With so much reliance on our computers, cloud-based platforms, tablets and smartphones, it seems like technology controls our professional and personal lives. Behind the scenes are the programmers who are creating that software and those apps that now define pretty much everything we do. From traditional programming jobs to freelance programmers and outsource programmers – the industry for programmers looks bright.

Here is a roundup that covers the current and future state of programming.

What a Programming Job Involves

Computer programmers and software programmers spend the majority of their time writing code that then becomes a specific program that solves a certain issue or problem for a company, or that tells a computer what to do. Programming tasks can be done within a physical office located at an employer’s company or it can be accomplished in a freelance environment in a programmer’s home.

These positions typically require a Bachelor’s degree in computer science or some type of information technology specialty. While some programmers are self-taught and can get jobs or freelance projects with just an associate’s degree, all programmers have to know at least a few programming languages as described later on in this roundup.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median pay in 2012 was $74,280 per year or the equivalent of $35.71 per hour. In 2012, there were 343,700 computer programming jobs with further positions added at an average rate of eight percent through 2022. PayScale noted that a computer programmer averages between $34,000 and $89,000, depending on experience and the type of project and industry. Added to this are many bonuses, profit-sharing opportunities, and benefits. Typically, PayScale found that the majority of programmers are men.

Freelance and Outsource Programming Careers

In recent years, many companies and numerous startups have realized the advantages of outsourcing programming projects to those in other countries that have the skills but that are willing to work at a much lower pay rate. However, that doesn’t mean that if you are considering a freelance position that you will necessary have to accept a lot less.

A report by Computer Economics on IT Outsourcing Statistics 2015/2016 revealed many insights into how this outsource trend impacts programmers. Overall IT outsourcing, which consists of all types of technology jobs beyond just programming, accounts for 10.2% of the IT budget on average in 2015, which reflects previous year spending.

There are different trends for each type of IT job, but application development, which includes programming, is often dependent on the economic cycle in terms of how much is outsourced or offered as a traditional company position. As the report noted, “Application programmers constitute the largest component of most IT staffs and they command some of the highest wages in the organization. IT executives are looking for ways to reduce the cost of developing and maintaining applications, and outsourcing this labor-intensive function is a well-established practice.” Additionally, firms use outsourced programmers to supplement existing in-house talent when there are specific projects that require a larger team.

Computer Economics found that application development is outsourced, entirely or in part, by 62% of IT organizations. The outsourcing frequency is about the same as the previous year, but it has decreased from down from its post-recession peak of 66% three years earlier. The report also conclude that “among organizations that outsource this function, 30% are increasing the percentage of work outsourced over the previous year compared with 15% that are decreasing the percentage of work outsourced, for a net growth trend of 15 points. The outsourcing of this function has a low net growth trend.”

While 59% of small and mid-size organizations outsource at least part of their application development work, 67% of large organizations outsource this function. The sector also plays a role in terms of how many outsourced programming jobs are available. For example, 67% of financial services companies outsource programming followed by public and nonprofit organizations outsource (64%), process manufacturers (63%), and high-tech organizations (54%). This provides you with some idea where you can consider looking for freelance and outsource programming projects.

The Trends that Guide Programming

The trends for programming are often reflected in the overall IT trends. Gartner, Inc. highlighted a number of technology trends that impact the opportunities for programmers in 2015 and beyond:

  • There will be a move from programming for computers to programming for phones and wearable devices, which will become the preferred way to interact, communicate, and share.
  • The Internet of Things (IoT) will require more programming solutions to combine data and services together to manage, monetize, operate and extend for all types of industries.
  • 3D printers are expected to grow nearly 100% in 2015 with more demand into 2016. This will also require programming expertise to develop the necessary printing software for this innovative and versatile equipment.
  • Gartner concluded that “analytics will take center stage as the volume of data generated by embedded systems increases and vast pools of structured and unstructured data inside and outside the enterprise are analyzed.” This will require programming expertise.
  • More intuitive and responsive systems will be developed in the artificial intelligence environment, creating a further complex computing environment that requires programming expertise. This environment will include things like “prototype autonomous vehicles, advanced robots, virtual personal assistants and smart advisors” that further disrupt the computing world.
  • Cloud and client computing will continue to grow with the need to create the type of applications that can address portability and the second-screen phenomenon that describes the application of supporting the simultaneous use of multiple devices.
  • Gartner also found that “computing has to move away from static to dynamic models. Rules, models and code that can dynamically assemble and configure all of the elements needed from the network through the application are needed.” Again, this is where computer programmer knowledge and skill are highly valued.
  • Web-Scale IT is a way of bringing development and operations together within an enterprise IT setting that can drive the ongoing development of various types of applications on a global scale.
  • Security is also important as an area where programmers can develop the type of self-protection for networks and systems that is essential in this complex computing environment. As the Gartner reported explained, “Security-aware application design, dynamic and static application security testing, and runtime application self-protection, combined with active context-aware and adaptive access controls are all needed in today’s dangerous digital world.”

Top Programming Languages to Learn

Like technology, computer and software programming languages evolve and change over time, so it is important to always stay updated on the newest languages. You will also need to learn these languages to add the greatest value to you as a candidate for future programming jobs or positions.

Earlier this year, Mashable released a list of the top 15 programming languages that you will need to know if you want to succeed in this industry. The programming languages include recognizable, long-standing languages like Java, JavaScript, SQL, C#, C and C++. Then, there are newer programming languages that are used for web apps like PHP, Python, Ruby – and more.

Final Thoughts

Programming is evolving and becoming more complex with the need for new languages, innovative thinking, and advanced solutions that address the changing world of technology that is connecting us more closely as we rely more on computers and artificial intelligence to provide information and guide our decisions in business and life. This means ongoing – and growing opportunities for programmers to learn and develop their careers alongside this demand to provide satisfying, challenging, and lucrative programming projects within a company or as a freelancer. It’s up to you to code your programming career.


John Rampton is an Entrepreneur and Connector. John was recently named Top 50 Online Influencers in the World by Entrepreneur Magazine, Finance Expert by Time and Blogging Expert by Forbes. He is the Founder and CEO of Due.

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