While an entry-level computer programmer in the US is expected to earn a minimum salary of $60,000 per year, more experienced programmers sometimes break $150,000 per year. But why do computer programmers get paid so much?
Computer programmers build applications that people can use to accomplish every-day tasks. Like a bridge, a single application can be used by millions of people.
Facebook? That’s a web application. Over 1.6 billion people around the world use it. For every 1 million users, there is 1 software engineer working at Facebook to maintain the platform. Google is another web application, used by even more people around the globe.
Just about anything you’ve ever seen on an electronic screen was certainly rendered via code written by a computer programmer. The ability to create documents, listen to music, watch videos and play games- all of it has been made possible by computer programming.
The Impact of Software
Have you ever used Google, Windows, or an iPhone? If so, then you’ve been impacted by computer programmers. Whether you’ve used these devices on your job, at school, or at home- they have become recognizable household names, and pretty much everyone knows how to use them nowadays.
One of the most successful and viral examples of software is the Google search engine. Google’s web crawler technology can crawl millions of websites, save them, and show you them in the Google search results. The software does these things without human intervention. A few talented computer programmers created software that millions of people can use every day.
Why Salaries are High
Although job salaries depend on a number of factors, a very strong factor is how much impact the role has. For a burger-flipper in a restaurant, there is a maximum amount of people that you can impact on a daily basis. No matter how hard you try, there are physical constraints that make it impossible to serve 20 customers in 1 minute. But computer programmers can leverage the power of computers to serve hundreds of customers per second!
Software is a critical part of job automation. It allows for repetitive or complex tasks to be either automated or made more efficient. The impact of automation on modern life has been so substantial that it has been met with controversy because it causes some jobs to become obsolete for humans.
The Power of Computers
Let’s talk about what a computer programmer does. They literally “program computers” to perform tasks. It’s like having your own personal assistant that will do whatever you say. A programmer writes the instructions (code), and then executes those instructions. The instructions can be very simple or very complex, depending on the task. Let’s check out the top 3 reasons that modern computers are powerful.
Computers are ridiculously fast
Modern computers are blazing fast. You might see a laptop with a 2.7GHz (gigahertz) quad-core CPU. That means that it can perform 2.7 billion operations per second. And having a CPU with 4 cores means the computer can perform multiple tasks at the same time without slowing down much. For a computer programmer, that’s like driving a supercar.
Computers also have a lot of memory. Memory allows a computer to save information for quick access later. A consumer-level computer will usually have about 4GB to 8GB (gigabytes) of memory. That’s 4 to 8 billion bytes, which can easily store millions of books worth of data. A high-end computer can have from 16GB to 32GB of memory and upwards. Computer programmers can take control over a computer’s memory in order to process tons of data.
And lastly, there’s storage. While memory is meant to temporarily store data, storage is meant to permanently store it. Storage operates at speeds that are slower than memory, but the capacities are much higher. An average computer will usually have at least a 512GB to 1TB (gigabytes and terabytes, respectively) capacity of storage. While gigabytes represent billions of bytes, terabytes represent trillions! As a computer programmer, it’s like having a billion blank sheets of paper to do whatever you want with.
Without getting too deep into the technical aspects of computers, you can see that computers are filled with potential.
Computers are great communicators
In the early days, computers would work either offline, or connected to a private network consisting of a few other computers. This would allow sharing of data between a few computers in a room, but not much more.
Then once the World Wide Web came along, the “local network” became the “global network”. With modern internet technology, we can easily send and receive chat messages with people across the world, instantly.
Not only are computers fast, but they also have amazing networking capabilities. Let’s take YouTube for example. It allows you to upload videos so that millions of people around the world can view them. Videos are usually several hundred MBs (megabytes) in size, which is hundreds of millions of bytes. But modern internet connections can send (upload) the video data to YouTube in a few measly minutes. By the time you make a coffee, the video would already be uploaded and ready to view on YouTube.
The network connection capabilities also go the other way around too. Modern internet connections allows you can download at speeds of several megabytes per second. That means you can watch high-definition video, play online multiplayer games, and have real-time video conferencing calls over the internet with ease.
