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Is Programming a Lucrative Profession?

Soulskill posted more than 4 years ago | from the do-fractions-of-pennies-count dept.

Businesses 844

itwbennett writes "A pamphlet distributed by blogger Cameron Laird's local high school proclaimed that 'Computer Science BS graduates can expect an annual salary from $54,000-$74,000. Starting salaries for MS and PhD graduates can be to up to $100,000' and 'employment of computer scientists is expected to grow by 24 percent from 2010 to 2018.' The pamphlet lists The US Federal Bureau of Labor Statistics as a reference, so how wrong can it be? 'This is so wrong, I don't know where to start,' says Laird. 'There are a lot of ways to look at the figures, but only the most skewed ones come up with starting salaries approaching $60,000 annually, and I see plenty of programmers in the US working for less,' says Laird. At issue, though, isn't so much inaccurate salary information as what is happening to programming as a career: 'Professionalization of programmers nowadays strikes chords more like those familiar to auto mechanics or nurses than the knowledge workers we once thought we were,' writes Laird, 'we're expected to pay for our own tools, we're increasingly bound by legal entanglements, H1B accumulates degrading tales, and hyperspecialization dominates hiring decisions.'"

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844 comments

No. (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30903426)

That is all.

First (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30903430)

Post!

Capitalism will find a way (1)

For a Free Internet (1594621) | more than 4 years ago | (#30903446)

To grind every sort of worker down into poverty. The only solution is international socialist revolution.

Re:Capitalism will find a way (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30903548)

That's true. If anything has provided people with a great standards of living it's amway...and socialism.

Re:Capitalism will find a way (3, Interesting)

dunkelfalke (91624) | more than 4 years ago | (#30903656)

Well, Germany was much more socialist in early nineties. And the standard of living was also quite higher than now, after a lot of American-style capitalist reforms.

Depends.... (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30903448)

In my state you must have 10+ years in 5+ languages (even if the language is only 5 years old) and start at $8.00 an hour. Oh, and clerical/janitorial experience a plus!

Re:Depends.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30903942)

Ahhh, yes. The never-ending humor in seeing position solicitations where the job-skills requirements include 3 or more years of experience with a product that's only been available for six months. At least it gives you an easy way to filter out the companies that don't care enough to have HR pay attention to the people who try to tell them what they actually need in a new hire, rather than just pasting keywords into a boilerplate ad.

Not if you have a magic time machine... (2, Insightful)

SnapShot (171582) | more than 4 years ago | (#30903452)

There are a lot of ways to look at the figures, but only the most skewed ones come up with starting salaries approaching $60,000 annually...

Not if you have a magic time machine back to 1999.

Re:Not if you have a magic time machine... (1)

iamhassi (659463) | more than 4 years ago | (#30903560)

"Not if you have a magic time machine back to 1999."

Funny, because in 1999 I was year away from finishing my BS in CS (love saying that) and I got a tech support job to help pay some bills paying ~$20k/yr ($10/hr). Half the people I worked with already finished their degree, but instead of programming they're answering calls on how to install DSL, and a few months later the entire project was shutdown and everyone was fired so they could move it to India.

Re:Not if you have a magic time machine... (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30903756)

Hey, better than food service?

I only make $50k as an in-house software developer and I've been here a couple years. Entry level application developers shouldn't expect to make bank unless they're going to work for a high profile company. I believe most of MS's coders start at 70k.

Re:Not if you have a magic time machine... (1)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 4 years ago | (#30903888)

That's more the way I remember 1999. Everyone seems to remember all the underqualified e-holes out in SIlicon Valley getting $50,000 signing bonuses and new Mercedes for signing on to the latest Web startup. But I remember a lot of programmers who had trouble getting even decent jobs around that time. I think the legend of Web 1.0 got blown out of proportion after the collapse in 2000. The crazy salaries and excess were way more the exception than the rule.

Not so much (4, Insightful)

garg0yle (208225) | more than 4 years ago | (#30903470)

If you have experience, and are willing to lead a team, you can make decent money. Of course, how do you get experience?

Re:Not so much (2, Informative)

Aladrin (926209) | more than 4 years ago | (#30903764)

The same way you do in every other technical profession: Volunteering, working for yourself on pet projects, internships and companies willing to hire the inexperienced for very little money.

Re:Not so much (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30903998)

the problem is the halfway limbo:
everyone loves the cheap unskilled trainee for quick and dirty money grab.
everyone that could afford them loves the guru keeping their large projects.

loss so those in the middle range, halfway between unskilled and guru, wich costs more than unskilled and produce less than guru.

missing number (4, Insightful)

lapsed (1610061) | more than 4 years ago | (#30903472)

This is one of those contexts where the standard deviation would be helpful, or even a graph showing the distribution of salaries.

