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Computing's Lost Allure 822

Posted by michael
from the grass-somewhat-less-green dept.
khendron writes "An article in the New York Times, describes how the number of students majoring in computer science in university has dropped off with the rest of the hi-tech economy. The bright side: the students who are enrolling are doing so because they love computers. Not like a few years ago when students were enrolling because they wanted to make a quick buck. I'll take quality over quantity."
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Computing's Lost Allure

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  • Preach it brother (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 22, 2003 @12:57PM (#6016095)
    "I'll take quality over quantity."

    Amen. When I graduated in 2000 there were more than a few people in the degree for the money. They were miserable and barely got through as it was. :)
    • by Fembot (442827) on Thursday May 22, 2003 @12:58PM (#6016109)
      They're also known as MSCE's :-)
      • I thought is was MSCRE: MicroSoft Certified Re-Boot Engineer......

        :-)

        OOps...gotta limber up that power button finger for the exam....

    • by Irishman (9604) on Thursday May 22, 2003 @01:08PM (#6016212)
      I have been waiting for this day to happen since the bubblr burst. When I started my CS degree, most of us were there because we loved computers. We spent all our free time (what little there was) teaching ourselves everything we could. By the end of my degree, most of the people entering the program could barely use a DOS prompt, let alone know what Unix was.

      I hope that employers start getting the hint as well. It was very disheartening to see people who took a 1-year program to learn computers getting senior developers and architect jobs.

      At my office, I have told our headhunters that unless someone has a CS degree and several years experience, we do not want to see them. I may get flamed for being prejudiced against self-taught people, but I have seen far more self-taught people who think they are a lot better than they are than people who actually have an apptitude.
      • by RealityMogul (663835) on Thursday May 22, 2003 @01:18PM (#6016326)
        Uh duh, did you ever think that maybe the self-taught people actually know just as much as the CS grads because they love it enough to spend their time learning real-world practices instead of spending 4 years learning what some professor thinks is important? I've worked with CS grads before and I'd consider recommending them for writing documentation or being a liason between the real programmers and the customers, but the ones I've worked with suck at writing code.
        • by kma (2898)
          I've worked with CS grads before and I'd consider recommending them for writing documentation or being a liason between the real programmers and the customers, but the ones I've worked with suck at writing code.

          Funny, that. I've met exactly one self-taught software person who could tell his ass from a hole in the ground. Most people beating their chests about how they don't need some galdurn longhair hippy telling them how to code have learned some subset of a couple of programming languages, and think t
          • Re:Preach it brother (Score:3, Interesting)

            by miu (626917)
            Since programming has always been easy for them, they assume that they are gifted programmers, never stopping to notice that they aren't attempting anything particularly difficult.

            I really wish more people understood this.

            My employer has purchased several companies in the last couple years, and in every case I've run into at least one system put together by a self-taught guru. In every case they "solve" their problem with hard-coding, kludges, or brute-force. The crappier the system the more defensive

    • by AlgUSF (238240) on Thursday May 22, 2003 @01:13PM (#6016269) Homepage
      You can tell who is in it for the money. They are the ones working on a programming assignment the night before it is due. One student in a programming course asked the professor how many points we got if a program compiled. The professor looked a little shocked, he said 0.
    • by uradu (10768) on Thursday May 22, 2003 @01:31PM (#6016485)
      In medicine they have the old joke:

      Q: What do you call the guy who graduates med school bottom of the class?
      A: Doctor.

      For a while something similar held true in IT as well during the bubble--even the morons got good jobs, and we've got the code to prove it. Now I say: let them go into medicine. Or law. Or whatever. Just please let them not be our programming interns.
    • What's a little annoying is how contemptuous some computer science students were of people like art and english majors who *were* pursuing something they enjoyed. It was a catch-22: mock the opportunism of those who studied for the market, mock the unemployability of those who do not. Pure hypocrisy.
  • Quality? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Grieveq (589084) on Thursday May 22, 2003 @12:58PM (#6016100)
    If only the quality part were true!
  • Then why is it... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by notque (636838) on Thursday May 22, 2003 @12:58PM (#6016105) Homepage Journal
    Every time I say that I work in computers, invariably someone states that they want to/are majoring in computers.

    "Oh, So you like computers too?"

    "Nope! Know nothing about them at all!" ....grr
    • Re:Then why is it... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by gosand (234100) on Thursday May 22, 2003 @01:43PM (#6016628)
      Every time I say that I work in computers, invariably someone states that they want to/are majoring in computers.
      "Oh, So you like computers too?"
      "Nope! Know nothing about them at all!" ....grr

      Yeah, I know the feeling. I have also had people say "Oh, you got into computers to make money huh?"

      "No, I got my degree in '93, before there was even really an internet as you know it." That usually makes them think.

      Oooo, I feel the ol' rant gun warming up...
      What I would really like to say is - First off, a computer science degree is a lot more than learning how to use Power Point and Excel. I did a lot of programming, theory, hardware, OS, math, and many other things. I say I have a degree in "computers" because I don't want to explain all this to you so you can give me a blank stare. And just because you have a PC with a neon-lighted window in it doesn't mean we have some kind of bond between us. I don't expect you to understand what my experience is, but I do expect you to not ask me dumbass questions. "Oh, so you are the computer guy - I have a problem with mine crashing, do you know what's wrong with it?"

      So I bite my tongue. Sometimes I give in and try to make conversation, and I still get stupidity.
      Me: "So, I hear you are into computers. What do you have?"
      Durr: "A Dell."
      Me: "What is it, a Pentium 3, Pentium 4...?"
      Durr: "I don't know, but it's fast"
      Me: "Oh. What OS do you run on it?"
      Durr: "Windows"
      Me: "NT, 2000, XP...?"
      Durr: "yeah."

      Yarrrrghh.

      Oh, but don't think this idiocy is just within the computer field. My wife gets the same type of answers when she talks about her job. "Oh, so you are a French teacher. I took Spanish in high school."
      Hey, that's fucking fantastic - why would I care? What does that have to do with anything at all? Hey, you know that French and Spanish are both languages, you are a FRIGGIN genius!

