best software engineering masters 2024
best software engineering masters 2024
A guide to the best online software engineering master's degrees in 2024.

Software engineering is one of the nation's most lucrative and opportunity-rich fields. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects 26% job growth in the space over the next decade - almost 10X the 3% average for all occupations - and experienced engineers take home an average salary over $127,000. Completing a top-tier software engineering master’s program is one of the best ways to learn advanced skills and distinguish yourself in this competitive field.

Where a bachelor's degree covers essential programming languages and the software development landscape, a master's in software engineering delves deeper, sculpting specialists out of generalists. The best master's degrees in software engineering cover marketable disciplines such as software architecture and project management while providing training in emerging domains like cloud computing, data science, cybersecurity, and artificial intelligence.

This page will highlight the top online master’s degrees in software engineering. We’ll also explain what you can expect from this program (curriculum, delivery formats, admission requirements, etc.), costs and benefits, and potential career outcomes.

What makes our rankings valuable?

Most degree rankings online rely primarily on the National Center for Education Statistics, measuring school-wide rates for graduation, retention, class size, etc. The NCES has good data, and we use it too; however, we go beyond institutional stats to analyze the current and future relevance of the skills and certifications you’ll gain. We also list programs' actual tuition fees and delve deeper into value and flexibility to consider accelerated learning and certificate options.

The Best Online Software Engineering Master's Degrees
Rank School Program
1 Texas Tech University Master of Science in Software Engineering
2 East Carolina University Master of Science in Software Engineering
3 University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign Online Master of Computer Science
4 Harvard University Extension School Online Computer Science Master’s Program
5 Washington State University Online Master's Degree in Software Engineering

What to Expect from an Online Master’s in Software Engineering

An online master's degree in software engineering is ideal for systems and application developers looking to enhance their career prospects or pursue leadership roles. When considering an online software engineering master’s program, here’s what you can generally expect:


The curriculum of online master’s degrees in software engineering comes in three categories: core courses, specializations, and some kind of capstone project:

  • The core curriculum in an online software engineering master’s program typically includes topics like advanced software design, software project management, algorithm design, and system architecture.
  • The top online master’s degrees in software engineering offer a mix of specializations and electives in marketable domains like cloud engineering, cybersecurity, mobile development, artificial intelligence, and machine learning.
  • Most online master’s conclude with a capstone project or faculty-reviewed thesis where students apply their newly learned software engineering skills to real-world problems.

Flexible Learning Formats

One of the key benefits of earning a software engineering master’s degree online is flexibility. Online programs have two main delivery types: asynchronous and synchronous. Some programs combine the two:

  • Asynchronous learning allows students to access course materials, lectures, and assignments independently at their own pace without real-time interaction. The asynchronous format provides more flexibility, especially for those balancing other commitments.
  • Synchronous learning requires students to log in and participate in real-time, often through live video lectures, webinars, or chats. This method offers more interaction and immediacy in feedback and more closely mimics the traditional classroom experience in a virtual format.

Both formats have their merits, and the best choice often depends on your preferred learning style, schedule, and the complexity of the curriculum.


Online master’s programs in software engineering typically take 1.5 to 2 years to complete as a full-time student. The average completion time for part-time students is 3 to 4 years.


The cost of online master’s degrees in software engineering varies widely. However, they are typically more affordable than campus-based programs due to the lack of associated expenditures for housing, travel, and physical study materials. Prospective students should look at the best public colleges in their state first, as these often have lower prices for residents. Many schools offer scholarships, grants, and tuition reimbursement for online students regardless of locale.


Students should confirm that the online software engineering master's they’re considering is nationally or regionally accredited. Accreditation ensures the program meets rigorous academic standards and easily transfers credits between programs.

Admission Requirements

Admission requirements for an online master’s in software engineering typically include a bachelor's degree in computer science, software development, or a related field. Some programs require letters of recommendation and a minimum undergraduate GPA (usually above 3.0). Select programs may also require professional experience or a portfolio of software projects.

Technical Requirements

To attend an online master’s degree in software engineering, you'll need a reliable computer, a high-speed internet connection, and specific software packages. Access to the requisite software should be included in the cost of your program.

Networking Opportunities

Despite being virtual, the top online master's programs in software engineering offer numerous opportunities to connect with peers. Many schools host virtual networking events, provide mentorship programs that pair students with active engineers, and facilitate internships or co-ops for industry exposure. Students can also leverage alumni associations and career services for extended networking benefits. Some online master’s programs have on-campus modules or meet-ups, allowing face-to-face networking. It's invaluable for software engineering graduate students to use these opportunities to build a robust professional network.

Career Opportunities

An online master's in software engineering can pave the way for lucrative roles such as software engineer, developer, architect, and project manager. Here’s a look at some popular career paths you can pursue with this degree and the average salary for each:

Software Engineering Career Average Salary
Software Project Manager $103,000
Cloud Engineer $120,000
Software Developer $122,000
Software Engineer $130,000
Software Architect $151,000
Lead Software Developer $153,000
Software Engineering Manager $161,000

Source: Analysis of Online Job Boards

The Best Software Engineering Master's Degrees Online

We chose the best online master’s degrees in software engineering based on numerous factors, including the relevance of the curriculum, school reputation, program features, flexibility, and overall value.

