What is a Computer Software Engineering Degree?

Degree programs in computer software engineering teach students how to apply engineering principles to software development. Students learn how to design, build, test, implement, and maintain software applications that allow end users to accomplish tasks on their computers, smartphones, and other electronic devices.

The typical curriculum exposes students to several programming languages, introducing them to the wide array of tools and techniques available to them. Students of software engineering can expect to take courses in discrete mathematics, algorithms, software architecture, network fundamentals, database architecture, and computer security. Most programs begin with core engineering classes like mathematics, chemistry, and physics.

Program Options

Associate Degree in Computer Software Engineering
Associate degree programs in computer software engineering are targeted at students who wish to explore the possibility of working in the field, but who may not yet be certain about the career they wish to pursue. The curriculum at this level can also serve as a foundation for further studies in a bachelor’s program.

Coursework in this degree program covers the following subject areas on an introductory level:

  • Management Information Systems – how to construct and implement database management systems
  • Operating Systems – fundamentals of system design and operation; commonly used programming languages
  • Networking – types and principles of networks; network security; the role of software in networks
  • Web Applications – the design, implementation, and testing of applications; programming languages used to build apps

Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Software Engineering
Most entry-level positions in the field require a bachelor’s. Holders of this undergraduate degree in software engineering may qualify for roles as software technicians, software developers, software engineers, database administrators, computer system designers, network architects, and web developers.

Bachelor’s programs in computer software engineering include classes in applied math and science and engineering, as well as courses in:

  • Architecture of Operating Systems – advanced system design and implementation
  • Software Development – examination of how low-level programming languages are used to create the building blocks of software; study of an advanced programming language to apply to computer tasks; how applications are architected
  • Project Design and Management – software project design, planning, budgeting, and lifecycles
  • Human Computer Interaction – creating user-friendly software
  • Computer Security – user access; cryptography (method of protecting information and communication through the use of codes); ethics and legal implications

Master’s Degree in Computer Software Engineering
With a Master’s Degree in Computer Software Engineering, graduates qualify for various management roles in the field. In addition to senior positions in software development and computer programming, they may qualify for jobs as computer and information research scientists. With the appropriate medical field knowledge, they may also pursue work as biomedical engineers.

Master’s programs in computer software engineering typically include some instruction in business management and leadership, in addition to expanding on the subjects addressed at the bachelor’s level and covering these advanced topics:

  • Advanced Software Design – software functionality specifications: services, components, integrations, data models, and algorithms; examination of different programming languages
  • Advanced Software System Architecture – how to ensure that software design fulfills the business and technology needs of an organization
  • Advanced Software Testing and Implementation – testing and debugging software; troubleshooting
  • Networked and Distributed Systems – the infrastructure for computation, communication, and storage involving people, hardware, and software
  • Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence (AI) – examination of machine learning as a current application of AI
  • Computer Forensics and Network Security – the analysis of digital devices to investigate their contents and the use of computer systems and networks knowledge to protect users from malicious attacks
  • Robotics – the branch of artificial intelligence concerned with creating robots, devices that can move and react to sensory input
  • Software Quality Analysis – analysis and testing conducted to ensure software operates as intended
  • Haptics and Virtual Reality – simulating the sensation of touch; using touch to communicate information and simulate virtual objects
  • Wireless Communications and Signal Processing – examination of wireless digital communication design strategies

Doctoral Degree in Computer Software Engineering
While some schools offer doctoral degree programs in computer software engineering, they are not that common. In general, this degree is pursued by students who wish to conduct research or teach at the university level or to assume very senior-level industry positions. Ph.D. programs are research intensive and allow students to structure a curriculum that focuses on their specific interests.

Areas of concentration include software architecture, database management, robotics, software security, quantitative research methods, or distributed systems (systems that consist of multiple software components that are on multiple computers, but run as a single system by passing messages to one another).

Degrees Similar to Computer Software Engineering

Computer Engineering
This degree field integrates electrical engineering and computer science to further advancement in digital technology, computer networking, and computer systems. Students of computer engineering study calculus, physics, computer architecture, digital-logic design, data structures, and programming languages.

Computer Programming
Majors in computer programming learn how to write the code needed to run software based on specifications received from software engineers. The core curriculum covers program testing, debugging, and customization.

Computer Science
A degree program in computer science has a wider focus and is less structured than a software engineering program, which deals solely with building and maintaining software systems. Computer science covers the design and development of computers and programs and concentrates on data, data transformation, and algorithms.

Cyber Security
Degree programs in cyber security teach students how to protect information systems from threats like system misuse, data theft, malware, outages, and attackers. Within the discipline are specializations such as database applications, systems and network administration, and data recovery.

Electrical Engineering
The degree field of electrical engineering deals with the technology of electricity as it relates to a wide range of components, devices, and systems, from microchips to power station generators.

Game Design
Degree programs in game design teach students how to create, develop, and produce video and computer games. Foundations of a game design curriculum typically include game theory and history, pre-production techniques, game production, storytelling, level design, programming, and game art.

Management Information Systems
This degree field is focused on information systems and how they are used by businesses and organizations to improve their operations. Classes cover computer databases, networks, computer security, and related project management.

Robotics Technology
As its name implies, this field uses engineering principles to create and test robots to be used in various sectors. Coursework in the degree program covers robotics and robot design, testing, and repair.

Web Design
This degree field teaches students the technical skills and the design concepts required to create websites.

Skills You'll Learn

Of course, computer software engineering students come away from their degree programs with the technical knowledge of software development, testing, and debugging; computer programming; and coding. But throughout their studies they also tend to cultivate a fairly wide set of skills that are transferrable to the work world as a whole:

  • Logical Thinking and Problem Solving – these skills are learned because software development is largely about logic and debugging
  • Attention to Detail and Analysis – analyzing code, testing systems, and developing methodologies are all detailed, analytical work
  • Verbal and Written Communication – software development involves interacting with groups of people, from colleagues to clients
  • Multitasking – managing more than a single software development project is the norm in the industry
  • Organization and Prioritization – effective multitasking relies on being able to organize and prioritize tasks and responsibilities

What Can You Do with a Computer Software Engineering Degree?

Almost all businesses rely on computers. It follows, then, that the number of occupational categories that software engineering graduates can explore is extremely wide, if not almost endless. Below is an alphabetical list of some of them. The ten categories in bold text represent those in which software engineers are currently most likely to find jobs.

  • Advertising, Media, Publishing, and Entertainment
  • Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries
  • Banking and Finance
  • Charity, Not-for-Profit, and NGOs
  • Cloud-based Solutions or Services
  • Consulting
  • Data and Analytics
  • Educational Institutions
  • Energy and Utilities
  • Engineering (chemical engineering, civil engineering, geotechnical engineering, electrical engineering, mechanical engineering
  • Environment and Conservation
  • Healthcare Technology or Services
  • Hospitality and Tourism
  • Information Technology
  • Law
  • Management Consulting and Business
  • Manufacturing and Production
  • Mining
  • Public Sector and Defense
  • Recruitment and Human Resources
  • Retail or eCommerce
  • Social Media
  • Software as a Service (SaaS) Development
  • Transportation
  • Web Design / Development

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