      Now I don't expect that people should know that programmers aren't the same as PC techs, and they aren't the same as network techs, etc. But I do expect that people shouldn't assume that all computer-related jobs are the same. I know that not all doctors are the same, even though they are all doctors. I know that all attorneys don't handle the same kind of cases. I don't ask a lawn maintenance guy if he thinks I should get my roof replaced.

      *warning* rant-gun ammunition depleted.

      So there are less people taking CS classes now? I haven't been in school for a while, but I have seen many of the people who have come out with degrees. Some have been really good, and some haven't a clue. I am sure the curriculum has changed since I was there, and nobody is learning assembly anymore, but even back in the early 90's there were too many people in the field. Of course, I'll bet that many of those people didn't make it through, or opted for the less technical computer related degress. Heck, now there may even be more types of "computer related" degrees. All I know is that in the mid-90s there was a flood of new grads who got very high paying jobs simply by coming out of school at the right time. I relate it to the dotcom boom, in that the IT sector isn't in a slump, we are about where we should be. We just experienced an incredible boom, took a dive, and now we have settled down. The anomoly was the boom, not the crash. We are just now returning to "normal". Our unemployment rate is high because the market was flooded for a couple of years. Unfortunately, in addition to the IT crash, we have a pretty bad economy to work in as well. For those who have weathered the storm, I hope that there are good times ahead.

    • by 0x00000dcc (614432) on Thursday May 22, 2003 @01:44PM (#6016640) Journal
      Every time I say that I work in computers, invariably someone states that they want to/are majoring in computers

      Yes, but the good thing of course is that most will not follow through after they take their first programming course. Even if thet get throught the cracks and are still not quite that captivated by the subject (or not that good at it either) of computer science, they will usually look to others for solutions for programming projects, which means, come time for actual experience to be applied, their employer will realize that their diploma isn't necessarily representative of their true ability.

      I don't think that most even make it that far, given the higher level hardware and theory classes that are at the 300's and 400's in computer science catalogues. But I do know a few from my program [cofc.edu] who barely skipped by and are now doing $25K a year customer service, instead of $50K a year software engineering like myself and those friends of mine who worked their tails off.

      Of course, stuff happens and sometimes those slack people end up with nice jobs, the world ain't fair,yadayadayada, but it's been my experience that hard work pays off exceptionally well. I never cheated on any assignment, did all of my programming projects myself (and of course had fun with them!), and studied hard.

      Before I entered computer science I saw that many people who were entering alongside me and I said to myself "Oh great - the field will be saturated now ... no money will be made." I'm sure glad I was wrong ...

  • Google Link-- (Score:5, Interesting)

    by BoBathan (166436) * <.ten.emohtfos. .ta. .nahtabob.> on Thursday May 22, 2003 @12:59PM (#6016119) Homepage Journal
    Google [nytimes.com] is your friend.

    --Travis
  • by Hunts (116340) on Thursday May 22, 2003 @01:00PM (#6016126) Homepage
    Hoefully this will also cut down on the number of people doing "can not fail" certification courses. I've always found these things insulting. Along with job ads that reuire MCSE's to even apply..for unix admin jobs, or janitors!

    Never trust a computer proffesional that doesnt list computer as a hobby.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 22, 2003 @01:10PM (#6016238)
      Never trust a computer proffesional that doesnt list computer as a hobby

      Never trust a professional who can't spell professional!
    • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 22, 2003 @01:17PM (#6016317)
      Never trust a computer proffesional that doesnt list computer as a hobby.

      This is bullshit. It's very sane to have hobbies that involve other things than your profession. It's called balance in your life. One can be a very good lawyer without spending hobby time reading books of law. One can be a very good salesmen without spending hobby time selling things. One can be a very good plumber without having plumbing has his hobby ... one can be a very good computer professional without spending hobby times on his computer.
      • Totally. I did this for just under a decade. Work for 10+ hours, go home and learn some more. Read 1 giant computer book per month, reinstall constantly, tinker with OSes, try to learn every language I can. It almost drove me to early retirement. Balance is good. Having other hobbies is good. Pushing away from the computer is good. Being well rounded is good. Being a computer snob is just stupid.
      • Oh, I don't know. To each his own, I guess, but I know an ace auto mechanic who works on his street rod for fun. My wife is a librarian and she reads incessantly. An engineer friend truly enjoyed designing and building an awesome multi-level back deck on his house.

        I work on mainframes all day and would list "PCs" as my favorite hobby. I soldered my first three Z80 motherboards together myself, starting in '79, and I guess I haven't burned out yet.

        While not a true indicator of someone's competency, there i

        • The idea is to look for someone who is independantly motivated toward self-improvement. Unfortunately, you can also end up with a serious case of tunnel vision who doesn't know anything about anything else.

          It's also can be a drag to manage the job-is-my-hobby set, as they want to have pedantic arguments over every last detail and over technology choices constantly. More than once I've had to explain to people that worked for me that a large group of people with broader knowledge than them (about politics
      • Eh, I'm gonna go out on a limb and disagree with you, to a certain degree. Yes, you should have a balanced life, but like with anything it's difficult to pick up the finer points of a subject unless you spend some of your free time tinkering with it. In general, those who would list computers as a hobby (I would ask specifics...computer programming? graphics? building? hacking?) are going to be better informed, have a greater love and enjoy working more. I know some people at work who hate computers..
    • Never trust a computer proffesional that doesnt list computer as a hobby.

      I completely agree. But beware, I work as a consultant and we're supposed to write our own CV to be sent to customers. So, in the personal field I mentioned my own computer experimenst (meaning my two LAN's, servers, alternative OSes, etc...)
      The guy from sales asked me at once to remove it because it's "amateur stuff" and not "professional work". *Ouch* I had a fierce discussion with him, but you won't find it in my CV anymore. Yes, I still work there, but the people reading CVs (the first filters, not the technical people) don't want no amateurish sounding things in a CV.
      Sad, but true...

