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MSc in Software Development

The increased complexity of software systems and the dependence of many organisations on reliable computing systems stress the need for skilled software developers equipped with the knowledge and techniques to become the professionals at the leading edge of their field.

This MSc course consists of modules from our postgraduate computing programme. It is designed to provide professionals in the field with a sound understanding of the software development process and the skills to take the lead in analysing complex problems and designing solutions. The diploma modules provide case study-driven learning, to provide extensible knowledge that can be applied to lead technological and organisational change in the business environment. Following completion of the Postgraduate Diploma, the final MSc dissertation module draws together the knowledge and skills you have gained, in a research-based project. This MSc course is designed to be a more specialist degree than the MSc in Computing for Commerce and Industry (F05).

Study Mode

Online Education, Distance Learning & External study modes available

Career relevance and employability

The modules in the postgraduate computing programme are for professional computer specialists, engineers, technical managers and scientists who need to update their skills and knowledge in specific areas, and gain recognised qualifications to develop their careers.

BCS - The Chartered Institute for IT offers exemption from some of its membership requirements for holders of an appropriate MSc in computing from The Open University. For more details view or download our Recognition leaflet 3.7 Computing. BCS regulations are on their website.

There is more information about how OU study can improve your employability in the OU's Employability Statement from our Careers Advisory Service. You can also read or download our publication OU study and your career and look at our subject pages to find out about career opportunities.


For this 180-credit masters degree you require:

120 credits from the Postgraduate Diploma in Software Development (D69)

And 60 credits from the following compulsory module:

Postgraduate compulsory module Credits Next start
Research project (T802)

This research course enables you to gain an MSc by building on the postgraduate diploma that you already hold. You'll develop and submit a dissertation.

See full description.

60 Oct

Educational aims

The Software Development programme is aimed at computer professionals, technical managers and other professionals in IT-related jobs and aims to update, broaden and provide a coherent overview of the field to serve as a firm foundation for their career developments.

Your studies will enable you to develop:

  • a broad and critical understanding of all the processes for engineering high quality software and the principles, concepts and techniques associated with software development
  • an ability to analyse and evaluate problems and draw on the theoretical and technical knowledge to develop solutions and systems
  • a range of skills focused on the analysis of requirements, design and implementation of reliable and maintainable software, with strong emphasis on engineering principles applied over the whole development lifecycle
  • an awareness of current research in software development, the analytical skills and research techniques for their critical and independent evaluation and their application to new problems.

A range of optional modules allows you to further your knowledge in closely related and more specialised areas such as project management, distributed systems and architectures of operating systems.

Learning outcomes

The learning outcomes of this programme are described in four areas.

Knowledge and understanding

When you have completed this degree, you will have knowledge and understanding of:

The software development lifecycle, including:

  • the place of technical, human, social and professional issues
  • a range of different development approaches (primarily object-oriented methods)
  • concepts, principles and techniques of requirements engineering, design, verification and validation, testing, and quality management and practice.

The concepts, principles and techniques associated with:

  • designing and evaluating user interfaces
  • relational databases and the process of database development
  • implementation approaches for internet-based software.

You will also have:

  • A comprehensive understanding of research methods and techniques appropriate to defining, planning and carrying out a research project in your chosen specialist area within software development. A systematic understanding of knowledge and a critical awareness of current problems in your field of study or area of professional practice.
  • Specialist knowledge in related areas can be gained from the available optional modules. Each option addresses the principles underpinning the particular topic area, relates these to practical applications and allows students the facility for applying the principles in the workplace.

Cognitive skills

On completion of this degree, you will be able to:

  • analyse new problems, sifting the irrelevant from the relevant, and express the results using standard formalisms and notations, and apply software development methods to develop solutions
  • integrate knowledge and skills from various sources into a coherent whole, making the appropriate abstractions
  • critically evaluate, using proven methods, the strengths and weaknesses of a particular software development methodology, software solutions or technologies within a computing system application
  • synthesise arguments from underlying premises to produce overarching conclusions
  • deal with complex issues both systematically and creatively, making informed judgements in the absence of complete data
  • demonstrate self-direction and originality in tackling and solving problems
  • critically evaluate and reflect upon your own work.

Practical and/or professional skills

On completion of this degree, you will be able to:

  • demonstrate knowledge of the legal and ethical issues associated with implementation of computing in the workplace
  • demonstrate knowledge of the roles in software development and the responsibilities of those roles
  • participate in development teams
  • prepare cases advocating the appropriate use of software-development techniques, methods or processes
  • appraise new developments in software-development techniques or processes and assess their applicability to a particular workplace scenario or area of academic or professional interest.

Key skills

On completion of this degree, you will be able to:

  • communicate clearly knowledge, ideas, arguments and conclusions about software development techniques and processes using appropriate media, for specialist and non-specialist audiences
  • advance your own knowledge and understanding through independent learning
  • develop your problem solving skills and apply them independently to professional or equivalent level tasks/projects/functions
  • work with others to refine ideas leading to an improved understanding of key concepts within the software development context.

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