New Master of Software Development Degree

March 6, 2017

online

It’s the plight of many employees: You’ve been working for a while and later realize you want to change occupations.

You’re not alone. According to a 2014 study by job search engine, Indeed.com, 86 percent of job seekers who are currently employed look for work outside their occupations.

Whether it’s because of a dead-end job, low wages, or the lack of challenge in a current job, many people want change. That’s a key reason why the University of Utah’s School of Computing has created its new Master of Software Development (MSD) program. It’s a unique and rigorous 40-credit-hour curriculum geared for people with no computer science or related degree who suddenly realize they can still shift their career path into software development.

“The Master of Software Development degree is aimed at addressing the critical shortage of well-educated computer programmers in Utah. It also facilitates a career change for people who have a bachelor’s degree in some other discipline that has given them a solid analytical foundation,” said Richard B. Brown, dean of the U’s College of Engineering.

Some two years in the making, this innovative master’s degree is an extensive 16-month program that covers everything from writing computer code to data analytics, networking and security. It is now accepting applications for the fall 2017 semester. The application deadline is May 15. Information about the new program can be found at msd.utah.edu.

“Our goal is to reach out to an untapped demographic and train bright and diverse non-computer science students to become high-quality software developers,” said University of Utah School of Computing professor and director of the program, Sneha Kumar Kasera.

Sneha said now is the right time to create such a master’s degree because of how much software has influenced our lives.

“Computing is a part of everything we do,” he said. “We live in a digital world. The auto industry uses computers now. So does health care, defense, finance — everything is increasingly relying on software.”

Software developers have become some of the most sought-after employees in any industry. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the employment of software developers in the U.S. is projected to grow 17 percent from 2014 to 2024, much faster than the average for all occupations. And in Utah alone, the average salary of software engineers is more than $95,000 per year, according to Glassdoor.com.

“In many cases, the graduates will double their salaries after going through this intensive 16-month program. The results should be great for Utah’s economy as well as for the families of the graduates,” Brown said.

While it’s clear the rapidly expanding technology sector is creating a huge demand for software developers, Kasera said their master’s degree is the only one in Utah and one of only a few in the country geared for non-computer science graduates.

The U’s curriculum, which starts in the fall and ends with the following fall semester, will include courses such as Computer Programming, Data Structures and Algorithms, Data Analytics and Visualization, Computer Systems, Software Engineering, Database Systems and Applications, and then ends with a capstone project. Kasera said in the first year he will accept 40 students and then increase that to 60 and then 80 each year.

While the program doesn’t require students get a computer science degree, he said applicants still must demonstrate problem-solving skills and the ability to reason mathematically and logically through undergraduate or higher-level courses such as Calculus, Probability Theory or Statistics. But as long as they fit the criteria, he added this is the perfect option for someone who wants to make a radical shift in their career path into something that is guaranteed to land them a job.

“This is for anyone who has chosen a certain career and realized that career might not have the right opportunities for them,” he said. “This gives them a new opportunity.”