Are programmers underpaid?

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43 Replies - 27305 Views - Last Post: 14 April 2014 - 02:25 PM

#31 Utael  Icon User is offline

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Re: Are programmers underpaid?

Posted 21 July 2012 - 04:16 PM

Nah stage hands are more at risk than programmers. Try working with a diva doing 18 HR days for three weeks straight.
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#32 jon.kiparsky  Icon User is offline

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Re: Are programmers underpaid?

Posted 21 July 2012 - 04:54 PM

Sounds like working at the Stanford Jazz Workshop, except there were a couple dozen divas.
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#33 Utael  Icon User is offline

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Re: Are programmers underpaid?

Posted 21 July 2012 - 06:16 PM

Lol worse they are talented...
The standford jazz workshop that is.

This post has been edited by Utael: 21 July 2012 - 06:21 PM

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#34 no2pencil  Icon User is online

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Re: Are programmers underpaid?

Posted 21 July 2012 - 09:48 PM

View PostAVReidy, on 19 July 2012 - 08:26 PM, said:

Surely there are great programmers who are worth way more than even 100k/yr to a company, but get paid less.

The thing you will not understand until you have worked ... at all (not even just in the field) is this :

Very rarely do employees get paid what they are worth. The purpose of a job is to provide a product. The purpose of the company is to produce that product & turn it into capital. Being a coder really has nothing to do with it. One could be a steel mill worker, a coal miner, an auto motive repair man. You are only going to get paid what they company is able to portion to employees after they turn a profit. & if there is a slim profit, the company will likely close down.

You want to crack $100k? Become a CEO, or work multiple jobs. It doesn't just happen because you know a bunch of stuff.
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#35 BBeck  Icon User is offline

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Re: Are programmers underpaid?

Posted 23 July 2012 - 05:12 AM

Programming is a minor part of my job, so I think it's fair to say I'm not a professional programmer. Therefore, I think my opinion is less biased. So...yep, I think programmers are underpaid. Some of them seriously underpaid.

Like the OP said, it's probably harder than being a lawyer and pays less than half as much. (I've never practiced law, so I'm kind of guessing). Although, I heard the other day that lawyers don't get the respect or make as much money as they used to.

IT jobs in general have lost a tremendous amount of value since they started outsourcing.

Of course, all jobs are paid "bottom dollar". No employer wants to pay a dime to someone they don't have to. So, salary is determined by how hard it is to fill the position. You have this tug of war between employee and employer where the employee demands top dollar and the employer demands bottom dollar. Who wins is mostly up to how many people want the position and how many are qualified for the position. Apparently, there are a whole lot of programmers out there willing to work for cheap. For example, garbage collectors make a whole lot more money than the difficulty of their job would lead you to believe because no one wants the job. Artists make almost nothing compared to how hard their job is because everyone would like a job where they sit around and doodle all day and get paid for it (but being a really good artist probably takes more training time and practice than being a really good programmer even if it's maybe not as mentally challanging).

Some people love to code and with higher level languages like Visual Basic, ASP, and C#, a lot of times a business can get someone to build them a program that's requires a whole lot less skill than if it were written in a lower level language like C++ or Assembler. And, as mentioned, management usually has little appreciation for the skill level of their IT people. Most of the time it makes little difference to them whether the program is well written or whether it looks like it was written by an absolute amateur. If it works, it works. They never even look at the code. So, they can really force the price of their workers down if they take the lowest bidder rather than the most qualified.

And I see management making stupid IT decisions all the time. Generally, rather than doing it "right" they just throw more hardware at the problem. I used to get kind of worked up about that because it's important to me that my stuff be well designed and run on the least amount of hardware possible. In my mind, that means it's also going to be easier to fix when it breaks and ultimately cost the company a lot less money. But it also means longer development time and hiring more qualified developers. Management rarely sees the value of spending more upfront to "hopefully" cost less over the next several years. They just see it costs less now. Not to mention that they can just throw more hardware at the problem if it runs 10 times slower than it should have. And their bosses generally seem to be more willing to shell out an extra $100,000 for a new server (servers are way over priced but come with maintenance contracts) than to pay an extra $100,000 a year for an extra good developer.

Anyway, I figured out a long time ago that programmers don't make the good money in IT.

It's all relative though. I mean most people would consider $100,000 a year to be "rich" and way beyond what the average person makes.

Database administrators make some of the best money in IT, especially if you can develop and support data warehouses. Experienced Oracle DBAs make over $100,000 as full time employees (even more as contractors). I used to know some SAP guys that made more like $150,000 a year, but they were contractors. ABAP (SAP) is a really easy programming language, but it's hard to find people who know SAP (which goes back to the idea that you'll be well paid if it's hard for them to find someone qualified).

