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I don't want to be offensive; people in India matter just as much as people in the US and also need work. However, I'm one of the people in the US.

Are there fewer programming jobs in the US because of competition from India? Are the programming jobs in the US less lucrative because of competition from India?

Is programming a good career choice in the US (in terms of being able to actually make a fair amount of money)?

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you might be interested in following this question, posted a few hours before yours. –  Xananax Jun 18 '11 at 5:35
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You get what you pay for in the end... remember that. (Or rather, employers will, or whoever makes the decision to outsource to India.) –  Anonymous Jun 19 '11 at 7:53
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10 Answers

up vote 15 down vote accepted

No. Not in the year 2011.

Sure, offshoring occurs because some companies want to save a buck; but from where I sit (Boston, MA), there aren't enough programmers to go around.

Emphasis: There are always enough bodies to fill seats. Lord knows that the unemployment rate is hovering around 9-10% in the U.S. But, what I'm saying is that there aren't enough passionate, professional developers to go around.

It's kind of funny. When I was in college, it wan't uncommon for a pre-law or pre-med student to change into a computer science major. These days, law and finance are red hot at colleges and universities. (As if the U.S. needs more lawyers and bankers!)

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Just for clarification: the first line isn't you quoting someone, right? –  compman Jun 18 '11 at 3:31
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@compman: No. I just put my main idea in blockquotes to emphasize my point and make it stand out in case somebody was skimming all of the answers. –  Jim G. Jun 18 '11 at 3:38
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I wager that there is a shortage of employers who can appreciate a passionate coder. –  Job Jun 18 '11 at 5:45
    
@Job: I agree with you 100%. –  Jim G. Jun 18 '11 at 11:35
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+1 for "there are always enough bodies to fill seats". This is why I think it's always dubious when people talk about skills shortages in IT/development. I don't think it's so much a shortage of butts to put in seats as it's a shortage of people who are proven, and who tick all the boxes (in the many cases where non-technical HR people filter applicants, etc). –  Bobby Tables Jun 18 '11 at 22:56
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It is my (subjective) impression that many companies now hesitate with outsourcing projects to India.

I've worked with several employers by now during the last 10 years, and all of them were pulling projects out of India, leaving there maintenance, debugging, and simple testing only.

It appears that the good Indian developers find their way to the US and other Western countries, and what's left there is not the highest quality workforce. Companies prefer to keep the time and quality sensitive developments in a more controllable environment (if outsourcing critical projects, I've seen those go to Eastern Europe much more than to India).

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Some companies have been burned, but plenty of others are doubling down by building offshore capabilities into their own organizations. –  jiggy Jun 18 '11 at 22:32
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No, I don't believe so. It's not the case that there aren't programming jobs to be had. There are more jobs available than there are qualified applicants to fill them - it's one of the industries in this economy that still needs more people. Because of this, it's debatable there is much downward pressure on wages because of presumably less expensive alternatives offshore.

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I believe that the answer to your question is "yes". Just like there are fewer manufacturing jobs in the US due to competition from developing countries like China. If a job can be done cheaper elsewhere, then it is inevitable that it will be.

While it's true that there may be a shortage of 'star' programmers, I'm not sure the question was really about the top 5% of programmers.

There is no shortage of average programmers. And as an average programmer, I can say that wages have been pretty stagnant for quite sometime, and it is harder to find work. Even competition from H1B visas has had an impact on the job market.

Don't worry though, in 30 years developing countries will have overtaken the US, and then you will be able to return the favor and undercut their local workers.

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Software development is not really like other manufacturing jobs, we don't "manufacture" software... IMO H1B (= high quality immigration) is critical for the US to maintain its technological leadership. –  Guy Sirton Jun 18 '11 at 4:49
    
@Guy Not to mention that Obama government has mostly fixed the problem of influx of programmers working for very low wages, and the middlemen who dragged down the wages. –  CMR Jun 18 '11 at 5:24
    
@CMR Really? Everywhere I look, middlemen are still doing quite well ripping people off. –  Bernard Dy Jun 18 '11 at 11:25
    
@Bernard, you have to look carefully for developments over the past 3 years; these things ate not openly published. Here are some links from as early as his first days at office, to current , also this. Should indicate a pattern. –  CMR Jun 19 '11 at 13:11
    
