Skip to content

Covid updates. The bivalent COVID-19 booster is required for on-campus presence.

Software Engineering Degree Requirements

This Master of Liberal Arts, Software Engineering degree field consists of 12 courses (48 credits), with at least 1 course on campus. Weekend options are available, where you can complete the requirement in one weekend here at Harvard University. You choose either a thesis or capstone track.

Getting Started

  1. Explore the required course curriculum.
  2. Determine your initial admissions eligibility.
  3. Learn about the 2 degree courses required for admission.
  4. Search and register for courses.

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

Thesis Track: Additional Requirements

The thesis is a 9-month independent project where you work one-on-one in a tutorial setting with a thesis director.

  • 4 software engineering electives
    • EXPO 34 is an elective option
  • CSCI 497 Crafting the Thesis Proposal in Software Engineering Tutorial
  • CSCI 499AB ALM Thesis in Software Engineering (8 credits)

Recent Thesis Topics:

  • Blockchain and Data Analytics: As a Base to Improve Security and Cost Reduction in the Ride-Sharing Industry
  • Hebrew Transformed: Machine Translation of Hebrew Using the Transformer Architecture
  • Deep-Learning Based Clinical Decision Simulator for Electronic Health Data
  • Radar Sensor Plugin for Game Engine Based Autonomous Vehicle Simulators
  • Towards Artificial Intelligent Conversational Agents : Expository Communication Styles for
    Building Chatbots Using Natural Language Processing

Capstone Track: Additional Requirements

  • 1 web development course
  • 5 software engineering electives
    • EXPO 34 is an elective option
  • CSCI 599 Software Engineering Capstone: The capstone is a real-world software engineering project that you complete within a semester-long course with guidance from your instructor and fellow degree candidates. You collaborate in small teams to define an architectural model and a project plan, and then implement a system while practicing techniques in software engineering.

The Harvard On-Campus Experience (1 Course)

Many courses can be taken online, but the degree requires a Harvard University campus experience. You come to Cambridge for at least 1 course (4 credits) which offers you in-person access to faculty, campus resources, and the academic community.

Weekend options are available, where you can complete the requirement in one weekend here at Harvard University. You choose either a thesis or capstone track.

On-campus course requirements can typically be completed through:

  • Courses that combine weekly online classes over a semester with an intensive weekend on campus. For example, CSCI 71 Agile Software Development.
  • 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.
  • 3-week January session courses that meet only on campus.
  • 3- or 7-week summer courses that meet only 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 3 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.

Optional Certificates

You can choose to concentrate your degree studies in a specific area and earn a certificate along the way. There are 3 options:

  • Back-end Web Development
  • Cybersecurity
  • Data Science


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 4-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: Courses for Admission

To begin the admission process, you simply register—no application needed—for the following 2 graduate-level degree courses (available online):

  • 1 theoretical foundations course
  • 1 systems programming course 

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. 

The courses above, including EXPO 34, count toward the degree once you’re admitted; they are not additional courses.

Course sequencing. The 2 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.

Tip: Take the test of critical reading and writing skills 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 2 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.
  • ensure your enrollment in critical and timely degree-candidate-only courses.
  • gain exclusive benefits (see bottom of page).

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.

Search and Register for Courses

The Division of Continuing Education (DCE) offers degree courses all year round. You can study in fall, January, and spring terms through Harvard Extension School (HES) and during the summer through Harvard Summer School (HSS).

To find degree courses in the DCE Course Search and Registration platform:

  • Under Search Classes, scroll to Browse by Degree, Certificate, or Premedical Program.
  • Select Graduate Degrees
  • Choose Software Engineering to explore program courses.

To Complete Your Degree

Required 3.0 GPA, 2 Withdrawal Grade Limit, and Repeat Course Policy

GPA. You need to earn a B or higher in each of the 2 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 2 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 5 Years

Courses over 5 years old at the point of admission will not count toward the degree.

Further, you have 5 years to complete your degree requirements. The 5-year timeline begins at the end of the term in which you complete any 2 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 5-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 5-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.