Anyway, is it hard to be a database administrator? Well, it's a lot harder than most programmers probably think it is. But it's probably comparable to being a top notch C++ programmer.

So, yes, I think programmers are underpaid, but it's mostly because there are enough of them willing to work for that price that it's easy for employers to fill the position.

This post has been edited by BBeck: 23 July 2012 - 05:22 AM

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#36 CTphpnwb  Icon User is offline

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Re: Are programmers underpaid?

Posted 23 July 2012 - 05:48 AM

Supply and demand works both ways. Companies will always try to convince their employees that there are many qualified applicants just waiting to take their job, but that's not true for programmers/developers. Sure, there are lots of people who would like to take the job, but most aren't capable. The more the technology advances the more there is to know, so even fewer people are able to manage it well. That quick and easy web site for example, quickly becomes a liability when you need it to do more and no one can understand the gibberish spewed out by some high school kid.

Given that for many companies, the code is the product, I'd compare a good programmer with a professional athlete. In both cases the company depends almost entirely on that employee and there aren't many who can take their place. Only many who would like to. And let's face it, if companies can pay people millions of dollars per year to play a game, then virtually all programmers are severely under paid.

This post has been edited by CTphpnwb: 23 July 2012 - 05:49 AM

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#37 atraub  Icon User is offline

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Re: Are programmers underpaid?

Posted 23 July 2012 - 09:25 AM

Some things I've read lead me to believe that many programmers are grossly overpaid, notably, this

This post has been edited by atraub: 23 July 2012 - 09:29 AM

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#38 BBeck  Icon User is offline

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Re: Are programmers underpaid?

Posted 23 July 2012 - 10:20 AM

View Postatraub, on 23 July 2012 - 09:25 AM, said:

Some things I've read lead me to believe that many programmers are grossly overpaid, notably, this


That's pretty funny. I also like the connected article.

I've already classified myself as a "non-professional programmer" in my post above, but I can definately believe that. I work in the business world rather than for a software development company (although I have worked for software dev companies before). I'm a better programmer than all of our developers. And I could probably say that for most of the companies I have worked for (though not all - especially the main software dev company I mentioned where there were a lot of people that were more capable IT people than me. That's a humbling experience when you work next to people that you can go to any bookstore and pick up their book off of a shelf).

I see a lot of programmers/developers coming up through the ranks with no formal training and no mentoring. A lot of the high level languages today make it all too easy for someone to come in off the street, read one book on .Net programming, and think they are a professional programmer. And if they can write code that works (even if only barely) management often doesn't know the difference between good code and bad code these days.

Certainly, when we're talking about a salary of around $100,000, I'm expecting a professional programmer to program circles around me (since I don't code on a daily basis for a living and they probably should), and be able to pass the tests mentioned in that article with ease. Really, I would expect them to have a basic understanding of assembler, know what a stack, a heap, registers, and a memory page are. Really for $100K, I'm thinking they should be able to explain to me why 32 bit Windows apps can never consume more than about 1.6GB of memory without PAE or the 3GB switch no matter what you do. And they should be compeletly comfortable using mutexes and semaphores. (But that's before you take the outsourcing into consideration that cuts everyone's salary in half.)

So, what they are worth is definately directly related to what they know. And not every job requires that level of programmer. You can be a reasonably good .Net programmer without knowing all that stuff, but that's a much less advanced level of programming and probably doesn't warrent the same salary.

Really, for a lot of business apps a .Net programmer that doesn't know what a heap is, is probably fine - especially if they work for a Sr. Programmer that can kind of keep an eye on what they're doing. But, they shouldn't expect the same salary as the guy doing Kernal debugging for a living.

Oh. I might also mention that if it weren't for outsourcing, all IT salaries would probably be double what they are today, even for the beginning programmer. I say that based on talking to people about what IT people were getting back in the 80s and early 90s and adjusting that for inflation. A lot of the consultants back then were getting $150 an hour without having anything spectacular on their resume other than 5+ years of experience. That's pretty good money even today. Adjust it for inflation and you realize they were getting $300 an hour in today's dollars.

This post has been edited by BBeck: 23 July 2012 - 10:51 AM

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#39 CodeMaeTrix  Icon User is offline

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Re: Are programmers underpaid?

Posted 24 July 2012 - 06:33 PM

Who cares how much they are paid. Its just fun to program and have the feeling of it.
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#40 modi123_1  Icon User is offline

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Re: Are programmers underpaid?

