These days, almost everything is powered by some type of software program or app created through engineering. From smartphones to cars to kiosks at fast food restaurants, you can't turn around without running into some form of technology that has been engineered to perform a certain function.
To prepare students for a large number of exciting opportunities within this field, Saint Leo University recently launched a Bachelor of Software Engineering degree program (BSE). We caught up with Drs. Derek Mohammed and Marwan Omar, two faculty members now teaching in this program, to get the scoop on everything about this curriculum and how it can benefit graduates for long-term career success.
Q: How would you define software engineering?
A: We would say that it is the art and science of building software systems to help businesses carry out their daily operations. In some respects, nearly every business is dependent on it because it is at the core of how they do something, no matter the industry. Since some system is needed to carry out these processes, the designing and building of that system is known as software engineering.
Q: When and why was Saint Leo's Bachelor of Software Engineering degree program started?
A: We started this program in the fall of 2019. We try to align all of our academic programs with the changing job market, whether that means tweaking the focus of a current program or starting a brand new program.
Each year, we look at the job market and the demand for certain jobs. A year ago, we identified software engineer as a position with lots of potential in terms of opportunity. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of Software Developers is projected to grow 24 percent over the next 10 years, which is much faster than the average for all occupations.
Plus, since we've had computer science and cyber security programs for some time here at Saint Leo, we felt that this one would fit naturally into our offerings.
Q: What types of students have you had enroll in this program thus far?
A: We've mainly had traditional-age college students who are right out of high school enroll in this program, although we have had some adult learners enroll who are looking to transition into this from another career field.
Most of the students who choose this major have some general interest in software development, especially designing apps. For example, some might want to do coding in the animation department for Disney, while others could be developing apps that connect via Bluetooth to sensors for seniors to easily check their blood sugar.
This semester, we have Deloitte coming on campus to speak with our computer science students, which includes software engineering students. You wouldn't necessarily think of a financial services company looking for those types of students or graduates, but this is a perfect example of how software development spans all industries.
Q: How is Saint Leo's BS in software engineering degree program delivered?
A: There are three options for the delivery of this program. Students can take the program entirely online from the convenience of their home. Students can also take all of their classes at University Campus. Finally, a blended option is available with courses both at University Campus and online.
Q: Who are the faculty members who teach in this program?
A: Since software engineering is a spinoff of computer science, we are having our current faculty in that program teach in this software engineering program.
Many of our professors have held roles in the private sector and can bring lots of real-world experience to the classroom.
Q: How available are the faculty in this program?
A: All of the classes are capped at 25 students. So, this means students have lots of access to their professors.
The faculty are very open with their office hours and will even make time outside of office hours to help students. For online students, faculty will give out their cell phone number so students can call them when they have questions. They can also do Skype or Zoom calls with video for a more personal, face-to-face meeting.
Q: What are some of the topics covered in the curriculum?
A: This program covers topics that include:
- Python programming
- Software application development
- Mobile app development
- Software testing
- Software quality assurance
- Computer hardware
Q: What separates this program from other Bachelor of Software Engineering degree programs out there?
A: We think the application of the material and the hands-on approach to it make it stand out. Students will actually be building mobile apps and software in their classes.
This is not a program where students simply read theories out of a textbook. Rather, they get to work with them and apply them to practical assignments. Of course, we do teach theories, but we want students to play with codes, break things, and learn how to fix and build things. This will help them become fully prepared for their jobs so they'll be able to handle any situation.
We also take a teamwork approach since this field lends itself to lots of collaboration among developers. Students will learn to work well with others because they may be collaborating with colleagues right next to them in an office or on the other side of the globe.
Q: What career opportunities can students attain with this degree?
A: The number-one job type out there for graduates with this Bachelor of Software Engineering degree is software developer. Other potential roles for which one may qualify include:
- Software engineer
- Application developer
- Web developer
- Database administrator
- Systems analyst
In addition to lots of opportunities with companies, graduates can explore self-employment by working as an independent contractor or consultant for a number of different companies. For instance, one company might hire a freelancer to develop a single app as part of a one-off project. Once the app is created and functional, the company may not need to continue employing the contractor on a permanent basis.
Q: What is the salary potential like in the software engineering space?
A: This is arguably one of the highest-paying fields out there. The starting salary with a Bachelor of Software Engineering degree in Atlanta, GA is between $65,000 and $75,000 with basically no experience. If you have two to four years of experience, you can easily make close to six figures, and it only goes up from there. These figures are well above the average salary potential of most other fields.
Q: Talk about the connection between the bachelor's and master's programs in software engineering at Saint Leo University.
A: Our master's in software engineering program is geared toward those who already have a bachelor's degree in this discipline or a related computer science discipline. It will be an easy transition for those who enroll in the bachelor's program and choose to go on for the graduate degree.
Having a master's degree can really help you attain middle management positions in this field. An MBA used to be a big requirement, but now having a graduate degree in software engineering specifically can give you a big leg up in terms of advancement.
We should mention that we're also planning to offer a 3+1 program where students can complete the bachelor's program in three years and the master's in one. So, you could walk away with both degrees in only four years. Plus, there would be no increase in tuition when transitioning into the master's curriculum.
Q: How can prospective students learn more about this Bachelor of Software Engineering degree program?