“Boeing’s 737 Max Software Outsourced to $9-an-Hour Engineers” (Bloomberg) seems to be getting folks’ attention regarding the aviation safety angle. I think the career planning angle is much more interesting. The other day, I met a bright young high school student who said that he was considering a career in software engineering. He used the term “STEM” about 15 times. Presumably he is being pushed in this direction by well-meaning adults, including our politicians (nothing helps turn a person into a cheerleader for STEM more than a complete absence of any engineering background and a college transcript that is devoid of a single science class).
Programming/software development/software engineering tends to be a brief career, almost certain to end when the former coder is in his or her 50s (usually much quicker because people don’t love this job).
Now we learn that one of America’s most demanding employers is able to find programmers to work for $9/hour. Why would a young American want to slug it out against that kind of competition?
Coders can make decent money, but they often need to be in high-cost cities to get the bigger paychecks. Earning an above-median $125,000/year does not secure a good lifestyle in New York, D.C., Boston, or anywhere in California. The dental hygienist (BLS median $75,000/year) has much more flexibility regarding where to live and work and can probably enjoy a higher standard of living. (Tax Foundation’s real value of $100 map.)
This is not to say that nobody should be a programmer. If you love to code, don’t feel the need to interact meaningfully with humans during the day, don’t mind having less personal space than a McDonald’s cashier, think that you can manage the health risks of a sit-all-day job, and have the discipline to save for a forced retirement at 52, go for it!
But I am confused as to how non-programmers can read a story like this Bloomberg one and then tell a young person “You should go try to grab that $9/hour job!”