Software Engineers in the US: A Data-Driven Overview

Software engineering is one of the fastest-growing and most in-demand professions in the United States today. As technology continues to advance and permeate every aspect of our lives, the need for skilled software developers has never been greater. But just how many software engineers are there in the US, and what does the job market look like for these tech professionals? Let‘s dive into the data.

The Growth of Software Engineering

While the concept of software engineering has been around since the 1940s, it wasn‘t until the personal computer revolution of the 1970s and 80s that it began to emerge as a distinct profession. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) first recognized "computer software engineers" as a separate occupation in 1997, with an estimated 500,000 jobs at the time [1].

Fast forward to today, and the number of software engineering jobs has exploded. According to the latest data from the BLS, there were over 1.8 million software developers, quality assurance analysts, and testers employed in the US as of May 2021 [2]. This represents a staggering 263% increase since 1997.

The Current Software Engineering Job Market

The demand for software engineers shows no signs of slowing down. The BLS projects employment of software developers to grow 22% from 2020 to 2030, much faster than the average for all occupations [3]. This translates to an estimated 409,500 new jobs over the decade.

Not only is job growth strong, but software engineering is also one of the highest-paying professions in the US. The median annual wage for software developers was $110,140 in May 2021, more than double the median wage for all occupations [2].

However, salaries can vary significantly depending on factors like location, industry, and experience. For example, software engineers in San Jose, CA (the heart of Silicon Valley) earned a mean annual wage of $157,480 in 2021, while those in the lowest-paying metropolitan area of Youngstown-Warren-Boardman, OH-PA earned $72,000 [4].

Metropolitan Area Mean Annual Wage (May 2021)
San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA $157,480
San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, CA $150,840
Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue, WA $138,400
Youngstown-Warren-Boardman, OH-PA $72,000
National Average $120,990

Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics [4]

The Impact of COVID-19 and Remote Work

Like many industries, software engineering was impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, but in some surprising ways. While unemployment spiked across the US in 2020, the tech industry was relatively insulated. In fact, a survey by Hired found that 69% of tech workers were able to increase their savings during the pandemic [5].

The shift to remote work also had a significant impact on software engineering jobs. Prior to the pandemic, only about 12% of software engineers worked remotely full-time, according to a Stack Overflow survey [6]. By May 2020, that number had jumped to over 74%.

Interestingly, this shift may have lasting effects on the geographic distribution of software engineering jobs. With more companies embracing remote work, there‘s potential for a "brain drain" from traditional tech hubs like Silicon Valley to lower cost-of-living areas. A report from Upwork found that 28% of hiring managers expect a significant increase in remote software engineering roles over the next 5 years [7].

In-Demand Skills and Technologies

As the demand for software engineers continues to grow, certain skills and technologies are emerging as particularly valuable in the job market. According to a 2023 industry report from Coding Dojo, the most in-demand programming languages for software engineering jobs are [8]:

  1. Python
  2. JavaScript
  3. Java
  4. C#
  5. PHP
  6. C++
  7. Swift
  8. Ruby
  9. TypeScript
  10. Kotlin

Beyond specific languages, employers are also looking for software engineers with expertise in areas like cloud computing, artificial intelligence and machine learning, cybersecurity, and data science.

Demographics of Software Engineers in the US

While the software engineering field has made strides in recent years, it still lacks diversity in many areas. According to data from the National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics, as of 2019 [9]:

  • Only about 21% of employed software engineers were women
  • Black or African American workers made up just 5% of software engineers
  • Hispanic or Latino workers accounted for 7% of the software engineering workforce

However, there are signs of progress. The percentage of women earning bachelor‘s degrees in computer science has risen from 17% in 2008 to 21% in 2018 [10]. And many tech companies have launched initiatives aimed at increasing diversity and inclusion in their software engineering teams.

Global Comparisons and Implications

While the US is a major player in the global software engineering market, it‘s not the only one. According to a 2022 report from the International Trade Administration, the US was the second-largest exporter of ICT services (which includes software) in 2020, behind Ireland [11].

Country ICT Services Exports (2020)
Ireland $134.5 billion
United States $80.4 billion
India $73.7 billion
Germany $56.3 billion
China $45.7 billion

Data from the International Trade Administration [11]

The growth of software engineering in countries like India and China has significant implications for the US tech industry. On one hand, it represents increased competition for jobs and resources. On the other, it offers opportunities for collaboration, innovation, and tapping into a global talent pool.

The Future of Software Engineering in the US

Looking ahead, the future of software engineering in the US is bright, but not without challenges. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that the US will need to fill over 1.2 million software engineering jobs by 2030 to meet demand [3]. Meeting this need will require continued investment in education, training, and diversity initiatives.

At the same time, the rapid pace of technological change means that software engineers will need to continually upskill and adapt to new tools and paradigms. The rise of low-code and no-code development platforms, for example, could potentially disrupt traditional software engineering roles.

Despite these challenges, the outlook for software engineers in the US remains strong. As technology continues to evolve and permeate every industry, the demand for skilled software professionals will only continue to grow. By staying adaptable, embracing lifelong learning, and advocating for a more diverse and inclusive field, software engineers can help drive innovation and shape the future of technology in the US and beyond.

References

  1. Bureau of Labor Statistics. (1999). Occupational Employment and Wages, 1997. https://www.bls.gov/oes/1997/oes15103.htm
  2. Bureau of Labor Statistics. (2022). Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2021. https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes151252.htm
  3. Bureau of Labor Statistics. (2022). Occupational Outlook Handbook: Software Developers, Quality Assurance Analysts, and Testers. https://www.bls.gov/ooh/computer-and-information-technology/software-developers.htm
  4. Bureau of Labor Statistics. (2022). Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2021, Software Developers. https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes151252.htm#st
  5. Hired. (2021). 2021 State of Software Engineers. https://hired.com/state-of-software-engineers
  6. Stack Overflow. (2020). Stack Overflow Developer Survey 2020. https://insights.stackoverflow.com/survey/2020
  7. Upwork. (2021). Future Workforce Report 2021. https://www.upwork.com/i/future-workforce/fw/2021/
  8. Coding Dojo. (2023). Demand for Software Developers: Top Skills for 2023. https://www.codingdojo.com/blog/demand-for-software-developers-top-skills-for-2023
  9. National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics. (2021). Women, Minorities, and Persons with Disabilities in Science and Engineering. https://ncses.nsf.gov/pubs/nsf21321/
  10. National Center for Education Statistics. (2020). Bachelor‘s degrees conferred by postsecondary institutions, by race/ethnicity and field of study. https://nces.ed.gov/programs/digest/d20/tables/dt20_322.30.asp
  11. International Trade Administration. (2022). ICT Services Trade. https://www.trade.gov/ict-services-trade

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