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Best online graduate certificate in software engineering 2022: Top picks

Software engineers work in an innovative and lucrative field. A graduate certificate offers advanced coursework in a shorter timeframe than a degree.
Written by Genevieve Carlton, Contributor

The software engineering field applies engineering principles to the software design and development process. Software engineers work closely with programmers, quality assurance testers, and software developers to create new software programs and improve existing software. 

A graduate certificate in software engineering prepares professionals for careers in this exciting field.

Our list ranks the top graduate certificate programs in software engineering that offer an online learning format. Many students prefer online programs for their flexibility and convenience. Prospective learners can use the following rankings to find the best fit for their schedule and career goals.

Top 2 online schools for graduate certificates in software engineering


Program stats

How much?

Kennesaw State University

Kennesaw, GA

  • Graduate certificate in software engineering foundations
  • Acceptance rate: 75%
  • Graduation rate: 48%
  • 12 credits

Per credit: $383

Application fee: $60

St. Mary's University

San Antonio, TX

  • Graduate certificate in software engineering
  • Acceptance rate: 79%
  • Graduation rate: 60%
  • 12 credits

Per credit: $700

Application fee: $110

The best online graduate certificate in software engineering 

Our list uses ZDNet's ranking methodology to evaluate graduate certificate programs in software engineering. We only rank accredited universities. In this specialized area, only a few universities offer online enrollment options for software engineers. 

Unless otherwise indicated, data is drawn from the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System and College Scorecard.

1. Kennesaw State University

Kennesaw, Georgia

About the program: Designed for learners without a background in software engineering, the graduate certificate in software engineering program trains students in computer programming, data structures, and computational thinking.

  • Acceptance rate: 75%
  • Graduation rate: 48%
  • Avg. annual net price: $17,221
  • Years to completion: Less than a year
  • SAT range: 1050-1230
  • Minimum GPA: Not publicly available
  • Enrollment periods per year: Three
  • Course delivery method: Asynchronous and synchronous

2. St. Mary's University

San Antonio, Texas

About the program: The online graduate certificate in software engineering includes four courses that students choose from a catalog of graduate options. Applicants must hold a bachelor's in software engineering, computer science, or a closely related field.

  • Acceptance rate: 79%
  • Graduation rate: 60%
  • Avg. annual net price: $19,276
  • Years to completion: under one year
  • SAT range: 1040-1220
  • Minimum GPA: Not publicly available
  • Enrollment periods per year: Three
  • Course delivery method: Asynchronous and synchronous

What to expect in an online graduate certificate in software engineering program

An online software engineering graduate certificate offers advanced training for students with at least a bachelor's degree. Graduate certificates are not degrees themselves. 

During the certificate program, learners strengthen their programming, problem-solving, and software project management skills. Instructors use project-based assignments to build practical, career-ready abilities. Learners may build a portfolio to showcase their technical knowledge. 

Individuals wondering how to become a software engineer can complete a graduate certificate in software engineering. Professionals debating other tech careers, such as software engineer vs. web developer career paths, may benefit from a different certificate. Depending on the program, applicants may need a background in software engineering. 

Graduate certificate in software engineering courses

During a software engineering graduate certificate, learners complete specialized courses in project management, quality assurance, software architecture, and computer systems management. Many programs offer the following common courses. 

Advanced software engineering

Graduate students explore technical and management principles in software development. The course emphasizes the software development lifecycle, including design, implementation, and testing. Learners also build leadership skills for software engineering settings.

Software project management

Project managers play a key role in the software development project. Learners examine effective approaches to scheduling, planning, and risk management. The course also covers short-term and long-term project management.

Software quality assurance

The course offers advanced techniques and tools for verifying software and assuring its quality. Learners explore process assurance, quality metrics, and configuration management. The class strengthens problem analysis skills.

Computer systems management

Students examine management principles for information and computer systems. Topics may include emerging technology, research and development management, and leadership decision-making in tech. The course prepares graduates for supervisory responsibilities.

Software engineering degree levels

Learners interested in software engineering pursue educational programs at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Each of the following software engineering programs emphasizes different skills and prepares graduates for different career paths. Prospective students should consider which option best fits their professional goals. 

Certificate in software engineering

  • Length: One year
  • Cost: $3,000-$15,000
  • Post-grad careers: Software engineer, software developer, software architect

A certificate in software engineering provides short-term training in software engineering and development. Many colleges offer software engineering certificate programs at the undergraduate or graduate level. Undergraduate programs cover introductory topics, while graduate programs offer advanced coursework for learners with a bachelor's degree.

During a certificate program, students complete a focused course of study. Certificates do not require general education courses. The credential prepares graduates for tech careers.

Associate in software engineering

  • Length: Two years
  • Cost: $3,000-10,000
  • Post-grad careers: Computer programmer, computer support specialist, web developer

An associate degree in software engineering introduces learners to foundational concepts in computer science, software engineering, and computer engineering. Students gain a theoretical and practical understanding of programming languages. They also explore operating systems, software development, and network architecture.

Many software engineering careers require a bachelor's degree. After completing a two-year associate degree, graduates can enter the workforce or transfer into a four-year program to earn their bachelor's degree. 

Bachelor's in software engineering

  • Length: Four years 
  • Cost: $35,000-$90,000
  • Post-grad careers: Software engineer, software developer, software architect

A bachelor's in software engineering degree trains college students for entry-level roles as software engineers and software developers. During the major, students strengthen their programming skills while also studying computer engineering principles. In addition to coursework in computer science and computer engineering, learners take math and science courses. 

The degree builds strong analytical and problem-solving skills. Students complete projects and other experiential learning opportunities to prepare for careers in software engineering.

Master's in software engineering

  • Length: Two years
  • Cost: $10,000-$40,000
  • Post-grad careers: Software engineer, senior software engineer, senior software developer

A master's degree in software engineering provides graduate-level training in software development, architecture, and engineering. During a software engineering master's program, learners specialize their skills through courses in software planning, project management, and software architecture. 

Master's students complete projects to strengthen their skills. Some programs also incorporate internship opportunities. With its focus on practical applications, a master's in software engineering prepares professionals for career advancement and supervisory roles. 

Doctorate in software engineering

  • Length: Three to five years 
  • Cost: $30,000-$60,000
  • Post-grad careers: Senior software engineer, director of software engineering, software engineering professor

A doctorate in software engineering represents the terminal degree in the field. Doctoral programs strengthen research and analytical skills through advanced coursework in software project management, analytical research methods, and software development. Learners complete a research-based dissertation project to complete the degree.

With a doctorate, software engineers pursue top roles in their field, including as senior software engineers or directors of software engineering. The degree also prepares graduates for research and academic positions, such as software engineering professor. 

In conclusion

A graduate certificate in software engineering helps professionals advance their tech career or pursue new opportunities in tech. Most certificate programs take less than one year to complete. Prospective students should reach out to programs listed above to learn more about the admission requirements, coursework, and financial aid opportunities in software engineering.

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