"Software development is not really like other manufacturing jobs, we don't "manufacture" software...": Well, when I think about agile methodologies and all related techniques that optimize time spent on a project (implement the minimum requirements that satisfy the customer in as little time as possible, avoid complex design and design on-the-fly (unit test, refactoring, pair-programming, etc)) I really get the feeling that the many software development jobs are quite similar to working in an assembly line. –  Giorgio Dec 4 '12 at 9:49
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Offshored development can be more expensive

  • Cost of managing a remote team.
  • Communication overheads.
  • Cultural differences.
  • The US has a wide and solid social base and knowledge in technology. There is a community with a large enough number of people who have "been there done that". This is something that is built over many generations, not a few years.
  • The economics keep changing, programmers in China and India are earning more. Beijing is more expensive than most cities in the US. The dollar is declining.

I keep hearing over the last 10-20 years how off-shoring will eliminate the software industry in the western world but demand for software developers is high. As technology keeps getting more complex and new technologies arise the need for good software developers grows larger than the growth in the number of (good) software developers - at least that is the trend.

Until the day when computers can program themselves I wouldn't worry about this point. However, consider whether this is the career for you from other perspectives.

BLS Job Outlook, 2010-2011 edition

Employment change. Overall, employment of computer software engineers and computer programmers is projected to increase by 21 percent from 2008 to 2018, much faster than the average for all occupations. This will be the result of rapid growth among computer software engineers, as employment of computer programmers is expected to decline.

...

As a result of rapid employment growth over the 2008 to 2018 decade, job prospects for computer software engineers should be excellent. Those with practical experience and at least a bachelor's degree in a computer-related field should have the best opportunities

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OECD, July 2007: Offshoring and Employment: Trends and Impacts

The impact of offshoring on the labour market has become one of the major issues of concern to policy makers and public opinion. The phenomenon of offshoring is not really new, but it arouses just as much debate and concern because it is no longer confined to the manufacturing industry and low skills but now involves services themselves, particularly those to business. More recently the jobs affected by recent offshoring also involve more highly skilled jobs.

The Economics of Offshoring in the Software Industry - recommended reading

INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY OUTSOURCING: THE MOVE TOWARDS OFFSHORING

All this activity has pushed offshore outsourcing into the limelight recently – unfortunately, not always in a positive vein. The dot-com bust and the resulting loss of jobs intensified the concerns about loss of domestic jobs to foreigners and fuelled public sentiment against outsourcing, particularly in this election year – 2004.

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Citation needed. "It has been said" is weasel wording. :-) –  Spoike Jun 18 '11 at 7:59
    
Spoike: c'mon now. Are you saying people have not been saying that? At any rate, I changed the wording to reflect that this is my perception rather than some researched truth. If I find some citations I'll add those too. –  Guy Sirton Jun 18 '11 at 21:17
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Competition never hurts. It only helps. I am from Pakistan and a lot of software companies are running successfully there solely on outsourced work from the US, UK etc.

I think the western world has learned that outsourcing is a risky business and only makes sense for small, one-off projects. Long term projects incur a lot of expense on the communication side of things, things can get tricky with outsourced work.

Things are not totally bad though. I know companies in Pakistan that have been working for large enterprises in the US on long term projects and are very successful not just from a finance point of view but the quality of work is as good as any top team of engineers / managers would do. The formula is this: rather than you sending people to india to train them, pick a guy who is of Indian origin and has been living in the US for long enough to be able to act as a bridge between you and the workforce in India.

It's not an Indian thing, if I start trying to manage US based workforce, the chances of disaster are as high as an american trying to manage an indian workforce.

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When I worked for a big UK price comparison site we outsourced to India part of the "scraping", it was a disaster, although Im sure to the CFO/CEO the stats were good. It is enitrely possible we just got low calibre developers although each one was costing in region of 12,000 sterling a year, about 2/3 of a UK graduate starter and all had PHDs, more qualified than myself and the other guy who flew to Vashai (Mumbai) to teach them. They also had nice offices, decent PCs, and support from us and local staff. We spent two weeks there trying to teach coding practices and some techniques of scraping including at the time regex (~7yrs ago - i know bad approach anyway), despite all this it would still take them 10x longer than the average UK graduate to deliver something full of bugs. After several months I believe they binned the operation. A pricey mistake.

