Practical .NET

Job Opportunities for Developers

If you have software development skills then there are actually a wide range of positions you can reasonably expect to migrate to (assuming you want one of those jobs). Here are some useful numbers on average salaries and job openings on which to base your decision.

The job site GlassDoor.com published a report back in February 2015 listing what it regarded as the 25 most in-demand/high-paying positions, ranked by average base salary.

It's Not Always About the Money
Of course, there's more to a job than the money you get. (No, really! I'm not kidding!) After all, there are just 168 hours in a week and you probably spend only 120 of those hours awake. Of those 120 hours, you're going to spend, I bet, about 50 hours either at work, getting to and from work, or thinking/talking about work. That's 50/120 = 40 percent of your waking life. You should arrange to spend it on something that matters to you.

In my own case, I worked very hard to become the manager of an IT department … and I succeeded! I ended up in charge of IT for a multi-national, multi-million-dollar heavy equipment manufacturer … and then I realized that I didn't want the job. What I wanted to do was build things, not to manage people who built things. To put it another way: I had a fabulous team who didn't really need me to manage them and, as far as I was concerned, were having all the fun. Not to mention that, sitting in the office next to me, was a guy who would do a much better job of running the department than I could (IMHO) and would actually enjoy having the job.

So I quit and became an independent consultant (and, by the way, my old employer hired me back part-time to continue to run the department for a year -- a great way to ease into my new career). I have to admit that I'm making more money now than I did in my old job, which takes some of the fun out of this story. But my point stands: There's more to your job than how much you get paid.

But assuming money and job prospects are important …

The GlassDoor.com List
The jobs on the GlassDoor.com list range from pharmacy manager (which ranks surprisingly high -- at least to me -- as No. 2 on the list) to sales engineer (at the bottom as No. 25). What's interesting is how often software development-related jobs appear on the list: eight of the 25 jobs are positions that a software developer could reasonably expect to target with three to five years of training and the right job opportunities (see my columns on managing your skills portfolio and making yourself competitive).

To cut to the chase: The No. 1 job, if you're interested, is physician with almost 8,000 job openings and an average base salary of just over $210,000. That job is probably out of the question for me (as is my dream of becoming an astronaut), but, even at my advanced age, I could probably transition into one of the eight software-related jobs.

While GlassDoor.com doesn't say so explicitly, the data is, I assume, based on the job postings in the GlassDoor.com database -- use these numbers with caution. Also, these are average salaries, meaning that half the people in the sample were paid less … and half were paid more.

Software-Related Jobs from Lowest- to Highest-Paid
At No. 23, the lowest-ranked job that software developers would be candidates for was the standard developer position: software engineer. The pay is good, though (average base salary: $97,000), and the number of job openings is extraordinary: 99,000. No other job came close when in terms of demand. That probably explains why you're reading this column.

Next up, at No. 21 and No. 20, are UX designer and database administrator. Both have an average base salary of $96,000 but there are only 2,000 job openings for UX designers while there are 9,000 job openings for database administrators. Furthermore, that database administrator job is related to other jobs, higher in the list. The major issue is that most developers will regard you as a pain.

Moving up five points to No. 17 and No. 16 brings you to quality assurance manager and security engineer. The salary for both is about $5,000 more than the previous two positions ($102,000). It may say something about quality assurance in software development that QA manager has the fewest job openings of any of the software-related jobs on the list (1,700). Plus, of course, everyone hates you, not just the developers. Security engineer has only slightly more openings (2,100) but you have to consider the certainty of being fired the first time your company gets hacked.

As I said, database administrator at No. 20 was only the lowest paid of the data-related jobs: No. 15 is data scientist with a significantly higher salary than database administrator ($105,000) but only one-third of the job openings (3,400). Still, that's as many job openings as quality assurance manager and security engineer combined (and, unlike database administrators, developers actually like data scientists).

The top two developer-related jobs are at No. 6 (solutions architect) and No. 3 (system architect). It's questionable whether the difference in job titles actually means anything (presumably, the solutions architect makes decisions inflicted on a single team while a system architect makes decisions that are inflicted upon multiple teams). If you're a solutions architect ($121,500) it's worth $9,000 a year to rebrand yourself as a system architect ($130,000). The number of job openings is roughly the same: about 3,500. At the time I wrote this article, I updated my bio to reflect what I've learned from this list.

By the way, my old job (software development manager) is in the list at No. 4, nestled between solutions architect and system architect. Apparently, I could be getting $124,000 a year and have a choice of 2,250 jobs. The big issue with "management" jobs is transitioning to them: it often has as much to do with seniority as training/skills (other than reading Machiavelli's "The Prince," of course). But, while I don't want that job, it doesn't mean that it's not exactly what you're looking for.

About the Author

Peter Vogel is a system architect and principal in PH&V Information Services. PH&V provides full-stack consulting from UX design through object modeling to database design. Peter tweets about his VSM columns with the hashtag #vogelarticles. His blog posts on user experience design can be found at http://blog.learningtree.com/tag/ui/.

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