  • Quality (Score:5, Interesting)

    by leeroybrown (624767) on Thursday May 22, 2003 @01:00PM (#6016127)
    The question is how do the interested learn anything from an education designed to carry the weak through? Looks like it's still a case of learning more in one week of spare time than a month of college.
    • Re:Quality (Score:5, Insightful)

      by garcia (6573) * on Thursday May 22, 2003 @01:07PM (#6016205) Homepage
      that was a major reason that I left the CS program at BGSU [bgsu.edu]. I felt that it was behind the times and boring. Other people I knew who were going to schools like MIT and Bucknell were learning Java and Scheme (MIT obviously) and were doing interesting coding projects I was stuck writing "grading programs for 10 students in Ms. Smith's 8th Grade Math Class".

      I saw the need to learn the fundamentals of C/C++ but I didn't think that boring projects were the way to accomplish that.

      Nothing like being forced to learn a non-existant version of ASM that was created by BGSU for teaching purposes. It was SO out-dated and worthless that I couldn't take it anymore.

      I have since graduated with an equally worthless degree in History. At least writing papers about things that happened 300+ years ago is useful ;)
      • Re:Quality (Score:5, Funny)

        by Fulcrum of Evil (560260) on Thursday May 22, 2003 @01:19PM (#6016339)

        I have since graduated with an equally worthless degree in History. At least writing papers about things that happened 300+ years ago is useful ;)

        Sure it is. The point is to get people to stop making the same mistakes. You know the old saying: "Those who ignore history are doomed to repeat the 11th grade".

  • babbling (Score:5, Insightful)

    by sweeney37 (325921) * <mikesweeney@noSPAm.gmail.com> on Thursday May 22, 2003 @01:00PM (#6016133) Homepage Journal
    I was talking to someone yesterday and mentioned I was going back to school, he asked if I was going back to gain some extra computer knowledge. I told him I decided upon a job in computers because as I was growing up, I loved them, but now as I have a job in the computer field, I just don't have the love I used to.

    In the past few months I've been rethinking my career path, and I've decided to go back to school. This time around I've decided to learn what I love, instead of what I thought I would love.

    Mike
    • Re:babbling (Score:4, Insightful)

      by macrom (537566) <macrom75@hotmail.com> on Thursday May 22, 2003 @01:22PM (#6016370) Homepage
      This is really good. If more of you out there would do soul searching and find that you really don't want to be here, and if more students would jump to the business school because "there's no longer any money in CS", then those of us left who a)love it and would rather die than not be around computers and b)know what the fuck we are doing will end up with better job security and better pay. All of these "rethinkers" and money hungry college students are doing those of us who are hardcore a huge-ass favor. Thank you non-techie wannabes!
    • Re:babbling (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Rinikusu (28164) on Thursday May 22, 2003 @01:24PM (#6016391)
      The same here. I've been keeping/breeding fish since I was 10, got my first computer when I was 12. I've always been able to put my computer away for stretches of time, but I've never been able to get rid of the fish.

      When I started college in 1991, they started quoting salary figures: EE's were on the top of the list, and being a so-called smart kid, EE is where I went. My dad told me then that he thought I was making a huge mistake, that I needed to be in Biology (marine biologist, fisheries, whatever). I found myself bored in EE, bored in CompSci, and basically floundered until a couple years ago when I studied hard and got a little AAS in Computer Programming.

      Now I'm in the Computer Field and while it's interesting and on occasion, fun, it's really what I don't want to do. I'm turning 30 and am starting school, this time I'm finishing my bach in Ecological Anthropology (long story) but am going to head to grad school in Biology. The upside is with my tech aptitude, I'll be able to integrate my computer skills with modern research and data collection techniques rapidly, and if I'm really motivated, maybe even innovate some in those fields (some old Engineering may come back, too, in the form of creating remote monitoring solutions and what not).

      Basically, I've learned that I love working with and observing animals and even though it pays shit, fuck it. I'd rather spend the rest of my life poor and happy than well-off and miserable.

      Just because you like messing with computers doesn't mean you'll like doing it for a living.
      • Re:babbling (Score:3, Insightful)

        by EZmagz (538905)
        Basically, I've learned that I love working with and observing animals and even though it pays shit, fuck it. I'd rather spend the rest of my life poor and happy than well-off and miserable.

        My friend, you are a very very wise man. It's so easy to say that phrase over and over while you sit at your 9-to-5, yet so few people actually act upon it. I'm rapidly finding out that the work world is nothing like I expected.

        I graduated as a Bio major w/a CS concentration (basically 2 courses short of a major) back

    • Reality bites (Score:5, Insightful)

      by msobkow (48369) on Thursday May 22, 2003 @02:05PM (#6016899) Homepage Journal

      What happened is that you had to deal with the real world of users, managers, budgets, corporate politics, and scheduling. Once you realized that over 50% of the job has nothing to do with programming (or at least not what you consider programming), you became disillusioned and bored.

      Unfortunately if you're going to work in the corporate world, you're probably going to find that the vast majority of jobs have the same non-core-task annoyances. For example, my baby sister works for a non-profit with about 10-20 total employees. What does she gripe about from work? The boss, the clients (users), inter-office politics, lack of funding, and unreasonable expectations/deadlines. (And the computer crashing, but that's from a user's perspective -- she's not a programmer.)

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 22, 2003 @01:00PM (#6016135)
    BERKELEY, Calif. -- ON a sunny May afternoon, Brian Harvey's introductory computer science class at the University of California convened for the last time before the final exam. By the time Dr. Harvey was full tilt into his lecture, reviewing recursive functions and binary search trees, the cavernous hall was lightly peppered with about 100 students, backpacks at their sides, a few legs slung over the backs of empty seats.
    Advertisement

    Sparse attendance is, of course, an end-of-semester inevitability. Many students viewed the lecture by Webcast, if at all. But more significantly, just 350 students signed up for the course this spring, in striking contrast to enrollment in the fall of 2000, when the same lecture hall was engorged at the start of the semester with 700 students sitting and standing in every available pocket of space.

    So full was the room the first few sessions that a fire marshal showed up to size up the situation as a potential hazard. "Even the corridors were jammed," recalled Dr. Harvey, who has taught the introductory course for 16 years. The following semester was little different, with 600 students hoping to enroll in the class.

