Software engineers are the professionals who have allowed the turning of time over the last couple of decades and given society the tools to increase productivity, health, mindfulness, and global connectivity. Anything can be made possible through technology and applications, and software engineers are the professionals who work with teams of skilled individuals to turn imagination into the reality of the future. An online software engineering degree draws in these techies who love to innovate and create new products. The Wall Street Journal has called software engineering the best job in America because of high salaries, surging demand and great working conditions. The National Association of Colleges and Employers reports that software engineering majors were among the top three most highly paid graduates of 2016. Top graduates who hold an online software engineering degree can expect entry-level salaries up to $80,000—almost twice that of a liberal arts degree major. The job outlook is also strong, with more devices than ever needing software, thus creating new positions.
THE CAREER PATH
Software engineering is the perfect career for creative-minded techies. As every industry turns to technology for transactions, communications, marketing, and more, the options for software engineers to work in their field of choosing are almost limitless. Students who earn online software engineering degrees go on to design, validate, produce and maintain software systems. Software engineers build, test and troubleshoot software. They write computer program strings and code. More importantly, they develop the complex mathematical algorithms that drive computers to perform complex functions. The Bureau of Labor Statistics notes that this is an industry where 40-plus hours a week is not uncommon.
The Department of Labor (DOL) features three major career choices for professionals who seek an education in software engineering:
- Software Developers – These professionals are truly the creative minds behind computer programs and can often be in charge of entire departments within an organization or industry. They may be responsible for everything from creating models and diagrams to show programmers the software code that’s needed, to developing the software upgrades that are needed to improve systems and programs. Software developers are required to have at least a bachelor’s degree and typically make more than $100,000 on average. Not to mention, the demand for software developers is expected to skyrocket in the coming decade, as the demand for improved smartphone technology increases and there is a continued digital transition across the globe.
- Computer Systems Analysts – Computer systems analysts are sometimes referred to as “systems architects,” and they are responsible for studying an organization’s computer systems and designing solutions to allow them to operate more efficiently and effectively. Computer systems analysts bring together a combination of skills from the worlds of business and information technology. These professionals will usually specialize in a particular type of computer system, such as finances, engineering design, or health care systems. They use techniques like data modeling to design computer systems and prepare analyses of costs and benefits to help management decide on financially sustainable computer system upgrades. Like software developers, becoming a computer systems analysts requires at least a bachelor’s degree, and they make nearly $90,000 on average.
- Computer Systems Managers – These professionals must have a broad collection of knowledge in order to coordinate all of the activities related to computers in a particular organization. They may be responsible for determining the short and long-term needs for computer and software departments and for directing the installation of equipment and software. Management positions are usually reserved for professionals with a portfolio of experience in a related field, and usually require a bachelor or master’s level education. Management positions yield more than $135,000 yearly on average and are in high demand, implying that ambitious software developers may be able to work their way up in the ranks.
Software engineers work in every setting imaginable; they can work for nonprofits, for big corporations like Google, they can even work to bring their own ideas to life as freelance professionals. No matter where you go in the world, there will be a need for someone with the skills to engineer new software.
WHO IS THE IDEAL CANDIDATE?
Software engineering is one of the more creative professions within the engineering careers. Software engineers must have a unique, deep understanding of multiple concepts including computer science, programming, engineering, business, and data analysis.
Software engineers, like other engineering professionals, commonly work in teams and must be able to communicate well with others, give clear instructions, and explain the answers to questions. They must be able to work on many different pieces of a project at the same time, and be organized. If you’re ready to put your analytical skills to good use and bring projects to life, then read on to start a career in software engineering.
WHAT SHOULD I LOOK FOR?
To enter this career, you can earn either a computer engineering degree, a programming degree or an engineering degree with a major in software engineering. The software engineering degree online is similar, but may focus more on hardware than software. Many employers desire engineers who have knowledge of both hardware and software.
Expect a software engineering degree program to feature core courses in math, probability and logic. Programming will be another comprehensive aspect of their course load. Many programs also require communication courses, as successful software engineers must be able to clearly describe project details.
Most software engineers have a bachelor's degree. Some even take classes related to their field, such as finance, healthcare or business. Many software engineers also go onto receive master's degrees to help further their careers.
When you’re ready to advance, an online engineering master's is popular among software designers. A master of engineering in software design (MSE) usually comes from an ABET-accredited engineering school. Computer science departments also offer software master's degrees. Expect an online master's to include advanced studies in artificial intelligence, software re-engineering, computer networks, database engineering, programming and theoretical computer science.
Additional, programmatic accreditation is available through the Accreditation Board of Engineering and Technology (ABET) and will offer an additional level of prestige to your degree. In addition to accreditation and valuable coursework, keep an eye out for programs that provide their students with the preparation for particular certifications upon graduation. Many employers will take a special notice of Certified Software Development Professionals and candidates with IT Certifications to validate their skills.
The average, total cost for an online engineering degree at the master's level is just under $28,000. Keep this number in mind as you compare programs. Keep in mind the cost of books and certifications are not included. When you’re deciding on a program, it’s crucial to consider which resources will give you the best bang for your buck and meet your needs and goals as a developing professional.