Path To Becoming A Software Engineer (Costs And Expenses)

Becoming a software engineer is a rewarding path, but how much does it cost? With technology becoming a vital part of our society, the demand for a software engineer is only increasing. So what will it cost for you to become one?

On average, to become a software engineer, it can cost roughly $1600 and up for a boot camp course and $52,000 – $200,000 for a bachelor’s degree.

There are other options to pursue a career in software engineering, and maybe an opportunity for you to try out the career step-by-step.

With multiple education paths and certifications available, the cost for any career can be ambiguous. Thankfully, this opens up many opportunities to find the right fit for you. Find out more about what options you can take to start your career as a software engineer!

How Much does it Cost to Become a Software Engineer?

The main costs to become a software engineer will be associated with what type of education you will want in your foundation. With new learning platforms becoming more prominent in our educational options, there are both traditional and non-traditional programs that you can pursue.

Such paths to pursue can vary from one another, but they will set you into the realms of software engineering, nonetheless.

Education Paths for Software Engineering

The traditional methods of pursuing a career in software engineering can be split into two: pursuing an associate degree or a bachelor’s degree. A bachelor’s degree option includes the further track of pursuing a master’s degree in a specialty that fits your interest.

With virtual learning becoming bigger and bigger, both types of degrees are offered both virtually and on-site.

The non-traditional methods of pursuing a career in software engineering are taking boot camp courses for a short period or even trying out certificate courses on online learning platforms.

Note: the following list is in no particular order or precedence, but to list out options in the same order introduced in the section above.

Associate degree

The table below is the average cost for attending a community college, and it will vary from county to county. Check with your local college and ask for information on tuition and fees. Don’t forget about books and supplies cost, ranging from the lower 100s to $1000.

Length: 2 years

Average cost

ResidencyPer credit hour
County residents$135
Source: Academic Courses

If you want to get your foot in the door, you may want to start with an Associate degree. It’s a great way to start in the field and look for entry-level jobs to see what it’s like to be a software engineer. An associate degree can branch into other opportunities or your career towards a software engineer.

What to expect:

Most associate degrees relative to software engineers will be software engineering technology or software systems engineering. These will incorporate software engineering fundamentals, learning programming languages, and becoming familiar with general software development.

Bachelor’s degree

The following costs are from random selections of universities that offer the programs mentioned in this section. All fees will vary from time of enrollment and the university itself.

To find information on tuition and fees for a university of your choice, visit the university website and check the “admissions” section. Don’t go away yet! Read more to choose the type of program that will suit your interests.

Length: 4 years

Average Cost

Typical SE Cost:

Typical SE Cost
Affordable tuition (chosen at random)
$6,500 (In-state)
Stevens Institute of Technology$26,914/semester (12-20 credits)
Source: Stevens Institute of Technology, College Choice
Tuition costs for similar programs offering CSEPer Semester
Out of State$10,822
Source: College Tuition Compare

The other traditional option could be enrolling in a university for a bachelor’s degree in computer science, computer engineering, computer science and engineering, or of course, software engineering. These are the four courses that students frequently ask about when it comes to software engineering.

Although all 4 degrees will open opportunities to similar careers, they differ in some detail. Depending on what you may want to pursue or where your interests may weigh a little more, it will be worth looking into the different academic maps before committing to one path.

Software Engineering

Software Engineering (SE) degrees gear towards building and maintaining the software systems. As the name may suggest, SE is geared towards software and software applications.

SE programs are unlike CS and CE courses, and it applies and emphasizes the beginning to end software development process. SE can be very detail-oriented and disciplined compared to other programs due to the nature of the quality and safety of the final product requirements.

Additionally, software engineering programs are seen as a combination of CS and engineering, therefore requiring learning the fundamentals of engineering of the physical world.

Software Engineering Program Courses (Example is a compilation of resources):

  • Engineering courses
  • Lower and upper ECE courses (Electrical & Computer Engineering)
  • CS courses
  • Upper-level SE courses

Computer Engineering

CE degrees focus on designing, operating, and developing computer systems. The main objective is on the digital hardware and the controlling software. CSE is more likely to address problem-solving issues on hardware or software applications.

