In 1963, Margaret Elaine Hamilton coined the term "software engineering" while leading a team from MIT in developing the on-board guidance software for NASA's Apollo program. At the time, software development was still in its infancy and struggling to keep pace with advances in computer hardware.
Since then, however, software engineering has become a driving force in the growth of information technology and one of today’s most in-demand fields,1 offering higher-than-average salaries and strong projected job growth.2
What does a software engineer do?
Software engineers apply principles of engineering and knowledge of programming languages to design and build software solutions for end users. These can be in the form of consumer applications for personal devices, cloud programs that are accessed and managed via the internet, or custom enterprise solutions for organizations. Software engineers also create operating systems that enable computer platforms to function.
The job of a software engineer also includes testing, maintaining, updating, and improving software built by other engineers and developers. This often entails collaborating with clients, systems architects, cybersecurity specialists, and other stakeholders.
What’s the difference between a software engineer and a software developer?
The primary difference between software engineering and software development is one of scope. While software developers focus on one element of a computer system or application, software engineers are typically responsible for the big picture. Essentially, a developer writes code, while an engineer designs solutions.
Another difference is one of skill level. Because software engineers are responsible for entire initiatives instead of specific applications, they tend to have more advanced technical and organizational skills.
Is a career in software engineering a good choice?
Most companies deploy websites, networks, customer interfaces, and other business applications to expand their position and advance their corporate mission. Organizations of all types need software engineers to design, create, and maintain these vital resources.
For people who tend to be creative, analytical, self-motivated, and adept at problem-solving, a career as a software engineer can be a good fit. The ability to understand complex technical information, analyze an organization's requirements, collaborate with stakeholders, and prioritize tasks are among the essential qualities of a good software engineer.
A bachelor’s degree in some field of IT or computer science is a great way to start, although many organizations prefer candidates with a master’s degree. In particular, a master’s degree in software engineering can often lead to more lucrative, higher-level job opportunities in the field than an undergraduate degree alone.
What can I do with a master’s in software engineering?
A master’s degree in software engineering can prepare you to meet the growing demand for trained professionals in the field. Some of the top-paying jobs in software engineering include
- Requirements manager - A requirements manager is responsible for devising systems to analyze, formulate, and prioritize the time, resources, and processes necessary to complete a development project. Average annual salary according to Indeed is about $110,000.3
- Information systems manager - These professionals manage an organization's use of technology by overseeing teams of specialists who design, maintain, upgrade, and monitor software applications and other information systems. Base salary averages about $115,000 per year.3
- Senior software engineer - Senior software engineers are responsible for ensuring the quality and functionality of software solutions, overseeing development projects, and providing technical leadership to a team of engineers. Annual salaries average around $144,000.3
- Software engineering manager - Similar to senior software engineers, a software engineering manager leads a team in developing software applications and ensures engineers follow established regulations and corporate goals. Average annual salary is around $160,000.3
- Chief technology officer - CTOs are senior-level executives responsible for planning, developing, executing, and evaluating a company's IT operations toward meeting business goals. Average base salary for a CTO is just under $200,000 per year.3
Earn an MS in Software Engineering at UMGC
At University of Maryland Global Campus (UMGC), you can earn a Master of Science in Information Technology with a specialization in software engineering online in as little as two years. If you've completed a bachelor’s degree at UMGC with coursework in management information systems, our accelerated pathways program allows you to reduce your total coursework for a software engineering master's degree by up to 6 credits, saving you time and money.
The online Master’s in IT with a specialization in software engineering is built for the working professional. You'll gain hands-on experience and develop expertise in advanced software methodology, design, and coding skills, as well as aspect- and object-oriented programming. The program can help prepare you to lead a successful software development team in the implementation of large software engineering projects.
"Software engineering is a highly sought-after career path," said Chandra Bajracharya, program director for UMGC's software engineering program. "At UMGC, the MSIT-Software Engineering program is built for individuals seeking to advance their careers in software development and engineering so that they gain competencies in developing high-quality and reliable software products and are ready for leadership roles implementing large-scale software projects."
The curriculum is continually updated and designed with input from leading employers and industry experts. You’ll learn from our faculty of experienced scholar-practitioners who are experts in the field, providing you access to industry leaders.
This master’s program has received a special designation as a Professional Science Master’s Degree program through the Council of Graduate Schools. That means the program allows you to pursue advanced training in science or math while you simultaneously develop business skills that are highly valued by top employers.
Education for Working Adults
For more than 75 years, UMGC has helped hundreds of thousands of students succeed—and succeed again. We were founded specifically to serve the higher education needs of working adults and servicemembers like you.
UMGC offers more than 60 career-focused graduate programs, including 14 online master’s programs and 10 online graduate certificates in IT and computer science. Nearly all UMGC programs can be completed entirely online. Hybrid courses are also available. And instead of those expensive, bulky textbooks, UMGC provides no-cost digital course materials in nearly every course that you can access directly from your online classroom.
We make it as easy as possible to fit school into your busy life by offering multiple start dates throughout the year and a streamlined admissions process that doesn't require the GMAT or GRE. You can apply, enroll, and access a comprehensive array of support services and resources—all from your electronic device.
Once you enroll, you’ll be teamed up with a dedicated success coach who’s there to provide you with the best possible support throughout your student journey. Your success coach can help you develop learning strategies, map out education and career goals, and assist you with class selection.
And our commitment to your success doesn’t end on graduation day, because no matter where you are in your career journey, you'll have always access to UMGC’s lifetime career services whenever you may need. Upon graduation, you’ll join a global network of more than 290,000 UMGC alumni, through which you can build lifelong relationships and professional connections with students, faculty, and fellow alumni.