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How Long Will Programming Remain a Hot Career?

Programming Career

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A career in programming isn’t exactly new. There were programmers before the turn of the millennium, but it wasn’t necessarily a well-known job. Over the fifteen years, computer programming has risen to prominence as one of the hottest careers. Within the job market as a whole, a record number of people are learning to program. From 18-year-old college freshmen choosing computer science as their major, to adults who self-teach using online resources like Khan Academy, it seems like everyone is learning to code.

Programming has rapidly evolved into a coveted skill and career path, primarily among the youthful and well-educated population. The demand for computer programmers keeps expanding. However, one must ponder its sustainability over the next decade. Although programming currently enjoys immense popularity, foresight is essential. Potential threats like a tech bubble burst or an oversaturated market could jeopardize programming jobs as a pathway to financial stability. Furthermore, the presence of offshoring complicates matters for domestic workers in North America and Western Europe. Given these concerns, it’s pertinent to contemplate the prospective landscape of programming.

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Learning to Code is Easier Than Ever

Computer programming is useful and interesting in its own right, but there’s another reason why so many people are so eager to learn this skill. Job seekers in 2016 face a difficult and uncertain employment market. Competition is high, many graduates face student loan debt, and millennials are increasingly unable to pursue things like home ownership. In this economic climate, computer programming jobs stand as one of the few professions that can guarantee a comfortable lifestyle.

Simply put, computer programming pays quite well. According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage for computer programmers in 2014 was $77,550. Even the bottom 10% of programmers earned a respectable $44,140. For millennials facing high student debt and a job market dominated by low-paying service industry positions, it’s no wonder programming is so appealing.

Not only does computer programming pay very well, but the barrier to entry isn’t all that high. Over two thirds of IT workers do not have a four-year college degree. Of those that do have a degree, 38% majored in something other than mathematics or computer science. Programming and IT demand skills that individuals can independently cultivate. Capable people, sans formal education, can access these job opportunities.

That isn’t to say that it doesn’t require a certain degree of analytical intelligence and creative problem solving skills. However, for a reasonably bright person with the motivation to take it seriously, there are plenty of resources out there for aspiring programmers to self-teach. Online courses are available from sites like Khan Academy, and even MIT have free open coursework available. For those with a bit of money to spend, programming “boot camps” provide an immersive experience to bring amateurs up to speed.

Could the popularity of computer programming be its undoing? Recently, an oversupply of recent law graduates has left many JDs underemployed and burdened by substantial debt. Could the same thing happen with programming? It’s difficult to say. However, the most obvious threat to programmers’ job security isn’t an over-saturated domestic market. Instead, the threat comes from overseas.

The Problem of Outsourcing

You may have heard of the phenomenon of the “digital nomad,” millennial professionals who work remotely from home or while traveling. One facet of programming’s widespread appeal is that in many cases, it can be done remotely. Quite a few professional programmers make a good living as freelance consultants, or work remotely full-time for their employer. The upside of this is flexibility, but there’s a darker layer beneath: offshoring and outsourcing.

In numerous developing nations such as India and the Philippines, a plethora of highly skilled programmers thrive. Frequently, programming tasks can be delegated to these international professionals. Due to the significantly lower cost of living in these regions compared to Western Europe and the United States, they can offer their services at much lower rates, all while maintaining an equivalent level of purchasing power. This advantage for overseas workers poses a significant challenge to their American counterparts. An American freelance web developer may bill clients $50-100 per hour, whereas an Indian counterpart could readily settle for just $15 per hour for identical work.

Along with offshoring, there’s also the matter of H1-B visas. The H1-B program is designed to bring in skilled workers to fill job positions for which employers cannot find a qualified US candidate. However, many would argue that H1-Bs are being abused in order to reduce the cost of labor, to the detriment of US citizens.

How Long Will The Programming Boom Really Last?

Commonly, “Learn to code” is a typical career advice, particularly for educated individuals aged 18 to 35. Nevertheless, one wonders if we’ve reached the pinnacle of programming. 

Forecasting the future is a challenging task, almost bordering on the impossible. However, in 2015, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) did unveil some enlightening projections.

According to the BLS, the overall demand for IT jobs is expected to surge by 12% by 2020, but here’s the twist: programmers will be the notable exception. In 2014, the United States boasted 328,000 computer programmers. Fast forward a decade, and this number is anticipated to plummet by 8%, which translates to a loss of more than 26,000 jobs.

In stark contrast, while the general programming market faces adversity, the software development field is anticipated to see a significant uptick. Projections suggest a robust 17% increase, equivalent to an astonishing 186,600 job openings.

Is Learning to Program Still Worthwhile?

While the job market for programmers may experience a decline in the next decade, it remains a thriving field today. Khan Academy and boot camps have democratized programming, making it accessible to motivated and intelligent individuals. Employers often prioritize skills over formal education. Computer programming and IT careers offer a rarity in today’s job market: a stable middle-class income. If you’re considering programming or a more lucrative career change, learning to code is a highly viable option.

Looking for a career in programming? CompuForce is the perfect resource to aid in your transition.

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