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Businesses Programming The Almighty Buck

Is Programming a Lucrative Profession? 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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Is Programming a Lucrative Profession?

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  • Are nerds not aware (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Loco3KGT ( 141999 ) on Tuesday January 26, 2010 @10:02AM (#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.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 26, 2010 @10:07AM (#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.

  • by dunkelfalke ( 91624 ) on Tuesday January 26, 2010 @10:14AM (#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.

  • by Drethon ( 1445051 ) on Tuesday January 26, 2010 @10:18AM (#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.
  • by PolygamousRanchKid ( 1290638 ) on Tuesday January 26, 2010 @10:30AM (#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 . . . ?"

  • by davidwr ( 791652 ) on Tuesday January 26, 2010 @10:31AM (#30903900) Homepage Journal

    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.

  • Salary (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Herkum01 ( 592704 ) on Tuesday January 26, 2010 @10:32AM (#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.

  • by nate nice ( 672391 ) on Tuesday January 26, 2010 @10:44AM (#30904112) Journal

    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.

    Good companies, perhaps. But in general it seems design doesn't really matter, ultimately. Business wants a blackbox that works. If it takes more time to design it and test it well, that will be deemed unnecessary at many companies. I worked at a company and the most cherished developer there was a guy who wrote terrible code, didn't communicate well, was oblivious to good design but wrote a ton of code and got it out. Every developer knew his stuff sucked, especially to maintain (of course he didn't maintain his own, he was off to a new project like the cowboy he is), but the suits don't know or don't care about that.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 26, 2010 @10:44AM (#30904130)
    But doesn't a lack of desire/inability to comprehend the rules behind one language carry over to other languages? I'd argue that it does.
  • by jockeys ( 753885 ) on Tuesday January 26, 2010 @10:52AM (#30904258) Journal
    so, so true. and employers wonder why the turnover rate for developers is so high.

    I am a developer, most of my friends are developers. I literally do not know a single developer who has ever stayed at a job more than 3 years.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 26, 2010 @10:52AM (#30904260)

    Last year I had a hard sit down meeting with my boss over my salary. I was doing 3x the amount of work I was when I started. I had moved from code monkey to team lead. I had become a key player in the design and flow of many projects.

    Our meeting lasted over an hour, and at the end of it I wasn't a happy person. I told him I had come in with a number, anything under that number and I would leave. He asked me what my number was, and after I told him he thought on it for about 5min before saying 1k less. We agreed, shook hands, and I walked out a happy person.

    Moral of the story? If you feel your value to the company doesn't match what you are being paid, fight for what you feel you're worth. If they value you and your work, they will try to keep you. And if not, then you know and you can leave without wondering 'what if'.

  • by Jetrel ( 514839 ) on Tuesday January 26, 2010 @10:53AM (#30904282)

    I hate when colleges and high schools release ranges like this. You have to look at them for what they are motivational carrots to get you to go into a field. What you need to take from this is that, it is possible to make these ranges but you need to excel at what you majored in. Then show initiative and that you are adept at the skills you are utilizing in these fields.

    Companies and hiring managers see their applicants as a means to an end. They are there to make money and if you cannot perform or don’t have the skills to bring a value to them then they will see that and pay you accordingly. But if you are a superstar and bring value to the organization then they will also reward that.

    Fresh out of college unless you are extremely competent and have the self confidence to sell yourself in a professional manner then you will to take what you can get. Now in this economy things are a good bit different, I personally know some great IT persons and programmer that are out of work now that have years of experience.

    I owned and operated a recruiting firm for several years and know firsthand how the hiring process works for many companies. They are typically trying to get you for the lowest price possible and keep you happy. Salaries are much more complex than just what you earn you have to integrate benefits and insurance into your salary as well. So keep that in mind when taking a job.

    Also when in college try you best to get an internships and do your best at them. That’s one of the best ways to get hired onto a company and they already know what you can do so typically they will pay you accordingly.

