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US College Students Still Aren't All That Interested In Computer Science 306

Posted by samzenpus
from the you-fail-it dept.
itwbennett (1594911) writes "Despite the hot job market and competitive salaries, the share of Computer Science degrees as a percentage of BA degrees has remained essentially unchanged since 1981, according to data from the National Center for Educational Statistics' Digest of Educational Statistics. If history is any indication, it will take a cultural phenomenon to shift the percentage higher: Blogger Phil Johnson point out that there were 'two distinct peaks, one in 1985 (4.4% of U.S. college degrees) and one in 2002 (4.42%). These would represent big increases for the classes entering school in 1981 and 1998 respectively. The former year corresponds to the beginning of computers coming into the home and the release of things like MS-DOS 1.0, all of which may have increased interest in programming. The latter year was during the dot com bubble, which, no doubt, also boosted interest.'"
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US College Students Still Aren't All That Interested In Computer Science

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  • by Joe_Dragon (2206452) on Wednesday May 14, 2014 @10:05PM (#47005671)

    Computer Science is not IT and at some time / schools not even coding, web site work and more.

  • I have tried (Score:5, Insightful)

    by EmperorOfCanada (1332175) on Wednesday May 14, 2014 @10:09PM (#47005695)
    I have tried to teach a handful of people how to program. Generally it either takes or it doesn't. Some people would lose their minds at how hard it can be to get some new library to compile and I think they could see that coming. The whole concept that a single wrong letter could mean the difference between success and 200 error messages just made them ask, "You do this all day?"

    I don't think that it is that these people can't learn but it is simply something that is completely not part of their brain's make-up. Many people like things like writing reports where you are making a generalize persuasive argument which will be backed up with meeting and maybe even some time on a golf course; things that generally drive most programmers insane.
  • by O('_')O_Bush (1162487) on Wednesday May 14, 2014 @10:15PM (#47005739)
    CS degrees aren't the only game in town. Lots of programmers come from C.E., E.E., or Math degrees. I would say the number of programmers, in total, are going up, just that CS degrees are less prestigious or desirable.
  • Follow the money (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Opportunist (166417) on Wednesday May 14, 2014 @10:24PM (#47005787)

    Let's be honest here, CS is not the easiest kind of degree you can get. And you also need to understand the crap you learn, sponge learning (soak up the crap, squeeze it out for the test, rinse with alcohol afterwards to get rid of the residue) doesn't cut it, this ain't law or business administration.

    And since it ain't law or BA, it's also not the prestige and/or money that could possibly make it attractive. What's left is these people who study it because they WANT to. It's not where you go when you don't know what to study but your parents want you to go to the university, and neither is it what you study when money is your only reason why you want a degree. CS is what you study when you want to study CS.

    And the number of people who're interested in computers, who have the mindset AND who have the required brains to make it doesn't change. Why should it?

  • by Thantik (1207112) on Wednesday May 14, 2014 @10:30PM (#47005817)
    Well, given that CS degrees lately consist of having students reimplement all the sorting methods learned since the 1970s, I can certainly understand why CS degrees are less desirable. I know many college kids who took up CS classes, who thought they were going to learn to code, learn awesome things, and it turned out to have much less to do with computers, and much more to do with general math/logic.
  • Re:I have tried (Score:4, Insightful)

    by InsultsByThePound (3603437) on Wednesday May 14, 2014 @10:31PM (#47005823)

    Many people like things like writing reports where you are making a generalize persuasive argument which will be backed up with meeting and maybe even some time on a golf course; things that generally drive most programmers insane.

    Most antisocial programmers I have seen are stuck on bullshit jobs after 40 because they can't take shove their OCD aside but at the same time aren't smart enough to realize "No, I'm not a genius like Carmack who can afford to act 100x as OCD as me without repercussion."

    Then they steam and stew while less able programmers get promoted, because they can hob nob with a bunch of managers on the back nine without missing a beat.

