Coding: The Next Blue Collar Job? Sure Hope Not
February 16, 2017
According to a recent Wired article, coding will become the next big blue collar job. That sounds great, but I have some problems with this future utopia of blue collar might. First, the good news: Coding is a highly competitive and lucrative career.
According to a Stack Overflow survey in 2016 of developers working in the industry, the median salary for developers with more than 5 years of experience was $100,273 for Full Stack Developers and $97,016 for Front end developers, for a back end developer, that was $108,580. An Engineering Manager averaged $143,122 while an Executive $150,314.
That sounds like a lot of money, but as the article alludes to, the west coast tends to skew those figures upwards. Coding jobs in other parts of the US pay a lot less. The most general stats come from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, it reports that the median annual wage for web developers was $64,970 in May 2015. In 2014, the number of jobs available for developers was projected to grow 27% from 2014 to 2024, which is much faster than the average for all occupations in the US.
What if we regarded code not as a high-stakes, sexy affair, but the equivalent of skilled work at a Chrysler plant?
I think this is the wrong approach. When I was a kid, I wasn't dreaming of one day working in a Chrysler plant. I wanted to make the type of video games I was playing. When the web materialized, I realized that there was finally something that combined skills in both programming and art...both of which I enjoyed. The stories of Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg and others are inspiring because they are people that wanted to change the world...not a stable blue collar future.
Teachers and businesses would spend less time urging kids to do expensive four-year computer-science degrees and instead introduce more code at the vocational level in high school.
Good and bad point, I first learned about coding in High School. A single Pascal class introduced me to problem solving and change my life. None of the people I mentioned above finished their college degrees. Markus “Notch” Persson...inventor of Minecraft started programming when he was 7. He didn't program Minecraft because it was he wanted a stable paycheck, he wanted to do something he loved.
However, it does scare me when I hear people saying that you don't need an expensive four year degree. A lot of people don't, but if you don't have the drive of a Zuckerberg or a Persson, then a college degree might be a great thing for you. Also, many companies require a college degree. I certainly couldn't have worked at the Tribune Interactive or many of my other jobs without one, so I think it's disingenuous to tell people to skip school. College graduates earn about $1 million more over their lifetime than people without a degree. Also, developers with a Master's Degree have the highest average salary and that industry certifications and PhDs are also paid more than most developers.
Coding is less of a skill and more of a craft. Something that takes years to master. If you enjoy problem solving and dream of building something great... start coding today, not just because it's a stable career with incredible growth opportunities, but because you love and challenge and want to build something that could change the world.
Ray Villalobos is a longtime full-stack developer who has taught more than 50 LinkedIn Learning courses. Check them all out here.