  • Re:No. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by TheKidWho ( 705796 ) on Tuesday January 26, 2010 @12:04PM (#30905444)

    I should add, for a software engineer

    In May 2008, median annual wages of wage-and-salary computer applications software engineers were $85,430. The middle 50 percent earned between $67,790 and $104,870. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $53,720, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $128,870. Median annual wages in the industries employing the largest numbers of computer applications software engineers in May 2008 were as follows:

    In May 2008, median annual wages of wage-and-salary computer systems software engineers were $92,430. The middle 50 percent earned between $73,200 and $113,960. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $57,810, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $135,780. Median annual wages in the industries employing the largest numbers of computer systems software engineers in May 2008 were as follows:

    Median annual wages of wage-and-salary computer programmers were $69,620 in May 2008. The middle 50 percent earned between $52,640 and $89,720 a year. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $40,080, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $111,450. Median annual wages in the industries employing the largest numbers of computer programmers in May 2008 are shown below:

  • by hrimhari ( 1241292 ) on Tuesday January 26, 2010 @12:12PM (#30905580) Journal

    Maybe, but I don't see the work of Unions convincing anybody of worker's skills, unless it involves arm bending or other negotiation-by-pressure methods.

    It's more like convincing managers of how they can't fight the power of the masses rather than how they're underestimating their employees.

    As I was saying, I remain unconvinced that these tactics are required in the CS field, at least for now.

  • by cerberusss ( 660701 ) on Tuesday January 26, 2010 @12:22PM (#30905742) Homepage Journal

    Hello there!
    Please refer to your opening on job posting site. I, Rajesh Sharma, would like to apply for the job.[...]My hourly rates are $ 9 USD.

    We all like to pretend this isn't here and it isn't happening, but I would say conservatively half the job market has disappeared in 10 years due to this currency/standard of living imbalance.

    There's another reality: it's really, really hard to manage projects in India. I have tried this for a number of projects, and have learned the following things:

    • A day before the deadline, Rajesh will ask for more time
    • Halfway through the project, Rajesh will ask for more money
    • Rajesh will not give the source, as was agreed
    • Rajesh will not use unit tests, or Subversion, as was agreed
    • Rajesh cannot be bothered to provide an estimate or a planning
    • Rajesh will take on other projects and give priority to those before yours
    • Rajesh actually has a day job and just does projects on the side
    • Rajesh will tell you he takes a holiday for three weeks, starting tomorrow
    • Rajesh has a wedding of a brother, a pregnant sister, a sick father, etc and cannot make the planning
    • Rajesh will ask for more money at the end of the project
    • Rajesh cannot be reached because he lost his mobile
    • Rajesh cannot be reached because his mobile was stolen
    • Rajesh cannot be reached because his mobile its battery is empty
    • Rajesh cannot be reached because the e-mail server is down
    • Rajesh cannot be reached because the internet is down

    Each and every project, I have had the above things. There are lots of ways around the above, but the main thing is that it's very hard.

  • by Angst Badger ( 8636 ) on Tuesday January 26, 2010 @12:26PM (#30905842)

    I don't have a degree (in this field, anyway), either, and my income is currently $100k/yr, though I've spent most of the last five years working as an independent contractor, so it can vary quite a bit -- it's usually closer to $60k, so I feel pretty lucky considering the state of the economy right now. All that said, it took me fifteen years to get to this level. My observation of my coworkers is that the degree buys you almost nothing at the outset, but it will let you advance faster. Of course, how much faster will depend on what you actually learned in school, how fast you learn on the job, and particularly on your social skills. I've supervised people far more skilled than I am -- and I'm no slouch -- but who couldn't play the office political game, and I've been supervised by total morons whose lack of constructive skills was more than balanced by their skill at kissing their superiors' asses and taking credit for the work done by the people below them.

    The degree helps, but it's not the be-all and end-all that dewy-eyed college kids would like to think it is. The big shock that everyone entering the real world has to adjust to is this: it's not remotely meritocratic. A degree, both as a simple credential and as the knowledge that (sometimes) goes with it, is one tool among many, and it's not necessarily the most important one.

    I'll say this, though: I wish I'd gotten the degree. There is no such thing as a free lunch, and the work you don't do in school will have to be done on the job, where the stress and stakes are higher, and it will almost certainly take longer to fill in all of the gaps in your knowledge.

