Coming this fall, Northwestern College will offer a major in software engineering to bridge the gap between what academics are offering and what the industry wants.
The new major will equip students with the skills to program for the business world. Students will design, test, validate, document and maintain programs. Careers compatible with this major include software engineering and development, database administration and web and mobile app development.
“This major is for students who see themselves programming and developing software in a corporate setting, in whatever form that takes – desktop programs, web sites, mobile apps, databases and more,” computer science department chair Dr. Mike Wallinga said.
For the past few years, this idea for a major has bounced around but was finally solidified in the past 18 months. This major is a response to the national job market, as U.S. News ranks software developer as the number one best job based on salary, number of openings and work-life balance in 2020. It’s been ranked number two for 2021.
In 2021, there are 316,000 projected jobs with a median salary of $105,510.
This major will be affiliated with the computer science program but focus on the needs of the workplace and the unique processes there. Compared to the computer science program, software engineering is less math-based.
“When a student combines a software engineering major with Northwestern’s liberal arts NWCore program, s/he ends up exceptionally well-prepared to contribute immediately in the workplace,” vice president of academic affairs Dr. Phinney said. “Our graduates will be differentiated because they will have the needed technical programming skills and have had experiences with how employers want them to apply these skills in the workplace.”
However, this major will require no new faculty to be hired.
“We were intentional about designing the major so that our existing faculty could teach all of the courses,” Wallinga said. “We have prior experience as professional programmers, so we were able to leverage that experience and double down on our department’s existing strengths.”
Courses offered within the major include the same introductory programming sequence as computer science majors, with upper-level classes focused on web development, databases and networking. Other courses include cybersecurity, data mining and machine learning, and parallel programming.
Aside from the skills needed, students will learn how to collaborate on projects.
Wallinga said, “[Students] will use collaboration tools, work together on group projects and learn about project management, because those skills are increasingly important in modern software development.”