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Based on StackOverflow's survey, why is the average age of Software Engineers (that participated in the Stack Overflow survey) less than 33? All answers need to include citations to ensure this involves more than just opinions.

I have friends in various industries ranging from Accounting, Law, Medical, and Engineering (architects). All of the aforementioned industries, as far as I can tell and from conversations, put significant value in experience.

The longer you are in the industry the better you are compensated and more valued you become, but from looking at tech this doesn't seem to be the case past 40.

I've also seen plenty of ageism in the Software Engineering industry at a relatively young age (~40). Completely opposite for my friends, whereas their career is taking off at that point and their eyeing that partner role in the next 5-10 years.

With the exception of the two rare genius programmers I met (who just happen to be young) with photographic memories, most of the young programmers I've met need a lot of hand holding and baby-sitting to make sure they aren't doing anything terrible.

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  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. Aug 23, 2019 at 18:07
  • Because ageism is rampant in this industry. No other reason.
    – Gaius
    Aug 27, 2019 at 10:30
  • One thing that you might want to consider is the massive growth the software engineering market is/was experiencing. In just a few short years the world has been digitalised beyond recognition. And with such a young and fast moving job market. The people who go to college for it get picked up quickly. constantly pushing down the average market(considering there will be less older people to reeducate themselves than young people to start in the field).
    – skippy
    Aug 27, 2019 at 13:34
  • closed? booooooo! How is this an opinion based question if the questions was edited to included a comment about citations required in answers? I'm starting to hate StackExchange and now I remember why I stopped coming to the site. Aug 28, 2019 at 14:33
  • It's opinion based, because to answer it you'd need to ask everyone in the industry (or a reasonable group anyway) - all SE data shows is what people have answered. on the survey here.
    – Rory Alsop
    Aug 28, 2019 at 15:05

2 Answers 2

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Because they'll move to other IT roles.

Software Engineer is sometimes an entry-level job and people may move to other roles after some years. They become IT architects, IT product managers, IT consultants, etc. A few even switch to non-technical roles, like project managers or Agile coaches.

Even though they are still working in IT, they are less likely to visit StackOverflow and take the survey.

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    Agile coache from Software Engineer, when I see that switch I just think they couldn't cut it. Sorry if that's a bit callous and I'll even agree I'm wrong, but I've never met a good agile coach. Aug 22, 2019 at 17:42
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    @Didn't realize entry level jobs paid 6-figures, but then again look at anesthesiology with it's $115k entry level pay. Aug 22, 2019 at 17:45
  • @ConfusedDeer I'm not saying it's a good transition. ;-) But I only know people where it was the opposite, they weren't good at software engineering and better at coaching.
    – Chris
    Aug 22, 2019 at 17:46
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    Exactly what I first thought of as an answer. I think a senior partner at a law firm would still call them-self a lawyer even if they are managing cases instead of doing the lower level work, but a manager in IT is much less likely to still call them-self a software developer.
    – cdkMoose
    Aug 23, 2019 at 16:49
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    Then you need to look further. I used to write code on a daily basis, as well, till few months ago, even though I transitioned to coaching role few years ago. I won't say I am perfect at either. That's obviously impossible. But being good at two things is certainly possible. Sep 1, 2019 at 13:27
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Young workers are preferred because they don't have family and other non-work obligations and thus are willing to dedicate insane amounts of time to the company's projects, and as importantly, they're cheap, contra your suggestion that they're better paid.

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  • Sorry for the ambiguity, plus, I just updated the question to try to be less opinion based question. I wasn't trying to insinuate that, rather that there is a cap that after 30 or 40 you are at the end of the line, whereas other industries at 40 you are just ramping up to the big money (i.e partner or director) Aug 22, 2019 at 17:14
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    In IT, there are very few big money positions beyond 40. Only bigger companies tend to have Architect, Principal Engineer, or CTO positions. Ie. it is very hard to advance to that level compared to how many "regular" software engineers any given company employs. And also, most developers tend to prefer to work as developers. Bigger positions are less about development and more about service design and management, which aren't interesting to most devs I know. Aug 22, 2019 at 17:27
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    I've been working in the very low, including some of the extremely low, level coding for much of my career. I assure you that "young workers are preferred" is not at all the case. My favorite story is of a 50-something firmware engineer who told me that my previous job practiced "age discrimination" because he wasn't hired. I had to explain that the average age in the department was over 50 (I was 52 or 53 when he interviewed ...) and he wouldn't have been told oldest. Aug 22, 2019 at 21:25
  • @JulieinAustin Was this in government? Because, I've found that government workforce in tech is very old. Aug 23, 2019 at 12:42
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    @ConfusedDeer - No. In the world of embedded systems, hard real time, safety of life, etc. the workforce is VERY old. I'd be hesitant to hire anyone under 35 or 40 years old for a job where people could die if there was a bug. The upside of huge amounts of experience is the defect rates are extremely low and the "uptime" for a device is usually dependent on electricity. It's just an entirely different world than most of what goes on in the application and "consumer grade operating system" side of the industry. Aug 23, 2019 at 13:37

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