    Of course, if I had it to do over, I wouldn't be in this field at all. The same things that interested me about computing in the 80's are still around, but I haven't spent the last fifteen years working on AI, VR, or even games: I've spent it building web apps, billing software, and other mind-numbingly boring crap. Once I've got the kid through college, I think I'm going to go do something else. As the main thread notes, there's not even any prestige left to the field. When I was a kid, computers and programmers were exotic, mysterious things. Now, computers are ubiquitous, and programmers are thought of by non-programmers as digital janitors.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 26, 2010 @12:34PM (#30905954)
    I wouldn't be surprised since USD9/hour is a fair bit in my country.

    Analyst Programmer monthly salaries []in Malaysia

    According to Google: 1 Malaysian ringgit (RM) = 0.292184 U.S. dollars

    So at the higher end, RM4500/month * 12 = USD15777 a year [], or about USD7/hour. The low end is naturally even lower...

    For some strange reason[1] a company I used to work for outsourced some work to India. When the Indian workers came over and we compared salaries, they were paid more than the average Malaysian programmer in our company, and while we weren't very good, most of the Indian team made us look good in comparison, one or two of them had some clue (they were paid quite a lot in comparison), but the rest were like the sort of programmers who would be responsible for the notorious Excel bug (where 77.1*850=100000).

    FWIW, RM5-6 buys you a decent lunch, you can rent a room for about RM250-500/month and taxes at the RM4500/month level aren't that high.

    A lot of people in "the West" are unaware of the huge differences in cost of living. Wages are really low elsewhere. So when you see people say "it must be child labour", it's often bullshit, or someone misinterpreting a picture/video ( just because a bunch of oriental/asian workers are petite doesn't mean they are children - my cousin is 40+, she lives in New York and she has to buy some of her clothes in the children's section).

    [1] Apparently the company had money stuck in some country (not India), so they decided to use it by outsourcing work to a company that then outsources it to India... Can't remember how many layers there were. Something like that anyway. I was wise enough not to say in one of the first meetings - "why don't we just buy a whole load of merchandise, ship it to where you want the money to be and sell it, you'd lose less that way", go figure why ;)...
  • by inKubus ( 199753 ) on Tuesday January 26, 2010 @12:40PM (#30906044) Homepage Journal

    Unions are just one more tool for the wealthy to suck money from the working man's pocket. But I'm a senior developer, I don't consider myself a "working man". That's why we need to form a professional cabal like the doctors and the lawyers have. We need to set prices across the board higher. Until that happens, wages in this most important of fields will continue to erode. You aren't competing with the programmer in the next desk for money. You and him (or her) are both on the same side competing against the useless human labor pool that you're deperately trying to replace with software and robots. Of course, if you succeed, the CEO gets a bonus but it's your job so you don't get ANYTHING. No! We need to be getting a cut of the money saved by the jobs we eliminate! Stop working yourself out of a job if you want more money! Break something today and make sure something stays broken so I have a job waiting there after you leave! If we could all do this for each other, starting today, I can see a huge rise in IT salaries in the next 12 months.

  • by Necron69 ( 35644 ) <jscott.farrow@g[ ] ['mai' in gap]> on Tuesday January 26, 2010 @12:47PM (#30906152)

    My little anecdote. I graduated in '93 with a BA in CS Applications. I spent three years in school as a student Unix admin and went right to work doing that - for a mere $28k. I spent the 90s switching jobs every 2-3 years (and getting a 10-20% raise each time). When the tech bubble burst in 2001, I had worked my way up to an $87k/yr salary.

    Since then, I admittedly haven't had a raise, and I've watched in alarm as more and more jobs were outsourced by my employer to India, then China. I even did a stint as a team lead for a group that was mostly in China (personally rewarding, but professionally alarming).

    My response was to specialize in firmware QA work, and then move to a smaller company where the work requires lots of hands-on tasks. I did take a small pay cut, but the bonuses are actually better here than a certain, two-letter acronym computer giant I used to work for. Better still, my employer already 'outsourced' this group from the Bay Area to Colorado, so they aren't likely to move it again anytime soon. My group is actually hiring right now, and we can't find people with the experience we need. That's when you feel more secure. :)

    My personal advice would be to avoid web application programming like the plague. Specialize in something requiring deeper knowledge and/or hands-on work (get closer to the hardware), and watch for outsourcing trends. Jump ship whenever it is beneficial to you to do so, and don't worry about your company or your friends you are leaving behind. Be a mercenary and do what is best for you and your career.


