Stack Overflow’s record-shattering developer survey sheds new light on the state of coding

ProgrammerProfessional programmers are mostly self-educated, love their work and make comfortable salaries, particularly if they work with hot languages like Objective-C, Node.js and C#. They are overwhelmingly male, although there is some evidence that is changing, and they make an average of nearly $90,000 in the U.S., although Ukrainian coders have the highest standard of living.

Big Data technologies like Cassandra, Spark and Hadoop command pay premiums in excess of 30 percent and the job of full-stack Web developer is an up-and-comer, with nearly one-third of programmers now classifying themselves as such. Scandinavians drink the most caffeinated beverages per day, by the way, a distinction in which the U.S. doesn’t even crack the top-10 list.

Those are just a few of the findings of an annual survey conducted by Stack Exchange Inc.’s popular Stack Overflow question-and-answer network. The respondent base was only a tiny percentage of the 36 million people whom International Data Corp. considers professional programmers, but that’s still 26,000 souls from 157 countries. And they shared a lot of information about themselves. Like the fact that 48 percent never received a degree in computer science.

The survey results are a truly international representation, with over three-quarters of the respondents hailing from outside the United States. India ranks as the second biggest source of traffic to Stack Overflow with a 12.5 percent share followed by the UK at 5.5 percent, with remainder scattered among more than 150 other countries across five continents.

The role of programmers varies just as greatly, ranging from full-stack developers capable of managing every part of their projects (who make up the biggest demographic on the site) to specialists focused on some of the narrowest and most difficult programming challenges of their respective industries. But the majority – the enterprise software engineers, managers and data scientists – are somewhere in between.

Gender gape


Yet while it’s undoubtedly among the most widely-spread and influential subsets of the global workforce, diversity nonetheless is still very much a work in progress for the development community, particularly when it comes to bridging the oft-discussed gender gap. Over 90 percent percent of the respondents to the survey identified as male compared to a mere 5.6 percent who said they’re female, highlighting that the divide is as big as ever. India had the largest base of female respondents, at 15.1 percent, compared to 4.8 percent from the U.S.

However, there is reason to be optimistic going forward. The survey indicates that women who code are twice as likely to have less than two years of experience than their male counterparts, which seems to point toward more women entering the industry. That could potentially snowball significantly over the coming years.

Over 29 percent of respondents to the survey reported that they’re already working remotely at least part of the time, a substantial increase from the 21 percent who indicated that they were coding away from the office in last year’s survey. And half said that the ability to telecommute is important, which is driving a noticeable shift in the policies of employers.

Another contributing factor to that is the desire of companies to expand their search beyond the local candidate pool, which is especially important for positions involving relatively new technologies such as Hadoop. Accordingly, the poll reveals that positions focused on niche or emerging tools tend to pay more. Apple Corp.’s Objective-C language ranks as the most lucrative programming syntax followed by Node.js, yet neither are among the ten most popular choices for programmers.

The fact that coding is a labor of love as opposed to a purely monetary pursuit was also reflected in the fact the average developer spends seven hours per week programming on the side, whether for fun or profit. Likewise, two out of three respondents said that their motivation for visiting Stack Overflow is a passion for learning, followed by 55 percent who cited the satisfaction of helping peers. That’s good news for Stack Exchange, and probably ensures many more developer surveys to come.

Creative Commons image via Coyote Productions