  • Where do you live? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by rsilvergun (571051) on Wednesday May 14, 2014 @10:35PM (#47005847)
    my kid works like a dog. Christ, she works harder than I do. And her classmates are working even harder. 4 to 6 hours of homework a night isn't unheard of. It's fsckin' nuts.

    But you're right about them not being dumb. Just about everyone in IT except a few rock stars at google is here on an H1-B. Why in God's good name would anyone go into computer science?
  • by DutchUncle (826473) on Wednesday May 14, 2014 @10:55PM (#47005971)
    That's part of the problem. Architecture is not piling bricks and nailing boards, it's physics and math. Automotive engineering isn't driving cool cars, it's *designing* cool cars. And most of the crap software around is precisely because people slapped some code together without design and engineering and planning and logic.
  • by pla (258480) on Wednesday May 14, 2014 @11:01PM (#47005997) Journal
    So learning abstract calculus for 3 semesters, linear algebra, analysis / topology is not going to give you coding ability.

    I don't normally respond to ACs, but you have it so wrong, I couldn't resist.

    Linear algebra quite possibly counts as the single most useful pure-math course I took as part of my CS degree - With statistics as a close second. And of course, I don't even mention boolean algebra because it counts as just too obvious (protip: fully parenthesize everything, because no, that line doesn't do what you meant, and I have to fix it after they can your ass).

    No, HR doesn't understand that. HR doesn't understand a single goddamned word on your resume, so don't bother - Just make sure your cover letter mentions every buzzword in the job listing, and HR will pass you along to the actual hiring manager.

    And he will appreciate the difference between someone who did a static webpage as their capstone project vs someone who can chat about the meaning of the various ways to measure the average of a set of values (free hint: mean/median/mode ain't even a weak start to that conversation).

    Math isn't CS. But CS is math.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 14, 2014 @11:24PM (#47006087)

    All the big computer-related firms in the US (Microsoft, Apple, Google, Facebook, etc) are working VERY hard to end the limits on importing high-tech workers from abroad and several of them are currently involved in a court battle that includes the tactics they were using to suppress the wages and benefits of all the computer-related workers in the US (As the "big guys" in the industry, THEY set the "industry standards" for wages and benefits, so their collusion to rip-off thier own workers actually hurt ALL computer people in the US).

    The Democrat party is full-on in support of the "immigration reform" these big businesses want (the Democrats currently control the White House and the Senate) and the so-called "Establishment" Republicans (the party bosses in D.C., many of their wealthy funders, the "money is EVERYTHING" people from the north-eastern region, and most of the long-time office holders) are also on-board for these "reforms" and are promising/threatening to do them late this year (the Republicans currently control the House) so, without regard to what the American people may or may not want, the "fix" is pretty-much in; sooner or later the wages of high-tech workers are going to plunge further downward. Government clearly DOES NOT WANT AMERICANS DOING HIGH-TECH WORK. This is a fact, no matter what they SAY. Government TAXES and REGULATES the things it wants to reduce. Government SUBSIDIZES and DE-REGULATES (removing limits is a form of de-regulation) the things it wants to increase.

    Any young American who wants a career it's impossible to be fired from, with a good salary and benefits, and with an absurdly unrealistic retirement package that will never be reduced, should major in some nebulous "public policy" field and get a job in the federal government regulating all the people who were stupid enough to try to be productive citizens. You don't have to KNOW anything or have any experience doing anything productive to be well-paid stopping other people from being productive... AND you'll be swimming WITH the currents (doing what government wants)

  • by s.petry (762400) on Thursday May 15, 2014 @01:06AM (#47006461)

    Please don't take this as an argument against you, it's meant to argue against this chronic message that we see every month or so that everyone in the US needs to be a programmer. I agree that it takes a certain mindset to be a programmer, just like it takes a certain mindset to be a Fireman, or Soldier, or Doctor, or Plumber, etc... I'm not a programmer for a living for the same reason I'm not a graphics designer. Doing either of those things for a living requires the ability to remain in abstract thought for long periods of time, very much like an artist.

    Honestly though, I don't see the big deal. If everyone in the US was a programmer we'd be naked and starve to death in short order. Our houses would burn down and our country would be invaded and taken over. The Allegory of the Artisan is very fitting here, and as with most things Socrates explains this dilemma very well.