  • by w3woody ( 44457 ) on Tuesday January 26, 2010 @01:00PM (#30906364) Homepage

    Generally standard of living metrics are based on reports such as the Human Development Index, [] which in 1990 placed Germany way above the United States, but by 2009 ranked the United States better.

    However, one of the biggest problems with these reports are that they are based on measurements which are not measured the same way from country to country--and they fail to use certain metrics which are demonstrably more important to Americans. In the first category are the infant mortality rates--in the United States any sign of life of a premature baby who later dies is counted as an infant death, while in many countries of Europe, live births of babies under 500 grams or under 22 weeks of gestation are not counted. If you're measuring apples and oranges, it's no surprise there is a difference in the results.

    Another example in the first category is percentage of population living under US$1 per day. While poverty is terrible, purchasing parity in the HDR from the UN uses exchange rates in order to determine poverty, rather than examining purchasing parity based on hours worked. One metric which would be far more interesting to measure is number of hours of labor to purchase 1,000 calories of food. The problem is that exchange rates have less to do with individual purchasing power locally, and more with international trade factors that only influence profitability trading abroad.

    In the second category is square footage per household member: it is clear that development patterns in the United States (and, increasingly in Europe) have revolved around the pressure by Americans (and, increasingly, Europeans) to increase their living space and privacy. "The American Dream" has always been to own a home--and it is clear one of the biggest problems to urban planners and proponents of mass transit has been the desire for a large home and empty land separating your house from your neighbors had caused sprawl which makes mass transit ineffective. I have yet to see a single report on standard of living, however, which has ever attempted to measure square footage per household member across countries. You'd think that if having living space and privacy is so important to humans, we'd measure that--but I haven't seen it measured anywhere. And where I've seen living conditions measured, inevitably they measure "mobility" in a way which scores mass transit very high--essentially measuring the inverse of living space, since mass transit accessibility is inversely related to living space.

    Between that, and the fact that different people live in different areas because for them individually, different factors are more important than others--for some people, they'd rather give up some square footage to have better access to a reliable light rail system, for example--I always take the whole relative standard of living measurement thing with a huge chunk of salt.

  • by Beetle B. ( 516615 ) <> on Tuesday January 26, 2010 @01:07PM (#30906500)

    I'm going to be flamed for this, but the numbers for graduates from my university (UIUC) aren't that far off.

    For 2008-2009:

    Bachelor's: $26,000-100,000 with a mean of $72,286 (NACE average: $58,419).
    MS: $30,000-96,000 with a mean of $75,125 (looks like getting an MS is not that helpful!) NACE average: $70,625
    PhD: $65,000-104,000 with a mean of $90,466 (NACE average: $83,000)

    Now, the university is ranked about 5th in the country for CS.

    It seems that employers really value the BS and PhD degrees from there, but not so much the MS.

    All the salaries except the NACE ones are self reported - the university isn't doing any inflation or guesstimates. It could be that people with low salaries don't report, but the numbers for MS and PhD coincide with what I heard personally from graduates.

    And for everyone whining about H-1, etc - the salaries obtained by foreign students here were pretty much the same as those offered to Americans. They all were, though, fairly smart folks.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 26, 2010 @01:11PM (#30906558)
    That's ridiculous. C++ is just as predictable in a system as C is. C++ memory allocation is completely deterministic as to WHEN the allocation/deallocation occurs, as is object life-time (unlike Java and its ilk). Plus all of the allocators can be redefined if necessary. Usually, though, you just require that all allocation is done at initialization, never after (the same as you would do for C). Unlike Java, C++ will never undeterministic things like heap allocation, unless you ask it to. C++ has a similar memory and object model as Ada. Are you saying Ada is not appropriate for real-time systems? The one area where it is popular?
  • by HungryHobo ( 1314109 ) on Tuesday January 26, 2010 @01:54PM (#30907156)

    this is horrible but I knew at least one guy who did very well out of making sure there was always something very visible to management broken.
    I was always borken in such a way that it didn't cause an immediate impact and could be fixed before it caused an impact on the bottom line.
    And he would make sure he could swoop in and fix it on time.

