Degree Requirements

Required Courses

This Master of Liberal Arts, Software Engineering degree field consists of 12 courses, with at least one on campus. Weekend options available. You choose either a thesis or capstone track.

12 Graduate Courses

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

Core Requirements

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

Additional Thesis Track Requirement

  • 4 software engineering electives
    • EXPO 34 is an elective option
  • Thesis proposal tutorial
  • Master’s Thesis part one
  • Master's Thesis part two

Additional Capstone Track Requirements

  • 1 application development for the web course
  • 5 software engineering electives
    • EXPO 34 is an elective option
  • The final capstone

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:

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

The two courses don't need to be taken in a particular order or in the same semester, but each course must be completed with a grade of B or higher, without letting your overall Harvard cumulative GPA dip below 3.0.

Eligibility: Before you enroll in any degree-applicable courses, you need to possess a four-year, regionally accredited US bachelor's degree or its foreign equivalent. You cannot already have or be in the process of earning a master's degree in software engineering or related field.

Applying to the Degree Program

During the semester of your second degree course, submit the official application to the program. Don't delay! We have fall, spring, and summer admission cycles.

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

A complete application requires 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. Tip: Take the exam right away, in your first semester at Harvard.

For more details about eligibility and the application process, visit Admissions.

Admissions

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 once course (4 credits) which offers you in-person 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. Courses with the format "on campus or online" do not fulfill this requirement.
  • Courses that combine weekly online classes over a semester with an intensive weekend on campus.
  • Three-week January session courses that meet only on campus.
  • Three- or seven-week summer courses that meet only on campus.

Accelerated on-campus path: If you have limited flexibility, you can typically fulfill the requirement in one intensive weekend on campus.

International Students Who Need a Student Visa

To meet the on-campus requirement, you study with us in the summer either in a three- or seven-week on-campus only course. The accelerated on-campus path is typically one, three-week course. 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 Harvard University degree: Master of Liberal Arts (ALM) in Extension Studies, Field: Software Engineering. Degrees are awarded in November, March, and May, with 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.