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What Can I do with a Master’s in Software Engineering?

Software developers often decide to return for a master’s after a few years out in the field. Master’s software engineering programs give students experience using the software development life cycle to solve complex real world problems. With a master’s and experience, engineers can vie for positions developing most types of software including sensitive embedded products. They can also move up to lead and manager positions at prestigious national companies. Here’s a look at some of the options. [Find Online Master's in Software Engineering Degrees here.]

"If you're looking at your job simply from the standpoint of money, then your master's degree is probably your most cost-effective choice” - Dr. Dewayne Perry, Director of the University’s Center for Advanced Research in Software Engineering - UT Austin

Software Engineer

Many people enter the field because they’re drawn to software architecture, design, and programming. As a master’s level software engineer, you’re prepared to work in just about any industry, from finance to aerospace. Your capstone project will allow you to develop your problem solving expertise in your chosen field. It can also be an opportunity to catch the eye of a potential employee.

Master’s level software engineers may work at any stage of the software engineering life cycle. They may become experts in determining system requirements, designing interfaces, or writing the algorithms that make the vision a reality. Master’s software engineers may do some programming, though the bulk of this is often done by associate’s or baccalaureate level computer programmers. Some engineers are involved with designing test cases and working out bugs.

If you’re already working in software development, your master’s won’t necessarily give you a different job title, but it can help you vie for positions with companies that are leaders in their field. From education to financial planning, many companies favor candidates with both experience and higher degrees. If you look at nationally advertised positions on sites like, you’ll get a sense of who the major players are. Pearson Education, a leader in educational curriculum and testing, lists “advanced degree” as a preferred qualification for a range of positions. Aurora Flight Sciences, ITA Software by Google, and Bank of America are among the other companies citing a master’s degree as a preferred qualification for desirable positions. Education, in combination with a good track record, can also help a software engineer move up from a junior to senior position with their current employer.

Lead Software Engineer or Project Manager

Some software engineers go on to management level positions. Lead software engineers provide leadership and technical expertise. Managers may be responsible for one team or they may direct the entire project. Project managers determine the project scope, oversee needs assessment, participate in design and coding, and oversee quality control. They are in charge of analyzing business needs and tracking deliverables. This is a job for someone who has both people savvy and technical savvy. From a client’s perspective, an engineering success is a project that not only meets requirements, but does so on time and on budget.

Embedded Software Engineer

Those who want to develop embedded software may wish to consider master’s level software engineering programs. Highly educated engineers design software that is used in medical equipment, automobiles, airplanes, and even defense systems. Having the most current information can be an asset when changing companies. Raytheon is among the companies that advertises for recent master’s graduates in software engineering and related fields.

Currently, some people choose computer and electrical engineering programs so they can earn engineering licenses and take lead roles on embedded software projects where stakes are especially high and lives hang in the balance. Soon there will be more options. A software engineering exam is expected to be in place in approximately the year 2013; some states will begin licensing the profession at that time. Before choosing a master’s program, a candidate will want to assess both the current and future market in his state. [Find more software engineering related career options Here.]

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