Software engineering minor offers skills that can be game changer in employers’ eyes

In a job market filled with applicants with plenty of high-level technical skills, employers are looking for resumes that demonstrate “differentiators.” University of Houston-Clear Lake’s minor in software engineering can make the difference on a job application, says Adjunct Professor of Software Engineering Daniel Drew, who teaches many of the courses that encompass the minor.

“Computing science majors have already taken three of the six necessary courses for the minor,” Drew said. “But that program’s focus is primarily on building code. The software engineering minor is a great complement to a computing science major because it encompasses the entire process for building software systems. Students gain the full spectrum of skills.”

Drew said that whereas computing science specializes in using program languages, the minor covers what else goes into the system besides just writing the code. “The courses in the minor offer an introduction to the total discipline of building complex systems,” he said. “Students can learn how to bring concepts and ideas for complex software systems from the formation of initial requirements all the way through deployment.”

Business majors also stand to benefit from minoring in software engineering. “Part of software engineering is learning how to manage software projects,” he said. “For a business major who seeks a career in information technology, this affords them the opportunity to understand the business space better. When you become a project manager, you must understand the business domain to be effective. These courses offer a better understanding of information systems and data structures and how to utilize them in a business environment.”

One of the classes included in the minor, said Drew, is Project Management. “We teach students how to actually manage software projects,” he said. “We’ll offer hands-on experience building project plans with the class as it would be in the work environment.” This is why, he explained, business majors and computing science majors should strongly consider the software engineering minor. “Even for those working in the medical industry, this is useful,” he said. “There are a lot of people who transfer from the clinical side to the IT side. If you’re in an IT industry, you’ll be primed to understand it better than if you just had the business degree.”

The coursework includes two programming courses in C and Java, a course in data structures, an introduction to software engineering, an introduction to software process and project management, and software testing. “The project management and software testing courses are being developed for online as well as face-to-face,” he said. “I’m developing a new software testing course over this summer in which I will use examples of code that is ‘buggy’ to demonstrate various techniques to find the problems and fix the code.”

“The software engineering minor at UHCL is a rare offering among universities,” said Associate Professor and Chair of Software Engineering Sharon White.  “It allows students from many majors to expand job horizons to include positions that integrate software management, process and testing skills into the many IT and project management jobs surrounding most of today’s industries.” She added that the minor also offers students a pathway to continuing their studies in the Master of Software Engineering program. “This is a unique opportunity for students at UHCL.”

Soma Datta, assistant professor of software engineering and pre-engineering program chair, said computer science students with this minor would be able to better organize and apply their programming skills in developing software applications, and business students would be better able to communicate with their clients and technical personnel. “Students whose career plans are to become a project manager or an entrepreneur, the minor in software engineering will give you a leading edge,” she said.

“This is about learning teamwork,” Drew said. “Not everyone can be a project manager, but if you want to work in IT for a company like Apple or IBM, you need this. Very few universities in Texas offer this minor. People interested in this field have to search for this kind of education, but we have it here at UH-Clear Lake. For computing science or business students, this minor can make a big difference.” For more information about UHCL’s minor in software engineering, visit www.uhcl.edu/academics/degrees/software-engineering-minor

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