Last Updated: February 1, 2017
Though we might not always realize it, we enjoy handiwork of software engineers every single day. From the graphics on an Xbox game to the GPS on our phones to the tracking system on our Amazon packages, software engineers have a part in essentially every step of a software system—design, development, troubleshooting, implementation, and management.
As more and more of our industries are going digital and requiring computer software for their products and workflow, the demand for software engineers continues to rise. College undergraduates who pursue software engineering are almost guaranteed a job right out of college, with a projected job growth rate of 17 percent from 2014 to 2024.
Although the demand for software engineers is high, the financial reward is also quite high. According to Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average annual salary for software engineers is an impressive $98,260. Even more, first-year graduates can expect to make $50,000 to $70,000 right out of college!
Typically, software engineers work in one of two capacities—as an applications software developer or a systems software developer. In the former, engineers are at the front-end of the product, developing a specific software (like a word processor or an app or a game). A systems software developer, however, works on the bigger picture and helps organize all of the moving parts of a computer system so that they work efficiently and smoothly.
Here are some jobs that fit perfectly with a BS in Software Engineering, and can apply to almost any work sector, from health care to renewable energy to entertainment:
- Software and Systems Architect
- Software and System Engineer
- Software Programmer, Developer, and Tester
- Requirements Engineer
- Project Leader
- Senior Computer Applications Engineer
If you’re a student who loves numbers and has a knack for seeing how tiny details fit into the bigger picture, a BS in Software Engineering at any of the schools on our list is a great route for you to take. You’re not only securing your financial future, but you also are choosing to join an exciting a cutting-edge field that has virtually endless options.
What Are the Best Software Engineering Bachelor Programs in the Country?
Below, you’ll find the twenty best Software Engineering programs in the country. Here at College Choice we’ve collated and compared the academic reputation, student satisfaction, affordability, and average annual salary of graduates from software engineering programs across the country to create a definitive ranking of the nation’s twenty best. We first chose programs with the most renowned academic reputation and from those pared the list down to those with high retention rates—a reflection of student satisfaction—added those with the most economical accessibility, and finally we included the averages of early career salaries (care of PayScale) to arrive at a list marked by thorough research and extensive data aggregation. Our figures come from the university and colleges’ websites as well as nationally recognized U.S. News & World Report and The National Center for Education Statistics.
California Polytechnic State University
College Choice Score: 100
Average Tuition: $14,655
Located in beautiful San Luis Obispo, midway between Los Angeles and San Francisco, California Polytechnic State University (or “Cal Poly”) easily snags the top spot on our list for its overall affordability and high salary potential upon graduation. In US News & World Report’s 2017 “America’s Best Colleges” report, Cal Poly ranked #1 in the Western United States for public universities whose highest degree is a Master’s.
The BS in Software Engineering program is a 60-credit-hour degree that blends together core classes in mathematics, science, and engineering. Beyond the basic requirements, the program designs its courses around systems that address real-life issues in the environmental, economic, social, and manufacturing sectors. Students must also fulfill 20 credits of technical electives, and choose from a robust list, including Game Design, Music Programming, Computer Animation, Cryptography Engineering and more.
California Polytechnic State University is accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC).
San Jose State University
College Choice Score: 93.75
Average Tuition: $11,175
In addition to a solid education in computer science and mathematics, the BS in Software Engineering program at San Jose State University also emphasizes proficiency in management skills like project planning, resource allocation, quality assurance, and more. Depending on your course-load ability, you can follow the 4-year track or the 5-year track. Regardless of the track, the program culminates in a year-long capstone project in which students create a comprehensive software system.
Because of its proximity to Palo Alto, engineering students at San Jose State enjoy the high-salaried job market opportunities in the region. In 2015, it ranked 1st in the list of top feeder schools for Apple, which currently employs over 1,000 San Jose State graduates. With technical electives in Data Mining, Intro to Computer Graphics, and Computer Game Design/Programming, students will be more than prepared for Silicon Valley.
San Jose State University is accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC).
Milwaukee School of Engineering
College Choice Score: 92.50
Average Tuition: $37,980
With a 97 percent job placement rate, software engineering students at Milwaukee School of Engineering (MSOE) can be assured that their hard work and tuition will pay off. Students in the BS in Software Engineering program must complete 120 credit hours in math, science, chemistry, and web development classes. Each semester, students are required to take 4-6 lab hours in order to apply their theoretical classes to hands-on projects and experiments.
MSOE reserves the final year of the program for technical electives and a senior design project, intended for students to work collaboratively on a software design model that can be applied to the real world. The average starting salary for software engineer graduates of MSOE is $64,250, making it one of the highest post-graduation income rankings on our list. Graduates of MSOE have gone on to work for Google, Amazon, Johnson Controls, and more.