Here are the best software engineering master’s you can earn online in 2024:

1. Texas Tech University

Texas Tech’s 100% online Master of Science in Software Engineering provides graduates with the skills to build innovative computer systems and applications. Beyond a thoughtfully designed core curriculum of software project management, software architecture, and software validation, students can choose from marketable electives such as time-sharing systems, distributed systems, and parallel processing.

Texas Tech extends in-state tuition rates to distance learning students, making its MSSE one of the most cost-effective software engineering master’s programs for U.S. residents.

  • Format: Online
  • Tuition Cost: $19,089 (63 credits @ $303 per credit)
  • Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC)

Visit Website

2. East Carolina University

ECU’s Master of Science in Software Engineering (MSEE) integrates traditional computer science principles with cutting-edge coursework in cloud computing, object-oriented design, and software project management. This master’s degree includes three foundational courses, and the rest of the program is fully customizable with software engineering and computer science electives.

In addition to a well-curated and customizable curriculum, this program scored high marks in flexibility for its online, hybrid, and campus-based learning options. Students in the MSSE program can choose between a final project or a faculty-led thesis.

  • Format: Online, Hybrid, or On-Campus (NC)
  • Tuition Cost:
    • In-State: $19,689 (68 credits @ $289.55 per credit)
    • Out-of-State: $69,363 (68 credits @ $1,020.05 per credit)
  • Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC)

Visit Website

3. University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign

UIUC’s Online MCS with the Programming Languages & Software Engineering Breadth comprises eight graduate-level courses, with career-focused training in hot areas like artificial intelligence, data management, and software engineering.

This program is offered in collaboration with the distance learning platform Coursera, allowing students to earn a respected non-thesis, coursework-only degree at their own pace. While lectures are delivered online via Coursera, UIUC faculty oversee assessments to ensure university-level standards.

  • Format: Online
  • Tuition Cost: $21,952 (pay-as-you-go)
  • Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission

Visit Website

4. Harvard University Extension School

The Online Computer Science Master’s Degree from Harvard Extension School equips students with advanced, real-world software engineering skills. The curriculum comprises 12 courses in topics like algorithms, data structures, and programming languages, with electives in sought-after domains like artificial intelligence and cloud computing.

Led by esteemed Harvard faculty and active engineers, this program has serious perks, including entrepreneurial opportunities through Harvard Innovation Labs, personalized advising, and an alumni association membership post-graduation. And, of course, the Harvard name can help open doors when seeking employment.

  • Format: Hybrid: 11 online courses + 1 three-week course in Cambridge, MA
  • Tuition Cost: $38,640 (12 courses @ $3,220 per course)
  • Accreditation: New England Commission of Higher Education

Visit Website

5. Washington State University

WSU’s streamlined Online Master’s Degree in Software Engineering enables graduates to tackle pertinent software engineering issues and navigate this competitive field. This fully online program covers vital software engineering principles while integrating modern development platforms and valuable leadership skills.

Offered through the WSU Global Campus, the online MSSE can be completed in under two years for full-time students, though working professionals can opt for a part-time schedule for added flexibility.

  • Format: Online
  • Tuition Cost: $18,294 (30 credits @ $609.80 per credit)
  • Accreditation: Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU)

Visit Website

Frequently Asked Questions

Is an online master's in software engineering as reputable as a campus-based program?

The reputation of an online software engineering master’s degree versus campus-based programs largely depends on the institution's stature, the program's accreditation, and the quality of its curriculum and faculty. While early online degrees faced skepticism, modern online programs are now viewed as being on par with their on-campus counterparts, especially when offered by top institutions. That said, thorough research is essential when evaluating a program's reputation.

How much does an online master's degree in software engineering cost?

The cost of an online master's degree in software engineering varies significantly based on the institution type (public vs. private) and location. On average, online tuition at public universities ranges from $15,000 to $40,000 for the entire program, while private institutions charge between $20,000 to $70,000. Factors like in-state vs. out-of-state tuition, program length, and additional fees affect these costs. Remember, these are full-price tuition costs; exploring financial aid and scholarship options and considering the degree's return on investment regarding career advancement and earning potential is crucial when comparing programs.

Is an online master's program in software engineering worth it?

Yes, but only for suitable candidates. Pursuing an online software engineering master’s degree is worth it for those seeking career advancement through specialization. This degree can provide a competitive edge in the job market, leading to senior roles with higher salaries. While program costs vary, the ROI can be significant, especially for those transitioning to high-demand software engineering niches. However, the value depends on your career goals and what the program offers.

Search IT courses and degrees by job role, technology platform, and concentration.

Final Thoughts

If you already have a relevant bachelor’s and are considering starting or advancing your career as a software engineer, a master's degree can provide the skills and credentials to stand out in a competitive marketplace. Beyond the standalone value of this ranking, use this list of the best online software engineering master’s degrees as a guide to finding the ideal program for you.

About the Author

IT Subject Matter ExpertDaniel Greenspan is the founder and Editor-in-chief of ITCareerFinder. Working closely with IT professionals, world-class trainers, and hiring managers since 2005 has given him unique insight into the information technology job market and the skills and credentials IT pros need to succeed.