Whether it is popular digital games or computer programs, emails, GPS and other tracking systems or for the matter-of-fact anything that requires the use of computers, softwares created by software engineers are present all around us. Software engineering is the study of design, development, troubleshooting, implementation and management of software. The software engineering boom first started with the emergence of computers in the 1980’s and 1990’s and as digitalization increased worldwide, companies have become more and more dependent on open source and proprietary softwares created by software engineers to run their companies. Due to the high demand in this field and the lucrative pay, many students are attracted to this field of study. However, software engineering can be a tedious and difficult job and requires creativity and problem-solving capabilities.
With the internet revolution, online education has become more accessible and popular than ever before. According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), one in three students in the USA is now taking at least one class online. There are several universities offering software engineering programs available online. These programs are not in any way inferior to a program offered on-campus.
In the last few years, though we have moved forward in terms of acceptance of online degrees as being equivalent to on-campus gained degrees, there is still doubt surrounding it. Some employers still prefer on-campus gained degrees over online acquired degrees. The good news is that this is changing fast. 75% of employers do not look at online degrees negatively anymore and some might even look at it positively as it shows the determination of an individual in successfully taking up a number of commitments.
Benefits of doing an online degree
Some pros of doing an online degree are:
- There is more flexibility to study as and when you want and at your own pace. This is especially useful for people who work or have a family to look after.
- It is possible to do a number of degrees at the same time.
- You can cut the cost of relocating or commuting to the university.
- You can learn anywhere and anytime you want.
- It is easy to review the lectures as they are always available online.
- It is possible to study at the university you like regardless of whether it is located in your country or close to where you live.
Online degrees are generally available at three levels i.e. a bachelor degree, a master degree and some undergraduate or graduate certificate courses. Let’s take a look at these different degrees.
Bachelor degree: A bachelor’s degree consists of course work in a number of subjects. These usually also consist of an internship as a part of the program. A bachelor’s degree gives the student the foundation needed to take advantage of various career opportunities in different sectors.
Master degree: A master’s degree adds on to the knowledge which is gained during the bachelor’s program. There are various specializations in the topics covered during the bachelor’s program.
Certificate courses: Certificate courses are available for undergraduate as well as graduate students who want to gain further knowledge in a particular field without taking up a complete degree program. This is also useful for professionals who want to specialize in a certain area. These are also a good option for students who do not want to commit to a degree program but are interested in getting an introduction to a particular field.
Software engineering is a very diverse field and hence as you might expect, it has a number of subcategories that you can specialize in. Some common ones are as follows:
Software design and development: Individuals who specialize in software design and development work to plan about the architecture of the program. They are involved in designing and developing the software by coding, testing and debugging.
Software quality assurance (QA) and testing: QA is important part of the whole process of software development before it is sold to the customers. Professionals in this field, test the software in various environments and thus ascertain the quality of the product.
Artificial Intelligence (AI): AI especially AI used by law enforcement agencies is another specialization which is in high demand. Big businesses, the military and other bodies such as the NASA use AI to a significant extent. AI is put to use mainly in situations which pose a danger to humans or for tasks that are beyond human capabilities to execute.
Website, game and mobile application development: This is another popular specialization with the increased popularity of mobile applications and the rise in demand for high quality games. The primary goal in these fields is to improve graphics and user interface features.
Choosing the right university and program
Choosing the right university and program is the most important decision that students have to make as this can influence future job prospects. As there are hundreds of universities to choose from, selecting the right one becomes a difficult task. Schools offer programs which have varied focuses, and it is hence crucial to evaluate your own interests and career goals. The right school for someone else might not fit your educational needs and may not be the right one for you. It is also important to take into consideration the kind of accreditation the college has. Accreditation is a symbol of quality of the college itself and the program. It shows whether a certain college or program lives up to the set quality standards. Employers often take the accreditation of the university into consideration while looking for new employees. Accreditation status can have a big impact on the chances of receiving financial aid or to transfer credits to another degree or school, if needed. The information about accreditation is generally easily available on the website of the school.
Choosing the right program is an important task and depends on your career goals, current education levels, the field you want to venture into and other such things. There are a number of bachelor, master, certificate programs to suit your individual requirements. It is important to think carefully about the major that you want to pursue as this has biggest impact on your job prospects in the future. You will learn about completely different skills as each major emphasizes on different things. Studies have shown that your major has a bigger impact on career prospects and earnings than where you do the degree.
It is recommended to carefully look at the top college websites and research about the specific courses you are interested in. Connect with students who have already completed their studies from the said college and learn about their personal views on the program. Compare the rankings between the colleges but in the end what is more important is that the course modules are aligned with your own interests. Shortlist universities and then talk to the admission assistant at the university to know about what they offer at that particular university. LinkedIn has created a list of the best colleges for individuals aspiring to be software engineers. The list is as follows:
- Carnegie Mellon University
- California Institute of Technology
- Cornell University
- Massachusetts Institute of Technology
- Princeton University
- University of California, Berkeley
- University of Washington
- Duke University
- (tie) University of Michigan
- (tie) Stanford University
The bottom line
According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, the field of software engineering is expected to see a job growth of 22% between 2012 and 2022. Average annual salary for software engineers in the year 2012 was $99,000. A career in software engineering can thus be rewarding. It is however important to analyze your interests and to choose a specialization that is aligned with them. Some specializations are valued higher in the market than others. Education comes with its benefits. It goes to say that it is important to evaluate whether an online degree is worth it before taking the plunge and spending the money and time on it.
OnlineSTEMDegrees.com offers extensive research about various Online courses offered by best colleges and universities.