Milwaukee School of Engineering is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools (NCA).
Pennsylvania State University
College Choice Score: 92.00
Average Tuition: $25,141
The BS in Software Engineering is one of ten engineering majors offered by the Behrend School of Engineering at Pennsylvania State University. Over the four-year program, students work closely with the twelve faculty members to learn new operating systems, solve engineering problems, and apply theoretical math and statistics to real-life scenarios.
Students at Penn State are encouraged to incorporate a cooperative educational experience or an internship into their degree. Oftentimes, these opportunities lead graduates to landing their first job out of college! Graduates from Penn State have gone on to work for prestigious companies such as Intel, GE, Lockheed-Martin, and others. Even more, because of Penn State’s “Public Ivy” status and high research capacity, software engineering undergraduates reap all the benefits of a top-tier school without footing the tuition bill of a private institution.
Pennsylvania State University is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.
University of Washington Bothell
College Choice Score: 91.50
Average Tuition: $22,772
The Bachelor of Science in Computer Science and Software Engineering (CSSE) program at the University of Washington Bothell combines the technical focus of computer science with the management-based focus of software engineering to give students wide-ranging opportunities and abilities in field. Students at UW Bothell benefit from being part of a well-established institution. US News & World Report listed the University of Washington as 11th in its “Best Global Universities” ranking.
The CSSE program at UW Bothell admits students at varying levels of CCS proficiency. For incoming students who are new to the field, UW Bothell provides early classes in programming, operating systems, and management principles. For students who arrive with basic CCS skills already in hand, they can jump into higher-level technology and design courses. The capstone project, a 10-credit-hour course in the last quarter, gives students the chance to choose from an internship, research with a faculty member, a group project, or an independent study.
UW Bothell is accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU).
Iowa State University
College Choice Score: 87.75
Average Tuition: $14,726
Iowa State University has a long history of having a top-ranked engineering program, as is evident in their strong BS in Software Engineering program. This 125-credit-hour degree exposes students to all of the typical core classes in mathematics, computer programming, and chemistry, while also giving them access to state-of-the-art equipment and resources that Iowa State University maintains for its doctoral students in software engineering. This exposure gives students a “one-up” in the field, especially if they want to pursue a graduate degree.
Though senior year internship and cooperative experiences are optional, many students find them to be useful experiences in their transition to the working world or to further education. In order to round out the degree and fulfill the program’s objective of teaching the full development of software processes, students are required to take a certain amount of electives in computer engineering and computer science.
Iowa State University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools.
Miami University Oxford
College Choice Score: 86.75
Average Tuition: $22,940
Ranked 1st by US News & World Report for best undergraduate teaching at a public institution, Miami University—in Oxford, Ohio—is a school that is overwhelmingly committed to in-depth learning at the undergraduate level. Students in the BS in Software Engineering take classes solely taught by full-time professors (not graduate students) and are given access to their instructors both in and outside of class.
Unlike some other programs on this list, students at Miami University often specialize in a field within software engineering such as computer security, e-business systems, bioinformatics, scientific systems, and others. Even more, students are given the chance to apply their learning right away. Benton Information Technology Solutions (BITS) is a student-run technology consulting business that works with clients both on and off campus. If you’re looking for a close-knit academic community and hands-on learning, Miami University might be the perfect place for you!
Miami University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools.
Oregon Institute of Technology
College Choice Score: 86.50
Average Tuition: $18,475
The only public polytechnic university in the Pacific Northwest, Oregon Institute of Technology offers an intimate but demanding BS in Software Engineering Technology degree program. This small but mighty program also offers flexibility and versatility. Students may take classes part-time or full-time from either of its two campuses in Klamath Falls or Wilsonville.
Students not only develop programming languages like C++, but also receive training in project management and software quality assurance. After their second year, students participate in two six-month paid internships at places like Garmin, Boeing, Intel, and Mentor Graphics. In addition to the BS in Software Engineering Technology, some students choose to include the Embedded Systems degree to their curriculum, which gives them an advantage in the workforce. This edge is evident in Oregon Tech graduates, who earn an average of over $60,000 after graduation.
Oregon Institute of Technology is accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU).
University of California, Irvine
College Choice Score: 84.75
Average Tuition: $27,104
At the University of California, Irvine (or “UC Irvine”), students enrolled in the BS in Software Engineering are expected to approach their classes collaboratively from day one. Beyond the solid foundation in mathematics, statistics, and computer science, this program stresses the importance of team membership, especially when it comes to large-scale software systems in order to simulate workplace environments. Throughout their coursework, students will gain experience working on a variety of application domains, including web, mobile, and gaming platforms.
