Oregon Labor Market Information System
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Computer Software Engineers - All About Applications
by Jill Cuyler-Crook
Published Apr-23-2013

Computer software engineers, also known as software developers, are a vital component of Oregon's workforce. Within this occupational group, there are two types of engineers: applications and systems. Applications engineers are charged with developing, creating, and modifying computer applications software or specialized utility programs. Systems engineers are charged with researching, designing, and developing operating systems-level software, compilers, and network distribution software. This article focuses on applications engineers as they makes up more than 80 percent of computer software engineers statewide.

Applications engineers work across numerous industries but are concentrated in three high-tech subsectors: semiconductor and other electronic component manufacturing; software publishing; and computer systems design and related services. Together these sectors employ more than 60 percent of Oregon's applications engineers. Since the high-tech industry is such a dynamic component of Oregon's economy, it is not surprising that the state workforce includes so many applications engineers; in 2010 there were 7,887 applications engineers statewide, and that number is expected to grow 25 percent by 2020. These are good jobs, with an annual average wage of $85,746 in 2012.

Education, Skills, and Training
Applications engineers are highly educated and possess sought-after skill sets (Table 1). They must be problem solvers, team players, and critical thinkers. Since much of their work involves analyzing user needs and developing software accordingly, these engineers must also have a keen eye for the specific requirements of each customer and demonstrate flexibility in designing a customized product.

To obtain the necessary skills to become a computer software applications engineer, workers must have a bachelor's degree. In Oregon, numerous colleges and universities offer undergraduate and graduate-level degrees that train students for work in this field, including information technology, computer science, computer engineering, and computer software engineering. Additionally, many of the state's community colleges offer programs to facilitate entry into this occupation, such as computer information systems and web development, digital graphic design, and web design.

Applications engineers are most competitive in the job market when they have work-related experience alongside a bachelor's degree.

Table 1
Select Skills for Computer Software Engineers, Applications
Analyze human interaction with computers and computer applications
Apply quality assurance technologies
Coordinate teams
Design data processing systems
Design data security systems
Develop job evaluation programs
Evaluate computer system users' requirements and requests
Evaluate software for business applications
Program computers using existing software
Use project management techniques
Use structured design or development methodologies 
Work as a team member
Write computer software 
Write performance requirements for product development and engineering projects 
Write technical specifications for computer systems, software, and applications 
Promising Job Prospects
In 2010, 7,887 computer software applications engineers were employed in Oregon, with almost 70 percent working in Multnomah and Washington counties. Hourly wages in 2012 varied from $26.14 for entry-level positions to $58.48 for experienced workers at the higher end of the pay scale. It's generally a high-wage occupation, with a statewide median hourly wage of $39.88. The average (mean) annual wage is $85,746 (Table 2). For all occupations in Oregon, the median hourly wage was $17.14 and the average (mean) annual wage was $45,250.

Job prospects for applications engineers are promising. As of February 2013, there were 1,481 unique "help wanted" online ads for this occupation in Oregon, an increase of 44 percent from February 2012. And while these workers certainly felt the impact of the Great Recession (due in large part to their relative concentration in high-tech manufacturing), demand has definitely reemerged and is currently well above its pre-recessionary peak (Graph 1). While part of this expansion in online ads is due to the growing importance of the Internet as a recruiting tool, growth in recent months and years also points to a sheer increase in demand by employers.

Table 2
Regional Employment Projections and Average Wages: Applications Engineers
Region  Employment 2010 Employment 2020 Percent Change  Total Projected Annual Openings 2012 Average Annual Pay
Oregon Statewide 7,887 9,838 25% 287 $85,746
Multnomah / Washington 5,535 6,926 25% 204 $91,189
Clackamas 678 839 24% 24 $92,711
Marion/Polk/Yamhill 295 341 16% 8 $70,733
Benton/Lincoln/Linn 266 353 33% 12 $78,748
Lane 259 333 29% 11 $74,909
Crook/Deschutes/Jefferson 161 235 46% 10 $76,210
Jackson/Josephine 128 149 16% 4 $62,428
Morrow/Umatilla 50 58 16% 2 N/A
Gilliam/Hood River/ Sherman/Wheeler/Wasco 47 58 23% 2 N/A
Klamath/Lake 18 26 44% 1 N/A
Clatsop/Columbia/Tillamook 15 21 40% 1 N/A
Coos/Curry 11 12 9% 0 N/A
Baker/Union/Wallowa 8 12 50% 1 N/A
Douglas 8 9 13% 0 N/A
Grant/Harney/Malheur 3 3 0% 0 N/A
Graph 1
Oregon's total online ad volume: software developers, applications
Employment Outlook
According to the Oregon Employment Department, the number of applications engineers is projected to grow by 25 percent between 2010 and 2020; this compares with 18 percent growth across all occupations. Annually, the Employment Department projects 287 openings statewide; more than two-thirds of these will come from new jobs created rather than openings due to replacements (such as workers retiring). This is yet another indicator of the continuing health and viability of this sought-after occupation.