Demand for Programmers in the Workforce

An unquenchable desire for coders

Just over 13 years ago about 50 million people had internet access. The number is currently around 2 billion, a number that is ever increasing. Furthermore, computers could do far less and software related businesses cost far more to run – the cost of running the same businesses is now about a hundredth of the price it was just two decades back. In the Wall Street Journal, Marc Andreessen, co-founder of Netscape, points out how consumer products like books, movies, songs, videogames and photography are all digitalized and their entire industries transformed, along with other businesses such as marketing and telecommunications.

To put it simply, everything has become dependent on technology, and in turn massive corporations have become dependent on technically skilled employees with job titles like System Designer, Database Administrator, Network Engineer, Web Developer, Software Engineer…the list goes on. All of this boils down to lines of code, and the need for experts who understand what those lines of code mean is only increasing. Andreessen states that, while he is optimistic about the business environment that the USA provides, “many people in the U.S. and around the world lack the education and skills required to participate in the great new companies coming out of the software revolution. This is a tragedy since every company I work with is absolutely starved for talent. Qualified software engineers, managers, marketers and salespeople in Silicon Valley can rack up dozens of high-paying, high-upside job offers any time they want, while national unemployment and underemployment is sky high…There's no way through this problem other than education, and we have a long way to go.” The world needs more programmers.

While the outlook is tough for many jobs, with the current unemployment rate being around 7.5% in the United States and over 12% in Europe, software engineers have a 2.8% unemployment rate. That is not the lowest rate of all careers, and software is not even among the top ten lowest unemployment rates (astronomers and physicists held the first, at 0.3%, followed by biomedical engineers), but it is very low compared to the vast majority of jobs. Furthermore, jobs in computer programming, web development and software engineering are expected to grow by 8-14%, 15-21%, and 23%, respectively, which is considered “above average”. That probably has a lot to do with why BusinessWeek, U.S. News, MSN Money, Forbes, CareerBuilder and Huffingtost Post, among other sources, named Software Developers as the #1 job for 2014, and web developers always holding a place in the top ten.

The challenges that hiring managers experience in finding developers are reflected in recent articles titled, “Tech boom! The war for top developer talent” and “Now the Developer is King”. Companies lavish their best benefits on software developers, including high salaries ($93,000 is the average), free food and (especially) coffee, health-care, and other perks such as fun work environments with nerf guns, ping-pong tables and more. This is largely because for every ten developer jobs listed, only eight candidates are available to fill the position. The difficulties of hiring a programmer only increase for cities not considered “tech hubs”. It took Groupon 18 months to hire the thirty developers needed for their Chicago office. Zach Kaplan, CEO of Investables, says that while his company is at maximum employment for every other role, it desperately needs software developers.

The difficulty also increases as the required skill level for a role increases. Just look at the placement rates for the majority of programming bootcamps. You will be hard pressed to find one with a placement rate below 90% in a three-month span. That is low for a top-tier 4-year degree, let alone a 4-month-or-less programming bootcamp! Companies are willing to train junior developers in their roles to organically grow them into the role they are supposed to fill. Initially, most junior programmers are a drain on their company, but with just a few months of training, a junior developer can become incredibly useful to the company that hired them, which is why startups and mega-corporations alike are now drinking the programming bootcamp Kool-Aid. Most companies are looking for senior developers, but often fill those roles with persons who have only a couple of years (I have heard of less than a year) of experience.

Pair this intense need for software engineers with a shift in the way education is being done and you suddenly have the emergence of new systems, namely, programming bootcamps. With a programming bootcamp, you get developers who are yes, junior, but who typically have an intense drive to learn and who are already working with the hottest technologies in the marketplace. There is, therefore, a delay in all software creation, and that delay is being caused by the incredible and steadily increasing demand for programmers with only a small pool of candidates to choose from.