Training Tomorrow’s Software Engineers

September 30, 2019

The Donald Bren School of Information and Computer Sciences (ICS) just launched its latest professional graduate program, with 37 students starting their 15-month journey to earn a master of software engineering (MSWE) degree. Interest in the program, which received more than 200 applicants, was high. “It’s a very practical, hands-on program,” says Crista Lopes, professor of informatics and MSWE faculty director. “It gives the students the skills to be software engineers in a variety of fields.”

The first cohort of MSWE students attend orientation.

The program is specifically designed to accommodate a variety of backgrounds. In this first cohort, 14 students have undergraduate degrees related to computer science or software engineering, while the rest have degrees in a range of fields, including applied physics, biology, oceanography and sociology. The mix of domestic (27%) and international (73%) students includes some with graduate degrees or industry experience, and 32% are women — supporting efforts to close the tech industry’s gender gap. All students will receive dedicated career advising support.

“One of the features that makes this program different is the variety of students we serve,” says Lopes. Students are spending the first quarter taking six self-paced intensive courses, with high-level TA support, to solidify their computing knowledge. “It’s a self-learning kind of experience,” explains Lopes. “It’s basically to equalize all the students’ knowledge of basic computer science material.”

The remainder of the program is geared toward software construction, with students spending an estimated 1,300 hours writing, reading, analyzing and testing code. There will be guest lecturers from industry and a required summer internship, and the final quarter comprises a capstone project, challenging students to design and implement a substantial piece of software.

The program is currently lining up local industry partners for the internship and capstone elements, which, as Lopes points out, present unique recruitment opportunities (email for more information). “These are smart people who are motivated to become software engineers professionally, and they’re ready and willing to learn lots of new things.”

The MSWE program builds on that motivation, providing students with the skills and opportunities necessary to succeed. In fact, the program follows in the footsteps of three other successful professional programs offered through ICS.

The master of embedded & cyber-physical systems (MECPS) program, a joint program with the Samueli School of Engineering, was the first in the U.S. to focus on both embedded and cyber-physical systems, which integrate hardware and software. It offers small-cohort, immersive-based education, and 100% of the inaugural graduates of the program were hired within three months.

The master of human-computer interaction and design (MHCID) program, now in its third year, has continually been ranked in the top 12 by Value Colleges for the best value in HCI. The growing program just graduated 34 students, after hosting its annual UX Conference at UCI’s Applied Innovation. Students presented their capstone projects to the industry partners: SAP, Hulu, Project Jupyter, Monterey Bay Aquarium, Obsidian Security, CoreLogic, CellMark, and Catalia Health.

The master of computer science (MCS) program graduated 100 students in 2018 and plans to graduate another 113 in December. Eighty-six percent of the first cohort secured full-time employment within three months of graduation, and 70% received salaries between $100,000 and $150,000 at companies such as Amazon, Cisco, Google, LinkedIn, Microsoft, Salesforce, SAP and Tesla.

The MSWE program presents yet another opportunity for growth and development, as ICS adds to its portfolio of professional programs training tomorrow’s technology leaders.

Shani Murray