By Fred Brooks, a programmer's productivity can vary factor 20 (he referenced scientific studies), which does not necessarily correlate with years of experience. That was 1975, but I'd confirm this is quite possible today as well.

Question: as programmers' rates obviously (AFAIK) do not vary on such large scale, are industry's best workers heavily underpaid, or the market demand/pressure is just too low?

UPD. Relation to project management is that if this question is clarified, we could discuss which impact this can have on project management by bringing project business priority in relationship with this efficiency.

  • 1
    Please improve your question to draw a link between your question and the project management profession. While it may be an interesting question, economics and employment data in the abstract seem a little too far off-topic to me. Without editing, this question is likely to be closed for more than one reason.
    – Todd A. Jacobs
    Commented Nov 22, 2017 at 1:42
  • And yes, some programmers make $30/hour, and some $200. Market, merit, and niche all play their parts in who gets paid what.
    – Todd A. Jacobs
    Commented Nov 22, 2017 at 1:44

1 Answer 1


I think you need to do some research on the range of pay for a programmer. You seem to be assuming the range is small but I do not think your assumption is valid. Also, you are conflating a judgment--"too low"--with your observations of a programmer's pay. Everyone is entitled to their opinion of such a judgment so, if you think the pay is too low, then it is too low. But that is a very different discussion then if you suspect there is some arbitrary, non supply and demand economic forces at play that pressure the wage to be low.

For example, if you were a government employee, like the police, then you can argue there are other forces at play that dictate that wage. Another example would be a physician's pay, where there are third party payments that make the demand side of the equation price inelastic. That is a force that arbitrarily increases (likely) the pay then what the market might actually support if third party payments were not involved.

Finally, experience is a very weak predictor of performance, for every job family. It has some validity but far weaker than what most of us like to believe in terms of how we use it to determine wage and whom we hire (Hunter & Hunter, and many other sources).

  • I consider that following the referenced source, there is a mismatch between the source and what we observe. "Factor 20" means e.g. from $10/hour to $200/hour on the same market being $10/hour the minimal rate. I find interesting that this efficiency seems to be not based just on experience.
    – J. Doe
    Commented Nov 22, 2017 at 14:49
  • Why the -1? How about a comment indicating why. Commented Nov 23, 2017 at 14:18
  • I see a +1, you?
    – J. Doe
    Commented Nov 23, 2017 at 22:01

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