Born of tinkerers and experimenters, it was not until 1962 that a computer science degree was even offered by an American university. Since that time the industry has exploded and various subfields have slowly developed, one of which is software engineering. Software engineers design, implement, and manage software technology.
What kind of Online Master's in Software Engineering degree should you get?
We've done the legwork for you. The following schools have been winnowed down to two core elements: affordability and flexibility. That means each school on this list is offered as an online degree program. Increasingly, distance education is a viable option for an advanced degree. With a field like software engineering, it just makes sense to do your coursework online.
How much money can you make with an Online Master's in Software Engineering?
As of 2017, the Bureau of Labor Statistics quoted the average annual income for a software developer at $103,560. Are you convinced yet? Software engineering is a lucrative and growing field. An advanced degree in this field automatically launches you to the front of the pack. Why not earn an affordable degree and double down on your earnings right out of gate?
Our world is becoming more and more automated. We depend on software systems for some of the most basic tasks. It's no surprise, then, that jobs in the field of software engineering are expected to increase by a whopping 31 percent by 2026.
What can you do with an Online Master's in Software Engineering degree?
Software engineering is a profession that can take you practically wherever you want to go! Pick you passion. You'll find software engineers in the world of government, non-profit, education, technology, and beyond. You name it—you'll have a job waiting for you. Those entering the field of software engineering can work alone or in teams as software engineers, software architects, software development managers, and IT consultants.
What are the Most Affordable Online Master's in Software Engineering?
This College Choice ranking focuses entirely on cost, ranking programs by the average in-state tuition for each college as recorded in the NCES database. Note that some colleges charge a different per-credit-hour rate for their online courses and some do not. Some online degree programs also allow students to combine online and on-campus courses in their curriculum. For this reason, we have used the in-state tuition rate stated in NCES for each college for ranking affordability, which can lag behind by one AY (Academic Year). You've discovered the most affordable online Master's in Software Engineering degrees in the country—now go for it!
See our rankings methodology page.
West Virginia University
Coming in as the most affordable option for a Master’s degree in software engineering is West Virginia University, a large and active research university located in Morgantown. The reason for WVU’s affordability is that it has very low in-state tuition and offers that rate to all of its online students, regardless of their location.
The Master’s of Science in Software Engineering at West Virginia University is designed for current software engineers that need to augment their skills, education, or qualifications. As such, it works at a very reasonable pace, providing one lecture a week. If students cannot participate live because of a scheduling conflict, the lessons are available for viewing later. A sampling of classes includes:
- Software Project Management
- Software Analysis and Design
- Validation and Verification
- Introduction to Object-Oriented Design
The program can be completed within two years even for those working full time. WVU’s online degree programs are certified by Quality Matters, a peer review program that helps ensure the best experience for online learners. The school has been regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
North Dakota State University
North Dakota State University is a medium sized research university located in Fargo. In addition to its noteworthy affordability, NDSU’s online Master’s of Software Engineering degree has a number of advantages that it shares with other schools on this list.
Like Kennesaw State, NDSU has an online Graduate Certificate in Software Engineering that allows students with a non-computing undergraduate degree to be eligible for its MSE degree. And like Colorado Technical University, NDSU allows its students, in the first four weeks of class, to test out of a class if they feel they already possess the knowledge and skill offered in the course. A sampling of courses includes:
- Modern Software Development
- Computing Fundamentals
- Database Systems
- Simulation Models
These key elements make North Dakota State’s program attractive to those with previous experience in software engineering who nevertheless need to attain a graduate degree for new or better employment. And it’s affordable to boot! NDSU is regionally accredited by the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools.
Kennesaw State University
In 2015 Kennesaw State College merged with Southern Polytechnic State University to become Kennesaw State University. Kennesaw, a member school of the University System of Georgia, now boasts over 30,000 students, making it the third largest university in the state.
Long known for their innovative continuing education and job training programs, Kennesaw State’s online degree program is just the latest in a long history of meeting community educational needs. Most graduate degrees in Software Engineering require an applicant to have already completed an undergraduate degree in computer related field. A sampling of courses includes:
- Databases: Design and Applications
- Computer Architectures and Operating Systems
- Software Quality Engineering and Assurance
- Object-Oriented Analysis and Design
One thing that makes KSU’s MS in Software Engineering unique is that those with an undergraduate degree in a field unrelated to computing can nevertheless complete an online Graduate Certificate in Software Engineering Foundations and then be eligible for the Master’s degree. Kennesaw State University has been regionally accredited by the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.
Colorado Technical University
Colorado Technical University is a for profit STEM based research university in Colorado Springs. Founded with the education needs of veterans in mind, CTU has retained its focus on educational outreach to veterans and military personnel and in 2013 was named the best university for veterans in the category of online education.
CTU’s program in Software Engineering is a specialization of its broader Master’s of Science in Computer Science degree. One program unique to CTU is its fast track program. In addition to its credit transfer program, its fast track program allows students to demonstrate their competence in select courses and, if they pass the examination, get credit for that course. A sampling of courses includes:
- Systems Analysis, Design, and Integration
- Fundamentals of Networking
- Unix Fundamentals
- Software Testing
The online Software Engineering degree would be a valuable benefit to students who are coming to Colorado Technical University with previous work experience in the field of software engineering. All of its online degree programs are accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
University of Houston, Clear Lake
The history of the University of Houston-Clear Lake is closely tied to the history of NASA in the Clear Lake area. After the manned space program moved to Clear Lake, NASA requested a regional center for higher studies. The City of Houston responded by founding the UHCL campus.
