Thinking about grad school? A masters in software engineering might be the right choice for you, particularly if you wish to pursue an academic career. But is a master's really necessary to get a good job in the tech industry? Learn more about what these degree programs entail and what alternatives are available so you can make the right decision for your career.
What do Masters in Software Engineering Programs Cover?
There isn't a standardized program for what a masters in software engineering should cover, and different schools may have slightly different learning outcomes, with different coursework and degree requirements. In general, though, a masters in this field will cover practical topics, exposing students to current and up-and-coming technologies, software design, programming languages, and computing theory.
High-quality, up-to-date programs should ideally expose students to topics they're either just learning about or aren't entirely familiar with to enhance the utility of the education in practice. Programs with coursework that seems out of date, including degrees that require no education in important topics like cloud computing, might not be as rigorous as they should be. Most of these programs will also require students to either write a thesis (a more academic track) or complete a capstone project (a more practical track that can be used as part of a professional portfolio).
What are the Prerequisites for Admission to a Masters in Software Engineering Program?
Each program has its own prerequisites, usually focusing on prior education. Some degree programs may have a low bar for entry, but that can be a red flag that the program exists more as a money making venture than a rigorous educational experience. After all, a masters in software engineering can be a terminal degree for those who want to enter business rather than academics. That means that the best online software engineering master's degree programs will likely have some academic perquisites focusing on subjects like math, computer science, or engineering.
Beyond merely knowing things about these topics, you will likely need to prove that you have taken university-level classes in these subjects. So even if you're solid on Intro to Programming fundamentals due to online learning, that might not be enough for a graduate degree program.
Alternatives to a Formal Degree Program
So, you'll more than likely need a software engineering bachelor's degree or a similar formal qualification to enter a masters in software engineering program. What if you don't have the right kind of degree (or any degree at all)? You still have options. Udacity Nanodegree programs cover many of the same topics as a bachelor's degree in software engineering, and depending on the course you take you may even gain masters-level knowledge without all the extra bells and whistles that come with a formal degree program. Tech industry employers aren't always concerned that applicants hold formal software engineering graduate degrees. Rather, it's your skill and talent that really counts. By focusing on the necessary coursework and building a stellar portfolio, you may be able to sidestep the expensive and time-consuming graduate degree process and still land a great job in the industry.