Compared to any of the programs listed in this section, CE will be the degree that relies heaviest on ECE. If your interests lie in learning about the electrical engineering fundamentals on top of computer systems, CE will be your way to go.

Computer Engineering Program Courses (Example is a compilation of resources):

  • Electrical & Computer engineering
  • Systems design or Robotic Systems Design
  • Upper-division CS and ECE courses

Note that CE degrees do not require Sci-tech courses.

Computer Science

CS focuses more on designing and working with programs and computers. CS works with data, algorithms, and specialized techniques for application domains. CS programs are generally less structured than CE and SE programs, which open opportunities to go deeper into the application domains you wish to pursue.

If you want to avoid anything about the hardware behind the software or are more interested in the software side of things, CS may be the way to go.

Computer Science Program Courses (Example is a compilation of resources):

  • Upper-division CS courses
  • Software engineering lab
  • Digital design project lab
  • Upper-division Sci-tech courses

Note that they do not take ECE courses.

Computer Science and Engineering

CSE is an excellent middle ground between CS and CE. It is very similar to the software engineering program, and you will get to learn about digital circuits, signals, and systems background while learning about CS.

Such as the CE degree; if you like ECE but still want to build a strong foundation in CS, CSE will be a great match.

CSE Program Courses (Example is a compilation of resources):

  • Lower and upper ECE courses
  • Upper CS courses
  • Digital Design lab

Source: UCLA Samueli U Waterloo

Additional Notes on a bachelor’s degree

If you wish to pursue a remote learning online degree with a low cost, there are plenty of opportunities out there!

Typical prices for affordable online degrees for software engineering ranges from $8000 to$ 20,000 for annual tuition.

Per Credit Cost$320 – 720
Total Tuition$37,000 – 91,000
Source: onlineU

Master’s in Software engineering

Although most employers only require bachelor’s degrees, if you want to get into the research, education, or advance your knowledge and position in a company, a master’s degree might be a great option to add on your career path.

Courses can range from advanced scientific computing to building interactive web applications. The main focuses will be around software architecture, cybersecurity, and software development.

Cheapest Online Master’s

Per course$2,900
Total tuition (approximately)$35,000
Source: Harvard University

Boot Camp

If you want a fast-track to get right into the career and start experiencing how it will be like to be a software engineer, you could look into boot camps. They generally run between 8 to 12 weeks and are an opportunity to get your foot in the door to entry-level careers.

Boot camp is an excellent opportunity if you are interested in software engineering and need a career change or a taste of what it might be like.

Some examples of coding boot camps can be found here:

Starting Cost$1600 – 9500

Online Certifications

Other platforms also offer online courses that you can try out! Most of these platforms offer free “auditing” classes where you can take the course for a period of time and see if you like it or not. Usually, a certificate is included if you receive a certain grade and pay for the certificate.

Some platforms even offer online degrees. Online degrees are a new learning platform that is booming and worth exploring!

Well-known and expanding platforms for online learning:

Program PlatformsThe typical cost for a course certificate
$10 – 199.99
$29 – 99.00
Edx$50 – 300.00

Feeling Overwhelmed?

If you are also feeling overwhelmed by the cost, think about this: thankfully, the market has a high demand for software engineers. High demand means that tech companies worldwide are willing to pay a pretty penny for a high-quality software engineer.

Software engineers can develop internet applications, create video games, implement computer security, and so much more. They are software “engineers” because they use the scientific and technically-driven engineering framework, on top of all software engineer skills such as basic coding and software development.

Therefore, it is essential for software engineers to have a strong foundation in understanding basic network designs and systems while programming in multiple languages. If you enjoy it, you should pursue it one step at a time! Choose an option that best fits your financial situation and see what it’s like and proceed forward.

What are you waiting for? Go ahead and get to coding! Good luck!


Hi there, I'm Johnny! Since the beginning of my career, I have tested a wide variety of software applications. I created Tester Tips to share my experience, help you master testing, and watch your career progress.

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