Software Engineering Programs

PhD Programs for Software Engineers

Computer software engineers are responsible for designing and developing software. Professionals who decide to receive their PhD in software engineering will primarily be employed in research and teaching positions. Many PhD graduates also work in the public and private sectors in Research and Development. Those who receive their PhD should be capable of critical thinking skills and application of theories in the area of computer science and mathematical analysis.

The skills learned will assist engineers in developing strategies to fundamentally change software innovation, creation, testing, and evaluation techniques. The applications include business, computer gaming, middleware, network control systems, and structure of software.

Individuals who obtain their PhDs in software engineering will develop the vision and direction for design, testing and development of software. Many PhD candidates lead teams that develop innovative algorithms, documentation, flowcharts and diagrams.

Doctoral Research and Entering the Job Market

A Senior Researcher is often required to obtain their PhD in software engineering. Many enroll in PhD programs as a part of continual training and educational development. Typically, this will enable PhD graduates to make advancements in their careers. In the field of technology, software engineering skills may quickly become obsolete if their skills are not current.

Academic research is required for most individuals who are obtaining a PhD in software engineering. During this period, PhD candidates enter their post-doctoral fellowship. Candidates often work for low salaries to sharpen their skills while preparing to receive their PhD. This period may last several years, while the candidates become experts in their field of study.

Many of the doctoral software engineering candidates design, analyze and conduct experiments. After the post-doctoral period, usually their research experiments allow a fair degree of flexibility and autonomy to design and conduct experiments.

Many doctoral software engineers will obtain management positions or senior research positions in Research and Development at various corporations. Some doctoral software engineers may develop the strategic goals of an organization. Other doctoral software engineers may remain technical and continue to design research experiments and technologies. Most PhD graduates in software engineering will be responsible for departmental budgets and meeting deadlines.

Because equipment is expensive, most doctoral software engineers in research are not self-employed. However, those that manage to obtain venture capital may develop small research firms. PhD graduates are typically the only individuals who are qualified to become self-employed. Successful PhD graduates have begun their own Research and Development firms after first receiving managing research in an academic or professional environment.

What a PhD in Software Engineering Expects to Learn

Students involved in a doctoral software engineering program will be involved in intensive research. Students must complete a master’s degree in software engineering prior to acceptance into the program. Each student will select their area of specialization. Students may select from database management, client relations, or software architecture. Doctoral candidates are required to write a thesis based upon unique research. Then, doctoral candidates must defend the thesis in a formal dissertation process.

Other Software Engineering specializations may include the following:

  • Systems Engineering
  • Software Design
  • Software Construction
  • Testing
  • Software Engineering Management
  • Maintenance and Configuration
  • Security and Quality
  • Risk Management
  • Security and Quality
  • Software Engineering Economics

Prior to the dissertation, students will take classes to prepare for qualifying exams. PhD candidates in software engineering may complete the following course work for preparation:

  • Economics of engineering
  • Algorithm applications
  • Maintenance and testing
  • Networks and systems
  • Research methods
  • Software verification

After completing and successfully defending the dissertation, PhD graduates may be qualified for academic research, teaching positions and senior level industry positions, such as the following:

  • Senior Software Developer
  • Industrial Developer
  • Software Engineering Professor
  • Design Engineer
  • Development Engineer
  • Academic Engineer Consultant
  • Systems Architect
  • Project Manager
  • Security Consultant
  • Research and Development Senior Researchers

Online Software Engineering Programs

Currently, there are no schools that offer online software engineering PhD degrees. However, individuals who decide to study the program may select to study on campus or obtain a PhD in computer science. Several schools that offer online computer science or information technology doctorates are listed below:



MIT offers a Systems Design and Management PhD partially online. Students may receive instruction via video teleconferencing and other collaborative tools.

Colorado Technical University


Colorado Technical University offers a Doctor of Computer Science online. The degree targets computer science professionals, academics, and consultants. The program aims to develop critical and strategic thinkers. Graduates should be skilled in predicting future trends, make contributions in their areas of specialization, and communicate with technical and non-technical decision makers. The program requires 3 years to complete.

Northcentral University


Northcentral University offers an applied computer science program for PhD candidates. The program requires 81 semester units at graduate level. At a minimum, 27 units must be completed at the university in instruction and 24 units in dissertation preparation. Successful candidates will have a cumulative grade point average of 3.0 or higher.

Offline Software Engineering Programs

Carnegie Mellon Portugal: Information and Communication Technologies Institute


Carnegie Mellon’s software-based systems doctoral program prepares students for a global economy. Systems are becoming more elaborate as software engineers adopt existing components of software and apply it to new and innovative designs. Software engineers are challenged to develop and design novel products under economic and legal constraints.

Carnegie Mellon’s PhD program prepares professionals to work in research, industrial laboratories, and in leadership positions. Graduates will obtain an understanding of software design and development issues. They will also understand academic research issues, economic issues, public policy, regulatory issues, and market issues. Practical issues in software design that address both requirements acquisition and maintenance are also skills acquired by Carnegie Mellon’s research graduates.

