Software Engineering

A degree in software engineering is a pathway to a career that’s both creative and analytical.

Software engineering is the application of engineering principles to the design and creation of software. Our Best Online Bachelor’s Degrees in Software Engineering ranking is a perfect place to find your footing in this field.

What is software engineering?

Software engineering encompasses a wide range of topics and skills. The three core components of software engineering are mathematics, engineering, and computing. At the intersection of these three disciplines, software developers and engineers design, build, and maintain software.

U.S. News & World Report named Software Developer as the third best occupation in the STEM industry for 2017. The ranking highlights software engineering's low unemployment rate and strong expected growth.

How much money can I make with a software engineering degree?

As of 2016, the average annual salary for a software developer was $102,280. That comes out to a rate of nearly $50 per hour.

More specifically, the median annual pay for applications software developers is  $100,080 (based on data from May 2016). The average annual pay for developers of software systems is $106,860. Not only is this a very comfortable median salary, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics anticipates that this field will grow by 24 percent between 2016 and 2026.

What kinds of degrees can I earn in software engineering?

The typical entry level degree for software engineering is a Bachelor of Science. However, there are a number of programs that lead to an Associate of Science in Software Engineering. At the associate's degree level, programs typically focus on programming languages, advanced mathematics, web development, and hardware and software installation.

Bachelor’s degree programs in software engineering are widely available, both online and through residential programs. These programs usually lead to a Bachelor of Science in Software Engineering or in Software Development. Some programs with a narrower focus offer a B.S. in Web Design and Development or in Mobile Design. Required coursework for these degrees commonly includes:

  • Software Security
  • User Interface Design
  • Computational Graphics and Visualization
  • Data Mining
  • Software Quality Control and Testing

Many programs are also available leading to a Master of Science in Software Engineering or a PhD in Software Engineering. A graduate or doctorate degree can lead to a job in fields like bioinformatics, aerospace, government security, and many others.

More details about the many types of software engineering degrees are available in our FAQs section under “What kinds of degrees can I earn in software engineering?”

What are the specializations within software engineering?

Software engineering is a varied and complex field. There are numerous areas of study where students can engage with a specific aspect of software engineering.

Some schools offer academic concentrations in software analysis, software security, network administration, software systems engineering, mobile development, and web design. After graduation, these academic specializations can translate into a specific occupation within the field.

Examples of niche occupations for software engineers include mainframe/cloud integration specialist, parallel computing architect, information security analyst, and game app developer. For even more career options in software engineering, take a look at our “What are the specializations within software engineering?” FAQ.