Depends on specialization and responsibilities (5, Insightful)

purpledinoz (573045) | more than 4 years ago | (#30903478)

I know some developers that are highly specialized in low-level DSP programming, and they make plenty. Also, if you are also responsible for architectural decisions and architectural design, you make more. I don't know many people who are just programmers, but I would have to assume they make less. My advice for programmers is take on more responsibilities and/or try to become a specialist. Unfortunately, there is a large supply of programmers, probably because the barrier to learning is quite low compared to say, FPGA design and development.

Re:Depends on specialization and responsibilities (4, Interesting)

Drethon (1445051) | more than 4 years ago | (#30903724)

Pretty much correct there. I graduated with a Computer Engineering degree instead of a Computer Science degree so instead of developing web apps (which unfortunately high school drop outs can do even if they probably wont do it quite right) I started developing embedded avionics software starting at 55k.

Re:Depends on specialization and responsibilities (1)

jallen02 (124384) | more than 4 years ago | (#30903814)

You can get cheap FPGA boards these days too. The only barriers most people will face is motivation and the knowledge of what to learn and when to learn it. The trick is to optimize happiness and earningsat the intersection of the two that best fit the lifestyle choices you probably don't know you will have to make earlier in your career :)

Re:Depends on specialization and responsibilities (1)

Alexpkeaton1010 (1101915) | more than 4 years ago | (#30904072)

I agree completely. However citing FPGA development as an example to specialize in is pretty ambitious. The programmers in my office make well over six figures, but they are all low level embedded programmers and have the skill and ability to help out the hardware and FPGA engineers in design. I'd say that the key for a programmer is to become involved at the higher levels of design. Poke your nose into the system design meetings. Don't just let yourself be cornered into being a code monkey. Learn as much as you can about the other aspects of design that are not directly related to programming.

Are nerds not aware (5, Interesting)

Loco3KGT (141999) | more than 4 years ago | (#30903484)

That they are essentially mechanics? They're just not auto mechanics, they're more or less computer or software mechanics?

That shouldn't be a surprise to any. Especially as we see more about self-fixing computers, the furthering of object oriented programming which is leading to simpler and simpler APIs so you don't even have to be a programmer to make things happen. Or technologies like Sharepoint where you don't even have to have a GED to prop up multiple sites / data sources, etc.

Re:Are nerds not aware (4, Insightful)

Alarindris (1253418) | more than 4 years ago | (#30903528)

That's a terrible analogy. It's like saying a novelist is a book mechanic.

Re:Are nerds not aware (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30903704)

You cannot possibly believe that programmers are analogous to novelists. If you do believe that, you are obviously delusional about either what programmers do or what novelists do... or both.

Re:Are nerds not aware (3, Informative)

Zarf (5735) | more than 4 years ago | (#30903722)

At some publishers I think that's an apt analogy. Some places produce real works of literature and others crank out pulp-fiction.

Re:Are nerds not aware (4, Insightful)

dsoltesz (563978) | more than 4 years ago | (#30903880)

It's an excellent analogy because that's how managers and other non-computer scientists in many (maybe most) workplaces view their software developers, software engineers, web developers, sysadms, etc. I spent years fighting to educate my coworkers who didn't understand what a web developer does, and put up with frequent comments like "any monkey can make a web page" and "I can make a web page in Word"... like "making web pages" was what my job was actually about (and, yes, those are actual quotes from high-level professionals).

Re:Are nerds not aware (5, Insightful)

Just Brew It! (636086) | more than 4 years ago | (#30903562)

"Amateur night" object oriented systems are impossible to maintain, and Sharepoint is a train wreck. But you're right - as non-programmers increasingly come to view software as "easy", it devalues the profession.

Re:Are nerds not aware (1)

Stregano (1285764) | more than 4 years ago | (#30903660)

I am one of the people in my company whose job is to help ensure that it IS easy for the end user to do stuff so that us programmers do not have to.

No, I am not a script kiddie. I am a web based programmer and the scripters do scripts for me.

You would think that would pay more than 40k in the midwest, but that is not the case unless you have some insane amount of experience.

Re:Are nerds not aware (1)

pthor1231 (885423) | more than 4 years ago | (#30903794)

The problem is you are doing something that is "cool" and "hip". To get better money, you need to do some nasty programming work that there isn't a glut of other people to fill in when you want more pay.

Re:Are nerds not aware (5, Insightful)

mdm-adph (1030332) | more than 4 years ago | (#30903592)

Guess it's time to stop reading Atlas Shrugged, pretending that those above us in the hierarchy are looking out for us, and start forming a union, eh?

