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Occupation Report: Computer Software Engineers

January 23, 2012 by Rob Sentz

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)
NAICS CodeIndustryOccupation Jobs in Industry (2011)% of Occupation in Industry (2011)% of Total Jobs in Industry (2011)
541512Computer Systems Design Services59,70115.2%8.6%
541511Custom Computer Programming Services53,86713.7%8.3%
511210Software Publishers27,6887.1%10.6%
541712Research and Development in the Physical, Engineering, and Life Sciences (except Biotechnology)16,7084.3%3.9%
334111Electronic Computer Manufacturing15,9694.1%16.9%
518210Data Processing, Hosting, and Related Services13,3503.4%5.5%
541330Engineering Services11,8003.0%1.3%
517110Wired Telecommunications Carriers11,0492.8%1.9%
551114Corporate, Subsidiary, and Regional Managing Offices9,4182.4%0.5%
541519Other Computer Related Services8,9692.3%8.1%
519130Internet Publishing and Broadcasting and Web Search Portals6,5401.7%6.5%
336411Aircraft Manufacturing6,2451.6%2.7%
334119Other Computer Peripheral Equipment Manufacturing5,7881.5%15.1%
541711Research and Development in Biotechnology5,6941.5%4.1%
334511Search, Detection, Navigation, Guidance, Aeronautical, and Nautical System and Instrument Manufacturing5,4821.4%3.8%
423430Computer and Computer Peripheral Equipment and Software Merchant Wholesalers5,2711.3%2.4%
541611Administrative Management and General Management Consulting Services4,8691.2%1.2%
561320Temporary Help Services4,7401.2%0.2%
423450Medical, Dental, and Hospital Equipment and Supplies Merchant Wholesalers4,1971.1%2.2%
334112Computer Storage Device Manufacturing4,1601.1%18.2%
334220Radio and Television Broadcasting and Wireless Communications Equipment Manufacturing4,0831.0%6.1%
541513Computer Facilities Management Services3,9131.0%7.4%
920000State government3,7511.0%0.1%
EMSI Covered Employment, 2011.4

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 CodeIndustryOccupation Jobs in Industry (2011)% of Occupation in Industry (2011)% of Total Jobs in Industry (2011)
541512Computer Systems Design Services86,71317.1%12.6%
541511Custom Computer Programming Services82,20916.2%12.6%
511210Software Publishers43,0038.5%16.5%
551114Corporate, Subsidiary, and Regional Managing Offices25,9685.1%1.5%
541519Other Computer Related Services14,0942.8%12.7%
920000State government13,3972.6%0.3%
518210Data Processing, Hosting, and Related Services11,9252.4%5.0%
541712Research and Development in the Physical, Engineering, and Life Sciences (except Biotechnology)10,4142.1%2.4%
541330Engineering Services10,0542.0%1.1%
930000Local government9,2081.8%0.1%
524126Direct Property and Casualty Insurance Carriers6,9721.4%1.5%
541513Computer Facilities Management Services6,4831.3%12.3%
524114Direct Health and Medical Insurance Carriers6,0781.2%1.8%
423430Computer and Computer Peripheral Equipment and Software Merchant Wholesalers5,4421.1%2.5%
334111Electronic Computer Manufacturing5,3271.1%5.7%
524113Direct Life Insurance Carriers5,1911.0%1.9%
523120Securities Brokerage5,0391.0%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.

Rob Sentz

Chief Innovation Officer

rob@economicmodeling.com

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