Posted 24 July 2012 - 07:45 PM

My bank likes it when I get paid.. same with the utilities... insurance companies.. my belly.. my liver.. my gas tank... my surprise visits to whore island.. my secret projects.. the troop of monkeys living in my spare bedroom... and single moms putting their way through college with the Union of Tease and Pole... yup.. lots of things appreciate it when I get paid and not just on good feelings alone. To be a contrarian - getting paid *DOES* matter! :D
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#41 Utael  Icon User is offline

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Re: Are programmers underpaid?

Posted 25 July 2012 - 08:10 AM

View Postmodi123_1, on 24 July 2012 - 09:45 PM, said:

My bank likes it when I get paid... my liver...

Lies your liver hates it when you get paid.
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#42 ryios  Icon User is offline

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Re: Are programmers underpaid?

Posted 13 April 2014 - 11:15 PM

View PostAVReidy, on 19 July 2012 - 02:32 PM, said:

Is it tough to break $100k/yr as a programmer? I hear a lot about how expert programmers are not recognized for their skill, but a lot of companies wouldn't exist without programmers. Do non-tech people see programmers as commodities?


Being a programmer is such a vague term these days. It's not that simple anymore. Programming has literally split into about 100,000 or more different sub fields (higher level approaches).

If you are going to be building drivers for hardware in c etc for Nvidia/AMD etc then I would say breaking 100k would be easy after 10 years of experience (assuming you survive that long).

But if your just the next ASP.Net or Java Guru, then breaking 100k will be extremely difficult because there 100's of thousands of people in those languages and they are all competing against each other.

Imagine an interview for an ASP.Net Developer, here's what they might look at first,

1. Expected Salary
2. Experience
3. Other skills and traits
4. Education

"Yeah I listed education last"

Now say I want to get paid 75k and I have 4 years experience in asp.net with 4 years experience with Microsoft SharePoint and a Bachelors degree in college.

Now Joe Somebody is also in the interview process, he expects to get paid 50k, has as much experience as me and a 2 year associates degree. Who are they going to hire? "Joe Somebody" because he is 25k cheaper and has the same level of experience so there is no reason to pay me 75k. Having a four your degree isn't really relevant all the time in this field.

More and more employers are starting to back burner educations for experience and certs. E.g. A degree from Kaplan/Phoenix/Devry is worth nothing most of the time. Now if you have a masters from MIT then that matters a lot more than some Online program.

Really, Passion and Experience is worth way more than an education. E.g. are you a person who went to school and are fresh in the field. Or are you the grown up geek who used to spend his childhood days in his parents basement writing DBase Databases and writing stuff in c/c++...

Imo, in programming you need passion to succeed. Passion will take you places. If your just in it for the paycheck find another career. Programming is demanding. To stay on top of the competition you need to be up to date with all the latest platforms/languages and constantly evolving/updating your skill set. And your not going to be doing that on the clock (it will be on your own time etc).

But back on topic, if your goal is 100k, stop thinking about it. Focus on what you do and becoming a Jack of All Trades. E.g. if you can Fill "Database admin, desktop admin, developer, designer, etc etc etc" and do it all, you are worth a lot more. E.g. an employer would rather pay 1 guy 75k to do everything, then to higher 3 people and pay them e.g. 30k each (benefits vacation etc). And that goes back to how demanding programming is.

If you don't like doing it, you will NEVER hit 100k. And if you do your probably less than .01% of the field.
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#43 conure  Icon User is offline

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Re: Are programmers underpaid?

Posted 14 April 2014 - 01:43 PM

My partner is a lawyer, as are many of our friends. When you actually work out their wage versus how many hours they work in corporate law, it's not so great. Almost all of them work between 12 and 14 hours a day. It is not at all rare for them to be stuck at the office til 2/3am.

Give me 9-5 and a nice comfortable living wage any day!
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#44 depricated  Icon User is offline

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Re: Are programmers underpaid?

Posted 14 April 2014 - 02:25 PM

One thing my mentor taught me, and I don't know if this has been addressed or not - programming as a career has come a long way in the past 10 years. It used to be a niche position, and there was a 5 year stretch where he worked for himself contracting with various companies. He explained that finding a position whose sole purpose is building and maintaining a single application or set of applications, is rare. Job security was scarce, because you were the first asset to be cut ("80k a year? we can get someone in on contract cheaper do fix this if it busts!" because middle management has no concept of what programmers do). With the explosion of the internet and the proliferation of software with devices like smart phones, things are looking up for us career-wise.

Of course, this was his experience. I could be misinformed, but he taught me many valuable things.
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