Re:Are nerds not aware (5, Insightful)

dangitman (862676) | more than 4 years ago | (#30903740)

Guess it's time to stop reading Atlas Shrugged,

That's good advice for anyone.

Re:Are nerds not aware (3, Insightful)

hrimhari (1241292) | more than 4 years ago | (#30903886)

(...)and start forming a union, eh?

Thanks, but no thanks. I'm not yet convinced that the unimaginative or unskilled Computer Scientist needs to be leveraged up.

Re:Are nerds not aware (1)

eeth (1557089) | more than 4 years ago | (#30903828)

You're correct in that there are some similarities - namely, troubleshooting and discernment to select the proper tool to use, but past that your analogy fails. Even the most junior developer has a level of creative freedom that surpasses most, if not all, vocational jobs.

This is even more apparent in mid and senior level positions. It would be more appropriate to label us linguists, architects, artists, or inventors than to liken developers to auto mechanics.

I believe you were intending to compare auto mechanics to computer technicians.

Putting a dollar figure down is problematic (5, Insightful)

i_want_you_to_throw_ (559379) | more than 4 years ago | (#30903500)

My starting salary in DC contracting with the Feds was $70K. Flash forward to a year of living in Cincinnati and my salary dropped to $40K. Now I'm back in DC contracting for Feds again. Starting salary? $105K.

60K in a place like Cincinnati, not bad. 60K in DC, can't live on it. Be sure to take regional salaries into consideration.

Re:Putting a dollar figure down is problematic (5, Funny)

Chardish (529780) | more than 4 years ago | (#30903626)

As a native, I can say with authority that a $30K/year pay cut isn't the worst part about living in Cincinnati.

Re:Putting a dollar figure down is problematic (2, Funny)

hrimhari (1241292) | more than 4 years ago | (#30903944)

Why, WKRP is great! Actually I don't know that, but the opening theme is catchy.

Re:Putting a dollar figure down is problematic (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30903716)

Seconded. I don't know anyone skilled making less than $75K programming in MA (ugh), including college grads.

Cost of living and government work (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30903810)

You are in a high cost of living state, so of course you're going to make that - which is just OK money for MA.

The parent, lives in DC, another high cost area AND he works for the Government which contrary to government employee propaganda, pays MORE that corporate. Just go up to USAJOBS.gov and have a look.

The Government can't hire everyone, btw, so get in while you can. Oh, and besides the higher than average pay of Government they also have awesome benefits.

Re:Putting a dollar figure down is problematic (1)

$1uck (710826) | more than 4 years ago | (#30903878)

Um... 70k to 40k? You got screwed.... I came from Dayton (40 miles or so north of Cincinnati) where I was getting 40-50k (DOD work) got sick of "contracting" moved to Cincinnati and watched my salary go up by 100% with in a year and that's with leaving my entire "professional network" behind in Dayton and switching industries.

really, 60,000 starting? (2, Informative)

hibernia (35746) | more than 4 years ago | (#30903510)

To quote Wayne Campbell:
It might happen. Yeah, and monkeys might fly out of my butt.

Re:really, 60,000 starting? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30903608)

$65,000 was my starting salary at my first job. Granted, I had a master's degree. (Posted AC because I don't like people knowing what I make.)

Re:really, 60,000 starting? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30903876)

I have a BS in CS and half a Master's degree (I dropped out) and it's taken me a decade to get to that salary. Kudos. Your Master's paid for itself. According to the local stats I still make "below average" salary for a programmer. I guess the average programmer has a Masters?

Re:really, 60,000 starting? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30904004)

My starting was $54,000 but I had to negotiate for that (They offered 50 and I counter offered more). 5 weeks later I got a new job making 52,000 but paying for my Master's Degree.

Wrong Millenium, Wrong Century, Wrong Decade (0, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30903544)

A career as a computer programming is far from lucrative for those yet to begin their career unless seeking employment with the federal government where pay scales are much higher than the private sector. The propaganda from the politicians, academics, and business leaders tells everyone only imported "talent" from India can possibly address the claimed labor shortage. Some elites go so far as to say students and graduates from Western nations are too stupid to be able to compete with Indians. My advice... keep computer programming as a hobby and an add-on skill to a better career field.

$60K seems very believable for starting salary (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30903566)

That seems about right to me. I've worked at several major (>50K employees, including HP and IBM) and three small (~50-500 employees) companies, and the starting salaries for college grads with BS degrees are right in that range.

Of course it's geographically dependent. I've never worked on either of the coasts, so my data points just apply to the middle of the country. Also, it depends somewhat on what you studied in college. Did you take classes in VLSI design to augment your programming? In physics? In CGI? Things like that can let you land a job with better potential.

