Degree Requirements

Required Courses

This Master of Liberal Arts, Software Engineering degree field consists of 12 courses, two of which you take to gain admission and one is required on campus. Weekend on-campus options available.

12 Graduate Courses

The degree field is for individuals who have a background in object-oriented programming using C++ or Java and discrete mathematics. If you need to strengthen this background, first complete our programming certificate.

  • 1 theoretical foundations course
  • 1 data communications course
  • 1 cloud computing course
  • 1 systems programming course
  • 1 software design course

Additional Thesis Track Requirements

  • 4 software engineering electives
    • EXPO 34 is an elective option
  • Crafting the thesis proposal
  • Master’s thesis part one
  • Master's thesis part two

Additional Capstone Track Requirements

  • 1 web application development course
  • 5 software engineering electives
    • EXPO 34 is an elective option
  • A capstone course

Search Software Engineering Courses

Admissions: Earn Your Way In

To begin the admission process, you simply register—no application needed—for the following two graduate-level degree courses (both are available online):

  • 1 theoretical foundations course
  • 1 systems programming course or one web application development course

You complete the two courses with a grade of B or higher, without letting your overall Harvard cumulative GPA dip below 3.0. Before you enroll any degree-applicable courses, you need to possess an undergraduate degree.

Applying to the Degree Program

During the semester of your second degree course, submit an official application to the program. We have fall, spring, and summer admission cycles.

If you submit a complete application—which includes required Harvard courses, grades, and cumulative GPA—you will be admitted, after which you'll have only 10 more courses to take to earn the degree.

A complete application includes a passing score on our online test of critical reading and writing skills or completion of the program elective, EXPO 34 Business Rhetoric with a grade of B or higher.

How to Apply

The Harvard On-Campus Experience

Many courses can be taken online, but the degree requires a Harvard campus experience. You come to Cambridge for at least one course which gives you access to faculty, campus resources, and the academic community.

On-campus course requirements can be completed through:

  • 15-week fall or spring semester courses that meet only on campus (online option courses do not fulfill this requirement).
  • Courses that combine weekly online classes over a semester with an intensive weekend on campus.
  • Three- or seven-week summer courses that meet only on campus.
  • Three-week January session courses that meet only on campus.

Accelerated on-campus path: if you have limited flexibility, you can typically fulfill the requirement in one or two weekends.

International Students Who Need a Student Visa

To meet the on-campus requirement, you study with us in the summer. The accelerated on-campus path is typically one three-week session. You can easily request an I-20 for the F-1 student visa through Harvard Summer School. For more details, see International Student Study Options for important visa information.

To complete your degree

Maintain a Cumulative Grade Point Average (GPA) of 3.0 or Higher

Earn a B or higher in each of the two degree courses required for admission and a B– or higher in each of the subsequent courses, but be sure to maintain a minimum cumulative GPA of 3.0 (B) or higher. You are allowed to receive two withdrawal (WD) grades without them affecting your GPA. Any additional WD grades count as zero in your cumulative GPA. See Academic Standing.

Finish Your Coursework in Under Five Years

You have five years to complete your degree requirements. The five-year timeline begins at the end of the term in which you complete any two degree-applicable courses, regardless of whether or not you have been admitted to a degree program. Moreover, courses over five years old at the point of admission will not count toward the degree.

Graduate with Your Harvard Degree

When you have fulfilled all degree requirements, you will earn your degree: Master of Liberal Arts in extension studies, Field: Software Engineering. Degrees are awarded in November, March, and May. You participate in the annual Harvard Commencement ceremony in May.

Degree Guidelines and Policies  

For information about special academic opportunities, student privileges, and policies, see Completing Your Degree.