As a “Public Ivy” institution and a consistently top-ranked school in both affordability and prestige, UC Irvine is highly regarded by both its current students and the employers of its graduates. Likewise, the software engineering program at UC Irvine goes beyond the basics. Some of the courses offered include Advanced Programming with C++, Software Architecture, User Interaction Software, and more.
The University of California, Irvine is accredited by the Senior Commission of the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WSCUC).
Michigan Technological University
College Choice Score: 81.75
Average Tuition: $22,801
Computer science and software engineering go hand-in-hand at Michigan Technological University. Students enrolled in the BS in Software Engineering program take joint classes with students in the BS in Computer Science program, giving them a solid foundation in the core principles of computer programming and design. Additionally, the program offers courses on software quality assurance, model-driven development, human-computer interaction, and project management—all tools that will be required in the working world.
Students in their final year get the chance to put their knowledge to the test with the option of a capstone project that centers around either applications or project experience. The undergraduate software engineers at Michigan Tech have a wide variety of internship and co-op options available to them through their final two years in the program. Even more, the 925-acre campus overlooks Portage Lake and gives students plenty of opportunities to get outside and adventure.
Michigan Technological University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).
College Choice Score: 80.25
Average Tuition: $19,768
With a long history of excellence in engineering, Auburn University has been ranked as the 10th largest undergraduate engineering program in the country. Along with the other numerous engineering degrees offered, the Samuel Ginn College of Engineering is home to the BS in Software Engineering. This 120-hour program teaches students a fully integrated approach to software engineering, covering material that ranges from Calculus III to Software Modeling and Design.
Students at Auburn University not only learn theory, but they are given tools to put that theory into practical application. The 134-year history of the Samuel Ginn School of Engineering lends itself to a deeply-established and well-connected program, which is evident in its offering of modern software engineering labs and tools. Unique to other programs, Auburn emphasises the importance of lifelong learning and includes a number of writing and humanities courses in its core curriculum for software engineering undergraduates.
Auburn University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS).
Rochester Institute of Technology
College Choice Score: 79.75
Average Tuition: $38,568
Students enrolled in the BS in Software Engineering degree at Rochester Institute of Technology will be met with a wealth of tools to succeed in this major. For one, Rochester offers an advanced dual degree option, which allows students to earn both a BS and an MS in software engineering in up to six years. This gives students an automatic leg-up—both in terms of ability and payscale—when they start the job search.
For students who want to stick with just an undergraduate degree, Rochester makes sure you are still more than prepared for the working world. The senior project requirement asks students to organize themselves into teams and tackle a complex technical problem—from design to prototype to production and implementation. The facilities at Rochester make this task much easier. Students are given access to three instructional labs, an embedded systems lab, and a collaboration lab. In the mentoring lab, first-year students are mentored by advanced software engineering students to meet their requirements and foster an environment of collaboration.
Rochester Institute of Technology is accredited by Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools.
College Choice Score: 79.25
Average Tuition: $51,030
Based in the heart of Philadelphia, the BS in Software Engineering at Drexel University offers students a unique chance to gain work experience during their undergraduate program. The co-op program at Drexel is one of the oldest and largest in the country. Students can complete this 188-credit-hour program in either five years (with three co-op experiences) or in four years (with one co-op experience).
With an average enrollment of around 125 undergraduates in the software engineering program, students at Drexel experience an intimate but rigorous learning climate. Beyond the fundamental classes of computer science and informatics, the curriculum in this program addresses everything from client relations and requirements to testing software and constructing software solutions. Since most software is developed in teams, classes at Drexel are emphasize project management and team operation skills.
University of Illinois at Chicago
College Choice Score: 78.25
Average Tuition: $20,098
The BS in Computer Science with Software Engineering Concentration at the University of Illinois in Chicago offers the best of both worlds—a firm understanding of computer science theory and application with a focus on larger-scale projects and a team-builder approach to engineering. Some of the electives available to students in this program include Codes and Cryptography, Compiler Design, Video Game Design and Development, and more.
The University of Illinois in Chicago has a number of programs in place to help their students succeed. The Minority Engineering Recruitment and Retention Program makes sure that minority students get the same opportunities and guidance that others receive by offering structured support both on the personal and academic levels. Starting their sophomore year, students can take advantage of the Cooperative Engineering Education Program, which is a coordinated work/study program that lets students shape their work preferences and skills with on-the-job training.
The University of Illinois in Chicago is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools.
Stevens Institute of Technology
College Choice Score: 77.75
Average Tuition: $48,838
Stevens Institute of Technology, located in Hoboken, New Jersey, consistently ranks high in the field of engineering—US News & World Report recently placed it 7th in the country for Leading Universities Granting STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) degrees. Their Bachelor of Engineering in Software Engineering prepares students to enter virtually any technological system and have the tools and language to design and improve it.
