After graduating from college I made the decision to pursue a career in technology instead of applying to law school. In two years I advanced from taking classes, studying and waiting tables to a position as a software engineer at a leading tech company. That success has provided financial stability and a solid foundation in a compelling field. Despite that success I am not entirely fulfilled. That lack of fulfillment centers around the fact that I lack skills in certain areas and lack a depth of knowledge in others. I would like to understand whether more higher education is the best way to acquire those skills or a better option exists.

There has been plenty of coverage on the increase in college applications and enrollment.1 Graduate applications have grown at an average annual rate of 5.6% between Fall 2001 and Fall 2011. The largest increase has been in the health sciences.2 However that may be skewed by a spike following the 2008 recession. There has been a 1.7% decline in enrollment, but 4.3% increase in applications between Fall 2010 and Fall 2011.3 Colleges and universities in metropolitan Boston with more than 10,000 students and in descending order by enrollment are BU, Harvard, Northeastern, BC, UMass Boston, Suffolk, Tufts, and MIT.

There are a fair number of non-degree courses available in the Greater Boston area. Schools include the Harvard Extension School, Northeastern University College of Professional Studies, MIT Advanced Study Program. The Harvard courses cost $2,200 and are mostly completely online or sometimes available in a hybrid format. The Northeastern courses cost $1,134. The MIT courses cost $8,700, which doesn't include numerous other fees. Additionally, only 30 to 40 people may enroll in the program each semester.

Harvard Extension School

HES provides a Master's degree of Software Engineering within their Information Technology Graduate Program. Both the thesis and capstone track include courses in theoretical/mathematical foundations, data communications, systems programming, software design. In the place of a master's thesis, the capstone track requires the Software Engineering capstone course as well as a web application development course and an extra elective.

One of the most frustrating aspects of HES is that many of their courses are only available online (e.g. Data Structures and Algorithms, Programming Languages), at which point the benefit is not significantly greater than free online alternatives.

Course title Credits Estimated cost
Analog and Digital Circuit Design 8 *$6,090
Concurrent Programming in Scala 4 $2,200

* Includes $50 registration fee and $200 late registration fee

Although online, the Systems Programming and Machine Organization course was highly recommended (see Computer Science 61 and E61). The instructor may allow students to participate in the normal undergraduate course. Another recommended course was Data Structures and Algorithms despite the use of Java. Both are demanding courses. Note that the algorithms course requires knowledge of discrete math.

Northeastern University College of Professional Studies

Unfortunately, none of Northeastern's graduate degrees apply to my interests. They have undergraduate Computer Engineering Technology and Electrical Engineering Technology programs.

Benjamin Franklin Institute of Technology

An noteworthy smaller school is the Benjamin Franklin Institute of Technology located in the South End. There is a strong focus on practical skills. Certificate programs are $16,950 per year, which when ignoring any additional fees would yield approximately 24 credits at the part-time cost. Taking fewer than 12 semester hours qualifies as a part-time, which means each credit costs $707 per credit for certificate programs. The Institute offers Bachelor's programs, but none of them are applicable. Additionally, non-degree students may audit a course for $250 per credit. There are two interesting topics of study listed in the College Catalog.

An Associate Degree in Computer Engineering Technology requires the following technical courses:

Course title Credits Estimated cost
Introduction to Programming Logic and C++ 4 $2,828
Networking I 4 $2,828
Networking II 4 $2,828
Introduction to Electro-Mechanical Systems 3 $2,121
DC Circuits 4 $2,828
AC Circuits 4 $2,828
Electronics I 4 $2,828
Digital Principles 4 $2,828
Electronics II 4 $2,828
Embedded Processors 4 $2,828

And an Associate Degree in Electronic Engineering Technology requires the following:

Course title Credits Estimated cost
Introduction to Programming Logic and C++ 4 $2,828
Introduction to Electro-Mechanical Systems 3 $2,121
DC Circuits 4 $2,828
AC Circuits 4 $2,828
Electronics I 4 $2,828
Digital Principles 4 $2,828
Electronics II 4 $2,828
Programmable Logic 4 $2,828
Embedded Processors 4 $2,828
Electronic Communications 4 $2,828

Additional courses of interest include:

Course title Credits Estimated cost
Electronics II 4 $2,828
Circuit Theory I 4 $2,828
Circuit Theory II 4 $2,828
Electrical circuit theory 5 $3,535
Electrical machinery 5 $3,535

Additional resources


  1. Data Reveal a Rise in College Degrees Among Americans

  2. Graduate Enrollment and Degrees: 2001 to 2011 p. 51, 88

  3. Enrollment Drops Again in Graduate Programs