$100K is very common once you get some experience. A few (but not too many) get up above $200K - rare but possible. I'd call it a pretty lucrative career. Nobody I work with appears to be having any particular hardship - they're all living in nice houses and driving decent cars.

Re:$60K seems very believable for starting salary (3, Insightful)

CptNerd (455084) | more than 4 years ago | (#30903852)

There's a bell curve at play, though, which peaks at about age 35. After that experience becomes a detraction, and unless you settle on one company that looks stable enough to keep you till retirement, going from job to job will lead to decreasing salaries/rates.

Hyperspecialization (3, Insightful)

wdhowellsr (530924) | more than 4 years ago | (#30903584)

I'm a contractor working at a 30k employee company that is almost exclusively Linux / Java / Oracle. Even though they have dozens of Java programmers they couldn't get any of them to pick up VS C# / Windows Mobile fast enough to support all of their mobile devices.

The position is going to be long term and pays 80k+ per year because of the limited number of programmers skilled in C# / Corporate Mobile & Web applications. I guess you could say I made a deal with the Devil by going MS exclusively, but it pays the bills.

William Howell

For Engineers maybe (1)

LikwidCirkel (1542097) | more than 4 years ago | (#30903590)

That actually seems about right for computer/software engineers in Canada. Most "programmers" though are technical college grads or BSc Computing Science, and end up being supervised by engineers. For the typically programmer, those numbers seem totally high.

Re:For Engineers maybe (1)

ygbsm (158794) | more than 4 years ago | (#30903970)

This is really the point - this is about College Degreed engineers. And no, an associates or even a bachelors from a "technical" college isn't the same. My last employer was constantly hiring degreed programmer for high 40's to 50's and raises came quickly (+10% a year for the first 4 or 5 years). The company was reliably and the benefits were first class. BUT you had to be a problem solver and able to pick up new languages quickly (it was a large consultancy).

Much more importantly - Comp Sci, System Engineering, etc. will be a boom industry for decades - you may not be a code guy for long, you'll end up as a designer, architect, integration analyst, etc. Get a real education, not the tech equivalent of VOED school and you'll be fine.

Note - I know this sounds elitist, but it's reality. Do you want to be a technician or an engineer? There are auto-mechanics and automobile engineers, just make your choice. A real degree at a physical university where you talk to the professors and follow class mates is the best way, if you can pull it off . . .

Re:For Engineers maybe (1)

Tyr_7BE (461429) | more than 4 years ago | (#30904010)

Yep. I went through comp eng at Waterloo (before the program started circling the bowl these last 5 years or so) and for most of my class, $60k was settling. I know people who started at 6 figures. Lucky bastards.

Are the differences south of the border really that significant?

The really sad thing is... (1)

Just Brew It! (636086) | more than 4 years ago | (#30903596)

...unless you've moved into management, you're probably not making much more than those new graduates are, even if you have years of experience.

depends on where you went to school... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30903612)

i went to the university of michigan, and majored in computer engineering with a focus on comp sci, and can tell you that I simply laughed at a company if they offered me $60,000. I had offers ranging from $67,000 to $95,000, and had many friends who started in six figs...

I guess they forgot about the dip of 2002-04 (1)

kiehlster (844523) | more than 4 years ago | (#30903632)

because when I graduated in '03 all the CS jobs vanished thanks to an overabundance of CS grads combining with a dip in the economy. I was lucky to find a job paying $28k/yr. Maybe it was different in other regions, but there certainly weren't any starting jobs around here for 54k.

my numbers (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30903654)

- University degree comparable to MSc
- first real job
- 24600€ per year after taxes
- half of it goes straigt to my savings account

Re:my numbers (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30903734)

Mine? $41000 CAD (after tax, although I don't pay tax yet) as a final year engineering co-op student on a year internship. My cost of living? about $13000. Based on that ratio, I think it's pretty lucrative.

grad vs masters vs phd the myth. (0)

upuv (1201447) | more than 4 years ago | (#30903664)

If we are speaking strictly about programming then I can't see a difference in earning for those levels of education.

Personally I would never ever higher a phd for a programing role. I'm hard pressed to higher a grad student. Why? To specialized already lacking the breadth knowledge that most industries now require.

Also add to that, that almost every educational institution on the planet has watered down the comp sci type degrees so that they can pump out graduates. The overall quality of graduates is falling rapidly. Masters and phd graduates are even worse. They expect more money than I make day 1 and still haven't the faintest clue what the company does.

If you go to an interview at least google the damn company and find out what they do.

I can believe 54,000 grand. I can't believe 100,000 grand. Of course there is some super nerd that is going to get that. Same guy that wrecked the curve in class.

