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Software United States Technology

Study Says Software Engineers Have the Best US Jobs 337

Posted by Soulskill
from the i'm-sure-you're-all-totally-on-board-with-this dept.
D H NG writes "According to a new study by CareerCast.com, software engineers have the best jobs of 2011 in the United States, based on factors such as income, working environment, stress, physical demands and job outlook, using Labor Department and Census data. Mid-level software engineers make between $87,000 and $132,000 a year, putting them in the top 25% of the 200 professions studied by income. Software engineers beat out last year's number one job, actuary, which came in third, behind mathematician."
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Study Says Software Engineers Have the Best US Jobs

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  • by Maltheus (248271) on Friday January 07, 2011 @06:16PM (#34798672)

    The 132k figure is not for mid-level engineers (although maybe it is in a big city). The actual quote from the article is "Most earn a typical mid-level income of about $87,000 and top out at $132,000". Makes me feel a little better and it's maybe the first time I RTFA in over a decade of visiting here.

  • Re:Actuary? Really? (Score:5, Informative)

    by swillden (191260) <shawn-ds@willden.org> on Friday January 07, 2011 @06:24PM (#34798776) Homepage Journal

    You'll notice that the criteria don't include "intellectual fulfillment." Actuaries rate pretty highly in all the criteria the study considers, but perhaps their job is not as interesting as some others.

    I know some actuaries, and they find their jobs very intellectually stimulating and fulfilling. For people who really like math and statistics, doing it professionally is enjoyable and challenging. It's not like actuaries spend their days adding up big columns of numbers -- we have computers for that. Actuaries figure out how to use sophisticated statistics to tease out subtle patterns from large masses of information. It's challenging and the results are often surprising.

  • by Mean Variance (913229) <mean.variance@gmail.com> on Friday January 07, 2011 @06:37PM (#34798962)

    I have carried the title "Software Engineer" for 13 years. I'm of mixed opinion about how great the job is. It pays pretty well, but much of that is relative to what you're comparing to.

    There are worse jobs out there, no doubt, but we're not just coders at least in my experience and many people I know in Silicon Valley. You have to read a lot of boring documents. You have to know how to write. There are meetings. There are customers to talk with. For me what makes it "not the greatest job in the world" is that it's stressful in a way that people don't understand.

    Deadlines always loom, and they are always too short. A good SE has to constantly decide where to unit test, design, explain to management, or just hack to get it done. There's no worse feeling when management decides that a project is taking too long and asks "who can we add to the project?" like we and our code is just plug-n-play factory work.

    That is stressful and few people understand the kind of stress created on the job. I'm not asking for pity. It's a good gig overall, but sometimes I wish I would have stuck with my original, lower paying pursuit of teaching junior college mathematics.

  • by jmcbain (1233044) on Friday January 07, 2011 @06:40PM (#34799006)
    $132K as an upper bound sounds about right for mid-level engineers but is a bit low as an upper bound for senior software engineers at large corporations. Principal software engineers at Microsoft are paid at around $160K with fairly huge bonuses that push their yearly pay to nearly $200K. Staff software engineers at Google and others are in the neighbourhood. Note that these are cream-of-the-crop engineers who have chosen to stay as ICs rather than go into management. Source: personal knowledge and glassdoor.com.
  • by 0xdeadbeef (28836) on Friday January 07, 2011 @08:49PM (#34800470) Homepage Journal

    Jesus fucking Christ you people are retarded. There is no "traditional" background for the "programmer" title, and while a lot of people want "software engineer" to mean something, it doesn't, because the industry doesn't give a shit.

    In fact, reality is quite the opposite of what you're saying. MIT and Stanford do not give out "software engineering" degrees. They have schools of computer science, and the give out CS degrees. Every top tier school gives out CS degrees. Only the diploma mills have "software engineering" programs, because they don't have the chops to teach real CS.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 07, 2011 @08:52PM (#34800498)
    It's the same at Apple. I'm a level-5 software engineer. I'm on circa 170k + bonuses (mainly in shares). I'll pay taxes on about 300k this year because of stock vesting - although Apple's stock has risen dramatically in the last few years.
  • by bzipitidoo (647217) <bzipitidoo@yahoo.com> on Friday January 07, 2011 @09:49PM (#34800888) Journal

    I don't buy this article. The article claims software engineering is low stress. No way! You say software engineering is moderately stressful. Closer. I say it's often much worse. Many of the software related jobs I had were extremely stressful.

    Software projects are notoriously difficult to plan, schedule, and execute. Just figuring out a goal can be difficult. Even good planners can be way off with their estimates. But many people don't have a good grasp of what computers can and cannot do, and it is very easy to step across the line from asking for a mere number and data crunching app to asking that the capabilities of human intelligence be exceeded. Or that it scale to impossible levels. They think they're asking for something easy and trivial, and fail to understand they're asking for perpetual motion. "Scope creep" is endemic. Communication is difficult. Often businesses discover that the engineers were asked to solve the wrong problem. Add that lack of understanding to suspicious, adversarial management 'tards who feel that coders (and everyone else) are just naturally lazy slackers, and you have trouble. Are the coders telling it straight, or are they making mountains out of molehills in a big conspiracy to make their lives too easy, or because they're a bunch of wimps?

    Deep Thought didn't usher in a new era of AI superior to human intellect, instead it demonstrated that chess is amenable to number crunching. I like to put it this way, that computers can compute for you, but they can't (yet) think for you. You must still ask good questions, choose good directions to pursue, otherwise it is like the old saying: garbage in, garbage out. When management doesn't get this right, it is stressful for everyone. It's a hard problem that is often got wrong.

    Most software projects end in failure. Why is a big question-- is it that software engineering should be no more difficult than any other engineering endeavor but we still suck at it because it is still a new discipline, or is it that software engineering really is harder? The questioning of the professionalism of the software engineering discipline is yet another doubt to add a tiny bit more stress. Or that typical expectations are way off base? By one measure I heard, roughly 30% of projects are total failures, 30% are only partially successful, achieving only some of the goals, and 30% are successful but late. Only 10% are successful and on time. And failure is stressful and hateful.

    Another thing adding to the stress in software engineering is that there is very little downtime. Many jobs have slow days, but in software engineering, you can bang away at the keyboard every minute you're on the clock. On those rare occasions when downtime does happen, it isn't a chance to relax. More often it adds to the stress. Just like a meeting, downtime is taking away time you need to meet your schedule.

    At the worst such job I had, we had management who had no clue how to plan anything, and zero interest in honestly trying as they were much more concerned with the infighting, each trying to make sure it would be the other guys who were eventually fired. They weren't about to listen to or solicit input from each other, let alone any uppity engineers, so each was making up their own plans and schedules in a vacuum, and trashing the others. Since they didn't know a real schedule from a load of buzzwords and bull, they couldn't see it when someone managed a miracle, and would reprimand the guy for not being even faster! Beating up the engineers for being too slow, incompetent, and stupid, in absence of any metrics whatsoever to make their case, was SOP for them. No matter how much evidence there was that that kind of management was counterproductive, their answer was to flog everyone harder. In hindsight I should have quit that job much sooner.

  • Re:Actuary? Really? (Score:3, Informative)

    by Joking611 (1321913) on Friday January 07, 2011 @11:22PM (#34801454) Homepage
    As someone who spends $1,400 a month on private health insurance, I spend it because the risk of someone in the family needing a 6 figure treatment is worse. Since the risk is actually low, I don't consider it a good deal. A child's health has a different weight than that $8000 car.

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