Graduates of the program have obtained positions as senior software system developers and other senior positions. They are also prepared to assume research or advanced development positions in the following areas:

  • Application Areas
  • Distributed Networks
  • Embedded/Critical Systems
  • Software System Development
  • Industry Consulting
  • Management

This program develops graduates for developing robust software that can be used in industrial environments.

A typical semester of a PhD program at Carnegie Mellon involves 2 courses, research part-time, and research meetings. Each summer will consist of an internship. The second year, the PhD candidate will become a Teacher’s Assistant for a class in addition to course work and research. The third year will be spent researching, mentoring, developing a thesis, and studio.

Coursework lasts 3 years. The remaining time will be spent developing and researching the thesis. Then the PhD candidate will defend the thesis. Students must demonstrate their ability to communicate, research, serve as a teaching assistant, defend their thesis, and complete their coursework to receive their PhD

To enroll, students must demonstrate their intellectual ability through transcripts and GREs. They must have prior industrial software development experience. The students must complete a Master’s in software engineering.

George Mason University


Students seeking a PhD at George Mason University should obtain their Master’s in Software Engineering prior to enrollment. In order to receive their PhD in Software Engineering, students must complete the required coursework and qualifying exams and defend their dissertation. Students must be in close communication with their advisory committee and doctoral advisor to receive approval for their thesis and defense. The school’s administration must also approve it.

Students must complete 4 examinations from 3 different master’s programs in order to meet the requirements for the PhD degree. Students may select from the following options:

Select 2 exams from the following:

  • Software Construction
  • Software Testing
  • Software Modeling

Two exams from following:

  • Algorithms
  • Operating Systems
  • Database Systems
  • Information Security
  • Networks
  • Artificial Intelligence
  • Compilers and Language
  • Artificial Intelligence
  • Applied Probability
  • Applied Statistics
  • System Engineering Design

Boston University


Individuals interested in a doctoral program in software engineering may consider Boston University’s PhD program. Boston University has both a post-bachelor’s PhD program and post-master’s PhD program. Students may enroll, if they are qualified, after completing their bachelors or masters with a 3.0 or higher.

Post-bachelor’s students should complete 32 credits of structured courses, and 16 credits of dissertation research. Post-bachelor’s PhD students should establish their master’s degree program of study prior to enrollment. Students must also obtain an acceptable score for the GRE. Post-master’s students are required to complete 32 credits of related coursework and 8 credits of dissertation research coursework.

Students may study part-time or full-time. Full-time students have access to laboratories, libraries, instructional staff, and other academic facilities. Part-time students may have limited access to financial aid and insurance. Full-time requires a minimum of two consecutive semesters and full course load.

Students must pass their qualifying exams in order to be eligible to receive their PhD. Students must also meet a mathematics requirement. Those who cannot meet the requirement will not receive their PhD

The qualifying exam and the mathematics exam are the minimum for becoming a PhD candidate. This process can take at most 5 semesters to complete. Students must be a PhD candidate in order to complete their PhD dissertation. Students must prepare their oral dissertation and defense within one year of becoming a PhD candidate. The dissertation research should be original. For approval, the committee must possess tenured faculty to qualify. When the committee approves the oral defense, the PhD Dissertation Prospectus Defense Form will be submitted to the department.

Employment Outlook and Salary

Between 2008 and 2018, experts expect the employment of computer scientists and software engineers to grow by 24 percent. This is a high average growth rate compared to other professions. As computer system designs become more elaborate, more talent is needed to maintain and develop the new technology. The industry needs increased efficiency in software performance, networking technology, computing speeds and embedded systems.

The demand for PhD graduates in computer science and software engineering is increasing. Employers have difficulties finding qualified individuals for this profession. As more individuals leave the workforce, employers are struggling to keep qualified professionals employed.

In 2008, computer software engineers, along with computer programmers, accounted for nearly 1.3 million jobs. Computer applications software engineers accounted for 512,800 jobs. Computer systems software engineers accounted for 394,800 computer systems software engineers and computer programmers accounted for 426,700 jobs. Thirty-two percent of software engineers are employed in computer systems design. Others work in financial industries, insurance, and for software publication companies.

The median annual salary of computer applications software engineers was $85,430 in May 2008. The top ten percent earned $128,870. The median average wage of computer systems software engineers were $92,430 in 2008. The top ten percent earned over $135,780.

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5 Responses to “Software Engineering Programs”
  1. Magesh

    i like to pursue phd in software engineering. i have 11 years of teaching experience for master degree(MCA) in software engineering. infact i am working in this regard for the last 6 years including software project management.
    pls give me further information on procedure, enrollment, eligibility, university,fees, duration.

    with regards,

  2. Dr.Abdul Aziz Bahha

    I need to earn Ph.D. in Software Engineering.
    I have 63 credit hour Doctoral of Software Engineering from Dallas, Texas.
    My question is: If i do ONLY dissertation, Can I earn Ph.D. in Software Engineering?

  3. Ajai

    I am interested in Doing an MS and Phd is software. Looking forward for your reply


    very very interested in PhD in software engineering

  5. Farzana Bibi

    Hi, I am interested in doing my PhD in Software Engineering, Looking forward to hear from you,
    Thank you

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