concerned00 writes "In their latest Occupational Outlook Handbook, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics says that employment of software engineers and system analysts is expected to increase 'much faster than the average' through 2014 (here, and here). In contrast, employment of programmers is expected to increase 'more slowly than the average,' with outsourcing given as one of the major reasons why (here). However, from the stories I read from American programmers on the Net, the profession is lost. Is the government wrong, or lying, then, when it implies that software engineers and system analysts can expect to have a good future? As an American, am I a fool if I decide to undertake this for a living?" Read more for details of concerned00's analysis.
The difference between a "software engineer" and a "programmer" seems somewhat dubious to me, although from the Web pages in question apparently the software engineer is involved in requirements gathering, analysis, and design, whereas the programmer usually is not. According to the Web page for programmers, "[t]he consolidation and centralization of systems and applications, developments in packaged software, advances in programming languages and tools, and the growing ability of users to design, write, and implement more of their own programs mean that more of the programming functions can be transferred from programmers to other types of information workers, such as computer software engineers." (?)
The page for software engineers says: "Computer software engineers are projected to be one of the fastest-growing occupations from 2004 to 2014." Reasons given: the increasing complexity of computer systems, the need to "adopt and integrate new technologies," "the expanding integration of Internet technologies and the explosive growth in electronic commerce," the increasing reliance on "hand-held computers and wireless networks," and concerns about security. Yet: "As with other information technology jobs, employment growth of computer software engineers may be tempered somewhat as more software development is contracted out abroad. Firms may look to cut costs by shifting operations to lower wage foreign countries with highly educated workers who have strong technical skills. At the same time, jobs in software engineering are less prone to being sent abroad compared with jobs in other computer specialties, because the occupation requires innovation and intense research and development." (?)
On the other hand, to hear the personal anecdotes of many (American) programmers on the Internet, the profession is lost and anyone in college majoring in computer science or software engineering must be either naive or insane. According to them, you have to be a genius programmer if you expect to compete successfully for the slim pickings that are left, there is no job security at all, and the best most can realistically hope for these days is a job at Home Depot. Furthermore, even if you could get work, you wouldn't want it: the deadlines are impossible, the bosses are naive, petty-minded, and perversely self-serving, and the technology changes so fast that if you allow yourself to slip behind you might as well kiss your career good-bye.