I then worked for a FTSE 100 insurance company in London as a contractor, the developer floor was dominated with contractors, however a large portion where Indian, querying this unusual balance I learnt that the CFO had signed a deal with an Indian IT recruitment firm for a minimum number of contractors, I believe 15, for which they got about 2/3 the average contractor per day rate, qualified by the agency it made perfect sense to the CFO. The result again was disaster, terrible code, ASCII art magic in all headers, and demoralized teams as the other passionate contractors picked up the slack. This isnt a stab at Indian developers/contractors in the UK as this instance to me seemed to be flying-in people in from Mumbai based on qualifiction rather than experience. The discount Indian-contractor-scheme was Mouse? MOOSE? or something like that

In a nutshell you should be able to shine above and beyond any outsourcing competition given a little bit of passion and dedication.

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The second instance if they were bringing people from another country to your office, those would simply be contractors also, they just happened to be from Mumbai. In the first instance I assume they didn't come to your office, you went to them to train them, and the company eventually learned there is a reason these companies are able to offer a discount on their rates. There is a real hidden cost to these outsourcing companies, a given company could have several different contracts, all asking for similar things. Guess what happens in order to cut 1/3 of the price :-) –  Ramhound Sep 16 '11 at 18:45
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Something that a lot of people forget - there are some jobs that must be done by either locally or even by citizens of a country (in terms of your question - the US).

An example includes jobs that are related to government, defense, and intelligence. These jobs aren't going to get outsourced. A good number of these jobs require US citizenship to comply with ITAR regulations, if not the ability to obtain/maintain a security clearance. However, instead of outsourcing, a concern for people here would be government budgets and the current needs affecting projects (current and potential future work).

There will always be some jobs in the US, regardless of what the future brings. However, what those jobs are and how they pay...well, no one here can see into the future.

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I can say that those jobs are able to be match the public sector. The negatives do not out weight the positives even in the current polictal and economical times. –  Ramhound Sep 16 '11 at 18:52
    
@Ramhound The negatives do not outweigh the positives? What do you mean by that? –  Thomas Owens Sep 16 '11 at 19:03
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No, not at all. There's been a turnaround re outsourcing work to India I think. Now, the only work that gets considered for outsourcing (where I work) is low-level transactional stuff. Based on the last few years, I think people realized outsourced projects ended up costing more than if they'd been done in America because the quality and communications were usually so poor. As someone else said, there's a realization you get what you pay for in programming, like everything else. I still think there's a huge role for outsourced work in India, but it's only for uninteresting, cheap, low-risk development.

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What I think happen is not only did they learn the "you get what you pay for" lesson the culture barrier and language barrier also played a part. At first it was great, offer 24/7 assistance to your customers ( Dell for instance ), but it turned into a joke when "Robert" answered from who knows where. I honestly think the internet played a roll, in making any benefits that these companies offered less important ( i.e. GoToMyMeeting ), into only a fraction of the gains simply not worth it. –  Ramhound Sep 16 '11 at 18:50
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I have seen Indian programmers in large high paying government jobs as a majority. Very few Americans in these federal government jobs at the many federal agencies. These jobs should be offered to Americans, however the majority are not. The Indians are not better than Americans, I don't know why they are even allowed to work in the federal government.

I haven't worked in a project for the last ten years in the federal government that was staffed with a majority of Americans. The majority has always been Indians. Even the small companies supporting government are Indians. The damage has been done. Must it continue? Can we save the rest of America and our jobs for Americans. I hope so.

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Do you have any statistics on the claim that Indian programmers in high paying government jobs are a majority? –  Martijn Pieters Dec 4 '12 at 10:08
    
(1) If we're gonna get all nationalist about it, consider that the teams that are mostly American may just not need your help as much. Eliminating foreigners may cost you a job. :) (2) The government doesn't go hiring foreigners over citizens without good reason. No employer does, in the long run, but the government has even more incentive to hire citizens. Either those foreigners are getting less money than you think they're getting, or they're simply better at their job. Could be both, but in my experience it tends to be one or the other. You do indeed get what you pay for. –  cHao Dec 4 '12 at 15:01
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