I think in general the hangover of the recession will mean that the industries are going to be a lot more picky about who they higher and pay them less relatively. If you are good at "programming" then you will make good money. I can't really cook. I can make a few good dishes. But I am not going to be pulling down a 6-7 figure salary doing it. I might make a 40k range kinda wage cooking cause that is my ability / skill level. Same goes for programming. I see it every day. You can spot the good ones from a mile off. You can also spot the bad ones.

Re:grad vs masters vs phd the myth. (5, Funny)

Dare (18856) | more than 4 years ago | (#30903760)

I can believe 54,000 grand.

I cannot. 54 grand I just might.

Re:grad vs masters vs phd the myth. (5, Funny)

Malc (1751) | more than 4 years ago | (#30903762)

Personally I would never ever higher a phd for a programing role. I'm hard pressed to higher a grad student. Why?

Because they might show up your grammar and spelling skills?

Re:grad vs masters vs phd the myth. (0, Offtopic)

upuv (1201447) | more than 4 years ago | (#30904032)

I'm in software. I freely admit my spelling and grammar skills SUCK. :)

I hope to hell it doesn't take a University graduate to show me up on those fronts.

Re:grad vs masters vs phd the myth. (1)

HungryHobo (1314109) | more than 4 years ago | (#30903946)

I'm a final year comp sci student and I have to agree.
This course has been watered down like the drinks at a carnival.

I expected that by the end of my degree I'd feel competent in the subject.
The best way to describe my current state? I now more fully appreciate the true breadth of my ignorance.
I do not however feel that I am any kind of expert on the subject....

Some of the modules seem ok but then I look at the modules related to areas which I have an interest in outside of college and many of the modules I've done over the last few years could probably have been covered more thoroughly in a few days by an enthusiastic person with a textbook, google and some brains.

They're cutting out most of the math from first year because the dropout rate was the highest in the university and the standards in second year seem shocking since they also dropped a lot of the other basic stuff. (I've been tutoring people from the lower years)

Re:grad vs masters vs phd the myth. (3, Informative)

gatkinso (15975) | more than 4 years ago | (#30904060)

I could give a shit about "breadth of knowledge."

I want people working with me who know VHDL and C ***EXTREMELY*** well. The better be good with vi, and not have to rely on a GUI to configure a linux box.

Other than that, nobody in this building cares.

I don't give a rat's ass about their (for example) Java experience quite frankly. And why should we?

It always sucks in the trenches, regardless of job (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30903684)

Remember that. This isn't a phenomenon isolated to IT

Being a lead dev or architect, or even team lead if you feel inclined to start down the management track, will be very rewarding.

Being handed a few feature requests every two weeks and slogging around without any creativity will always suck.

Of course the company you're working for (do they value internal IT?) will play a big part, but I think the biggest contribution to it is how far a person wants to push their career.

If they're just happy being a midlevel programmer and letting their skillset stagnate ... well, fuck 'em.

the key to earning well in this field (4, Insightful)

jollyreaper (513215) | more than 4 years ago | (#30903688)

Goes for programming and infrastructure and all things IT -- you have to move around a lot. Employers in general have no interest in paying you more once you work there. If you want another $15k, you have to move elsewhere. Time at a company is spend padding resumes and earning certifications. Then you move. You might move back to the original company if they make a better offer. Employer logic is "We got the guy for $x, why should we pay him any more once we have him?" Doesn't matter if you complete a second degree while you're there, move from jr. developer to lead designer, take on more responsibilities, you'll get piddle-shit raises.

This kills me. I don't want to be job-hopping. I'd like to build some time with a place, earn some kudos and sweat equity. But those things don't exist. Been at a company a month or twenty years, you are equally expendable. Treat your employer the same way. And die a little inside. People want to think of the office as family because we're social creatures. Few people enjoy living life out as a lesson in Randian objectivism, looking for leverage in the battle of who's screwing whom. We aren't meant to live like that.

Re:the key to earning well in this field (3, Insightful)

swillden (191260) | more than 4 years ago | (#30904076)

Goes for programming and infrastructure and all things IT -- you have to move around a lot. Employers in general have no interest in paying you more once you work there. If you want another $15k, you have to move elsewhere.

That holds up to a point, then you start to find that you've more or less topped out and moves get you little, if anything. At that point, you have two choices to continue increasing your income: Leave the salaried world behind and start taking on contract gigs, where you can pretty easily get significantly higher pay, but no other benefits and no guaranteed income (though if you're good you can keep the contracts coming), or go to a big company where you can settle in and just accept the 3-6% annual raises and then let the years work for you. Eventually you'll get to where you can't move (except into contracting or management) without taking a pay cut. Hopefully you like the job.

