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Software Engineering Degree Requirements

This Master of Liberal Arts, Software Engineering degree field consists of 12 courses (48 credits), with at least one on campus. Weekend options are available. You choose either a thesis or capstone track.

Get Started

  1. Learn more about the course curriculum.
  2. Determine your initial admission eligibility.
  3. Complete the 2 courses for admission.

Required Courses

12 Graduate Courses

The degree is for individuals who know object-oriented programming using C++ or Java and discrete mathematics. If you need to strengthen this background, complete our programming certificate.

Core Requirements

  • 1 theoretical foundations course
  • 1 cloud communications course
  • 1 cloud computing course
  • 1 systems programming course
  • 1 software design course

Additional Thesis Track Requirement

  • 4 software engineering electives
    • EXPO 34 is an elective option
  • Thesis proposal tutorial
  • Master’s Thesis (8 credits)

Additional Capstone Track Requirements

  • 1 web development course
  • 5 software engineering electives
    • EXPO 34 is an elective option
  • Capstone

Search for Courses

To find courses that apply toward the degree use DCE Course Search and Registration:

  • Scroll through the search filters to “Courses in a Graduate Degree.” 
  • Choose “Software Engineering” to explore program courses.

Admissions

Below are our initial eligibility requirements and an overview of our unique admissions process to help get you started. Be sure to visit Degree Program Admissions for full details.

Initial Eligibility

  • Prior to enrolling in any degree-applicable courses, you must possess a four-year regionally accredited US bachelor’s degree or its foreign equivalent. Foreign bachelor’s degrees must be evaluated for equivalency.
  • You cannot already have or be in the process of earning a master’s degree in software engineering or a related field. Check your eligibility.

The Office of Predegree Advising & Admissions makes all final determinations about program eligibility.

Earning Your Way In

To begin the admission process, you simply register—no application needed—for the following two, graduate-level degree courses (available online):

  • 1 theoretical foundations course
  • 1 systems programming course 

The two courses don’t need to be taken in a particular order or in the same semester, but each course must be completed with a grade of B or higher, without letting your overall Harvard cumulative GPA dip below 3.0.

In addition, you need to pass our online test of critical reading and writing skills or complete the program elective EXPO 34 Business Rhetoric with a grade of B or higher. Tip: Take the test right away, even before your first semester at Harvard, to help ensure timely admission.

Applying to the Degree Program

During the semester of your second degree course, submit the official application to the program. 

Don’t delay! You must prioritize the two degree courses for admission and apply before completing subsequent courses. By doing so, you’ll avoid the delayed application fee or the loss of credit for expired course work, while gaining access to exclusive benefits (see bottom of page). Also, critical degree courses are only open to officially admitted candidates such as thesis proposal tutorials and capstones.

Eligible students who submit a complete and timely application will have 10 more courses after admission to earn the degree.

For details about full eligibility, the application process, and application fees, visit Degree Program Admissions.

The Harvard On-Campus Experience

Many courses can be taken online, but the degree requires a Harvard campus experience. You come to Cambridge for at least one course (4 credits) which offers you in-person access to faculty, campus resources, and the academic community.

On-campus course requirements can typically be completed through:

  • 15-week fall or spring semester courses that meet only on campus. Courses with the format “on campus or online” do not fulfill this requirement.
  • Courses that combine weekly online classes over a semester with an intensive weekend on campus.
  • Three-week January session courses that meet only on campus.
  • Three- or seven-week summer courses that meet only on campus.

Accelerated on-campus path: If you have limited flexibility, you can typically fulfill the requirement in one intensive weekend on campus.

International Students Who Need a Student Visa

To meet the on-campus requirement, you study with us in the summer for a minimum of three weeks. You can easily request an I-20 for the F-1 student visa through Harvard Summer School. For more details, see International Student Study Options for important visa information.

To Complete Your Degree

Required GPA, Withdrawal Grades, and Repeat Courses

GPA. You need to earn a B or higher in each of the two degree courses required for admission and a B– or higher in each of the subsequent courses. In addition, your cumulative GPA cannot dip below 3.0.

Withdrawal Grades. You are allowed to receive two withdrawal (WD) grades without them affecting your GPA. Any additional WD grades count as zero in your cumulative GPA. See Academic Standing.

Repeat Courses. We advise you to review the ALM program’s strict policies about repeating courses. Generally speaking, you may not repeat a course to improve your GPA or to fulfill a degree requirement (if the minimum grade was not initially achieved). Nor can you repeat a course for graduate credit that you’ve previously completed at Harvard Extension School or Harvard Summer School at the undergraduate level.

Courses Expire: Finish Your Coursework in Under Five Years

Courses over five years old at the point of admission will not count toward the degree.

Further, you have five years to complete your degree requirements. The five-year timeline begins at the end of the term in which you complete any two degree-applicable courses, regardless of whether or not you have been admitted to a degree program.

Potential degree candidates must plan accordingly and submit their applications to comply with the five-year course expiration policy or they risk losing degree credit for completed course work. Additionally, admission eligibility will be jeopardized if, at the point of application to the program, the five-year degree completion policy cannot be satisfied (i.e., too many courses to complete in the time remaining).

Graduate with Your Harvard Degree

When you have fulfilled all degree requirements, you will earn your Harvard University degree: Master of Liberal Arts (ALM) in Extension Studies, Field: Software Engineering. Degrees are awarded in November, March, and May, with the annual Harvard Commencement ceremony in May.

Degree Candidate Exclusive Benefits

When you become an officially admitted degree candidate, you have access to a rich variety of exclusive benefits to support your academic journey. To learn more, visit degree candidate academic opportunities and privileges.