Because of this history, it will come as no surprise that UHCL has a strong science, technology, and engineering focus. The online Masters of Science in Software Engineering is nearly all delivered online. However, there are five core requirement classes that must be taken on campus. In addition, online classes are offered less often than face to face classes, meaning online students will take longer to graduate. A sampling of core courses includes:
- Software Construction
- Software Architecture
- Software Engineering Life Cycle
The program at the University of Houston-Clear Lake has a lot to offer, including a number of interesting specializations within the degree program such as gaming, robotics, and software project management. The University of Houston-Clear Lake has been accredited by the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.
University of Maryland University College
University of Maryland University College has a unique history. It began as a distance learning program of the University of Maryland but ended up becoming, in 1970, its own college and member school of the University of Maryland system. Though it has a small main campus, the vast majority of it 90,000 students are either online students or belong to one of UMUC’s many satellite campuses.
The peculiarity of UMUC does not end with its history; it is also unique in accepting all applicants, making it a good option for those who for various reasons might need extra surety when planning their academic future. UMUC’s Master of Science in Information Technology (MSIT) offers, among many of its specializations, one in software engineering. Here’s a peek at a sampling of classes:
- Software Design and Implementation
- Software Verification and Validation
- Usability Engineering
- User Interface Implementation
The MSIT degree in general, with the addition of a few classes, can be combined with a Business Administration degree for a double major, enhancing a student’s skills and employability. The software engineering specialization focuses on every phase of software development and also focuses on business practicalities such as how to complete and implement software designs within strict timeframes set by clients. UMUC has been accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.
Texas Tech University
Considered by some to have one of the most beautiful campuses in the country, Texas Tech University is also well known for its high caliber research and the kind of fanatical football culture characteristic of Texas schools. For those too busy or far away to enjoy TTU’s beautiful campus and exciting football games in person, it also boasts an online degree program that has won several awards from the U.S. News and World Report.
TTU’s online Master’s of Science in Software Engineering gives its students two options for finishing their degree: a thesis option that only requires eight classes followed by six credit hours of thesis work, or, for those who wish to avoid a thesis, a non-thesis option that includes twelve classes in total. You’ll take classes like:
- Software Project Management
- Real Time and Time Sharing Systems
- Software Modeling and Architecture
- Fault-Tolerant Computer Systems
Because Texas Tech is a Carnegie Tier I research university, you can expect it to have an excellent faculty engaged in cutting edge research and academic resources unavailable to students at smaller schools. Texas Tech has been regionally accredited by the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.
Kansas State University
Kansas State University is the oldest public university in Kansas, though this is subject to some controversy as the University of Kansas also claims that title for itself. Regardless, K-State is classified as an R1 research university, meaning it is among highest rated for the intensity of its research activity.
Allowing students to finish their degree without a single visit to the K-State campus has made it a popular choice for international students. In addition to teaching all of the skills relevant to building software programs, K-State’s Master in Software Engineering focuses on how software development might be applied within a number of different industries, such as medicine, education, and homeland security. A sampling of classes includes:
- Data Mining and Information Retrieval
- Distributed Systems
- Computer Graphics
- Web-Based Systems
Online students will have access to faculty members and academic resources that connect them to cutting edge of developments in the field of software engineering. Kansas State has developed its own online learning technology, called K-State Online, that allows students from all over the world to study with their on campus faculty. K-State Online has been regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
East Carolina University
Located in Greenville, North Carolina, East Carolina University is a public research university and the third largest institution of higher education in the state of North Carolina. ECU was among the earliest colleges to experiment with distance education and has been involved in offering such programs for nearly 65 years. This commitment made them one of the earliest schools to see the promise of online learning. They now offer more than 70 different online degrees.
East Carolina offers an online Master’s of Science in Software Engineering (MSSE). This program is the result of decades of research into how to combine the fundamentals of software engineering with the skills and practices that are the most in demand in the field. You’ll take a wide range of upper-level classes such as:
- Software Project Management
- Foundations of Software Testing
- Programing and Data Structures
ECU’s distance learning program prides itself on its small class sizes and the scope and quality of its support services which are designed to help struggling students meet their academic goals. East Carolina’s programs have been regionally accredited by the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.
Arizona State University
Arizona State University, located in Tempe, has for the past decade been one of the world’s premier research universities in terms of both quality and output. This, among other things, led U.S. News and World Report to consecutively name it the most innovative school in America.
The online Master’s in Software Engineering degree is offered under the auspices of the Fulton Schools of Engineering. Of the schools on this list, ASU’s admissions requirements are the steepest, requiring not just academic qualifications but a demonstration of expertise in several facets of software programming and design. Once you’re admitted into the program, you can anticipate taking classes like:
- Information Assurance and Security
- Software Verification, Validation, and Testing
- Software Engineering Principles and Concepts
At 30 credits (10 classes) for completion of the degree, it is also one of the fastest to complete. ASU’s online degree programs connects students with the same world class faculty and course content enjoyed by those attending classes on its sprawling campus. ASU has been regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Comission.