Salaries aren't just HANDED to you... (0, Troll)

LS1 Brains (1054672) | more than 4 years ago | (#30903710)

I've worked for several types of firms, and each has their own salary schedules and what not -- but the money ultimately comes based on two things:
  1. How good you are
  2. How well you negotiate

If you can't negotiate, your salary will always be low. I believe this is also the reason for the stereotype of women being paid less than men. I've seen it time and time again, the gals just won't fight as hard nor demand the top dollar from their bosses. The same is true with younger folks. I was no different, and I was severely underpaid for many years.

Re:Salaries aren't just HANDED to you... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30903898)

In today's tech job market there is no negotiating, you just take what you're offered. Haven't heard of much negotiating in the new job market recently because for you there are ten others willing to take the position for less money. So it really comes down to these two things: 1) How good you are 2) How expensive you are to the company.

Don't do it! (5, Funny)

e2d2 (115622) | more than 4 years ago | (#30903720)

Don't be a developer. They will work you 24/7. You will be cuffed to your desk most of the day. Your hair will turn gray and fall out around the edges so you'll have a friar cut. They'll water board you for overtime. They make you buy your own computer, desk, and chair. You aren't allowed outside except for one hour a day of supervised time in the yard. Coworkers will shank you with shivs made from sharpened USB drives. You'll have to gang up to get respect. First thing you'll have to do when you come to work is shank someone, to let them know you mean business! Wages are a lie. You'll be paid in honey buns and cans of tobacco so you can roll your own. If you work hard enough you can get a free day with your spouse, but this depends on company performance.

Overall being a developer is the most horrible job in the world. If I were young and choosing a career I would do something else. Like be a reality star or join the circus.

Re:Don't do it! (2, Funny)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 4 years ago | (#30903976)

Joining the circus means starting out shoveling the elephant shit. In other words, it's still better than most programming jobs.

We are becoming more disposable (3, Insightful)

nysus (162232) | more than 4 years ago | (#30903728)

The problem is, when people start working for the economy instead of the other way around, you get the problem of treating people like so many disposable parts. Unions have helped bring the human component to our work lives, but with their waning influence (and with people so willing to subsume their own interests to please the boss), we are going backwards and workers, even highly skilled, intelligent ones, become little more then means to an end (profit).

Listen to the suits (5, Insightful)

dkleinsc (563838) | more than 4 years ago | (#30903736)

If you listen to people who don't do tech work talk about techies, you'll quickly realize that a lot of them do in fact put techies on roughly the same level as mechanics or bricklayers. You can think of yourself as a "knowledge worker" all you want, but the fact remains that you are going to be treated like a bricklayer. My most educated guess on why this is true is that techies produce useful products. In most businesses, the act of producing something (rather than selling something or organizing other people to produce something) severely limits your chances for advancement past the equivalent of senior foreman.

There are 3 ways to avoid this fate that I know of:
1. Do some serious and visible work for your company about issues that aren't tech-related. For instance, if you provide intelligent input about pricing, the salespeople will respect you a lot more.
2. Work at a company who's business is technology, which is still run by a techie. Make sure to leave once the suits take over.
3. Start your own company, and watch out that you don't completely become a suit.

Re:Listen to the suits (1)

0xdeadbeef (28836) | more than 4 years ago | (#30903958)

For instance, if you provide intelligent input about pricing, the salespeople will respect you a lot more.

No, they won't. Nor will you provide intelligent input about pricing.

I don't have a degree... (3, Informative)

rehtonAesoohC (954490) | more than 4 years ago | (#30903738)

...and my salary is $90,000.

I work in the Washington DC area, and something like only 1% of programmers in this area are employed with no degree, but it can be done, and lack of a degree doesn't have to have an impact on salary. It certainly can, but it all depends on the company you choose to work for.

Re:I don't have a degree... (4, Insightful)

gatkinso (15975) | more than 4 years ago | (#30903784)

I agree with that. I have worked with nondegree'ed devs who were fantastic... in fact ALL of them were fantastic.

Which explains why they were employed. In order to make it without a degree one has to be way above the rest. Mediocre developers without a degree soon find themselves either unemployed or in school.

Ironic.

you keep dry and sit around all day (2, Insightful)

petes_PoV (912422) | more than 4 years ago | (#30903742)

which makes it a "good job". Certainly compared with those people who have to work standing up (shop sales, manufacturing), on unsocial shifts or those who work outdoors and get wet when it rains. So far as being qualified or having a degree goes, that might count for something (other than merely a selection barrier to entry) if the skills people learned at university were actually used in their day-to-day work. Most of the IT people and programmers I meet are indistinguishable from non-degree types of the same age, when they're not talking about the one, single programming skill they have.

