For a career that didn’t even exist until 60 years ago, programming has had a pretty impressive run as far as tech jobs go.
From Bill Gates to James Gosling, Steve Wozniak to Tim Berners-Lee, many of the greatest minds of the last 100 years knew how to code. Today, coding remains a highly lucrative skill for computer science graduates. According to Paysa data, average starting salaries for entry-level programming positions are among the highest of all tech jobs at $93,000.
And while the greatest tech companies in the world will always have a need for creative programmers to push the boundaries of what is possible with technology, there’s a new breed of programmer rising within the workforce.
This article explores the future of programming roles both within the world’s top tech companies as well as new areas outside of tech where a boom in programmer hiring is taking place.
A Brief History of Programming Jobs
While programming as we know it today didn’t get started until the release of FORTRAN in 1957 (by John Backus, a computer scientist at IBM), the true pioneer of programming was working over a century earlier.
Ada Lovelace, an English mathematician, wrote the first “computer code” in the 1840’s when she translated the manual for a Charles Babbage invention from its native French to English. In the translation, Lovelace incorporated her own ideas on how to improve the invention, including code that could be added for the system to recognize letters and symbols, as well as the first “looping” mechanism.
Through the first half of the 20th century, as primitive computing systems were created for tasks as broad ranging as basic arithmetic to decoding German spies in the second World War, computer programming looked very different than it does today.
One notable difference was gender bias within the industry. Whereas today, computer programming jobs are skewed male 68% to female 22%, in the early days, a majority of programming positions were held by women.
As Brenda D. Frink wrote in an article on Stanford University’s website:
“As late as the 1960s many people perceived computer programming as a natural career choice for savvy young women. Even the trend-spotters at Cosmopolitan Magazine urged their fashionable female readership to consider careers in programming. In an article titled “The Computer Girls,” the magazine described the field as offering better job opportunities for women than many other professional careers.”
As computers evolved throughout the 1970s to the rise of the personal computer in the 1980s, programming jobs became more appealing to men who previously only had an eye for the hardware side of the technology industry. This led to more and more young men applying to schools for computer science degrees, and the subsequent decline of women in programming roles.
From the Ada Lovelace days of handwritten code up through Bill Gates and the creation of the personal computer, computer programming was an ever-evolving landscape reserved for a select group of technical professionals. The 1990s brought on more consistent work and universal appeal of tech jobs (especially those in programming), leading us to where we are today.
How Programming Has Evolved Over the Last 25 Years
After Microsoft and Apple released their versions of the personal computer from their respective Albuquerque and Cupertino garages, computer programming became a viable career across a broad number of technology companies.
You could go work for Hewlett-Packard, who today, pays their programmers a comfortable annual salary of $108K, on average, according to Paysa data.
Or go work alongside Bill Gates at Microsoft, where programmers average $190K annual salaries today.
The Bureau of Labor and Statistics predicted in 1990 that a career in programming was on a fast trajectory for success:
“The need for programmers will increase as businesses, government, schools, and scientific organizations seek new applications for computers and improvements to the software already in use [and] further automation . . . will drive the growth of programmer employment.”
As a result, computer programmer jobs were expected to grow by 30% over the period of 1992 to 2005.
These projections, while bullish at the time, failed to properly forecast the role that software would begin to play in every aspect of our daily lives. From shopping to banking, dating to driving, software is so ingrained in how people function in the 21st century that we actually have adult summer camps to escape from technology.
No one could envision the level to which technology would infiltrate life (no more than we can accurately forecast what the world will look like in 2035), but the result worked in favor of those pursuing careers in computer programming and completely changed the trajectory of the career path.
Today, coding is no longer a niche skill nor is a career in programming limited to a short list of software companies. Everyone from big banks to branches of the military need people with coding skills.
The result? Computer programming has evolved from a white-collar position in the 1980s and 90s to the new blue collar job in America. Kids are starting to learn to code as early as kindergarten. The number of computer science graduates nearly doubled (from 30K to 60K) from 1999 to 2003. Future generations are being prepped for a career that’s in demand and pays well: programming.
While the Bureau of Labor and Statistics actually projects an 8% decline in job growth for programmers in the US over the next 7 years, that number doesn’t account for the nearly 35% of the US workforce doing remote, freelance work. This report from Burning Glass estimates up to 7 million jobs available for people with coding skills and indicates that coding jobs, in general, are growing 12% faster than the overall job market.
The next generation of programmers may not be shaping the future of technology out of their garage, but a career in coding has evolved from a fringe position with niche skills to a very accessible and well-paying career opportunity.
What Skills Do I Need to be a Part of This Next Generation of Programmers?
Here’s where Paysa can really be a tremendous resource to you. Not only does Paysa provide in-depth salary and jobs data, but you can also gain greater insight into the top skills required for a position of interest.
For example, here are the top skills required for people interested in a career in computer programming:
Don’t feel intimidated looking at that list. One of the major reasons a career in programming has become more accessible is the different avenues available for learning to code. Unlike many tech jobs, computer programming positions don’t necessarily require an advanced degree. And while preference may be given to computer science graduates, people with degrees in other subject areas can learn to code in a few short months through coding academies or boot camps.
A career in computer programming is more accessible than ever before.
What Does the Future of Computer Programming Look Like?
If you learned anything from the history section of this article, it should be that predicting the future is impossible. No one saw Uber coming, or Airbnb or Tinder. But if things progress in the same direction for programmers, the future looks bright.
There may be fewer people getting filthy rich through careers in programming, but programmers still earn a sizable and respectable income. This writer equated the future of programming to careers as a lawyer or physician: great, consistent pay across the board.
The people who thrive will be those hungry to learn more and evolve. As new programming languages come to market or new technologies develop, the best programmers will be those who don’t stagnate in their work but instead opt for continuous learning and growth.
The beauty of a career in computer programming is that it’s never too late to get started. At any point, you can enroll in a coding academy or enroll in a boot camp. Once you’re ready to start exploring career options, Paysa is here to help.
Paysa has rounded up all of the salary data you need to compare different companies and make an informed decision about the future of your career. Search open jobs, evaluate offers, and stay on top of industry news and best practices on our blog.
Check out Paysa.com today to create your free profile and get started.