A recent survey by VDC reveals some interesting data about embedded developers' ages andsalaries.
First the pay scales. In the US the average developer earns $96k,over twice the average annual salary for workers in this country – $41k (see http://www.bls.gov/ncs/ocs/sp/ncbl0910.pdf, though this is 2006 data ). It'smore even than that earned by the average management worker ($84k, though much less than the $220k theaverage CEO earns ). According to U.S.Census data, compared even to this country's mean household incomeof $67k, our salaries look pretty attractive.
In Western Europe the numbers are significantly lower, with embeddeddevelopers averaging a still respectable $74k. In India the average is$26k though that's biased by a few extreme data points. The $15k medianmay be more representative. But $15k is nearly six times the country'sper capita GDP. Our US salaries are only twice the US per capita GDP.
In India the mean age is 30 with a median of 28, suggesting eitherthat embedded developers are a very new thing in that country, or thatthey move into another field after acquiring around a decade ofexperience. The first possibility certainly makes sense, but so doesthe second.
In other Asian countries I'm told that engineering is considered astepping-stone to a “real” career; and older engineers are consideredfailures. However, I have found Indian engineers by and large every bitas excited about their careers and by this field as developers in theU.S.
The data is very different in the United States (which closely mirrors Western Europe ).In the US engineers are 43 years old on average (median of 44 ). That's awfully closeto the center of a career that begins around 21 years and ends withretirement at 65.
In fact, it's surprisingly close as one would assume some attritioninto management and sales with the advance of years. But the data makessense if one assumes the normal older drift away from engineering andfewer young people entering the field.
And that seems borne out by the data. 25 Americans indicated theyare 25-34 years old, 43 are in the 35-44 category (mislabeled as 55 and over ), 35 havecoasted into the middle-age 45-54 bracket, and 11 report being over 55.It's a shame we don't have this data for prior years, but I wouldassume that a decade or so ago the younger engineers would beoverrepresented.
This is the inverse of the situation in India where 76% of therespondents are under 34.
It's wise to take every survey with a grain of salt, but likeimpressionistic paintings that indicate at least the fuzzy outlines ofa story. This data aligns well with other data points I've seen. Itseems Americans have a declining interest in, at the least, embeddedengineering, though the salaries are very attractive.
Jack G. Ganssle is a lecturer and consultant on embeddeddevelopment issues. He conducts seminars on embedded systems and helpscompanies with their embedded challenges. Contact him at . His website is .