Programmer, or full out software engineer? (1)

GeckoAddict (1154537) | more than 4 years ago | (#30903744)

Personally, I don't see $60k beings unreasonable for well-trained graduates. The school I went to has a well-respected software engineering degree (it's actually an engineering school), and the 'average' starting salary for graduates is $57,175. The students almost all have two year's worth of internships when they leave school, and can write requirements, test plans, do proper designs in a number of languages and technologies, and overall engineer a solution.

I think the big difference here is that the article says 'Computer Science BS graduates', which I consider similar to my school. Then the summary goes nuts about 'programmers', which I think are different than computer science. People tend to think of programmers as the guys that just code, which of course would make them less valuable and more replaceable than full blows software engineers.

High school kids and anyone who spends two years at a technical school can 'program' nowadays, but coming up with a proper design is something people are still willing to pay for.

University of Maryland Pay (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30903758)

As a graduate of computer science at University of Maryland, if your first job is paying you less than $60,000, you did something very wrong. Of course this is in the D.C. metro area, but that kind of pay is great in my opinion, especially if you are single and just starting off.

On the other hand, I have no idea if the Masters and PhD figures are correct, they seem a little high to me for starting positions.

it can be if in your job you also program (1)

zeldor (180716) | more than 4 years ago | (#30903772)

strictly "programming" is becoming a blue collar job these days.
but if you find a profession that you like that needs programming
skills in addition to its normal requirements you can do great.
myself I went to school to engineering (aerospace), that needs
a lot of programming as all we do is write code.
So its applied programming if you will which tends to be
a lot more useful in the real world then just a programming
degree.

Really? (3, Informative)

dangitman (862676) | more than 4 years ago | (#30903788)

writes Laird, 'we're expected to pay for our own tools,

I don't think it's actually common for hired programmers to buy their own tools.

Re:Really? (1)

gatkinso (15975) | more than 4 years ago | (#30903870)

If that (the articles contention, not yours) were true closed source development tools companies would go bankrupt immediately, and there would be a huge migration of talent to companies that use free open source tools.

rewards first, luchre later (1)

cmsjr (1515283) | more than 4 years ago | (#30903790)

If you want programming to be a lucrative career, you have to think of it as a rewarding career first. A lowish starting salary in a company where you can learn the trade is going to serve you better in the long than a high starting salary with an outfit with no ability or interest for assisting your technical development. To para-borrow, if you're smart and get things done you can get yourself a good salary.

As a recent graduate... (4, Insightful)

AllyGreen (1727388) | more than 4 years ago | (#30903802)

I know that is a lot of crap! I live in the uk and earn roughly £25K, prob about £35K? I've always thought that to really make money out of a programming career, you have to start you're own business, do it for yourself with an original idea. Otherwise you do seem to end up becoming another wheel in the cog. I might be wrong, but its just the way things seem to be to me.

My pay numbers (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30903850)

I tell new programmers to take the best job they can get. Then tough it out for 3 years. Change jobs and get a large pay raise. Tough that out 2-3 yrs and then pick where you want to live for a while, find a good job there as a senior programmer and settle down. My programmer/architect salary history: * 2004 22k (Yes out of college I made less than a teacher -.- I like teaching, I maybe should have gone that route.) * 2005 32k * 2006 37k * 2007 44k * 2008 60k * 2009 75k * 2010 75k (stagnant, employer using economy as an excuse to not give raise and is just daring me to find a new job) My specialization is .Net Memory and Processing performance. It is amazing how many people bought into the Microsoft spiel of .Net handling memory automatically. As an example, I gave a 30% performance boost to .Net 1.1 framework used by employer for programs and dropped it's memory footprint 10-20% while closing up memory leaks. Sorry for no breaks in comment, slashdot editor not obeying line breaks and spacing I am specifying. o.O

Location, Location, Location (4, Insightful)

dgreer (1206) | more than 4 years ago | (#30903860)

Simply put, there's three factors that determine what you're going to make. Where you work physically (Palo Alto and Austin have significantly different pay rates for the same job), where you work financially (startups pay less than huge companies, state governments pay less than the feds, banks pay less than almost everyone ;^), and where you work professionally (it's unlikely that an C or Java programmer with 10 years experience will make as much as a CCIE w/ 10 years experience). A CS/BS is a ticket to ride, but you still gotta find your seat on the car and some have a better view than others :^).

If you're in it for the money, do something else (4, Interesting)

PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) | more than 4 years ago | (#30903896)

I had a co-op student once, who obviously had no affinity for programming . . . or, more to the point, no affinity for computers in general. (This was back in the 80's, before PCs were as pervasive as now).

I really couldn't understand why he was torturing himself with a degree program, which he didn't like, so I asked him why he chose computer science. The answer:

"I heard that I will be able to make a lot of money in this field."

