Software Industry Pay Dwarfs Average Private Sector Salaries


But while the report painted an upbeat picture of long-term industry growth, SIIA executives acknowledged that the software industry, which employed 2.7 million Americans as of 2006, won't be immune from the economic downturn that some are forecasting.

"Our industry is not going to be able to repeal the economic business cycle," said Mark Bohannon, senior vice president of public policy at the Washington D.C.-based trade association, during a teleconference.

"If the U.S. economy goes into a recession, which is by no means certain, our industry will be impacted as well," he said. But he attributed much of the economy's growth during the last several years of the economic expansion to the "super growth" of the software industry and predicted that in a downturn the industry "should perform better than industries that are fading in economic importance."

The average industry wage of $75,400, which was up 18 percent from 1997, compared to average wages of $67,400 in the telecommunications industry and $51,400 in manufacturing, the SIIA report said. Salaries in the private sector increased 10 percent between 1997 and 2006, adjusted for inflation.

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Industry employment grew 17 percent between 1997 and 2006, adding 400,000 jobs to reach 2.7 million, according to the report. That was slower than job growth in some industries, including real estate, food services and credit intermediation. But it beat out other industries such as telecommunications and chemical manufacturing where the number of jobs declined.

Jobs for computer software engineers alone will increase by almost 450,000 to nearly 1.2 million in the U.S. by 2016, according to the report, which was based on public information from government sources such as the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The report also said that exports of U.S. computer software and information services reached $19.0 billion in 2006, up from $17.5 billion in 2005 and $15.3 billion in 2004.

The SIIA has long advocated increasing the number of foreign software developers and IT workers allowed into the U.S. under the H-1B visa program. The report argued that continued software industry innovation and growth hinges on developing public policy that allows access to "the world's best and brightest workers."

"I don't think there is any question there is [currently] a severe shortage of talented, well-educated, qualified professionals for our industry," said David LeDuc, SIIA director of public policy, during the teleconference. While improving technical education in the U.S. will help fill industry jobs, LeDuc said we shouldn't refuse to allow foreigners educated in the U.S. to stay and work for U.S. companies.

Critics have said the software industry wants to raise or eliminate H-1B visa caps to allow more foreign workers into the U.S. to lower salary costs. And some, including U.S. Senators Charles Grassley and Dick Durbin, argue that tech industry employers misuse the program to bypass qualified American job applicants.