Occupation Report: Computer Software Engineers

According to EMSI’s most recent covered data (i.e., workers covered by unemployment insurance), the US has an estimated 900,000 computer software engineers. And if we consider sole proprietors and 1099 workers as well, the number would be closer to 1 million software engineers — up from 930,000 in 2001. However you look at it, this is a steadily growing occupation.

This post is meant to provide a more in-depth look at the labor market for software engineers. Data and analysis comes from Analyst, EMSI’s web-based labor market analysis tool. Analyst helps regional planners quickly gain a detailed look at trends, educational attainment, training programs, and staffing patterns for any of over 800 occupations and 1,100 industries in the US.

Computer software engineers are projected to grow by 3% and add 25,000 jobs from 2010-2012. At about $44 per hour (national median), the earnings for these jobs are quite good. Two main occupations comprise this category: “system software” and “applications.” We will cover both of these below.

1. Computer Software Engineers, Systems Software

According to the BLS, systems software engineers (SOC 15-1032) do the following:

  • Research, design, develop, and test operating systems-level software, compilers, and network distribution software for medical, industrial, military, communications, aerospace, business, scientific, and general computing applications.
  • Set operational specifications, formulate and analyze software requirements, and apply principles and techniques of computer science, engineering, and mathematical analysis.

Approximately 393,000 people work as system software engineers. From 2010-2012, employment is expected to increase by 5.3%, or roughly 20,000 workers. Average earnings come in at $45 per hour (note: this will fluctuate region to region. If you would like to look at a particular region — contact us). Systems software engineers tend to be male (84%), and most (68%) are between the ages of 25 and 45.

From 2010-2012, we estimate about 13,000 annual openings for system software engineers, which is an estimate of the new positions being created and existing positions needing to be filled due to an exiting of the occupation (i.e., retirement, career change). According to IPEDS, in 2010 nearly 46,000 completed degrees and certificates related to this job. There are currently over 22,000 related job postings on Indeed.com.

Nearly 50% of the people who work as system software engineers have a bachelor’s degree and 30% have a master’s degree.

The top educational programs for systems software are computer science (15,000 completers in 2010), information technology (12,000 completers), information science (12,000 completers), and general computer engineering (6,000 completers). Informatics also popped up in this area with about 300 completers.

Staffing

The top five industries that employ these system software engineers are:

  • Computer systems design services employs 15% of the total system software workforce, or nearly 60,000 engineers. This is 8.6% of the total workforce for the industry. Example companies: Fedex and Convergys.
  • Custom computer programming services employs nearly 14% of the total system software workforce, or nearly 54,000 engineers. This is 8.3% of the total workforce for the industry. Example company: Hewlett-Packard.
  • Software publishers employs 7% of the total system software workforce, which is nearly 28,000 engineers. This is 10.6% of the workforce for the industry. Example companies: Microsoft and Oracle.
  • Research and development in the physical, engineering and life sciences employs 4% of the total system software workforce, which is nearly 17,000 workers. This is 4% of the total workforce for the industry. Example companies: These tend to be smaller research firms.
  • Electronic computer manufacturing employs 4% of the total system software workforce, which is nearly 16,000 engineers. This is 17% of the total workforce for the industry. Example companies: Dell and IBM.

The industry that employs the highest percentage of these workers is computer storage device manufacturing. Just over 18% (4,160) of the workforce in this industry are application engineers.

Here is the more complete table:

Inverse Staffing Pattern for Computer Software Engineers, Systems Software (15-1032)
EMSI Covered Employment, 2011.4
NAICS Code Industry Occupation Jobs in Industry (2011) % of Occupation in Industry (2011) % of Total Jobs in Industry (2011)
541512 Computer Systems Design Services 59,701 15.2% 8.6%
541511 Custom Computer Programming Services 53,867 13.7% 8.3%
511210 Software Publishers 27,688 7.1% 10.6%
541712 Research and Development in the Physical, Engineering, and Life Sciences (except Biotechnology) 16,708 4.3% 3.9%
334111 Electronic Computer Manufacturing 15,969 4.1% 16.9%
518210 Data Processing, Hosting, and Related Services 13,350 3.4% 5.5%
541330 Engineering Services 11,800 3.0% 1.3%
517110 Wired Telecommunications Carriers 11,049 2.8% 1.9%
551114 Corporate, Subsidiary, and Regional Managing Offices 9,418 2.4% 0.5%
541519 Other Computer Related Services 8,969 2.3% 8.1%
519130 Internet Publishing and Broadcasting and Web Search Portals 6,540 1.7% 6.5%
336411 Aircraft Manufacturing 6,245 1.6% 2.7%
334119 Other Computer Peripheral Equipment Manufacturing 5,788 1.5% 15.1%
541711 Research and Development in Biotechnology 5,694 1.5% 4.1%
334511 Search, Detection, Navigation, Guidance, Aeronautical, and Nautical System and Instrument Manufacturing 5,482 1.4% 3.8%
423430 Computer and Computer Peripheral Equipment and Software Merchant Wholesalers 5,271 1.3% 2.4%
541611 Administrative Management and General Management Consulting Services 4,869 1.2% 1.2%
561320 Temporary Help Services 4,740 1.2% 0.2%
423450 Medical, Dental, and Hospital Equipment and Supplies Merchant Wholesalers 4,197 1.1% 2.2%
334112 Computer Storage Device Manufacturing 4,160 1.1% 18.2%
334220 Radio and Television Broadcasting and Wireless Communications Equipment Manufacturing 4,083 1.0% 6.1%
541513 Computer Facilities Management Services 3,913 1.0% 7.4%
920000 State government 3,751 1.0% 0.1%

