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Learn software engineering with online courses and programs

If you’re interested in using your technical skills to solve real-world problems, then a career in software engineering may be for you. Learn the basics of the profession with online software engineering courses delivered through edX.

What is software engineering?

Software engineering is a branch of computer science in which engineering principles and methods are applied to the design, development, testing, and maintenance of software. The primary goal of software engineering is to produce high-quality software that’s dependable and effective, while completing the project on time and within the given budget. 

Software engineering didn’t exist as a profession until the late 1960s. Though software was already being developed throughout the 1950s, the term “software engineering” wasn’t coined until nearly a decade later. Engineering principles were first applied to the creation of software to introduce more structure and discipline to the field. These changes were implemented to address the “software crisis” that began in the 1960s. During this crisis, software developers had difficulty keeping up with advancements in computing power, resulting in repeated issues with faulty software. Once engineering principles were applied, the quality of software started to improve. The growth of software engineering continued throughout the 1970s and early 1980s, becoming widely recognized as a profession.Footnote 1

In addition to ensuring the quality of software being produced, software engineers see to it that the end product will meet project requirements, fulfill its purpose, and operate efficiently with no detectable bugs. When you consider that software is required for various functions in many industries, it’s easy to see why software engineering skills can be useful for aspiring professionals to learn. 

Software Engineering

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Software engineering course curriculum

Software engineering courses cover a variety of topics related to software design, development, and maintenance. Though the curriculum can vary depending on the course provider, topics covered may include:

  • The software development life cycle

  • Best practices in software design and web development

  • Software testing, verification, and validation 

  • Software project management

  • Algorithms

  • Computer architecture

  • Data structures

  • Computer networks 

  • Operating systems

  • Database design

  • Artificial intelligence

Software engineering courses may include coursework focused on programming and coding languages like Java, Python, C/C++, and JavaScript. Many software engineering courses and boot camps also incorporate discussions about important topics such as ethical considerations, technical communication, software engineering methodologies, and software quality assurance (QA). In addition to developing technical strengths, courses can help learners develop problem-solving and decision-making skills.

The aim of software engineering training programs is to help learners build practical competencies that can be applied when they enter the industry. Many programs have opportunities for hands-on experience with design projects and internships. These types of experiences give learners the chance to apply the principles they have studied in their classes to real-world situations. 

Whether you learn software engineering online, at university, or through a bootcamp, software engineering courses are a great way to gain valuable skills and knowledge.

Explore software engineering jobs

Software engineering is a versatile profession that offers multiple opportunities to those with the right training and skill set. Here are some software engineering career choices along with a brief job description for each:

  • Software developer: This role is primarily focused on the creation and coding of software. In essence, developers use programming languages such as Java, Python, or C++ to build software applications and programs.

  • Software analyst: A software analyst evaluates existing software for potential problems and makes recommendations for improvements. They understand code.

  • Systems engineer: A systems engineer works with hardware, software, networks, and other system components to ensure they all work together. They’re also responsible for the creation of design specifications for new systems.

  • Database administrator: A database administrator is responsible for database design, construction, and maintenance. They’re knowledgeable about data modeling and database design tools like SQL Server and Oracle.

  • Security engineer: Security engineers are responsible for designing and implementing security systems that protect networks, applications, and computers from threats. They also work to prevent cyberattacks and unauthorized access to sensitive information.

  • DevOps engineer: A DevOps engineer is responsible for the development, deployment, and operations of applications.

  • Quality assurance engineer: A quality assurance engineer tests software and looks for bugs before it's released. They also work to ensure that the software meets customer requirements along with industry standards.

How to become a software engineer online

There are several options you can choose from if you want to learn software engineering online: earn a degree online, enroll in an online boot camp, or self-study through online tutorials and guides. The path you choose will largely depend on your career goals and how quickly you want to reach them. 

If you’re content to work in entry level positions, you may only need to worry about obtaining basic software engineering skills, which can be done through self-study. Online boot camps are different from self-directed learning in that learners go through an intensive, skills-focused curriculum to help them quickly develop their software engineering expertise. While there are companies willing to hire employees without a formal education, some prefer software engineers who’ve obtained at least a bachelor’s degree.

The good news is that with the prevalence of web-based learning, you can earn a bachelor’s degree or master’s degree online. Though this may require a greater investment of your time, you’ll have access to a wider range of programs.