How do I Earn a Software Engineering PhD?

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  • Written By: N. Madison
  • Edited By: Jenn Walker
  • Last Modified Date: 08 December 2018
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Earning a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in software engineering typically requires many years of school. Once you finish high school, you'll normally need to earn a bachelor's degree, which requires about four years of schooling. Next, you'll likely need to earn a master's degree, which may require two or three additional years of school before you apply to a software engineering PhD program. Once you've completed the prerequisite degrees and are ready to apply to a PhD program, you'll likely have to provide the school with official copies of your transcripts, obtain letters of recommendation, and write a statement of your goals. You may have to provide other supporting documents as well.

Your preparation for a software engineering PhD program may start with the classes you take in high school. Advanced math and science courses may help to prepare for the higher-level work you'll have to do in college. Additionally, programming classes may help you to prepare as well.


As an undergraduate student, you'll typically need to work toward a bachelor's degree in engineering, science, computer science, or a related major. The grades you earn in college and the knowledge you gain will help to prepare you for entering a master's program in software engineering. Most schools will require you to have a good grade point average, and you may have to submit test scores from standardized exams in order to gain entry to a master's program. You will usually have to submit official transcripts and letters of recommendation as well. Additionally, some master's degree programs require applicants to have applicable work experience, which can be achieved through part-time jobs or internships while in school.

To gain admission to a software engineering PhD program, you'll typically have to demonstrate that you have the ability to succeed in what can be a rigorous program. While your bachelor's and master's degrees may serve as evidence of your ability, you may also have to provide official transcripts, standardized test scores, and recommendation letters. Some schools also require applicants to have practical experience, and others may state a preference for experience but not require it.

The courses you will have to take to earn your software engineering PhD may depend on where you decide to go to school. You will likely have mandatory courses to take in design and engineering; systems and analysis; and business and policy, however. You will probably have to take some electives and self-study courses as well. As part of the process of earning a software engineering PhD, you may also have to prepare and defend a dissertation.



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