Dentists were officially dethroned from having the “best” jobs in the nation, according a new study from U.S. News & World Report. The annual “Best Jobs” report ranked software developer as the leading title, marking the first time in four years a tech job beat out a healthcare position for the top spot.
To determine the rankings, study organizers used data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics on salary, industry outlook and likelihood for future job prospects, and also undertook qualitative research to determine stress levels, work/life balance and other factors.
They found software developers–defined broadly as the “creative minds behind computer programs”–have:
- A median salary of $100,080
- A 1.6-percent unemployment rate
- More than 253,000 available jobs
According to the report, the field offers above-average flexibility and an average stress level.
The software developer title made report history in 2014, when it jumped six spots from the previous year to claim the top ranking, knocking out healthcare jobs for the first time ever. At that time, the outlook for the industry was strong, with a projected 23-percent growth in jobs by 2022; this year that number jumped even higher, to a projected 30-percent growth by 2026.
As technology continues to evolve at exponential rates, that number will keep climbing, says Nenad Medvidovic, professor of computer science at University of Southern California, Los Angeles.
“The speed of innovation is only increasing. Advances of today inspire ideas and enable even greater advances of tomorrow,” notes Medvidovic, who is also chair of the Association for Computing Machinery’s Special Interest Group on Software Engineering. “‘Tomorrow’ used to be a figure of speech in a statement like that; now, ‘tomorrow’ can be taken almost literally. That is how quickly things are moving.”
From breakthroughs in artificial intelligence to the near-universality of smart devices, the need for software developers has exploded so quickly that it has prompted talk of worker shortages in some segments of the field. Companies have turned to outsourcing or hiring foreign developers on work visas, Medvidovic says, noting, however, that such moves aren’t the be-all and end-all, as the problem extends beyond America’s borders.
So how can HR professionals keep up with workforce challenges caused by the rapid expansion?
Being proactive is the best approach, Medvidovic advises. Companies should invest in training, or re-training, for their existing software developers while also designing attractive employment packages to lure new team members.
HR leaders should also be on the lookout for potential employee burnout among their software developers.
“Software engineers frequently find themselves working incredibly long hours over prolonged periods of time,” Medvidovic says, adding that simply replacing “old” engineers with younger ones may not be a viable solution.
“In my view, that is one of the primary risk factors that the tech sector will need to address,” he adds.
While tech continues to be a booming business, healthcare still dominated the U.S. News rankings. Twenty out of the top-25 jobs on the list are in the healthcare field, including the rest of the top five: dentist, physician assistant, nurse practitioner and orthodontist.
With rapid changes in both the healthcare and technology fields–and the gradual integration of the two–it will be interesting to see how these two industries match up in coming years.