U.S. expects drop in programming jobs, but gains in IT jobs overall

Programmer jobs will decline 8%, but software developer jobs will grow 17%

developers in demand

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) says IT jobs will grow 12% over the next decade, except for programmers. That occupation will shrink as more work is shifted to lower wage countries, according to the government.

The government counted 328,600 computer programmers in 2014, but over the next 10 years this number is expected to decline by 8% or 26,500 jobs, the BLS said in its biennial update of its Occupational Outlook Handbook released Friday.

Software developers, the largest occupational group in IT, which employs 1.11 million, will increase by 17% or 186,600, over this period.

Programmers are focused on coding and implementing requirements, and that’s why they may be more susceptible to offshoring, in contrast to software developers who may be more engaged with the business, analyzing needs and collaborating with multiple parties. In IT occupations overall, the U.S. is predicting 488,500 new jobs, from 3.9 million to 4.4 million over the next 10 years.

Separately, the U.S. is forecasting no growth in electrical engineering jobs over the next decade.

This data may become fodder in the debate over H-1B visas. The U.S., according to the National Science Foundation, awarded about 48,000 computer science bachelor degrees in 2012, which is roughly equal to the number of jobs per year that all computer occupations will grow by.

But not all computer occupations , such as computer support specialists, require a bachelor of science degree. There are now 767,000 computer support specialists in the U.S., and an associate’s degree or some post-secondary education may be enough for a job in this field. Employment in this area is expected to grow by 12% over the next 10 years, or about 89,000 jobs.

About 36% of the people who work in IT do not have four-year college degrees, and of those who do, only 38% have a computer science or math degree, according to an Economic Policy Institute paper by Hal Salzman, a Rutgers University public policy professor, Daniel Kuehn, an adjunct economics professor at American University, and B. Lindsay Lowell, the director of policy studies at the Institute for the Study of International Migration at Georgetown University.

Salzman said he can’t see how the demand for IT workers, outlined in the BLS data, justifies bills in Congress to increase the number of visa workers by 180,000 or more.

“The math doesn’t seem to add up to support an increase at the magnitude provided in these new bills,” he said.

Copyright © 2015 IDG Communications, Inc.

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