    Now I'm not sure if he arranged for things to break or if he just had a knack for making sure convenient things broke at the right time for him.

    Compare that to some other people I've know who simple did their jobs very well to the extent that very rarely did anyone ever notice anything go wrong.

    Guess who got paid more.
    Guess who got shitcanned because "sure why are we paying those guys, it's not like things go wrong much"

    Assholes win in life.

  • by Pojut ( 1027544 ) on Tuesday January 26, 2010 @02:00PM (#30907268) Homepage

    I used to have people's lives in my hands every day, and (in theory) have saved countless lives. I always enjoyed working as a mechanic, but one day I realized just how big of an impact I had. I was driving down a major road near where I live, and saw a woman in a Chrysler Town and Country slam on her brakes because a car cut her off. I noticed in her back seat were three kids, two of them in car seats...and then I recognized the license plate and bumper stickers.... I had done a full brake job (master cylinder, pads/rotors shoes/drums, the works) not two weeks prior on that minivan. It was because of me that woman was able to stop on a dime when she needed to.

    That was when I realized just how important being a mechanic is...and that's also when I went from enjoying it as a hobby to loving it as a profession.

  • by Cassini2 ( 956052 ) on Tuesday January 26, 2010 @02:16PM (#30907454)

    That's ridiculous. C++ is just as predictable in a system as C is. C++ memory allocation is completely deterministic as to WHEN the allocation/deallocation occurs, as is object life-time (unlike Java and its ilk).

    The fact that you are talking about memory allocators shows that you may be thinking about this problem on a much to high level.

    It is very common for some of the problems involving real-time embedded systems to require "creative" low-level uses of the C compiler, that would scar high-level programmers for life. Low-level code is where you operate with maxims like:

    "If you call malloc(), your code is broken (too slow.)"
    "If you use strings, your code is broken (too slow.)"
    "Use a code generator, array lookups don't work."
    "Your fired. You called new() inside an interrupt handler."

    For a high-level programmer, the concept of writing code without using indirection is a foreign concept. Indirection is vital to advanced programming techniques, including malloc, _vtables, arrays, strings, and linked lists! However, on certain embedded architectures, significant speed gains result from having deterministic memory accesses. If it takes writing code without access to malloc, _vtables, arrays, strings, etc., then that is what you do to get the system working and shipped. Some of embedded code needs to execute without an operating system, or before the operating system loads, and sometimes before the "stack" is set up. "Heaps", in certain embedded applications, you wish such a thing existed ...

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 26, 2010 @02:33PM (#30907682)

    Also, if John fails to deliver as promised, YOU CAN SUE JOHN for your money back, an option that almost never exists with Rajesh. You will find that various independent Indian contractors will _basically_ hold your project hostage for more money. 'I have good code to send now. You pay 2 more weeks, I deploy good code.'

  • by RemoWilliams84 ( 1348761 ) on Tuesday January 26, 2010 @02:33PM (#30907692)

    I graduated college from a lesser known school a year ago and got two offers. First was 54k, second was 56k. I was a c++ developer and could have taken the first job doing c++, but I thought I would go with the Java developer because the workers seemed a little more enthusiastic and happy to be there.

    Haven't regretted it at all. By the way, I live and work in Huntsville, AL so the cost of living is fairly low. Our job and housing markets have also been steady due to the amount of work on Redstone Arsenal.

    My numbers were right in line with that of the article, but my experience may not be typical.

  • by linkedlinked ( 1001508 ) on Tuesday January 26, 2010 @02:41PM (#30907832)
    I've gotta chime in here: We hired some Philippines (outsourced, based in the Philippines, while our main office is in San Diego) to work on a few small projects. In the 6 months they worked here, they should have had no trouble finishing the scripts we assigned them. Granted, there were some [massive, devastating] natural disasters in the Philippines during the period I'm complaining about, therefore we elected to fire them and move on, instead of pressing for a refund. In addition to asking for more time, money and vacation, as parent suggested, in one single week -- ONE WEEK -- the following complications arose:

    Monday, my employee could not make it to the office due to a fever.

