Talent Shortage Weighs on Mobile Wave

Susan Hall

Boy, my colleague Don Tennant had it right back in October when he wrote, "Now's the Time to Specialize in Mobile."


It seems every company wants mobile apps-ITBE's John Storts wrote about a friend, a coding army of one, whose boss wants a native app on every platform-and yesterday!


But as this Wall Street Journal article points out, the pool for talent is pretty shallow and that could be a major bottleneck in the move to mobile. We've been hearing that on a lot of fronts. The article says the difficulty in hiring mobile developers is forcing companies to boost wages, retrain software engineers, outsource work to third-party developers and set up offshore development labs to meet demand.


According to the job listing aggregator Indeed, the number of online job listings with the keyword "iPhone" has nearly tripled in the past year, while the number with "Android" has more than quadrupled.


When I do interviews on hard-to-find skills, I generally ask how people gain these skills. Giles Nugent, who teaches the popular iPhone 360 App Development course at the SAE Institute in New York, told me that with mobile development, people generally learn on their own through books or online, though courses such as his are cropping up. Ina Fried at All Things Digital recently wrote that for-profit Rasmussen College, which operates in five states and online, has begun two- and four-year programs for app creators.


But the Journal article noted that some companies are retraining software engineers to do it. It quotes MLB.com CEO Bob Bowman, saying:

If we can find an excellent engineer, we hire him. You can't always wait for mobile experience, because you might be waiting a long time.

Apple's App Store launched in 2008 and, of course, Android is much newer than that, so "experience" is a relative term. And you'll pay for that experience. According to a Dice.com survey last October, the salary for a mobile developer was about $76,000, but several companies put the salary for experienced mobile developers at between $90,000 to $150,000 a year.


In the article, Debra Robinson, CIO of Hearst Magazines, which has launched an "app lab" for mobile development across publications, talks of being forced to pay developers with little experience as much as a software engineer with as much as 10 years of experience.


If you want to get started in mobile app development, check out the resources in our IT Downloads center.

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