    Today, empty classroom seats, like the vacant offices once occupied by high-flying start-ups, are among the unmistakable repercussions of the dot-com bust.

    At the height of the Internet boom in the late 90's, computer science talent was in such demand that recruiters offered signing bonuses to students who agreed to drop out of school. Now, spooked by layoffs and disabused of visions of overnight riches, many undergraduates are turning away from computer science as if it were somehow cursed.

    "They overreacted to the boom, so why shouldn't they overreact to the bust?" said Anne Hunter, an administrator at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who tracks application and enrollment figures.

    Berkeley's experience is mirrored elsewhere. At Carnegie Mellon University, applications to the School of Computer Science for next fall are down 36 percent from their peak in 2001; applications to Virginia Tech's computer science department have declined 40 percent since 2001. At M.I.T., renowned for its computer science curriculum, 20 percent fewer freshmen declared electrical engineering and computer science as their central focus this spring than did in 2001 or 2002.

    "People aren't seeing the glory in computer science that they used to," said Nirav Dave, 20, a senior and an electrical and computer engineering major at Carnegie Mellon who has seen the ranks of his fellow majors decline. "It used to be that you would do this and you would be a millionaire."

    Shaun McCormick, 19, who will be a sophomore next fall at the University of Texas at Austin, started out in computer science but switched at midyear to communications and plans to focus on advertising.

    Not only was he daunted by the difficulty of the coursework, Mr. McCormick said, but his job prospects also worried him.

    "You have to be a very good programmer with lots of experience under your belt," he said. "Even if you have a good G.P.A., it's hard to get a good job."

    If enrollment in the field remains sluggish, some computer scientists warn, technical progress could be jeopardized.

    "Our department will be hurt," said J Strother Moore, chairman of the department of computer sciences at the University of Texas, where interest in the field has also diminished. "But more importantly, when the economy recovers, we're going to need computer programmers, and many more of them than we'll be producing at the current rate of input. It's a serious problem for the national economy."

    Still, in the absence of a recovery, opportunities in the computer field are contracting. In 2000 Intel hired 2,378 recent college graduates. Last year it hired 566, one-fourth that number. The chilly job market has had a converse effect on graduate school enrollment: applications to computer science graduate departments have risen sharply over the last two
  • by xYoni69x (652510) <yoni.vl@gmail.com> on Thursday May 22, 2003 @01:01PM (#6016143) Journal
    All us computer science students (yes, I'm one too) have realized that as soon as we get our degrees, the industry will be profitable again. =)

    (To deduce whether I like computers or want to "make a quick buck", observe the fact that this is Slashdot.)
    • (To deduce whether I like computers or want to "make a quick buck", observe the fact that this is Slashdot.)

      They aren't exclusive, you know? When I first was interested in computers, it was something you went to grad school for. If you wanted to get a good job, you had a Masters or PhD. By the time I actually got into college, that was changing and you only need a bachelors degree to get some really great jobs.

      Why did I choose programming as a profession? I like it, and it pays very well. If I could
  • Interesting... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by javelinco (652113) on Thursday May 22, 2003 @01:02PM (#6016146) Journal
    But there are:

    (a) Many people who like computers that suck at working with them;

    (b) Many people who don't particularly like computers that don't suck at working with them;

    (c) Still a hell of a lot of people who have no business looking at jobs in the IT industry that are working their ass off trying to get on.

    Oh, the sad state of this world I live in...

    • Re:Interesting... (Score:4, Insightful)

      by stretch0611 (603238) on Thursday May 22, 2003 @01:25PM (#6016405) Journal
      But there are:

      (a) Many people who like computers that suck at working with them;

      I would wager that the people that generally like computers take the time to learn how to use them properly and end up working well with them

      (b) Many people who don't particularly like computers that don't suck at working with them;

      There are people that learn to work with computers out of necessity, but they stop learning when they can do what they need to do; only people that enjoy working with computers will go the extra mile and learn more.

      (c) Still a hell of a lot of people who have no business looking at jobs in the IT industry that are working their ass off trying to get one.

      There is still money in IT. It is harder to get it now, but it is still there. Before the bubble burst, anyone could get a job in IT, now, you have to proove yourself. If I lost my job, I feel confident showing my skills to any technical person. I only fear the HR people that toss out my resume because it is not a carbon copy of the requirements.

  • Interesting... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Hmm... I wonder if this will really change anything... Where I went to college, most people who tried to major in computer science for the money just didn't last... Science and Engineering can require alot more work than the standard liberal arts major, so someone has to be really motivated to keep up with the program... Usually money was not enough motivation to endure, and they'd eventually move on to "information sciences" which required less CS and more management classes.
  • by sig (9968) on Thursday May 22, 2003 @01:03PM (#6016160) Homepage
    The other side of the coin that Computer Science graduate admissions are inundated with applicants this year. Hordes of people, after getting a bachelor's degree a few years ago, went off to industry to get rich instead of persuing advanced degrees. Now that the market has cooled off, many of them are returning to graduate school. It sucks to be a recent graduate trying to get into CS grad school, because you have to compete with many more applicants for the same few slots.
  • by Kirby-meister (574952) on Thursday May 22, 2003 @01:03PM (#6016162)
    ...doesn't mean you're gonna be a good programmer.

    A friend of mine is in CS, because he loves computers and he loves programming. He isn't any good at it though, he's failed freshman intro classes, and not because he doesn't try. His eyes glaze over when he asks me for help and I start asking him why he's doing so-and-so when he could be doing this-and-that.

    In short, people should do the things they love, but it doesn't mean quality when they do it.

    • Shhh.... You'll disrupt the weekly "I'm a REAL hax0r" circle-jerk taking place currently. They (geeks who think they're better than other geeks) have to go through these rantings regularly. Kind of like vulcans have to go through Pon Farr. I'm a still-employed programmer with an English degree who loves computers, but doesn't spend as much time on them as I used to. I guess I don't "deserve" to be in the industry any longer by virtue of that pedigree.
    • by Skyshadow (508) on Thursday May 22, 2003 @01:15PM (#6016304) Homepage
      I completely agree that love of computers != being a good programmer.

      I myself am an excellent example. I've used computers forever, am extremely comfortable with them, yadda yadda yadda. But I hate programming -- how anyone sits staring at code 8+ hours a day is beyond me.

      That said, being a programmer != all computer jobs. I have a history degree, but I work in the computing industry and make a fair amount of money doing so. How? Because I do what I do best: Make shit work. There has always been a huge need for people like me, and I suspect there always will be, and most CS grads don't have my skill set.

      So it's all good.

  • by Red Warrior (637634) on Thursday May 22, 2003 @01:04PM (#6016173) Homepage Journal
    Whatever is the trendy growth (even more than money) field when kids are juniors/seniors in high school, will then have a glut of kids taking a relevant major in college.
    They never seem to think, for whatever reason, that the job situation won't be the same in 4-8 years..
    That's one of the reasons teaching (I was married to a teacher, and have a number friends who are)degrees take such gigantic leaps from feast to famine and back. The news says "there's a shortage", and a few years later says "there's a glut"

    The only thing new here is this is basically the FIRST time this cycle has taken place in the computer industry. The field has changed a lot, due to it's newness, but that also happens to every field going through it's infancy.
  • by er587 (671913)
    So, I can stop cleaning up after inadequate admins
  • Thank God (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Jaguar777 (189036) on Thursday May 22, 2003 @01:04PM (#6016175) Journal
    Now we just need a dropoff in the amount of people that take 6 weeks worth of classes and think they are "certified".
    Maybe then my resume won't get lost in the mile high stack of useless ones.
  • That's part of the reason I left RIT. It seemed like no one there actually *cared* about what they were doing. I remember spending the summer after my freshman year reading Godel, Escher, Bach, and then finding out that none of the professors there had even heard of it.

    The sad part is, most people anywhere don't seem to have a *real* love for much of anything, and so I've decided to become a writer: if I'm going to be in the minority, I may as well work alone with my passion for things.
  • by Torinaga-Sama (189890) on Thursday May 22, 2003 @01:06PM (#6016191) Homepage
    I think the real reason the enrollment numbers are going down is because those of us with Liberal Arts Dergrees are snapping up all of the IT jobs.

    I'm serious...why are you guys laughing?

  • Hmm... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by GreyOrange (458961) on Thursday May 22, 2003 @01:06PM (#6016195) Journal
    Well the fact that they are passionate about computers is a good thing. The only thing I don't like is the emphasis on .net and soap, ect in schools. Just the other day I heard that the programers in my company are going to upgrade every piece of software to be .net compatable and all data entry software will be soap based. I slapped my self in the forehead! I certianly hope that some of those purebloods will go to some schools that don't push out microsoft robots.
  • by el-spectre (668104) on Thursday May 22, 2003 @01:08PM (#6016217) Journal
    When I came out of school (2000) there were way too many people in it just for the money. The worst were: 1) A girl who, 2 months from graduation, couldn't code to save her life (BSA student's didn't have to, sadly), saying 'I Hate Computers' while in CIS... 2) A woman told me that she was graduating in web development. Since that's my field, I attempted to small talk, with 'so, what do you edit HTML with... homesite, notepad... pico?" She looked at me blankly and said "What's HTML?". I was so shocked that I just said 'uh... hope I interview against you...'
  • by Skyshadow (508) on Thursday May 22, 2003 @01:08PM (#6016219) Homepage
    If my younger sister were still in CS, I'd be encouraging her to change majors. There was a time when a CS degree meant a good job and high earning potential. I'm pretty sure this time is over -- the US software development industy is being nailed into its coffin as we speak.

    I don't see the current trend toward off-shoring programming jobs slowing down in the future -- rather, I foresee an acceleration as tools and processes for performing overseas work improve. Consider how poorly the American car, steel and manufacturing industries are doing, and remember that they (unlike software development) are at least protected by tariffs which level the playing field somewhat.

    Sure, there will always be some development and QA jobs in the US if for nothing else than to avoid "all your base"-style situations. But that's going to provide a fraction of a percent of the jobs that even our currently depressed industry does.

    If you *do* get a CS degree, you'd better plan on grad school. You're going to need an advanced degree or at least a double major to tread water (I imagine that business/CS will be in huge demand).

    • at the same time don't forget that even though the car industry was pronounced dead in the early 80's it still employs directly or indirectly, millions every year, many of the companies are profitable, and in fact many Japanese auto makers are off-shoring jobs TO the US to make them.

      If it wasn't impossible to get in the union without a relative or a bribe that's where I'd be right now.
  • by binaryDigit (557647) on Thursday May 22, 2003 @01:10PM (#6016236)
    Hell I'm in it for all the hot chicks ;)
  • Its like, must have 5+ years of experience in C++, PHP, HTML, Cobol, Java, Unix, be MSCE certified, have customer service experience, be able to lift 70+ pounds, wear blue shoes, drive red car, be exactly 5' 7" tall, talk with a slight Jamaican accent, be willing to commute to India 3+ weeks a month, all for 18,500 a year.

    Now, the REAL kicker is the first part, where 90% of the job listings want unrealistic years of experience.

    If I was picking my major, and saw that, I'd be like, fsck that too...

    • by Shalome (566988) on Thursday May 22, 2003 @01:30PM (#6016470) Homepage
      I saw a job listing recently that had as a requirement "5+ years in administering Windows 2000." This was an entry-level position.

      So apparently, not only do you have to be willing to work for peanuts and take entry-level jobs when you have experience... you have to be a time traveller too!
    • Like the requirement for 10 years' experience in Java or Windows 2000 ???

      I actually talked to one of the HR droids at a "10 years of Windows 2000" job, asking them how anyone can have 10 years experience with a 3 1/2 year old OS. . .

      Her reply: Our requirements are vetted by mamagement, and are thus realistic.

      So I modded the resume to show "12 years experience with Windows 2000 and related systems". . .and was called for an interview 45 minutes later.

      Needless to say, I wasn't interested. . .and rece

  • For me... (Score:5, Funny)

    by st0rmshad0w (412661) on Thursday May 22, 2003 @01:10PM (#6016243)
    ...the allure died when I discovered users.
  • Quality? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by DarkSarin (651985) on Thursday May 22, 2003 @01:11PM (#6016254) Homepage Journal
    The assumption that because someone loves computers they will excel in working with them is false--somewhat like the idea that someone who loves poetry will excel in writing it is also false

    The truth is that most people who have an aptitude for a field will at least dabble in it. But that doesn't mean they will care much for it.

    An example of this is simple: In high school I was very good at Biology. It came naturally to me, and I made excellent grades in my Bio class. None of that changed the fact that I hated it. To me, Bio is not very interesting or even especially challenging. So I avoid it, even though when I have taken courses, I have always gotten an A in the class.

    How does this apply to Computer Science? Well just the opposite is true. I love it, but that doesn't mean that I am particularly skilled. Sure I can do some limited web deisgn, and I understand hardware and software concepts fairly well, but I know that many of the people on this site are much better at all of that than I ever will be. Why? Because I am not really a much at calculus, which is necessary if you want to be really good at Computer Science.

    This is why career counseling is so important. People need to get a grip on what they are both good at and enjoy, and concentrate there. This is one of the major failings of American Education--we focus so much on the idea of going to school to get a better job that we miss the point that if you are doing what you enjoy and are good at, you can almost always find a way to make money--if you put forth the effort to be the best.

    That said, I would definitely see people that are going into a field because they enjoy it, not because they think it will make them money. Any field.
    • Re:Quality? (Score:3, Informative)

      by greg_barton (5551) *
      Because I am not really a much at calculus, which is necessary if you want to be really good at Computer Science.

      Woah, there! I'm not sure what computer science you're talking about here. Calculus? Try logic, algebra, discrete mathematics, and number theory. Trust me, you don't need to know a lick of calc to excel in CS.
  • I loved being in CS classes back in the late 80's early 90's. after the 101 classes you had the people that were really interested and loved it.

    It now sounds like it's getting back to those levels which is a VERY good thing. I have had the mis-fortune of working with the "I got a CS degree cuz you git rich doin' it." types, and it isn't fun.

    If you love programming then by all means follow your love...

    unfortunately I can't figure out my nephew... A Philosiphy major with an Ethics minor... Yay, he'll
    • unfortunately I can't figure out my nephew... A Philosiphy major with an Ethics minor... Yay, he'll learn new ways to contemplate.... "You want fries with that?"

      I'm more worried about lots of students taking the worthless career tracks like that


      Because you fullfill a role in the machine of society does not mean you are truly alive. Computer Science is interesting stuff, but in the grand scheme of existence computers are essentially irrelevent. The average human is probably LESS happy today than before
  • by HMV (44906) on Thursday May 22, 2003 @01:12PM (#6016263)
    Knowing your way around a computer is such an essential business skill now.

    Every kid in college, no matter his or her major, should know how to get around an Office suite, put into place a simple web site, and basic troubleshooting.

    We're seeing the evolution of computer-technology-as-business-model into computer-technology-as-tool.

    While it may be true that fewer kids are going into CS, what's also true is that the technology is penetrating deeper into the business school, journalism school, whererver where many things that were once the realm of CS or even MIS are now absorbed within a discipline that focuses on the application of that technology.
  • Not like a few years ago when students were enrolling because they wanted to make a quick buck.

    Unfortunately the industry is still fat with these people who don't truly appreciate the art and science of software design... and they are determined to make back all that time and money they invested in it during college. Only now they have a couple years of "seniority". It's very disheartening how many companies I see distressed over custom software development because they keep hiring "experts" who write
  • by Embedded Geek (532893) on Thursday May 22, 2003 @01:13PM (#6016276) Homepage
    It would figure. Just when I'm considering quitting doing real work and going into management, this happens. It'll be bad enough trying to build an empire with a serf shortage, but competency makes it even tougher to rule with an iron fist!

    My pointy hair is starting to hurt. I think I'll find someone to motivate before taking my afternoon nap.

  • by jawtheshark (198669) * <slashdot&jawtheshark,com> on Thursday May 22, 2003 @01:13PM (#6016279) Homepage Journal
    If you chose an education, you should not choose what is trendy, but what you *like* or what you are *interested* in.

    That's what I did, before the internet boom, and I graduated in the middle of the internet boom... *not* taking advantage of it and just looking for a stable job. Which I still have, right now.... (Just got a raise, so I am not to complain).

    Yes, I chose Computer Science because I love computers, I love programming and I discovered that I loved the math and theory behind all of it. (Because, boys 'n girls.... Computer Science doesn't end at being a good coder)

    Apart from that I have to quote the article:
    People aren't seeing the glory in computer science that they used to.

    I think that is false: there never has *been* glory in Computer Science. Not even in the dot-com boom. No, *technology* was glorified, not the science.

    Anyways: do what you like. That's the only advice I can give. (Oh, and to my surprise I read in the article that there are more girls doing CS now! Damn, I wish I was younger and back at University *grin*)

  • "...dropped off with the rest of the hi-tech economy"

    Interesting the way that was worded. It's as if to say, something different happened to hi-tech than happened to the rest of the economy when the reality is that ALL segments of the economy have fallen off. No segment is hiring right now. None.

    The WSJ just had an article last week about MBAs not getting offers at all right now.

  • by saintjab (668572) on Thursday May 22, 2003 @01:17PM (#6016316) Homepage Journal
    Of course this would happen. Five years ago (give or take) being a doctor or lawyer was the most desired of all professions; and enrollment was high. I was reading just recently that both have declined in the last few years; much like CS. The reason? Money. When the market is flooded with opportunities to make money in a certain industry there will be an up turn in degree seekers for that field. Now that the 'bubble' has burst the field isn't so attractive to prospective new techies. This is not a bad thing it's just the result of the society changes and morphing. It's like the balloon theory; there may be less CS degree seekers, but there is probably more of some other field. It's very natural that this should happen and kinda cool for techies like myself who actually love what they do. I never looked at computers as a route to make money; rather something I enjoyed experimenting/playing with. It's a happy bi-product that I'm able to make a living with it.
  • Finally! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Trolling4Dollars (627073) on Thursday May 22, 2003 @01:23PM (#6016377) Journal
    To be honest I think this might wind up accelerating the development of new computing approaches since you will actually have people who understand computers more intimately. I think part of the reason for the stagnation in the field WAS the 90s e-Bubble. It attracted the sheeple who were solely interested in making money. Those people tend to NOT be very good technologists. The people with a real feel for technology who DO become rich usually do so incidentally.
  • Observations. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 22, 2003 @01:25PM (#6016407)
    I went to the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign to study CS. This was in the late 90s, and I recently graduated. When I got to school, there were lots of people who really just were in the field thinking they could be the next dot-com millionaire. Over the years, it was pretty easy to see who was in it for the money and who was in it for the love of the field. The problem right now, as I see it, is that for even for people who "love" CS, the job prospects aren't that great. So, if the people who really love it aren't doing well, then how's some guy who hardly knows what he likes going to fare?

    Furthermore, consider the idea that CS students typically become programmers or software engineers somewhere. For those that "love" the field, they will still more than likely end up in a position where they not allowed to truly work in a free environment where the CS love is oozing and creativity is encouraged; more often, they are thrown into an environment where the salaries are mediocre, and where the deadlines and demands of marketing take precedence over the love of CS. 9 times out of 10, even the best get burned. Software companies don't tend to want the people who love the work; they want people who are drones who will just do what they are told. There are some serious misconceptions about how things work with regards to people who genuinely love what they are doing. It's hard to see any glory in this position.

    Finally, I'd like to point out that there is nothing really that ties the American student's job to the US. I fully expect that most engineering and science jobs will be performed by immigrants, or by firms in India within the next 10 to 15 years. This further removes the glory of being a computer science graduate.

  • by ramzak2k (596734) * on Thursday May 22, 2003 @01:25PM (#6016409)
    just 350 students signed up for the course this spring, in striking contrast to enrollment in the fall of 2000, when the same lecture hall was engorged at the start of the semester with 700 students

    Would that be an unfair comparison given that more people register every year during the fall compared to Spring ?
  • my experience (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Mr_Silver (213637) on Thursday May 22, 2003 @01:25PM (#6016411)
    I grew up with computers, spectrum zx81, speccy +3, Amiga 500+ and then PC. Knew BASIC (woo!), played games, enjoyed them. So went and did a degree.

    Enjoyed that (although half the class were married or practically married and the other half had never said boo to a real live woman), drank lots, did some work, had a great laugh and came out with a BSc(hons) Computer Science.

    Then started working.

    Worked for a consultancy developing telemetry systems for big water companies. Suddenly I realised that what was my passion - translated into the worlds most mind-numingly boring job.

    Sitting all day, every day at a computer looking at over a million lines of code written in C (with macros to make it look like ALGOL-86) not understanding how it all fitted together, not having anyone talk to me, getting boring work packages and generally hating every minute of it. I saw no fruit of my labours, got no recognition and whilst the company made record profit I got penuts pay-rises.

    So I left, moved to management consultancy, worked with short projects, people and things that actually came to light. I did project management and operations management and ... enjoyed it.

    I don't claim that all IT is like that, indeed it's not, but my initial experience of it put me completely off for life, and, if i hadn't left, could have completely put me off computers full stop.

    Now I just tinker - but it's a damn sight more fun doing that, than for a job.

  • This trend is a plus (Score:4, Interesting)

    by RhettLivingston (544140) on Thursday May 22, 2003 @01:48PM (#6016675)

    like many of the others in the high tech bust. The most threatening thing to the American high tech economy at this time is continuing economic globalization. Interestingly, this trend is now expanding to threaten other agendas that require higher education. Just this week I heard that CPAs are now losing jobs to India because the average college trained CPA in India makes $6000 per year.

    Why have we become so vulnerable to foreign competition? In my opinion, it is due to the way that we have commoditized and dumbed down our higher education process. We've concentrated on creating a manufacturing line like education process to turn out droves of programming/financial/engineering/etc robots. OF COURSE THIS CAN BE COPIED!!!

    The education process used to turn out thinkers who, instead of being brainwashed in the current mantra de jeur, solved problems without a toolbox full of fix-alls that never quite fit the problem. In creating the mass manufacturing style education system, we've neglected the necessity to continue to produce the thinkers.

    A step back in volume might be a good thing to allow some of the education to return to a more renaissance approach.

    Long term, if we hope to maintain our lead and not spiral into deflation across all sorts of technical areas, we need to look toward an education system that adequately provides for both types. The current prevailing CS curriculum is more of a tech school approach to education and should be moved to the tech schools. Then the colleges need to return to teaching the best of the best who have the special abilities needed to develop the technologies to keep us from being commodotized down to $6000 / year salaries. And their education should not be full of mantras but instead concentrate on teaching basic facts (instead of beliefs like OOP, structured programming, etc), and approaches to analyzing and solving problems in a manner that fits the problem, not the tools.

  • Enrollment (Score:3, Insightful)

    by wmspringer (569211) on Thursday May 22, 2003 @01:50PM (#6016695) Homepage Journal
    >Sparse attendance is, of course, an end-of-semester inevitability. Many students viewed the lecture by Webcast, if at all. But more significantly,
    >just 350 students signed up for the course this spring, in striking contrast to enrollment in the fall of 2000, when the same lecture hall was
    >engorged at the start of the semester with 700 students sitting and standing in every available pocket of space.

    How the heck do you learn anything in a class of 700 students? I'd be surprised if I could even hear the teacher..
  • Please... (Score:3, Informative)

    by ath0mic (519762) on Thursday May 22, 2003 @02:48PM (#6017316)

    If there is one thing we should always remember, computer science != programming.
    I think anyone stuyding CS will agree with this statement.
  • by Indy1 (99447) <spamtrap@fuckedregime.com> on Thursday May 22, 2003 @03:10PM (#6017534) Homepage
    Before i rant, some quick background. I've been in IT in some shape or form since 95. I am a decent admin, capable of working in 2k, XP, and Linux (with linux being my preferred server solution). I have a career relavent degree and certifcations. Back in 99 I went back to school and got my degree in june of 01. I spent 13 months unemployed before i recieved a very low paying job that barely keeps me above bankruptcy.
    Less then 10% of my graduating class ever got career relavent jobs.

    OK, now the rant. I would tell ANYONE thinking about a career in computers to avoid it like the black plague. There's too many people unemployed in this area as it is. Companies are outsourcing tech jobs like mad. If by some miracle you do get a job, its very low paying (I've seen companies in LA offering CCIE's $15 an hour) and extremely long hours. Even for someone like me who loves computers, its just not worth it. Getting a degree in this field is just a sure fire way to end up with massive student loans you'll have little chance of ever paying off.

    People keep speaking of when things will recover. I dont think they're going to really. Companies just dont want to spend money in IT or pay for decent IT departments. Why pay someone 35k or more when you can just outsource it for far less. Granted the outsourced IT sucks quality wise, but
    the bean counters dont care about quality.

  • by Kid Brother of St. A (662151) on Thursday May 22, 2003 @03:23PM (#6017651)
    I'm a faculty member in the math/CS department of a liberal arts college. I'm on the "math" side of things but teach nearly all of our CS and CIS majors at one point or another. What I notice is:

    1. Most students we get in CS/CIS have no conception of what computing really *is*. They are not getting into the field to be rich -- because they don't really know WHY they are in ANY field at all. Some major in computing because their parents push them into it (they have a 6-7-year old idea that computing jobs are growing on trees, still) or because -- seriously -- they love playing video games and want to "do" video games as a career. Virtually none of our CS/CIS majors have any previous coding experience coming out of high school. There's very little sense of the breadth of the computing field, the major ideas and current issues in the field, or even that being a CS major means learning several computing languages and writing usable code in them. THAT side of computing never gets portrayed on TV, does it?

    2. Most students in CS/CIS -- maybe because they don't have that sense of the meaning or depth of the computing field -- absolutely revolt when math or science are brought into the picture. For instance, I just taught a course on cryptography, and the idea that good cryptosystems (esp. public-key systems) are based on good (= hard) math problems, and therefore we need to understand the math to be good at the systems, was very hard for the CS majors in there to swallow. In general when math shows up in CS, a lot of CS majors suddenly become business or sociology majors. I can't help but think that the decline in CS majors is tied in a fundamental way to an overall decline in interest in math and science here in the US.

    3. I see a general trend among all our students that, while they are generally bright and pleasant folks to teach and work with, they don't have much in the way of a big picture idea of who they are and what they want to do with themselves. In particular, a lot of my students don't particularly "enjoy" ANYTHING -- in the sense that they like to spend spare time working on or reading about something, like slashdotters with computers -- that could be remotely considered intellectual or academic. Their hobbies tend more toward passive things like sleeping, watching TV, playing video games etc. rather than computers, reading books, or even playing sports -- things that demand persistence, skill, and discipline.

    So from my point of view the decline the article talks about is just symptomatic of a larger shift in the culture to which college students belong. I do think that the students who stick with CS will be the true believers (a lot like math majors in that sense) but every freshman class is going to be the same as it has been composition-wise.

    But to end on a positive note, the whole reason I love being a prof is that I get to be counter-cultural all day long and get paid for it. :-)

  • by phorm (591458) on Thursday May 22, 2003 @03:39PM (#6017788) Journal
    Not like a few years ago when students were enrolling because they wanted to make a quick buck. I'll take quality over quantity

    For a lot of people around here, it was a case of getting a decent job at all. Unfortunately, many employment advisors etc pushed them towards the computing field, ending them up in programming courses.

    What these advisors don't seem to understand... yes, IT was a booming job market. However, it does require a certain mindset. In my course, which wasn't overly difficult to me, we had an influx of laid-off government workers from forestry and other IT-unrelated sectors. Some actually were decent coders... others simply floundered.
    In addition, many who got good marks because of "book skills" simply don't cope well with real-life situations.

    It's one thing to study up for test-time by memorizing keywords or phrases, methodologies, etc (some of which were completely useless crap IMHO, as I've never seen them used in the field) - it's quite another to be vaulted into a job situation... where your production server suddenly crashes continually while running a critical financial application running on COBOL.

    OK, maybe not COBOL, but in many cases linux or related. Skills at finding information and solutions to problems from google, newgroups, and manuals - quickly and effectively - is a skills that often gets overlooked. The ability to cope in a crisis where the problem isn't obviously in a book, or is just unknown, is often more built-in than learned.

    I'm not saying that some people from other industries can't learn to code, or be admins. It's just that many don't develop the love that comes with the position, it's just a job. Being able to punch in code for hours on end... look at the clock and suddenly realize you've been at it for 5 hours... and think "wow, what a rush, that was awesome" is just something that is beyond the average person. Equivilate it to a "jogger's high" - which is something many geeks will equally not experience... it's what seperates true geeks from trained nerds.

    IT workers that lack the fundamental passion are glutting the market because people have been given the idea that "IT will get you a job", "IT is the place to be," "They're looking for workers like you." In the end, they make us all look bad, and make it very difficult for those who truly love IT to get the jobs we love. It's not just about grades (though the do indicate skill) or resumes, it's about passion.
  • by Badgerman (19207) on Thursday May 22, 2003 @04:13PM (#6018151)
    1. Make sure you enjoy it. Really enjoy it. It's a lifestyle.
    2. Make sure you know what you're doing. If you're going into a CIS major without much experience, you may be in for a nasty surprise.
    3. Get a second major or a minor in something else that is useful, relevant, and can be combined with the computing.
    4. Stay on top of the news, the trends, and move with the times.
    5. Get ANY job experience, any relevant experience ASAP and always maintain that resume.


    My irony is that I'm a psychology major who did a lot of research and used a lot of computers. Now half my work involves data abstraction, workflow, working with people, and statistics. If I'd gone into a CIS major I probably would have been a worse programmer - the extra "something" helps.

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