April 17, 2024
min read

Is Software Engineering Over-Saturated?

Luis Minvielle

Despite reports claiming there’s a severe tech shortage, the truth is there’s also an oversaturated market for tech workers, especially for lower-skilled positions roles such as web development and entry-level.

Reddit users have already been saying that certain areas of software development are overcrowded. And they’ve got valid reasons for feeling that way. The massive layoffs, a low entry barrier, the rise of remote work, outsourcing and international competition, and the advancement of AI.

We’ll analyse the reasons behind this perceived over-saturation and explore its actual implications for software developers. We will look closely at the factors that contribute to this perception and discuss different strategies to mitigate its impact.

Is software engineering oversaturated?

Programmers are finding themselves in situations where hundreds of candidates are applying for a single position, which naturally raises concerns about the level of competition.

Check what a Reddit user has noted recently:

“I signed up for various freelance websites and what I realized is web development is extremely over-saturated, some jobs would get posted and literally 1 minute later, 35 Indian proposals with the minimum price from people who barely speak English and didn't even read the job description I couldn't even get a job because by the time I finished reading the job requirements which takes like 3 minutes the number of proposals is over 50”

These isolated experiences reflect a more systematic reality, not only simply individual perceptions and experiences. Moreover, the situation has gone beyond junior developers and is already affecting more experienced developers as well.

Here are some possible reasons behind these observations:

  • Increased global interest and education
  • Globalised talent pool
  • Mass layoffs and changing economic conditions
  • AI’s impact

We’ve also scrolled many LinkedIn job posts, and this seems to be impressively true among certain positions. Have a look at these examples:

The roles that have the most number of applications are those in frontend development and entry-level, as frontend development offers a relatively lower barrier to entry compared to specialised fields. There are hundreds of courses on web development, anyone with a laptop can learn HTML, CSS, and JS in a few short months. This leads to a much larger applicant pool and fierce competition for these roles. Here are some reasons that explain this situation:

  • It doesn’t require degrees, or degrees aren’t that important.
  • Lots of people are switching careers into SE, starting with frontend basics.
  • Mathematics and logic, usually considered complicated fields, are not so central in frontend as in other programming jobs
  • Anyone from teenagers to retirees can pick up these skills (at least that what coding bootcamps have been pushing)
  • Freelancers love this job

The reasons the tech industry looks over-saturated

Let’s have a closer look at some recent developments, like the layoff tide, that lend credence to this impression.

1. Layoffs and more jobseekers point to oversaturation

The global economic recession and rising interest rates have led companies to tighten their belts and become more conservative in hiring. Over 660,000 tech workers lost their jobs from 2022 to 2024. A large portion of those were managers, software engineers and product-related workers. Even big tech companies like Google, Meta, Amazon, and Microsoft laid off hundreds of tech personnel. These are some of the top-paid and most experienced developers in the industry. Now these guys are trying to find work. So many developers are forced to punch above their weight if they want to compete against that veteran talent.

Source: fDi Intelligence

2. The barrier to entry has been set low

A report has shown that the coding bootcamps market has been growing more than 19% per year since 2017 and is expected to reach $22.6 billion by 2027. The flexibility offered by bootcamps creates a significantly low barrier in dev entry-levels and a massive pool for frontend positions.

This strong competition makes it increasingly difficult for junior developers to secure their first professional roles, even with the necessary skills. They may need to demonstrate additional specialisations or exceptional portfolios to stand out from the crowd. Besides that, once you get the first job and have 1–2 years of experience, the job market becomes more stable.

In addition to this, there’s a growing trend of “low-code/no-code” platforms that allow building applications with minimal coding knowledge. Therefore, while lowering the entry barrier, automation especially threatens frontend development. Tools are making repetitive tasks easier, which might make some basic jobs redundant.

Source: Technavio

3. Remote work, outsourcing, and international competition have increased

Given the practicality of remote work for the IT sector and the vast amount of tech workers willing to work at a lower cost in non-European countries, outsourcing and offshoring developers have become commonplace.

Remote work has favoured the globalisation of the talent pool. It allows companies to tap into a wider talent pool, encompassing skilled developers globally, not just within their local market. This makes it harder for people to apply for jobs, especially entry-level ones. Also, there are more people who can work from home, and doing that it's cheaper in some countries. Companies can now offer lower salaries as there are plenty of non-European skilled workers willing to accept them.