    Tuesday, my employee showed up for work at 9am, but the power went out at noon, and the whole office was given the rest of the day off.

    Wednesday, as my employee was driving to work, he got in a motorcycle accident, and did not come into the office.

    Thursday, my employee worked a full 8 hour day, but did not `git commit` anything, did not email me about his status, and did not, apparently, get anything done.

    Friday, my employee was lost in a flood. His manager called me to explain that, while she has no idea where my employee is right now, she's going out into the flood, personally, to search for him.

  • by Grishnakh ( 216268 ) on Tuesday January 26, 2010 @02:57PM (#30908090)

    No, the thing you're missing is that the OP works in real-time embedded systems. The way things are done in that industry is totally different than things like web programming or application programming in regular desktop systems. Everything is very low-level, and performance is critical. Most of the guys working there are older, and learned on computers back before Windows, and sometimes before DOS was around.

    Just try implementing an OS kernel in C# or Java. It's the same way with real-time embedded systems.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 26, 2010 @02:59PM (#30908132)

    You have to be willing to relocate and have more skills than just MS. I went back to school (i'm 40+) and just got out. But.... I started doing cocoa touch development on my own and released sevearal apps in the iPhone app store. I relocated to California and i'm at 100K.

  • by elnyka ( 803306 ) on Tuesday January 26, 2010 @03:12PM (#30908334) Homepage

    Not that I disagree entirely that it may be more difficult to manage someone in India, and I've certainly heard horror stories, but come on. These could all be applied to just about any remote contractor who isn't worth their salt. I have worked with/currently work with plenty of Indians who really knew/know their stuff.

    I gotta side with cerberuss on this one. Yes, c'mon all of those can be applied to any remote consultant that is not worth his salt. However, from my experience working with remote teams (India, Brazil, within the US), there is something specific about the consulting industry in India that can really bit you in the ass harder than in other cases.

    Now, just like you, I've worked with plenty of Indians who really knew their stuff. In fact, most of the remote projects I've worked that involved teams in India have had a high success ratio. But the few that have failed have done so far more miserably and catastrophically than with other teams on other countries.

    This has given me a glimpse to a darker side of Indian offshore consulting, which I've actually talked a lot with several of my Indian colleagues who also agree on this: you can end up with a consulting firm that sells the idea of development guided by a a top-notch architect, and you swallow the tripe. And then the top-notch architect designs a system which looks solid, then he moves to another project. Then the consulting firm gets a whole bunch of sophomore kids from college find ways to replicate GOTO statements in Java to do the implementation. My first encounter with such practices from such a consulting team was when I was working together with an Indian colleague of mine (a really good software developer) in trying to make sense out of the mess. When we looked at the code and the original design, all we could do was say "WTF?".

    That's an experience I've had to repeat several times. It's a reality, and it has nothing to do with dissing people from X or Y country. It's an unfortunate reality that cannot be denied or politically correctly sugar coat it.

  • by Catbeller ( 118204 ) on Tuesday January 26, 2010 @03:33PM (#30908628) Homepage

    Everything can be commoditized. Even you.

    We cannot compete with an overpopulated world. The relative few of you that can pipe in with well-paying jobs are a dying breed. The pattern will repeat. Yet you still believe in open markets that have killed 90%+ of the rest of the country, on the chance that you will be the special exceptions.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 26, 2010 @03:46PM (#30908788)

    3. Start your own company, and watch out that you don't completely become a suit.

    The suits are earning a lot more money and working less, despite the fact that they're often not qualified to even understand exactly what the product they're having us build is. Frankly, I'm more interested in figuring out how to completely become a suit. It looks like they're smarter than me where it matters.

  • by Lally Singh ( 3427 ) on Tuesday January 26, 2010 @04:54PM (#30909718) Journal

    I'm finishing my PhD now, while working. I just got hired a year ago, and make about as much mentioned (+/-, if you want to count guaranteed bonuses, etc.). Great benefits. The software developer market, for people who actually know what they're doing (e.g. C++, not PHP), is *hot*. Recruiters are calling everyone (even at work), and I'm going on my second recruiting trip next month. Anyone who can remember any specifics from the last 3 years of their undergrad CS degree would be nice. My employer hires non-CS and trains them how to program (for *months*, paid at full salary the entire time), if we can determine they're smart enough to learn.

