Research from the University of California at Berkeley shows age is a factor in earnings: As you get older in your technology job, your rate of earning becomes more stagnant. So what's a technologist to do? Climb the ladder or shift career paths as you go along. Programmers take heed.
older you get in technology, the harder it is to maintain a salary that grows,
discovered economists Clair Brown and Dr. Greg Linden of the University of
California, Berkeley, who have been studying the subject in research about
offshoring and the semiconductor industry since 2006. These academics have
repeatedly discovered data that shows salaries for engineers and technology
workers peak in their 30s, and become more stagnant in the 40s and 50s, with
fewer job opportunities as aging progresses.
and Linden wrote about the bifurcation of age groups in
their book "Chips and Change: How Crisis
Reshapes the Semiconductor Industry."
In a chapter titled "Finding
Talent," the professors noted the challenge for older workers who face
younger, recently graduated workers who have the latest experience on
state-of-the-art technology. Older workers are either moved up the ranks into
program management or other management positions, with their experience being
valued only for their legacy knowledge. Those workers who do not move into
management face tough career positions.
found in out fieldwork that experienced engineers were often forced to work on
mature technologies with stagnant earnings, rather than being allowed to learn
and work on new technologies with rising earnings," wrote Brown and Linden
in the book.
to another academic, Vivek Wadwha, a director of research at the Pratt School
of Engineering at Duke University, ageism is a dirty
little secret as companies want younger workers with skills and so are more
than willing to part with higher paid technology workers who do not climb the
corporate ladder based on high performance. Wadwha wrote
in an Aug. 28 post:
harsh reality is that in the tech world, companies prefer to hire young, inexperienced
engineers. And engineering is an 'up or out' profession: You either move up the
ladder or face unemployment. This is not something that tech executives
publicly admit, because they fear being sued for age discrimination, but
everyone knows that this is the way things are. Why would any company hire a
computer programmer with the wrong skills for a salary of $150,000 when it can
hire a fresh graduate-with no skills-for around $60,000?"
isn't to say Wadwha necessarily supports these kinds of moves, but he does
recognize that when it comes to career advice for technology workers, there is
little in the way of sound career planning for the field. Wadwha offers the
following advice to combat career stagnation and loss of opportunity:
up the ladder into management, architecture or design; switch to sales or
product management; or jump ship and become an entrepreneur (old guys have a huge
in the startup world). Build skills that are more valuable to your company, and
take positions that can't be filled by entry-level workers.
you're going to stay in programming, realize that the deck is stacked against
you. Even though you may be highly experienced and wise, employers aren't
willing or able to pay an experienced worker twice or thrice what an
entry-level worker earns. Save as much as you can when you're in your 30s and
40s and be prepared to earn less as you gain experience."
findings in the book from Brown and Linden suggest diminishing
returns for graduate and post-graduate degrees like Ph.D.s in engineering; bachelor
degrees appear to show solid earnings trajectory as you climb the ladder.