Graduate Certificate Programs in Software Design and Development - Online and Campus
Updated: February 25, 2022
Graduate certificate programs in software design and development provide college graduates and mid-career professionals who hold at least a bachelor’s degree with a relatively direct and affordable means of cultivating computer programming and software engineering knowledge and skills. These programs are offered by accredited colleges and universities, often through schools or departments of computer science and engineering that have graduate degree programs in software engineering, computer science, and other related technical fields. Graduate certificate programs may be a good option for professionals looking to advance in their current roles or for individuals looking to change careers, as they allow students to gain new skills and add to their resume without having to commit to a full master’s degree program.
Indeed, software design and development graduate certificate programs commonly draw on master’s program coursework and can be a stepping stone to further graduate studies for students who are interested in pursuing a graduate degree in a computer science or software engineering field at some point in the future. Graduate credits earned while pursuing a graduate certificate program may transfer towards a master’s degree, especially if a student pursues their master’s at the same school at which they earned their graduate certificate.
Software Design and Development Explained
Computer software is broadly defined as the operating systems, applications, and other coded instructions that function within the physical components of computers and computer systems, which are collectively referred to as computer hardware. Software design and development is an applied field within computer science in which programming languages and algorithms are used to engineer new computer and web-based operating systems, platforms, programs, and applications.
The software engineering process encompasses the development, modeling, and testing of computer programs. It requires a command of object-oriented programming concepts and processes, knowledge of common operating systems and web-based applications, and an understanding of security, quality control, and user interface issues. Software designers, developers, and engineers write the code and the scripts that run everything from large, mainframe computers to portable laptops and mobile devices. They test and update operating systems and applications and develop new ways for computers to serve end users throughout the economy, in business, government, industry, commerce, and beyond.
Identifying and Classifying Graduate Certificate Programs in Software Design and Development
Graduate certificate programs have several key identifying characteristics: they are non-degree academic programs; they are comprised of a relatively small cluster of graduate-level courses; they provide practical training in applied fields such as software design and development; and they are designed for college graduates and working professionals who hold a bachelor’s, master’s, or doctoral degree. Software design and development graduate certificates fit the above criteria and offer a relatively streamlined curriculum, generally consisting of four, five, or six courses, that focuses on the principles, practices, skills, and knowledge required to work in the field of software design, development, and engineering.
While there is no formal naming convention for software design and development graduate certificate programs, the most common designations for these programs include software design, software development, software engineering, and/or software architecture graduate, or postbaccalaureate certificate programs. There are also post-master’s graduate certificate programs in this field, which is the designation for graduate certificate programs that require a minimum of a master’s degree for admission.
Note: For those interested cultivating broader computer science skills while learning about software design, there are graduate certificate programs in computer science. Computer science programs differ from software design and development graduate certificate programs in the focus of their curricula. While computer science certificate programs may include one or two courses that cover topics in software design and engineering, they have a broader focus that encompasses computer hardware, network architecture, and data warehousing systems. For details on these programs, refer to our Graduate Certificate Programs in Computer Science page.
Software Design and Development Graduate Certificate Coursework
Students in software design and development graduate certificate programs are taught to initiate, analyze, and manage to completion projects that involve the creation of software applications that can be integrated with existing operating systems and create useful functionalities for today’s computer systems. They learn how to work with object-oriented computer programming languages like Java and C, structured data, and algorithms to develop programming solutions. They cultivate strategies for analyzing, testing, and debugging software packages. They also study practices that are designed to ensure that software meets industry standards for safety, quality, and security. As part of this process, students learn and apply software design modeling techniques and engineering project management skills that are central to the software development process.
While the names of courses and specific course requirements vary by school and by program, most graduate certificate programs in software design and development require courses of the type listed below:
- Data Structures and Object-oriented Programming
- Distributed Computing
- Information Technology Project Management
- Software Development Processes
- Software Modeling Techniques
- Software Quality, Testing, and Security Management
- Web Enabled Information Systems
Online Graduate Certificate in Software Design and Development
In order to maximize the convenience of academic programs and extend their reach to students who are working full time and/or live beyond commuting range of a school’s campus, many accredited colleges and universities offer graduate certificate programs in fully and partially online formats. This includes online graduate certificate programs in software design and development, which provide students with the same type and level of coursework and training as campus-based programs, but do so by leveraging the latest advances in distance-learning technologies. Specifically, online programs utilize interactive, internet-based learning management systems (LMSs) to deliver synchronous and/or asynchronous online classes and assignments.
Online instruction that takes place in real time and which therefore requires students to be logged on to a program’s LMS for live online lectures and classes is classified as synchronous instruction. In contrast, asynchronous instruction encompasses a range of instruction that does not have a real-time component, such as pre-recorded lectures that can be streamed on demand via a program’s LMS, and assignments that have a due date but no specified time during which they must be completed. Synchronous instruction more closely resembles the structure of traditional in-person courses, but affords less scheduling flexibility, as students must set aside time to attend live online classes (which are typically held in the early to late evening). The opposite is true of asynchronous instruction, which tends to require more self-discipline and time management skills, but allows students to view course materials at any time of day or night.
Many schools offer software design and development graduate certificate programs in a fully online format, which means that students do not have to attend any campus-based classes. However, some online programs have a limited number of campus-based requirements, such as in-person orientations, workshops, labs, and seminars. GraduateCertificates.com classifies programs that are 100% online and programs that require three or fewer campus visits per year as online graduate certificate programs. Programs that utilize online instruction but that have four or more campus visits are classified as blended/hybrid programs. While a blended/hybrid program may represent a more convenient and flexible alternative to fully campus-based programs, they are typically not be a practical option for students who do not live within commuting range of the school offering the program.
Examples of Online Graduate Certificate Programs in Software Design and Development
The examples below are meant to provide a representative overview of the types of software design and development graduate certificate programs that are currently offered in an online format by accredited colleges and universities.
The University of Washington Bothell (UWB) offers a Graduate Certificate in Software Design & Development program through its School of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics. The 18-credit program consists of six graduate-level courses and is designed for students who hold a minimum of a bachelor’s degree and who have successfully completed undergraduate coursework in calculus and computer programming. Students can take the UWB program as a stand-along certificate program or they can use it as a bridge program for entry into one of two Master of Science (MS) programs offered by UWB: an MS n Cybersecurity Engineering program, and an MS in Computer Science & Software Engineering program. The graduate certificate program does not require any campus visits. For more information on the program, visit UWB at www.uwb.edu.
Boston University (BU) offers an online Graduate Certificate in Software Engineering program through its Metropolitan College. The program consists of four courses that confer 16 graduate credits. It is designed for programmers who want to learn the object-oriented paradigm for software design and development. Admission to the program requires a bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university. Students who complete the program with a grade of B or better in all four courses are eligible for admission to BU’s Master of Science (MS) programs in Software Development, Computer Information Systems, and Computer Science. The Graduate Certificate in Software Engineering offered by BU does not require any campus visits. For more information on the program, visit BU’s Metropolitan College at www.bu.edu.
The University of Denver offers an online Software Design & Programming Graduate Certificate program through its University College. The program has two curricular options: a 16-credit track consisting of four core courses in software and web-based application design; and a 24-credit track that allows students to take two additional elective courses in software design and programming after completing the program’s four core courses. Admission to the program requires a minimum of a bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university. The program does not require any campus visits. For more information on the program, visit the University of Denver’s University College at universitycollege.du.edu.
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