Money is not the reason to choose computer programming as a career.

Or any other career for that matter . . . do you want to have your tonsils removed by a surgeon, who is, "in it for the money . . . ?"

Supply and demand, welcome to capitalism (3, Interesting)

davidwr (791652) | more than 4 years ago | (#30903900)

Anyone with eyes to see knew the relatively high pay of the last century couldn't last in the face of easy off-shoring and other factors.

We should be thankful for what we had, not complaining about more rational (from a capitalistic perspective) compensation.

On the flip side, most people who make okay-or-better programmers have the brains and basic skills to do a variety of careers with maybe a year or two or less of additional training, and most of us hopefully know it's not wise to put all your career eggs in one basket.

Also, some jobs such as most of those in the defense industry will remain in-country.

So, yes, there may be fewer newly-minted programmers in the Western world in the future, fewer domestic jobs available, and lower pay for the remaining jobs, but it won't be the total disaster it was for say, the steel or textile industries.

From an overall global economic health perspective, I see this as a good thing, even if it hurts me personally and Western economies in general.

no-hire and non-compete agreements (3, Insightful)

rev_sanchez (691443) | more than 4 years ago | (#30903908)

No-hire and non-compete agreements are pretty common in contracts especially when the development work is specialized. This sidelines a lot of talent and helps exacerbate the software developer labor shortage employers are always complaining about. It also lowers wages for developers since they'd have more trouble finding work if they left their job. I think we need to severly limit what kind of restrictions companies can place on their employees' future job prospects.

Computer Science BS graduate != programmer (1)

mapleleaf (151483) | more than 4 years ago | (#30903914)

The Bureau of Labor Statistics is talking about "Computer Science BS graduates", not programmers in general. So it wouldn't be surprising if the average *programmer* made less.

Salary (3, Interesting)

Herkum01 (592704) | more than 4 years ago | (#30903916)

I have been principally been a Perl Programmer so that is the market I know, but the salaries I looked at have been all over the place with a good bit of it depending on location.

Recently I was looking at Sr Developer positions in LA, NYC, Nashville, and Austin.

  • The company in Austin, TX was willing to pay relocation and $90/K (top level). They went with someone local due to because they wanted to hire quick.
  • I looked at two jobs in LA seriously, neither was really willing to go over $90/K with a third company willing to go as high as $110/K but only for a elite guy.
  • I looked but not hard in NYC, and their salary ranges were from $80/K to $120/K. One company I wanted to interview wanted only to pay $90/K but could not even bother to pick me up from the airport. F*ck that!
  • I interviewed in Nashville, the highest they were willing to go was $80/K. We just did not click.

Now I technically have 10+ years of programming experience. If I stayed one place as a programmer (theoretically speaking) I might have gotten to an architect level position and earned 150K. Or you some Chinese super guru out of school, some companies will throw money at you, but that is a rarity.

I had also seen positions where companies wanted you telecommute for 10/hour because they thought that was what they could get from some guy in Russia or India.

Basically, if you become a programmer, you are going to be treated as skilled labor. Skilled but still labor and they will never be interested in paying you more because they will have no way of determining if you are good at your job. At that point, you will need to job boat to get a real raise. Then you need to know how large the market is for a particular technology in your area, otherwise you will end up moving all over the place.

Right on the mark with my starting salary. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30903924)

Coming straight out of school with no experience, I was offered a job in the upper end of the $54,000 - $74,000 salary range. I am sure it depends on where you live but around my area in Maryland these salaries are not abnormal.

Buy your own dev tools? (1)

gatkinso (15975) | more than 4 years ago | (#30903926)

I have never seen this for regular employees, and I have been in this game for 19 years.

If this were true, then kiss Visual Studio, Flex, Rational, Clear Case, (the list goes on) good bye.

Money isn't my primary interest (3, Insightful)

bl8n8r (649187) | more than 4 years ago | (#30903928)

I got into programming because I love building stuff. I don't really care what I get paid as long as I can live in contentment, and I do. I'm very lucky to have found a profession that aligns with my interests. A lot of people got into programming in the 90s because it was lucrative; well, it's not now. Be glad you have a job, Quit bitching. Welcome to reality.

Supply and demand (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30904088)

Programming in general is not a hard thing to do, there is no barrier to entry and anyone with a computer and the desire can get the "tools of the trade" and start doing it at home sitting on the couch.
Now programming efficiently, working on large projects with others takes experience and some creativity and are worth a lot more but those are not characteristics that employers automatically associate with someone fresh out of college with a degree. Times have changed, the days of Howard Warshaw programming Yars revenge by himself are looooong gone and programming in general has less geographical barriers than most other positions.

Sorry to bust everyone's bubble but that IS the reality.

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