This program uniquely allows students to specialize their focus into different manufacturing sectors such as Cyber Security, Health Care, Financial Systems, Sustainable Energy, and more. Throughout the 141-credit-hour, four-year degree, students will take classes aimed toward those career goals. Past graduates have taken advantage of internship, co-op, and research opportunities with companies like Lockheed Martin, Citigroup, and Rockwell Collins.
Stevens Institute of Technology is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.
College Choice Score: 76.25
Average Tuition: $46,132
Getting a BS in Software Engineering at Clarkson University requires an interdisciplinary approach to learning. The curriculum intentionally incorporates the content and faculty from both the Electrical and Computer Engineering department and the Mathematics and Computer Science department to give students a solid understanding of both the theory and application of software engineering.
First-year students begin their coursework with chemistry, calculus, and physics, and then work their way up to more technical classes like computer architecture, operating systems, and programming languages during their final years. Clarkson University, located in Potsdam, New York, is a private research institution with a relatively small student body of 4,300 students. In the 2015 US News & World Report ranking for “America’s Best Colleges,” Clarkson University was placed in the top tier.
Clarkson University is accredited by the Commission on Higher Education of the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools.
University of Texas, Dallas
College Choice Score: 71.50
Average Tuition: $22,908
The Erik Jonsson School of Engineering and Computer Science houses the BS in Software Engineering degree at the University of Texas, Dallas (or “UT Dallas”). The School receives over $45 million in research funding, giving undergraduate software engineers access to state-of-the-art technology, laboratories, and research capabilities. Students choose from a wide variety of specialization areas within the major, including computer networks, computer imaging, digital systems design, human-computer interaction, and more.
Every year, over one thousand students in the School of Engineering are placed in competitive internships and co-operatives in Dallas-area companies like Texas Instruments, Intel, Raytheon, and IBM. Even more, the Fast-Track Program gives high-performing undergraduates the chance to take master’s courses at the undergraduate level, which later count toward the graduate MS in Software Engineering program at UT Dallas.
The University of Texas, Dallas is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).
Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University
College Choice Score: 71.00
Average Tuition: $33,886
At Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, the BS in Software Engineering introduces its students to the major with the College of Engineering’s Freshmen Engineering Program. This incorporates general education core classes like Speech and College Success with early engineering courses like Calculus and Analytical Geometry. Once students have completed this program, they are prepared to work through the rest of the 127-hour curriculum, which includes higher-level classes like Software Modeling, Software Team Projects, and Digital Circuit Design.
Located in sunny Daytona Beach, Florida, Embry-Riddle is a strong regional leader in technology and science. In 2015, US News & World Report ranked it in 8th place for “Best Undergraduate Engineering Program” in the nation. Similar to a number of other programs on this list, Embry-Riddle also offers a combined and accelerated MS in Software Engineering program, which allows students to begin their graduate study coursework at the undergraduate level. If you’re looking for a place to jump head-first into the world of software engineering, Embry-Riddle might be the perfect spot for you!
Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
Brigham Young University Idaho
College Choice Score: 69.50
Average Tuition: $3,950
Students who choose to get a BS in Software Engineering at Brigham Young University in Idaho—a private university founded and operated by the LDS Church—are guaranteed a well-rounded and wholesome education. Although most undergraduates complete their degree in four years, BYU Idaho also offers a “fast grad” track, which allows top students to accelerate their coursework, through higher semester course loads and summer classes, to finish their degree early.
The software engineering program at BYU Idaho is designed to give you a strong foundation in the tools and languages of programming and computer science, while still leaving room for a minor or two clusters in a different subject. For example, you could get a BS in Software Engineering with a minor in Business Management to give you the technical and management skills in both the breadth and the depth of the field. The program emphasises a mastery of programming language, specifically C++, to give you the essential building blocks of software development and implementation.
Brigham Young University in Idaho is accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities.
University of Miami
College Choice Score: 67.00
Average Tuition: $47,004
In a unique joint program offered by the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering and the Department of Computer Science at Miami University, undergraduates can choose the BS in Computer Engineering with the Software Engineering Option. This gives students both wider support and access to equipment and coursework from both departments. As part of the overall 127-credit-hour degree requirements, students must earn at least 15 credits in computer science, which fills out the technical side of the major.
In addition, the degree requires a number of software engineering technical electives such as Software Design and Verification, Database Systems, Network Client-Server Programming, Software Engineering and Architecture, and others. The University of Miami ranks in the top 50 best national universities in the United States, with competitive research components in all of its academic programs. This academic integrity and interdisciplinary approach to software engineering earns the University of Miami a well-deserved spot on our list.
The University of Miami is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.