For a long time Silicon Valley companies have faced a shortage of qualified software developers. Many young companies want to plant their flag in the Valley, so they open an office there, but are forced to rely on an engineering team located elsewhere.
Part of the blame goes to the education system in the U.S., which is not churning out enough budding coders. Only one in eight U.S. high schools offers Advanced Placement (AP) computer science coursework, a new study from the App Association shows. Advanced Placement courses are aimed at high-performing and motivated students, and offer them college credits if they pass.
There’s also more software development going on outside Silicon Valley than ever before, the research says. Almost nine out out of every ten developers now work outside the Valley. And four out of the five top-grossing app development companies are based outside the Valley.
Perhaps the key finding of the research is that even in markets where demand for qualified developers is highest, the secondary school computer science education that might set kids on a course to a career in software just isn’t there. The four interactive graphics below tell the story.
The study calculates that just more than 223,000 developer job opportunities exist in the U.S. today. And the jobs are spread more evenly across the country than you might imagine. Places you might not think of, like San Diego and New Jersey, have many developer jobs–both filled and unfilled.
Developers make good money wherever they work, and they are revenue generators for the companies they work for. The average salary for a developer is $104,000. Of course there’s some variance by region. A developer from the Silicon Prairie in Nebraska makes $71,312 on average, while developers in San Francisco make an average of $121,625.
Developer jobs have real impact on communities. For instance, software developers bring and estimated $1.8 billion to the local economy in Austin, Texas. Yet more than 3,000 jobs remain open there.
The punchline here, if this were funny, is that even in communities with the most demand for developers, a surprising number of high schools offer no computer science education.
Of more than 35,000 U.S. high schools identified by National Center for Education Statistics, only one in eight offered AP computer science courses during the 2015-2016 school year.
When you overlay the job opportunity numbers on the high school computer science numbers, the problem quickly becomes clear. Because the App Association is a lobbying group, it breaks down the high school counts by Congressional district. In Republican Representative Roger Williams‘s district covering the western part of the Austin metro, just 4 of the 42 high schools there offer computer science courses. In Rep. Lamar Smith‘s district (covering central Austin), 20 of 49 high schools offer AP computer science.
There are more than 3,000 open developer jobs in Chicago. Meanwhile, in the district of Rep. Mike Quigley (Democrat) covering North Chicago, only 12 of the 47 in the district offer AP computer science.
The lack of qualified developers impacts more than just the fortunes of the companies that hire them. It ultimately affects the competitiveness of the U.S. in the world, and national security.
The federal government has invested less money in K-12 education in recent years, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. The 2008–09 budget allocated $11,537 per student, but that number decreased every year until the 2011–12 budget allocated $11,014 per student. One 2015 report said education spending has been cut far more than other line items since the federal stimulus package began running out in 2011.
“The U.S. has 1,000 specialized cybersecurity experts, but we need between 10,000 to 30,000 more [according to a report from CSIS],” said House Homeland Security Chairman Michael McCaul (R-Texas) in a statement. “Given the sensitivity of these positions, we need to ensure more Americans are capable of filling these jobs.”
The App Association is presenting its report at a Congressional staff briefing in Washington today, in conjunction with the Congressional High-Tech Caucus.