will be qualified for a career as an Application Designer, Information Architect, Full Stack Developer, Custom Software Developer, and much more. This degree track requires 36 credit hours, including 12 credit hours in core courses, 12 credit hours in software engineering electives, nine credit hours in computer and information sciences electives, and three credit hours in a culminating experience. Options for software engineering electives include:
- Enterprise iOS Software Development
- Software Requirements and Processes
- Advanced Java Software Development
- C# Software Development
For the three-credit hour culminating experience, students may choose to complete a capstone project, a graduate thesis, or a software engineering practicum. In the 2016-2017 academic year, Regis offered over $190 million in financial aid to its students, including grants, scholarships, loans, and student employment stipends.