The alternate universe of over-employed web developers

Ngoc Huynh

Pretend you’re sitting in a cafe and overhear a conversation next to you, between two tech recruiters. If you’re not already ingrained in the tech industry, what you hear might sound like it’s coming from a different planet. There are more Web developer jobs than candidates, and it takes months — not years — to climb the career ladder.

James Somers, a developer, writes in a recent essay:

“I have a friend who decided, part way into his second year of law school, to start coding. Two months later he was enrolled in Hacker School in New York, and three months later he was working as an intern at a consultancy that helps build websites for startups. A month into that internship — we’re talking a total of six months here — he was promoted to a full-time position worth $85,000.”

It sounds both easy and lucrative, but Somers’ hope is not to entice non-programmers to hop on the bandwagon. He complains that the imbalance in supply and demand of developers causes them to be overpaid for their work, when the value in what they do pales in comparison to, say, fighting AIDS in Africa. It’s a fair criticism, but hidden in his disillusionment is truth: There are jobs available and there are affordable methods to get the skills you need for those jobs.

Educational site Treehouse’s new jobs board is one example. Founder Ryan Carson says the company’s mission is to teach tech to the whole world. That doesn’t mean everyone should be a programmer — just understanding the power of programs can be beneficial to someone in any industry or job function. But after understanding it, perhaps someone will also “not be afraid to learn to control it,” says Carson.

On the other hand, Treehouse has the potential to spur your new career. Its video tutorials, Carson says, can teach someone skills for a developing job in six months. His goal is to better connect Treehouse’s education resources with job opportunities.

For example, right now a few jobs on the jobs board still list a computer science degree as a requirement, but Carson says that first, he doesn’t believe a degree is necessary to be a good (and employable) technologist, and second, he notes that everyone is not able to afford a college degree. In the future, job listings might specify how many points in a Treehouse category (such as Ruby or HTML) applicants are required to have.

The Bureau of Labor says by 2020 there will be 1.2 million computing jobs unfilled.

“Our job is to understand what jobs are out there and how to get people ready for them,” Carson says. Ruby and Javascript are two programming languages that are currently desired in job listings so Treehouse offers comprehensive tutorials on both.

As for Somers’ criticism that developers get paid too much for what they provide to the world, Carson notes that as online education sites including Treehouse, Codecademy and Udacity teach people programming in an affordable way, the supply and demand of developers will even out. We will see salaries drop — but not too low, Carson says.

Current programming capabilities do make it both easy and fast to create, so we’re seeing a lot of tech products that aren’t changing the world. But that’s ok. “The next few years will be a renaissance,” he says.

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