Basically, remote positions are already more competitive since they not only attract more candidates, but also tap into more markets.

4. AI is here to stay

A study by McKinsey Global Institute estimates that up to 800 million jobs globally could be automated by 2030. Repetitive tasks like code generation, testing, and debugging are already suffering the consequences of automation and jobseekers are raising concerns about it. While AI won't eliminate the need for developers entirely, it will undoubtedly reshape the job market.

Jobseekers are frightened by this. Software engineers are worried about AI taking their jobs because the tech arrived precisely at a time when it's getting harder to find new work.

Overall, AI's impact on web development is a double-edged sword. It should free developers for more strategic work, but it might make some entry-level roles less stable. The key to stability lies in specialisation. UX design, complex backend development, and API know-how will be highly valuable.

Identifying over-saturated roles vs. resilient positions

As we’ve been saying, while certain software engineering positions may indeed be over-saturated, other tech areas still offer plenty of opportunities for devs.

Oversaturated roles

Entry-level positions and roles with a low barrier to entry, such as frontend or web development, face higher competition and saturation. Jobseekers may find that these positions tend to get more applicants compared to specialised roles like cloud engineer or DevOps (this is observed by checking on a LinkedIn job ad and comparing how quickly a role gets more than 100 applicants). The roles that get more than 100 applicants very quickly, sometimes in a day, are:

An observation: Commenters on HackerNews claim that the oversaturation is just for devs that can only put together frontend websites. Being a “web developer” is far from being an entry-level task, since it requires backend skills. But these ads, still, could receive hundreds of applicants that are not qualified. This is common enough. About four out of ten applicants are ready to admit they don’t meet the skills, but they even then click the “Apply” button. In that case, the applicants are overcrowding the posting, but the qualified developers might be in demand.

Resilient positions

Specialised roles requiring advanced skills and experience, as well as positions in non-tech companies like Bosch, offer more stability and security in the industry's flux. Some of these are:

  • Cybersecurity specialists: The global cybersecurity market is expected to grow 12-15 per cent year-over-year through 2025. This growth fuels a high demand for specialists skilled in areas like pen testing or a company’s IT security.
  • Machine Learning Engineers: The demand for AI and ML specialists is expected to grow by 40% from 2023 to 2027.
  • Backend Developers (Complex Frameworks): While basic web development might face higher competition, backend developers skilled in complex frameworks like Spring Boot remain sought-after.
  • Embedded Systems Developers: The growing trend of IoT devices creates a demand for embedded systems developers.
  • Industry-Specific Developers: Fintech software engineers with expertise in financial regulations or e-commerce software developers who know how to integrate with marketing APIs can have the edge because they’re critical to the business continuity.

Find Entry-Level Software Engineering Jobs →

Mitigating over-saturation in software development

To deal with the challenges posed by over-saturation in software engineering, you can adopt several strategies:

  • Specialise your skill set: Focus on specialising within your chosen development area (frontend, backend, full stack). Research the market for underrepresented skills and adapt your learning to those needs.
  • Explore maintenance roles: While the allure of building with the latest tech is strong, consider the stability offered by maintenance roles. Backend development often involves maintaining existing codebases or keeping a cloud setup from going overdrive and resulting in a giant bill. This might not be as flashy as building new features, but it offers high demand and potentially greater job security.
  • Go with the least popular languages: The most difficult and unfriendly languages to work with are sometimes the least widely used. As a result, they have a greater entry barrier. Even if there may be fewer positions available, languages like Zig are not that popular (even though they’re not hated on) and rank high on Stack Overflow surveys when it comes to pay. Maybe jump onto the Zig bandwagon and try your luck with embedded systems jobs.
  • Refine soft skills: Sharpen your communication, problem-solving, and teamwork skills. 93% of employers expect to see soft skills on your CV. Standing out technically is great, but strong soft skills land you the job and propel your career.

Find Remote IT Jobs From Germany →

Find a job on specialised platforms

With this oversaturated and competitive tech job market, a smart strategy is to rely on specialised job boards. One of those platforms is WeAreDevelopers, a developer community that connects the best talent in Europe with companies in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, and the Netherlands.

Check out our job board to find jobs at European companies that match your skills and preferences. Good luck!

Is Software Engineering Over-Saturated?

April 17, 2024
min read

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