Programmers are getting cheaper

ASP .NET programmers are now going for $15/hour. Sure, it’s ASP .NET, but nonetheless a disconcerting sign for those of us who make our living writing code.

Two questions pop into my mind, though. First, what kind of programmer do you get for $15? Can he think outside the box? Can he code with scalability in mind? Is he a hack, or does he adhere to good programming practice? Will it cost you more to update the code down the road than you’re saving now?

If you’re talking about American programmers, you get what you pay for, in my opinion. Foreign labor is a different story, though. They may posess all these skills and be willing to work for less.

About jobs moving abroad, I’ve heard things like, “America will still handle all the innovation; foreign labor will do all the grunt work.”

But just like in the Terminator films, the machines will become self-aware. Take factory production, for instance: America has moved factories overseas in the last few decades to exploit cheap, uneducated foreign labor.

Now, as we’ve pumped money into those foreign economies, those societies can afford to educate themselves, and we face increasing competition from enterprising nations like China. There’s no reason to expect this won’t happen with tech, either.

The second question: As a programmer, how does one maintain their competitive edge? I figure you could take one of the following paths, and I suggest taking both:


  • Learn new technologies
  • Have supplementary skills, like networking and systems administration
  • Study design and usability
  • Know how to make disparate systems talk to each other
  • Understand how business works

Become an expert in a niche:
Find an aspect of tech that you really like and get all the books you can on the subject. Learn it in theory and in practice. Publish and demonstrate what you know on a Web site.