re: What is the future of software development pay range? VIEW POST


I don't pay a great deal of attention to trends around pay in technology (or elsewhere for that matter), so here come some general vibes, based on... not a whole lot.

I imagine incumbent devs will continue to make good money, especially if they have a good amount of time with their company. Domain experience trumps everything else when it comes to getting paid well and your company wanting to hold on to you.

The generation that is currently growing up, learning to code in elementary school, is likely in for a rude awakening when they make it to the real world and find that starting salaries for folks who can code aren't that much higher than the average bank teller or retail worker. When what we do becomes a part of a basic K-12 education, there's no way the lower band of the salary spread can stay as high as it is now. Supply and demand and all that.

I can totally envision future-kids having after school jobs hacking out a bit of code for bank-x or retailer-y for a meager hourly rate.

When a topic like this comes up I always think back to when an aunt of mine was a very highly paid sales assistant and a high-end department store, pre-internet, when she genuinely knew more than her customers about what color tie would look best with those shoes. Fast forward 25 years, those folks are barely making minimum wage (if the stores they work for haven't already gone bankrupt).


I don't think this will happen. We've been trying to teach people math for 2000+ years and less than 1% of the population manages to learn calculus. Even with all the accessibility strides we are making I don't see the number of programmers increasing any time soon. Programming is more like math than people would like to admit. It's not hard, same way math isn't hard but people just don't stick with it long enough to start seeing the real value.


As a person who went through K-12 and University and still didn't learn calculus, I totally hear you.

But claiming that math education isn't successful because less than 1% of folks learn calculus (a specific, frequently not mandatory, subset) is a bit disingenuous. The fundamental shift that basic numeracy and literacy has had on the workforce over just the last 100 years proves that basic education goes a very long way.

Programming will probably look much the same. Students will learn the basics, maybe a scripting language and some web technology then go on their merry way. Very few will learn advanced algorithms, functional paradigms and design patterns etc. But look around you - most of today's entry-level, but highly paid, developers don't know these things either (true from my experience at a lot of large companies - your experience may vary).

We're not going to be graduating fully qualified programmers from high school (just like we don't graduate math geniuses), but we will be graduating way more folks with the minimal skillset to get the job done. It's these folks who will represent the new entry-level for the software industry, and their pay will match their youth and experience.

Putting math on the same level as programming doesn't make sense if you take into account the fact that it is only an elective in high school (not sure if its the same thing in your country, but in Canada it really doesn't get much attention). I haven't seen good programming teachers in high schools either (quite a few good math teachers in comparison), and I don't see this changing any time soon.

Fair point about the current state of math vs programming. But on whether this changes any time soon:

Where I'm from (Australia) and where I've lived (Germany and USA) there are consistent an well supported pushes to adjust curriculums to include software skills/programming as core subjects through K-12 schooling.

A lot of what I'm saying is based on a reality that exists after these changes have been made.

All things staying as they are now, the situation will likely look very different.

Most engineering subjects get incorporated into different classes (math, physics, chemistry, etc). From a logistical point of view you'd probably need to have a class dedicated to computing which is something that I just don't see happening. If you look at how advanced GUI-based "programming" (e.g., SaaS products such as Jira) has become learning how to write code isn't essential enough to justify this.

To your first point: I had core computing classes throughout high-school. In those days they were there to help you get proficient with Word, Excel etc. (they were the big "you have to know these to get a good job" tools at the time). In my last couple of years the curriculum was expanded to include a number of Python programming modules. So I wouldn't say having a dedicated computing class is all that far fetched.

I think delving into a conversation about whether learning to code will be essential going forward might be a bit too tangental for this thread.

Good chat, though. It's always interesting to see a different perspective 👍

But claiming that math education isn't successful because less than 1% of folks learn calculus (a specific, frequently not mandatory, subset) is a bit disingenuous.

I brought up the calculus example not because I think calculus is special or hard but because it's simple and we have been teaching it for a long time. People just don't bother retaining the knowledge to use it in their daily life. I think programming is the same. Algorithmic thinking is a skill but most people just don't bother. This is before we even get to the logistical problems of developing good CS teaching materials and getting enough teachers versed in the material to teach it.

I would like nothing more than to have technology advance to the point that I didn't need to write code and that there were enough people around who could solve their own problems with computers instead of delegating the responsibility to a priestly class but given the historical evidence I just don't see it happening. For the foreseeable future programming will remain a rare enough skillset that salaries will not go down.

I don't think this is wishful thinking on my part just because I'm a programmer and want to continue getting paid a high salary. I think we are collectively bad at allocating educational resources to meet societal needs. There will continue to be a shortage of people versed in the algorithmic arts even if we start teaching CS concepts in kindergarten.

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