    The real issue is that most people calling themselves programmers can't even write a linked list or binary tree *TYPE*DECLARATION* without spending a half hour on google. They don't get hired, because they're not very good. But they're happy to complain that they don't need it in real life -- which is true, for the lower-paying jobs they'll get hired for.

  • London wages (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 26, 2010 @04:59PM (#30909790)

    US salaries on average seem to work out higher than UK. I've got 10 years experience and am on an above-average salary for a developer in London, and that still only works out at $70K. And that's living in one of the most expensive cities in the world. On the other hand, it's also more than double what many of my friends are on.
    What's a real shame is that there isn't any real effort to recognise the star programmers and pay them what they're actually worth relative to the poor ones. One of the introductory books on software design actually suggests that the difference between a good programmer and a bad one can be a factor of 20 in terms of productivity. I'm currently at a place where I'm the 2nd .NET developer, and the first one has done at most 1/5 as much work as I have, while the developer in the US office has probably been even less productive, so while a factor of 20 may seem like an overstatement, it's not... I've worked with worse 'programmers' than these current ones... and have known others who have held senior positions by claiming credit for the work done underneath them (though the prime example of that lasted exactly 3 weeks after the person under them left and they got rumbled).
    I'm sure there is a fairly wide distribution in salaries, because there are a lot of mediocre developers who can slowly put together code and only deserve a moderate salary to represent the hard work and limited skill they've acquired, and there are a much smaller number of programmers who eat and sleep it like the finance-sector traders eat and sleep their jobs - the difference is that the traders get million pound bonuses, while the one productive developer mainly just carries the rest of the department and gets little to no bonus. You'd have thought it's the highly paid contractors who are those stars, but I'd tend to say that a lot of the best paid ones are mainly good at selling themselves.
    I agree with the hunting around - you can get the best of both worlds, though, rather than dying a piece at a time. Look at it as widening your contacts and people you know, and if you get an offer, you can always go to your current employer and ask them to match the offer - I haven't managed to get an extra $15k , but I've got a pay increase of $9k while staying in the same role... if they won't match the offer, you are still in control as you can decide whether to stick with the employer you know or pursue higher rewards elsewhere.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 26, 2010 @08:54PM (#30912310)

    Hey, I pretty much had the same experience.

    I went to a midwestern school, got an MS because I didn't want to leave college (and still want to go back!!!)...and I'm making about 38k. Most of my friends are in the exact same boat. At my job, they put in a "pay freeze", skipped my "annual review" so they wouldn't have to talk about salary, and are generally trying to get as much work out of me as they can without paying. So, as a little revenge, I hold back on my work. I'm out at 5 everyday and have generally tried to fade into the background because I've noticed the more senior programmers only get more work for no more pay. They work like 70 hours a week, and their hourly wage probably comes out to about $10/hour, after like 5 years of slaving away, with no hope of getting a raise. Worse yet, I've tried to look for jobs at other places, but I'm pretty convinced that not a whole lot would be different. The funny thing is, the company I work for billed a customer like $400 bucks for the results of a simple sql statement that I made....and do you know how much of that I saw? 0. I have no motivation other than trying to make it through the day so I don't get fired and have to look for another job. I think companies are absolutely loving this right now. Everybody's afraid to lose their job so they'll put up with pretty much anything. And if you have student loans, you're pretty much royally screwed and you end up living no better than you did in college with none of the benefits of being in college.

    The worst part about it is the complete lack of creativity. In college, I learned all about turing machines, assembly language, the theories behind all this crap, all kinds of stuff that was actually interesting. I think I got a very good education...and it's pretty much going to waste. Although my title is "Software Engineer", I'm pretty much a data entry person who knows the syntax of programming languages. I'm betting that pretty much every other "web application" development job (which is all there seems to be) is exactly the same. The worst part is, while a lot of people over in india aren't the best right now, they're just as smart as we are and it costs less to give them jobs. So, in 10 years, there won't be any programming jobs over know what, now that I think about it, maybe that will be a blessing in disguise.

VMS must die!