Master Degree in Software

A student send me an email asking: “I want to enroll in a Software Engineering Master degree program in the U.S. What are the admission requirements? What kind of jobs can I expected to get with this degree? What kind of salary can I get? If I want to continue to a doctorate degree (Ph.D) what should I do? Please advise."

Answer: The software industry requires highly skilled people to develop and maintain software programs that do everything from managing financial systems to controlling manufacturing systems etc. A typical student in the Master program is someone who has at least a Bachelor degree from an accredited university and meet the basic requirements (Having good grade point average (GPA), meet the language requirements (Good score in the TOEFL), have good letter of recommendations (2 to 3 from university professors or managers) and a short statement paragraph explaining the reason why you want to go to graduate school. Since each school may have specific requirements, you should check their websites for more details.

There are several Software Engineering graduate programs in the U.S. and the offering also varies from general to specific. Some schools have very broad program that cover everything from programming to management, which in my opinion, may not differ much from an undergraduate program. These programs are mostly designed for people whose undergraduate degrees are NOT in the computer field but want to study this field. If you already have degree in the computer field, than you should select a Master degree program that focuses on developing specific skills, NOT general. As prospective student, you must choose the school carefully to find the program that meet your need. You must identify what area that you want to focus on when applying. For example: Embedded software, System security, Managing IT services, Robotics, Project management, Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, etc. Since enrollment is highly competitive, you should apply at least 5 schools or more, if you want to get better chance for acceptance. Many top schools are difficult to get in because there are so many applicants so my advice is to apply at some top schools, some state schools, and some private schools which give you much better chance.

With a M.S. degree, you can easily find job almost anywhere depends on your specialty and location. In the U.S. the most popular job for people with a M.S degree is probably Project Manager with starting salary at $95,000 – $120,000; A Security Specialist can get between $90,000 – $125,000; A Robotic Specialist can get between $97,000 – $110,000; A Database Administrator can get between $94,000 - $120,000; An embedded software specialist can get between $90,000 – $107,000;

If you want to continue your study to a doctorate degree, you should choose a school that offer both M.S. and Ph.D degree so you can continue your training without have to change school. Since the school already know you, it is much easier to continue with your study. Of course, depend on how well you are doing in the M.S. program and how many professors that know you and recommend you to the Ph.D program.


  • Blogs of Prof. John Vu, Carnegie Mellon University