Will Developers Enjoy New Opportunities, or Not So Much?

Ann All

A few weeks ago I wrote about the bright employment prospects for software developers, citing my interview with a Dice.com executive and data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Software development dominated Dice's list of the top 10 in-demand technology skills, and the Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts software engineer will be one of the fastest-growing occupations through 2018 with "excellent job prospects."


TechRepublic editor Jason Hiner also foresees an environment in which developers can essentially write their own employment tickets. In his post titled, "We're entering the decade of the developer," he says IT's focus is shifting from supporting systems to creating applications. Support is a necessity, but it's table stakes, not something that creates competitive edge. Building applications, on the other hand, can add real business value.


Organizations will demand more of their developers, of course. They'll want more flexible apps that can work on multiple platforms and multiple devices. They'll want them more quickly than they've gotten them in the past. (Which is why agile software development is becoming more popular.) And they'll want their apps to work. All of this will breed a "survival-of-the-fittest" environment for developers, but will also present more opportunities for those with the right skills, writes Hiner.


Much as app stores are changing the face of mobile app development, they will change desktop, Web and enterprise development, he says, which will create "tremendous opportunities for independence and creativity." Those industrious enough can maintain day jobs works working for a specific company and produce additional apps in their free time to increase their income. Experienced developers with the right kinds of people skills can freelance for multiple clients and possibly find consulting work helping organizations of all sizes launch their own development teams. He writes:

Individual developers and small teams of developers (sometimes in concert with designers and project managers) can now build mini empires for themselves, thanks to the micropayment systems that allow one developer with a PayPal account to have virtually all of the infrastructure needed to start a consulting business.

Some folks commenting on Hiner's post disagree. Justin James cites "tools that significantly reduce the need for developers" and competition from offshore developers. (Hiner himself mentions geography "matters less than ever" for developers, with "an e-mail, a Skype account and a half-decent Web portfolio" all that's necessary to get remote development work.) James says the best opportunities for the foreseeable future involve more sophisticated software engineering and business analysis, both of which require hands-on contact with end users and thus are difficult to automate or outsource.

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