Computer programmers use internet capabilities to make web applications that can be accessed from any computer in the world, just like your email. Almost all software nowadays is internet-connected.
Computers are cheap and everywhere
There’s a concept in technology called Moore’s Law. It states that every year, technology will become twice as fast. We observed this to be true for many years in the tech industry. While the curve has recently flattened out slightly, you may have noticed that a modern $500 computer is easily 100x faster than a $500 computer from 20 years ago. The gains have been exponential, and even the cheaper machines are still excellent options.
Additionally, computers have begun to change form factor. The earliest computers were big enough to fill an entire room. Then computers became consumer-friendly in the form of desktop computers that could fit on a desk. Those were usually accompanied by a large thick monitor.
Nowadays, we have smartphones, tablets, and laptops. Although we interact differently with all of these devices, it doesn’t change the fact that they’re all still computers. All of these devices have a CPU along with memory and storage. And they all pack a powerful punch in terms of computing power.
Power at Your Fingertips
Computer programmers basically have the skill of manipulating computers to perform work through writing instructions. That process is called “programming” or “coding”. And computers are incredibly fast at following instructions. When you combine the two, you end up with a lot of leverage to provide value to many people around the world. That’s why computer programmers often make high salaries.
High Demand and Job Stability
It’s no secret that as a computer programmer, you will never be out of work. Computer programmers- more commonly referred to as “developers” and “software engineers”- are among the most in-demand workers out there.
You might be curious about how hard coding is. Sure, it might be a little tough to get your first programming job. But after that, you’ll be on the road to stable work and a nice paycheck for years to come. The crazy thing is- you don’t even need a college degree. But you do need to be a good programmer who markets themselves well online.
Recruiters will fill your inbox with fresh job opportunities. There are boatloads of remote developer jobs that you can get, allowing you to work from anywhere. And best of all, never get your job taken away by automation.
Although computer programming is one way to create software and automate things, it’s not the only way. There has been a recent wave of no-code platforms that allow users to create powerful software without writing code. If you aren’t interested in programming, but still want to leverage computers to make your work easier, those platforms are certainly worth a shot.
But I chose the path of becoming a programmer because I saw the limitless possibilities ahead if I took that path…
My Story (As a Computer Programmer)
I’ve now been a Software Engineer (fancy term for “programmer”) for 5 years professionally. The reason that I say “professionally” is because I spent a few years teaching myself to code and working on programming hobby projects before landing my first salaried job as a programmer.
I didn’t go to school to learn to code. I actually went to school to learn Graphic Design because I thought it would be complimentary with my self-taught programming skills.
The reason I wanted to become a programmer was that I had an idea for an app.
But if I wanted to bring the idea to life, I would have had three options:
- Pay someone else to build it.
- Convince someone to partner with me and build it for free.
- Learn how to code and build it myself.
In the end, I ended up learning how to build apps myself, because I didn’t want to depend on someone else to get it done, nor did I have the kind of money required to fund it. I learned how to build Android apps on my cheap Android phone.
I’ve worked remotely- from home- for my entire career and it has rewarded me with a surreal level of convenience and flexibility from both a geographical and financial standpoint. I’ve been able to seamlessly move between the US and Asia while continuing to work as a programmer, making US dollars.
Why Computer Programming is Special
I think that computer programming is a very unique skill because it doesn’t require you to get a college degree, nor does it require you to own any special equipment. To be a doctor or lawyer most certainly requires formal education and credentials. To be an auto mechanic requires you to have all sorts of tools and cars that you can practice on. But to be a computer programmer literally only requires a laptop and an internet connection. These factors help to lower the barrier of entry for those who want to get started, and there’s no limit to how much impact a single programmer can make.
Based on my experience and understanding of several programming languages, I’ve talked about the top programming languages that will make you money in 2021. There are no shortcuts in this path, but I hope to have helped shine a light on why computer programming is a very special skill in the modern world and why programmers get paid well.
Once you’re ready to apply for a programming job, you can check out our remote job search tool to quickly find remote jobs from all over the web. Here’s a sneak peek of the latest remote programming jobs: