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Education Programming IT Technology

Computer Science Major Is Cool Again 328

Posted by kdawson
from the on-average-we-all-have-jobs dept.
netbuzz sends along a piece from Network World reporting that the number of computer science majors enrolled at US universities increased for the first time in six years, according to new survey data out this morning. The Taulbee Study found that the number of undergraduates signed up as computer science majors rose 8% last year. The survey was conducted last fall, just as the economic downturn started to bite. The article notes the daunting competition for positions at top universities: Carnegie Mellon University received 2,600 applications for 130 undergrad spots, and 1,400 for 26 PhD slots. "...the popularity of computer science majors among college freshmen and sophomores is because IT has better job prospects than other specialties, especially in light of the global economic downturn. ... The latest unemployment numbers for 2008 for computer software engineers is 1.6%... That's beyond full employment. ... The demand for tech jobs may rise further thanks to the Obama Administration's stimulus package, which could create nearly 1 million new tech jobs."
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Computer Science Major Is Cool Again

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  • Cool? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by oodaloop (1229816) on Tuesday March 17, 2009 @01:12PM (#27228951)
    From TFS:

    the popularity of computer science majors among college freshmen and sophomores is because IT has better job prospects than other specialties

    How does that make it cool? It sounds more like desperation.

    • Re:Cool? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by stewbacca (1033764) on Tuesday March 17, 2009 @01:42PM (#27229585)
      It's cool to have a job, I guess?
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by creimer (824291)
      Cool is where the money is.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      From TFS:

      the popularity of computer science majors among college freshmen and sophomores is because IT has better job prospects than other specialties

      How does that make it cool? It sounds more like desperation.

      Exactly.

      What's worse, is that computer science is not relevant for most IT positions. Unless you are programming, but those jobs are the smallest slice of the IT pie.
      Those kids would be better off at a trade school or VoTech learning networking, systems administration, etc.

      Next winter you can expect to see an article alerting us to a sudden surge in CS majors who are switching or dropping out & going to IT tech schools.

      It's a fairly predictable cycle.

      • Re:Cool? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by COMON$ (806135) on Tuesday March 17, 2009 @02:41PM (#27230817) Journal
        Man I need to start copying and pasting my response to this question. If the kid wanted to take the easy route, yes, VoTech is the way to go. However, I have made a rather sucessful carreer as a network/system admin with a BS in CS. Sure I dont work on microcontrollers and I cant tell you how to write C++ anymore. But the vision and reasoning skills I received by getting a BSCS gives me a huge advantage. (relevant books in parenthesis) I can relate to any area of IT easily, I can read code smoothly (Essentials of programming languages), I can troubleshoot (File structures,algorithms and analysis), predict future needs (numerical analysis), adapt easily to different OS's (Applied Operating system Concepts), and can relate socially (many late nights at the bar).

        Yes CS CAN be IT, is there an easier way to do it? Oh hell ya. But you miss out on so much. Vo-tech is outdated in 5 years...BSCS well that hasnt changed in what...40-50 years?

    • Related article... [clickorlando.com]
    • by Jester998 (156179)

      How does that make it cool? It sounds more like desperation.

      It's also what got us into the whole Java School [joelonsoftware.com] mess.

  • RTFA (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Marxist Hacker 42 (638312) * <seebert42@gmail.com> on Tuesday March 17, 2009 @01:12PM (#27228971) Homepage Journal

    These ain't programmers, nor are they REAL "Software Engineers", the article writers are throwing Project Managers and Software Architects into the mix to get their numbers:
     
     

    "The latest unemployment numbers for 2008 for computer software engineers is 1.6%...That's beyond full employment," says Josh James, Director of Research and Industry Analysis with TechAmerica. "Computer programmers' unemployment rate has gone up from 2.5% in 2007 to 3.7% in 2008. That's a sign that programming skills are easier to do from anywhere in the world. But the high-growth jobs include skills that are hard to send abroad such as systems integration and IT managers."

     
    In other words, for the type of *real programmer* who isn't on a team and does everything from Requirements Gathering to QA (and everything in between) your job is STILL threatened by outsourcing. But the schools have finally figured that out, so instead of teaching basic concepts like data mining and programming, they're teaching people to be managers right out of the box. Dilbert Principle, here we come.

    • Re:RTFA (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Eli Gottlieb (917758) <eligottlieb.gmail@com> on Tuesday March 17, 2009 @01:19PM (#27229099) Homepage Journal

      Data mining is not a basic principle, and programming is to computer science what algebra is to mathematics.

      • by tempest69 (572798)

        you sir have made a fan.

    • Re:RTFA (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Nursie (632944) on Tuesday March 17, 2009 @01:21PM (#27229137)

      "In other words, for the type of *real programmer* who isn't on a team and does everything from Requirements Gathering to QA (and everything in between) your job is STILL threatened by outsourcing."

      What sort of a real programmer isn't on a team these days?

      Any serious sized project has a team. And believe me, good software engineers are still very sought after.

      • Anybody working as the only developer in a company of less than 40 people.

        That's getting a bit rare, since contract programming is getting so cheap, but it's the situation I'm best in. Luckily, it's what I landed in this last round- after my contract with Intel went tits up in the last round of 90% decrease in net profit, my contracting company, which usually does only internationalization jobs, suddenly realized that they had a bunch of back-office proprietary software that needed updating, and nobody to

        • by intrico (100334)

          You're essentially telling us you have a negative opinion of team-based projects. It behooves you to at least have a neutral opinion. Being able to work as effectively on a team as you do independently is an asset that would make you less likely to be replaced by outsourcing. The reality is, depending on the size and scope of the individual project, many projects do require contribution from an entire team in order to be successful.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by mikael (484)

      Reminds me of a comment by the CEO of one of the Indian outsourcing companies (Tata Consultancy?), "If India is going to continue to be successful in attracting outsourced work from the USA, the US must put more effort in attracting graduates into management roles".

  • engineering (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Lord Ender (156273) on Tuesday March 17, 2009 @01:17PM (#27229047) Homepage

    Now that the financial industry is in shambles (what do they produce, again?) the only way to make bank without sacrificing the 8 to 12 years of your youth to med school or law school is engineering. And since most people are now familiar with computers, software engineering seems more accessible.

    This makes perfect sense. Engineers make more money than any other Bachelors degrees can get you. Many students don't realize that it is damn hard to get an engineering degree compared to other degrees, though. At least, that's true of good colleges.

    • Re:engineering (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Ethanol-fueled (1125189) * on Tuesday March 17, 2009 @01:54PM (#27229799) Homepage Journal
      Software engineering != using software to solve engineering problems!

      All of the "Software Engineering" coursework around here is training in more of the abstract and organizational aspects of programming such as development methodologies and teamwork, buzzwords, fancy colored charts, and consulting.

      All of the classes I know of which use programming to solve math problems are under the umbrella of the math departments. YMMV.
      • Re:engineering (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Lord Ender (156273) on Tuesday March 17, 2009 @02:00PM (#27229937) Homepage

        Who said anything about math? Scientific computing, including math-related stuff, is not what's driving software engineering employment. It's the ability to produce software which helps business that's driving the hiring. This means "pure" programming, yes, but also HCI, communication, design, testing methodology... there's a lot more to producing software than just programming.

        • I may have misunderstood your juxtaposition of engineering and software engineering. Engineering is applied math, Software Engineering is the business aspects of software development.

          That juxtaposition frequently causes misunderstandings about what comprises software engineering. Every angry nitpicker on Slashdot who bitches and moans about "software engineer" being a misleading(at best, bullshit at worst) title if the engineer isn't a P.E. [wikipedia.org] makes my point.
          • I know plenty of professional EEs who aren't P.E.s. It'ss just silly to assume P.E. defines what an engineer is.

            And there is plenty to electrical engineering that isn't applied math.

            I can't speak to other disciplines of engineering, but I suspect it is similar.

            I take it you've never left academia?

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by jellomizer (103300)

        Software Engineering is actually more of a Business Study then a Technical Study. That said it is pritty darn useful. While a lot of people know how to program very few are able to make an application.

      • by DrLang21 (900992)
        That's what Software Engineering is. It's akin to System's Engineering. It requires a diverse set of technical and managerial skills and it's not easy to do well.
  • .
    Um, if 1.6% or more of all CS people are unemployed, I think it's weird to say that's "beyond full employment." How is it that you can even be beyond full employment? Weird! LOL

    • by peter303 (12292)
      Typically there are a few people in between jobs for one reason or another. General full employment is somewhere around 4% unemployed. White and Asian college grads thats more like 2%'ish.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by tverbeek (457094)
      That's because economist-bureaucrats have defined a certain level of unemployment as "full employment". They figure you're always going to have some people who are out of work... so they don't count that many of them.
    • by i.of.the.storm (907783) on Tuesday March 17, 2009 @01:39PM (#27229533) Homepage
      Full employment is defined as around 5% unemployment. This is made up of frictional unemployment, people between jobs or looking for their first one, structural unemployment, people whose skills are obsolete, and cyclical unemployment, unemployment due to the ebb and flow of the business cycle.
    • by creimer (824291)
      The reason I went back to school in 2002 to study IT (when everyone told me I was crazy) was for three future trends: baby boomers will be retiring, India and China will eventually keep their IT workers at home for their own economies, and the U.S. won't have enough college graduates to meet the demand. In short, there will be crunch for skilled IT workers (i.e., "beyond full employment").
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by falconwolf (725481)

      Um, if 1.6% or more of all CS people are unemployed, I think it's weird to say that's "beyond full employment." How is it that you can even be beyond full employment? Weird! LOL

      In economics full employment [wikipedia.org] is defined as an unemployment rate of between 2 and 7%.

      Falcon

  • According to a recent poll of Wellesley College students, Computer Science majors have the fourth LOWEST virginity rate! Either the linked study is right, or CS's have become better liars. http://www.forwardon.com/view.php?e=Id1200c8f6b7f5f813 [forwardon.com]
    • Wellesley College is an all-female liberal-arts college. Given that roughly 90% of computer science majors are male, that link has no relevance or impact on the real world that the rest of us live in.

      And yes, if my girlfriend were not hundreds of miles away on Spring Break, I would not be posting on Slashdot.

      • And yes, if my girlfriend were not hundreds of miles away on Spring Break, I would not be posting on Slashdot.

        You mean you'd be doing what she is, in all liklihood, getting done to her thrice over?

        I kid, I kid.

        • Yeah, actually when I say "hundreds of miles away" I mean "at home". Both our homes are equidistant from our university, and the distances add up to a three-digit number.

  • Oy! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Samschnooks (1415697) on Tuesday March 17, 2009 @01:21PM (#27229127)

    Harsha says computer science majors are critical for the U.S. economy because their training provides them with computational thinking and problem solving skills that they can deploy in any industry.

    So does: physics, chemistry, engineering, math, accounting....

    "The primary reason for the downturn in computer science majors was the erroneous fear that everything was being outsourced to India, which we know is not true," says Prof. Jerry Luftman, executive director of the School of Technology Management at Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, N.J.

    Really? Tell that to IBM. [businessinsider.com]

    The lobbying group TechAmerica says computer software engineering and computer systems design are the fastest-growing high tech jobs, even in the fourth quarter of 2008.

    Who is this "TechAmerica"? The lobbying group TechAmerica says computer software engineering and computer systems design are the fastest-growing high tech jobs, even in the fourth quarter of 2008. Oh, I see. So, corps want more H1-Bs, I take it and they're setting up the public opinion to be more open to it in these troubling times.

    The whole article keeps mentioning "IT","IT","IT" and only once did they say something mobile devices. I wish they would say exactly what area of IT is booming.

    This article is nothing but fluff.

    • "The primary reason for the downturn in computer science majors was the erroneous fear that everything was being outsourced to India, which we know is not true," says Prof. Jerry Luftman, executive director of the School of Technology Management at Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, N.J.

      Really? Tell that to IBM.

      How does the fact that IBM is telling some of their workers to move to India to keep their jobs means everything is being outsourced to India?

  • by Paul Slocum (598127) on Tuesday March 17, 2009 @01:21PM (#27229135) Homepage Journal
    I only skimmed the article, but I never saw any mention what's happening to CS enrollment relative to *other* departments. It was my understanding that there is a general increase in college/grad enrollment in most departments when the economy dips.
    • by tverbeek (457094) on Tuesday March 17, 2009 @01:48PM (#27229701) Homepage
      You can't get through a single news item or political speech on the subject of the current job market without the reporter/politician saying something about how people need to be retrained for jobs in "health care" or "high tech", because that's where the jobs will be. Of course this doesn't mean that we'll have a surplus of job openings in IT... only that most other fields (especially manufacturing and farming) are contracting like an old red supergiant.

      (The only field that really looks good for the foreseeable future is nursing. With the Boomers already starting into their 60s and lifespans reaching into the medically-dependent 90s, there is going to be a persistent need for lots of nurses in the decades to come, and that's something that simply cannot be "off-shored". How we'll pay them all a living wage is a good question, but at least they'll have jobs.)
  • by plasmacutter (901737) on Tuesday March 17, 2009 @01:24PM (#27229193)

    What a spin piece.

    CS majors had plummeted to near extinction over the past decade.

    Given the market is still there, the stats had nowhere to go but up out of sheer law of averages.

    Additionally, major does not necessarily mean field. People might be going into the major to gain greater understanding of the tools used by even the burger flippers today.

    The fact that it's math and logic heavy makes it look better on a resume than east asian studies.

    • I don't understand why a kid WOULDN'T want to be a CS major--at least here in Austin, TX. When I was 22, fresh with my useless Liberal Arts degree, the best job (in today's dollars) I could have hoped for would have been around $30k a year. We hire kids that are near graduation from the University of Texas and Texas State University to do monkey-code, starting at around $60k with full benefits (and they still have a hard time making it to work on time or taking direction...get off my lawn!)

      Hell, CS jobs

      • Hire me then, my school is ranked pretty high, and i'm willing to re-locate. give me a website to app assuming you don't have a hiring freeze.

        • Most companies really don't care about college rankings, but I'll take your word for it. Unfortunately, I'd rather retain my modicum of anonymity than tell you where I work. But if you are willing to relocate for a tech-savvy area, give Austin a look (just watchout for layoffs at Dell, AMD and Freescale Semiconductor). Great quality of life, low cost of living, no income tax, nice weather, college town...
          • Most companies really don't care about college rankings, but I'll take your word for it. Unfortunately, I'd rather retain my modicum of anonymity than tell you where I work. But if you are willing to relocate for a tech-savvy area, give Austin a look (just watchout for layoffs at Dell, AMD and Freescale Semiconductor). Great quality of life, low cost of living, no income tax, nice weather, college town...

            It's unfortunate you're not willing to give me a company name. Remember I risk my anonymity too as a sudden out of state applicant.

  • by PeanutButterBreath (1224570) on Tuesday March 17, 2009 @01:24PM (#27229199)

    Picking a major, especially an intensive one like CS, based on current employment statistics, that is.

  • by geminidomino (614729) * on Tuesday March 17, 2009 @01:26PM (#27229241) Journal

    I feel for the hotshot larval geek that's been programming since he was in the single digits, knows 3-4 operating systems, and can put together a computer in 15 minutes while getting a blowjob and having a gun pointed at his head, who is going to enroll in a CS program and find out he knows fuckall about "computer science."

    Lest I get modded down for being an elitist prick, I'm not bashing those kids. I *am* one (although too old to be a kid). It's all downhill from Discrete Math...

    • by wed128 (722152)

      Those kids can go to a tech school and become electrical technicians. Plugging a damn PCI card in has nothing to do with computer science. Knowing your way around the start menu has nothing to do with computer science.

      Computer science is a mathematical discipline that has little to do with computers at all. If only more high school kids knew that, the drop-rate of Computer Science/Engineering degrees wouldn't be so high.

      • That was my point.

        Hell, coupled with the fact that I waited until I already had a job as a programmer to finish school (because now I can afford it), the workload is insaaaane. Theory of Computation is a bitch.

        I've been tempted to drop a few times. Fortunately, I'm too stubborn and manage to sacrifice a few months of sleep/life at a time to pull out a B. Glad too, because the stuff is damn interesting. Complicated as all getout, but interesting.

      • "Computer science is a mathematical discipline that has little to do with computers at all."

        Sure, otherwise they'd call it Computer ... oh wait.

    • by Kozz (7764)

      I feel for the hotshot larval geek that's been programming since he was in the single digits, knows 3-4 operating systems, and can put together a computer in 15 minutes while getting a blowjob and having a gun pointed at his head...

      Although I am grateful to be gainfully employed, could you please tell me where you interviewed?

      Okay, you got me. I'm married. But you're not reading this, are you honey?

  • One area that didn't show improvement in the latest Taulbee Survey is the number of women pursuing computer science degrees, which held steady at 11.8%

    Times are rough perhaps, but they aren't rough enough yet that women are eager to sign up for the disrespect we have to put up with. Perhaps being a Lawyer or a Doctor isn't as sure a thing anymore, but at least they still make more money and get more respect, for roughly the same mental outlay.

  • by dmomo (256005) on Tuesday March 17, 2009 @01:29PM (#27229305) Homepage

    We on Slashdot think so?

    Me: "I'm sorry Miss, but there will be no cutting."

    She: "But Dmomo, I don't just want to be with your CS Degree, I love you for you. Let me push your stack."

    Me: "Typical story. Get to the end of the Lady Queue... I'm a FIFO man"

    She: "Swoon"

  • Dead Cats (Score:4, Funny)

    by travdaddy (527149) <travo@@@linuxmail...org> on Tuesday March 17, 2009 @01:32PM (#27229377)
    the number of computer science majors enrolled at US universities increased for the first time in six years

    Well, I guess it HAD to increase sometime. There's a financial saying that applies here, "Even a dead cat will bounce if you drop it from a great height."
    • There's a financial saying that applies here, "Even a dead cat will bounce if you drop it from a great height."

      These days, the financial saying of the zeitgeist seems to be "Thank you sir! May I have another!?"

    • There's a financial saying that applies here, "Even a dead cat will bounce if you drop it from a great height."

      in how many pieces?

  • by jollyreaper (513215) on Tuesday March 17, 2009 @01:40PM (#27229555)

    I love learning but am sick of institutionalized education. The problem is the right way to do education is incredibly expensive, incredibly time-consuming, but if we had proper priorities as a society, would be seen as completely worth it. At this point, only idiots or saints would go into a career in education. There's no money in it, and I'm not talking about enough money to become a rich bastard, I'm talking about enough money to avoid poverty.

    I'm not quite sure what the right solution is yet but I'm wondering if it might not be a good idea to start on the Young Lady's Primer. We've certainly made some advancements on the sort of technology that would be required.

  • by ErichTheRed (39327) on Tuesday March 17, 2009 @01:41PM (#27229575)

    While interest in the field is good, there are still some major barriers to entry that need to be considered.

    1. Unlike previous downturns, we currently have tons of IT/CS people out of work. I'm very lucky to have work; according to all my colleagues, hiring is extremely limited, especially in large public companies. In addition, competition for these jobs is incredibly tough.

    2. Outsourcing has not gone away. IBM's a perfect example, as are many of the other professional services firms. India is rapidly moving up the food chain, and even advanced dev jobs are moving elsewhere very quickly. The best strategy is to get involved with a small company who doesn't have the resources to manage an outsourcing engagement.

    3. A corollary to #2 - Lots of companies are "discovering" they don't need an IT department anymore. Most of the programming jobs will be for vendors, if the whole "cloud computing" fad turns out to be more than a fad.

    4. Don't assume you can choose where you work, if that's important to you. Companies are shifting their support functions to cheaper locations within the US, so keep that in mind unless you don't care about living in Boston vs. Omaha.

    So, as always IT and programming are fun fields to be in, but just keep in mind that the employment prospects are still unstable. If you're the kind who doesn't mind bouncing from one 6-month contract to another, you'll do fine. Full time work might be harder to come by.

    • Even though both IT and engineering require the ability to program computers, the two are NOT the same when viewed from the perspective of corporate management:

      1. IT is viewed as a cost center; as if it were some kind of corporate parasite preying on the profitable activities of the company. It is tolerated, but not celebrated.
      2. Engineering is viewed as the place where the "next big thing" comes from. While R&D can be a hard sell at times, engineers are not treated like parasites, nor are they expected
    • by Kozz (7764)

      Here's a story about two friends with a passing interest in computer work: one is a highly-skilled (former) US Army linguist, the other is a recently laid-off pastor. At times within the last year both have asked me (the geekiest of our clan of friends) about "getting into computers" and "making websites" (*cringe*).

      It's hard to offer advice to people who've suddenly decided this is what they want to do... and there's absolutely no comparison to my history of interest, hobbyist pursuits, self-teaching and

  • time for my rant again

    I love learning but am sick of institutionalized education.

    The proper beginning is, "You know what really grinds my gears?"

  • These are kids that have learned that MBAs aren't in demand any more since the financial collapse and are going into computers because it is the only decent paying job left that doesn't require an advanced degree.

    It's like 1999 all over again.

  • No, I didn't RTFA.

    I'm thinking that a great number of these may well be current IT people who never had a degree who, seeing the ax starting to fall, are trying to finally hustle to get some validation for their position or at least secure more power in their search for a new position. I would think that when people start to worry about their job they look for a way to make themselves more marketable. I wonder if there is a way to see if the numbers of 'students' trying to pass entry and mid level certs is
  • Interesting statistic in that I am about to get laid off (BSCS with 15+ years of experience), along with four other programmers (two already gone), two software QA, a manager, and two tech support people. I've already interviewed with one company over a week and a half ago and haven't heard back yet. I heard through an acquaintance that the company's HR was overwhelmed with the number of applicants. It feels kind of like the government's inflation rate statistic; the annual retported number has been real
  • by cortesoft (1150075) on Tuesday March 17, 2009 @02:31PM (#27230625)

    I have been programming since I was 8 years old (made a kick ass dog racing game in 2nd grade), but decided to be a philosophy major at UCLA instead of a CS major. The best decision I ever made. My philosophy training (I specialized in formal logic theory) has helped my programming more than any CS class would have. A good programmer needs to be able to teach themselves, or they will be obsolete almost immediately. Learning how to use logic and transform abstract human concepts into a formal logic representation is the true base skill for programmers.

    It worked out for me.... 4 years removed from graduation, I have a great programming job that I love, making excellent money, and happy as can be.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by xenocide2 (231786)

      "Learning how to use logic and transform abstract human concepts into a formal logic representation is the true base skill for programmers."

      Which is why we teach it to freshmen. Sadly, most of them find the subject so difficult they sell their book and try their hardest to forget they ever knew it. I've literally had Computer Engineering friends tell me that logic started at 0 and ended at 1. Nothing more complicated than that should exist, he asserted.

  • by walterbyrd (182728) on Tuesday March 17, 2009 @07:57PM (#27235739)

    When you are doing reading corporate propaganda from a lobbyist group. You might want to take a look at comments from real IT pros:

    http://techtoil.org/wiki/doku.php?id=articles:news_and_commentary [techtoil.org]

    A BSCS is almost as difficult as a degree in engineering, but it's as worthless as a degree in Liberal Arts.

    Look at the job ads, employers don't give a damn about your silly BSCS, they want experience - many years of professional, verifiable, recent experience, and in many different technologies, and no jobs have the same requirements.

    Maybe there are few slashdot readers, who don't live in caves, who may have noticed that practically ever major tech employer has been laying workers by the thousands - especially US IT workers. And yet you are going to believe this corporate sponsored bullshit? You have my pity.
     

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