what software degree do you need

What Degree Do You Need to Be a Software Developer?

Updated By Staff Writer on April 16, 2021

If you are looking into becoming a software developer, it can be tricky to figure out which degree you should earn. Each college or university has a slightly different program with similar courses, so which one is actually the best one for you?

Here’s what you need to know about becoming a software developer and what to look for in your degree program.

Do I Have to Earn a Degree to Become a Software Developer?

A major part of becoming a software developer is earning a software development certification. These certifications do not require you to have a degree, but degree programs are tailored to help you avoid common mistakes and learn the best practices to succeed in those certification exams. A degree can also make you more competitive in the job market than developers who possess only the certifications.

What Degree Should You Get to Become a Software Engineer or Developer?

There are a lot of degrees available, whether you’re interested in becoming a software engineer or a software developer. But before you think about which degree is the best, let’s spend a moment on the difference between the two roles.

What Is a Software Engineer?

Software engineers work in teams that focus on designing, developing, maintaining, testing, and evaluating computer software. Software engineers typically build systems and focus on big-picture projects.

What Should You Study to Become a Software Engineer?

There is no one degree program that’s necessarily the best for everyone. Instead of looking at the title of the program, consider what is included in the curriculum. A degree program should offer courses about:

  • Computer programming
  • Web design
  • Project management
  • Software design
  • Information technology

These courses are typically offered in programs related to computer science, software engineering, computer engineering, electrical engineering, technology, or software application development.

What Is a Software Developer?

Generally, software developers work alone on small projects that focus on developing one program or piece of software. Developers can work directly with the client to help get a better understanding of what is needed and to make sure what they are creating is meeting those needs.

Because engineers have to be able to see and manage both the broad and specific details in software, it is not uncommon for an engineer to fill the role of a developer when it is needed. But it is not as easy for a developer to fill the position of an engineer.

Which Degree Is Best to Become a Software Developer?

Just like a software engineer, if you are looking to become a software developer, you should focus more on which courses are offered in a program instead of just the name of the program. This should include multiple programming courses that cover a variety of programming languages as well as courses that cover different platforms software can run on, including mobile platforms.

A computer science degree can fill these requirements, but it isn’t the only option. Other degrees you need to be a software developer might include those focused on:

  • Software development
  • Software engineering
  • Information technology
  • Programming and software development
  • Software engineering management
  • Engineering with a concentration in software engineering
  • Software design and development

What Are the Requirements for Entering a Software Development Degree Program?

The requirements of entering into a software development degree program vary depending on which university and program you are applying to. To get into a highly competitive software development program you will need a high SAT/ACT score and a high GPA. In some cases, it might be necessary to have existing experience in the field and have a professional portfolio prepared.

It can feel overwhelming when you look at schools and see the high bars that are set to even get into the program. Instead of looking at acceptance rates and statistics, look instead into the courses and curriculum they are teaching. Programming and software development are highly technical skills and there are no shortcuts to learning them; even the most prestigious programs have to teach the same principles.

At Independence University, we accept most applicants who have at least a high school diploma or a GED®. We have no minimum requirements for standardized testing (SAT/ACT) and do not require a minimum GPA. You do not need a background in software development to succeed at Independence University. Our curriculum is built to help students succeed, even if they begin with little to no understanding of computer programming.

How Hard Is It to Get a Computer Science Degree?

The difficulty of earning any degree depends on a student’s background and personality. For some people, learning to code comes naturally while others struggle to get through each class.

Aside from natural aptitude, your ability to earn a software development or computer science degree ultimately comes down to how much time and effort you are willing to put into the degree. If you hate looking at computers, earning a computer science degree might be difficult for you. However, if you enjoy tackling unique problems and creating your own solutions, or have a creative mind, a computer science degree could be a great fit.

How Long Does It Take to Be a Software Engineer?

Independence University’s program is scheduled to take 36 months to complete. Depending on your personal situation, including whether you take on a full- or part-time course load, this may take longer.

What Do You Need to Know to Be a Software Engineer?

As a software engineer, you need to have a foundational understanding of a variety of programs and systems. That is why Independence University’s Bachelor of Science in Software and Mobile Applications Development includes courses that teach skills like:

  • Programming languages and technologies
  • Mobile applications development
  • Software security
  • Operating systems
  • Software solutions
  • Computer servicing
  • Workstation administration
  • Entrepreneurship
  • Database programming
  • Web server programming
  • Object-oriented programming
  • Webpage programming

Being a software engineer isn’t just about writing code. Developing certain key soft skills can change your entire career because of how you interact with others and present your work.

These are key essential soft skills for software developers:

  • Communication
  • Empathy
  • Patience
  • Adaptability
  • Critical thinking
  • Creativity
  • Humility
  • Confidence
  • Teamwork
  • Pattern recognition and logic

It has become an accepted standard that all computer programmers must be good at math, but most employers won’t specifically ask about your math curriculum or knowledge. At Independence University, our Software and Mobile Applications Development degree program includes courses in statistics and college algebra, which serve as a great supplement to your programming skills.

How Long Does It Take to Learn How to Code?

There are many benefits of learning how to code, but it can still be frightening or overwhelming for new learners.

Learning how to code is a lot like learning a new spoken language. Depending on your experience with learning new languages, and which language you’re trying to learn, the time commitment can vary greatly.

For example, if all you know how to speak is English and you are trying to start with Finnish, it’s going to take years. However, if you already know Spanish, Italian, or French, learning another romance language like Portuguese won’t be as complicated.

In the same way, how long it takes to learn to code depends on your experience with coding and which language you’re learning. Some of the easiest languages, like Java or HTML, will take a new programmer anywhere from six to nine months to learn the basics. At the same time, it can take years to really master a coding language, just like it can take years to become fully fluent in a new spoken language.

How Can You Supplement Your Education While in School?

With a few simple steps, you can make your resume and portfolio stand out and improve your education while going to school. Here are a few ways you can supplement your education and get on the right path to your first software developer job.


If you are a hands-on type of learner, an internship is a valuable tool. It gives you the chance to go into a professional workplace and experience what it is like to be a software developer or engineer. Internships are also a great place to strengthen your professional network.

Personal Projects

Working on a personal project can be the foundation of your portfolio. It shows you have a working understanding of how to be a software developer or engineer. Personal projects can also help highlight strengths or specialties you might have, like mobile application development.

Become an Entrepreneur

Your small personal projects might expand and grow, giving you the opportunity to become an entrepreneur. This can give you invaluable personal hands-on experience in software development.

Is a Software Development Degree Worth It?

While it is possible to get a job in software development without a degree, those positions are becoming more difficult to find. Earning a degree in any associated field helps you enter into the job market faster with the knowledge and experience you need to become a software developer.

A good degree program will not only teach you what you need to learn, but it will also allow you to add projects to your portfolio. With a well-rounded professional portfolio full of projects you worked on, you can show companies you have the knowledge and experience they’re looking for.

Whether you are brand new to computers or have been programming for years, at Independence University, we provide our students with essential tools and experience that can be valuable in their future. You aren’t alone when you choose Independence University—we are there every step along the way with tools and resources to help you succeed and one-on-one support from a dedicated team.

Our curriculum is set up to help you learn necessary industry-standard skills about computer programming and development.