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Software Engineering Master’s Degree Program

  • Earn Your Way In

    Excel in 2 Degree Courses to Qualify for Admission

  • Format

    Online and On Campus

  • Average Course Tuition


  • Total Number of Courses


software engineer sitting at computer

Advance your career in software design and programming.

Expand your skills in engineering principles to design, construct, and maintain software systems and applications.

Overview: Software Engineering Graduate Program

Software engineering is the science—and the art—of designing and building the software that enables us to interface with today’s digital devices. In the software engineering master’s degree program at Harvard Extension School, you will develop advanced skills in programming, design, and engineering principles, as well as delve into today’s emerging technologies.  

Through the degree program in software engineering, you will:

  • Expand your understanding of current software architecture across multiple technologies, including databases, communication protocols, cloud computing, mobile applications, web frameworks, and other systems.
  • Gain advanced tools required to design, implement, analyze, and improve software solutions from a wide variety of domains and industries.
  • Learn how to build and adapt software to new and emerging technologies such as big data, machine learning, the Internet of Things (IoT), and artificial intelligence.

To expand your expertise in a closely related field, stack your degree with an optional graduate certificate in back-end web development, cybersecurity, or data science.

Your Harvard Degree
Master of Liberal Arts (ALM) in Extension Studies, field: Software Engineering.


This graduate degree program is designed for individuals seeking to move into or advance their careers in software development and engineering. The field of software engineering continues to grow and evolve with new technologies, and jobs in this dynamic field can take many different pathways.

The advanced programming skills you’ll gain in this program may help you move into a senior developer role such as lead or principal software engineer. Advanced design skills could help you become a software or systems architect

A master’s degree can also help you specialize your career in a specific area of software design for roles such as:

  • Quality assurance engineer
  • Front end, back end, or full stack developer
  • DevOps engineer
  • Embedded software engineer
  • Systems engineer

Alumni of the software engineering graduate program include:

  • Technical director
  • Mobile engineer
  • Senior data scientist
  • Statistical analyst

Courses and Curriculum

In the software engineering graduate degree program, you’ll build a comprehensive foundation and specialized knowledge in software design and engineering principles to advance your career in software engineering.

You’ll complete 12 courses in a range of topics, including:

  • Software design
  • Systems programming
  • Cloud computing
  • Mathematics and algorithms

You’ll complete your degree with either a thesis or a capstone project, where you’ll apply your skills to advanced research into real-world problems.

Online and on campus study. You can take most software engineering program courses online. To complete the program, however, you must take one course on campus. We offer multiple flexible options to help you fulfill your on campus requirement.

Admission to Software Engineering Graduate Program

At Harvard Extension School, your admission is based largely on your performance in 2 specific Harvard Extension courses that you complete before submitting an application. These courses count toward the 12 total courses once you’re admitted.

To get started, we invite you to explore the degree requirements, confirm your initial eligibility, and learn more about our unique “earn your way in” admissions process.

Our Community at a Glance

Software engineering graduates work in a range of industries including computer services, computer software, financial services, health care, higher education, and more.

  • 33

    Average Age

  • 1

    Average Courses Taken Each Semester

  • 82%

    Work Full Time

  • 99%

    Would Recommend the Program

  • 75%

    Professional Experience in the Field

  • Most

    Pursued to Deepen Expertise

Everybody I met with treated me like I was their only student, and they were always there when I needed them.

Cost and Financial Aid

Affordability is core to our mission. When compared to our continuing education peers, it’s a fraction of the cost.

Our Tuition (2022–23 rate) $3,100 per 4-credit course ($775 per credit)
Average Tuition of Peer Institutions $5,476 per course
Average Total Cost $37,200

After admission, you may qualify for financial aid. Typically, eligible students receive grant funds to cover a portion of tuition costs each term, in addition to federal financial aid options.


What Can You Do With a Master’s Degree in Software Engineering?

A master’s degree in software engineering will expand and improve your ability to design, write, test, and maintain the software systems that enable us to interface with today’s digital devices.

With a master’s degree in software engineering, you could design new mobile applications, create better frameworks for big data analysis, or develop embedded software for cars and emerging technologies.

In past decades, software engineers were limited to jobs in “high tech.” Today, however, software engineers can work in nearly any industry, from healthcare and financial services to retail to research and development. The skills you’ll build in a master’s degree program will improve your ability to transfer those skills across multiple industries as you grow your career.

Is a Degree in Software Engineering Useful?

It is possible to learn the basics of software development through on-the-job training, and a master’s degree may not be required for all roles in software, especially at the entry level.

However, an academic degree—especially a master’s—provides theoretical grounding in mathematics, engineering principles, and software architecture. These advanced skills can help you:

  • Be more competitive in the job market
  • Command a higher salary
  • Maximize your career flexibility
  • Enable you to move into software from a different field

Is a Career in Software Engineering a Good Career?

Software engineering can be an exciting and challenging career choice. As a software engineer, you have the opportunity to develop useful products, stay on the cutting edge of technological change, and create solutions to complex problems. Software engineers often enjoy significant job flexibility to work across multiple industries, and usually earn higher-than-average salaries.

For additional information on careers in software engineering, read How to Become a Software Engineer.

Is Software Engineering in High Demand?

There is high demand for qualified and skilled software engineers. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, available jobs for software engineers and developers is expected to grow nearly 25% by 2030.

How Long Does It Take to Complete the Software Engineering Graduate Program?

The software engineering master’s degree program at Harvard Extension School is designed to offer working professionals the flexibility they need to complete their degree while working full time.

Most degree candidates in the software engineering graduate program complete their degree within four years; nearly 40% complete their degree in less than four years.

How quickly you complete your degree depends on how many classes you take each term, and whether you work toward your degree across consecutive terms or take breaks between terms.

What Prerequisites Do You Need Prior to Applying for the Software Engineering Master’s Degree Program?

Before you begin this master’s degree program, you should have the ability to build object-oriented software programs in C++ and Java. You should also have foundational knowledge of discrete mathematics.

Individuals without this knowledge base are encouraged to complete our programming certificate prior to starting the graduate program.