2. Computer software engineers, applications
Our second computer software engineer is responsible for creating “applications” (SOC 15-1031). According to the BLS, they do the following:

  • Develop, create, and modify general computer applications software or specialized utility programs.
  • They also analyze user needs and develop software solutions. design software or customize software for client use with the aim of optimizing operational efficiency, and may analyze and design databases within an application area, working individually or coordinating database development as part of a team.

Recent data shows that there are about 507,000 computer software engineer, application workers. From 2010-2012, the occupation is projected to gain 28,000 jobs (5.8% growth). Average earnings comes in at $42 per hour. There are estimated to be 18,500 annual openings between 2010-2012, as well as 36,627 completions (i.e., those finishing programs that train for this job). Right now, there are 31,000 job postings that relate to computer software engineers of this type. Most of the workers in this area are men (84%) and 70% are between the age of 25-44.


Just under 50% of these computer software engineers have their bachelor’s degree and another 30% have a master’s.

Again, the top program for this occupation is computer science. In 2010, 15,224 people completed degrees and certificates related to applications software engineers.

Staffing
Not surprisingly, application engineers have a staffing pattern similar to systems software engineers. Here are the top five:

  • Computer systems design services employs 17% of all application engineers, which is nearly 87,000 workers. Application engineers also comprise nearly 13% of the total computer systems design workforce. Example companies: Fedex and Convergys.
  • Custom computer programming services employs 16% of all application engineers, which is just over 82,000 workers. Application engineers comprise nearly 13% of the total computer systems design workforce. Example company: Hewlett-Packard.
  • Software publishers employs 8.5% of all application engineers, which is 43,000 workers. Application engineers comprise 16.5% of the total software publishing industry workforce. Example companies: Microsoft and Oracle.
  • Corporate, subsidiary and regional managing offices employs 5% of all application engineers, which is 26,000 workers. Application engineers only comprise 1.5% of this industry’s workforce. Note: No good examples for this one.
  • Other computer related services employs 3% of all application engineers, which is 14,000 workers. Application engineers comprise 13% of this industry’s workforce. Example companies: Thomson Reuters and Sun Microsystems.

The industry with the highest percentage of application engineers is computer facilities management services. Over 12% (6,500) of the workforce in this industry are application engineers.

Here is the more complete table:

Inverse Staffing Pattern for Computer Software Engineers, Applications (15-1031)
NAICS Code Industry Occupation Jobs in Industry (2011) % of Occupation in Industry (2011) % of Total Jobs in Industry (2011)
541512 Computer Systems Design Services 86,713 17.1% 12.6%
541511 Custom Computer Programming Services 82,209 16.2% 12.6%
511210 Software Publishers 43,003 8.5% 16.5%
551114 Corporate, Subsidiary, and Regional Managing Offices 25,968 5.1% 1.5%
541519 Other Computer Related Services 14,094 2.8% 12.7%
920000 State government 13,397 2.6% 0.3%
518210 Data Processing, Hosting, and Related Services 11,925 2.4% 5.0%
541712 Research and Development in the Physical, Engineering, and Life Sciences (except Biotechnology) 10,414 2.1% 2.4%
541330 Engineering Services 10,054 2.0% 1.1%
930000 Local government 9,208 1.8% 0.1%
524126 Direct Property and Casualty Insurance Carriers 6,972 1.4% 1.5%
541513 Computer Facilities Management Services 6,483 1.3% 12.3%
524114 Direct Health and Medical Insurance Carriers 6,078 1.2% 1.8%
423430 Computer and Computer Peripheral Equipment and Software Merchant Wholesalers 5,442 1.1% 2.5%
334111 Electronic Computer Manufacturing 5,327 1.1% 5.7%
524113 Direct Life Insurance Carriers 5,191 1.0% 1.9%
523120 Securities Brokerage 5,039 1.0% 1.8%
EMSI Covered Employment, 2011.4

If you have found this data interesting and would like to learn more, please contact us (rob@economicmodeling.com). You can also follow EMSI on Twitter @DesktopEcon.

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