    A secondary issue is that the a large portion of the population does not want to work any more than necessary to survive. It's not laziness for most, this is a normal and rational way of thinking. I have food on the table and a roof is over my head, life is good. It's takes exceptions to move beyond that, thankfully we have always had those types of people to spare.

    I agree with your points, and am more disagreeing with this latest "everyone needs to be a programmer" message. Society needs all kinds of people thinking all kinds of ways in order to function. I'm just fine with that.

    If society really wanted to change things then there would be incentives to do so. Who does society compensate better, a Lawyer or a Lead Developer? Lead Graphic Artist or Politician? Technical writer or Paralegal? I could go on and on with that one all day, so will get to the point. People that are above average tend to try and get the most compensation for their abilities. If being a Lawyer has better compensation than being a Lead Developer, guess where most people will gravitate? Society does not want change, or at least executives in companies don't. If they did, they would be paying programmers with 6 years experience more money than their latest marketing "Rock Start" who just got his MBA. They don't! If you want to make the big bucks you go into the business side of the house, period.

  • by evilviper (135110) on Thursday May 15, 2014 @01:37AM (#47006551) Journal

    Where is this "hot job market" exactly? The SF Bay area, where a typical salary is just enough to share an apartment with 3 other people, unless you're willing to do the 3-hour commute thing?

    It's always a fight for me to find work, usually 100 miles away from the previous job, most likely because HR rejects every resume lacking any keyword on the job reqs, and I'm one of the GOOD ones, with a resume that includes senior positions in big companies you've heard of. I swear HR has gone underground in the past few years, and is recruiting exclusively from LinkedIn or something.

    You're in for hell if you've got a student loan hanging over your head, and you're trying to break-in to IT with a blank resume. Hell, those companies that even ASK for any education specifically say they'll consider years of work experience as a substitute, so why go deep in debt for 4 years when you could be earning money instead?

    And those "competitive salaries" aren't that great when the companies expect 80 hour work weeks that burn-out their employees in 2-3 years, or with the above difficulty in finding positions when desired, and whatnot. A smart kid in the middle of flyover country studying IT will just be the most qualified janitor in the local McDonalds.

    Don't forget some lovely hoops, like companies requiring you meet recruiters in-person before even submitting a resume, or the horde of foreign spammers/telemarketers-cum-recruiters who don't know what state you're in, what you're looking for, or how much of your time they're wasting, and don't care.

    Why not have your kid learn to weld, following big construction jobs around the country, earning time and a half paid overtime, more than most IT Pros working the same total hours?

  • by mpfife (655916) on Thursday May 15, 2014 @02:07AM (#47006651)

    People SAY that CS is this big thing - but is it the real computer SCIENCE part - or do they mean code monkeys? CS was always meant to be much more theoretical than practical. About solving really hard problems in operating systems, efficient new kinds of hardware resource management, compilers, programming languages - not just writing the next web app.

    I think computing is undergoing just as big a change now as it did when the .com era came for the first time in the last 90's. Programming is actually getting EASIER and more accessible to everyone. Heck, we've got game makers almost exclusively using engines off the shelf to make massively successful games - and most of them are barely programmers at all. They're script monkeys in Unity. Web companies are making online applications solely from java/ruby and other high-level script and database languages. None of these things require nor touch the difficult problem computer science traditionally focuses on. They're technology jobs - not science.

    If I had to predict, the more traditional need of CS degrees are going to shrink and shrink as advances no longer require the bit-twiddling madness of the early years of computing. Hardware will easily have advanced so-as even the most inefficient algorithms for daily tasks will be just fine. No special knowledge needed. The small blobs of very high-perf code that will be needed will be done by small, very skilled CS majors (drivers, OS's, database cores, distributed memory systems, etc), but the majority of code/apps will be simply scripted/assembled together on top of these high-perf, highly-accessible API's. We already see it with abstractions like PhoneGap, Unity, etc.

  • by erroneus (253617) on Thursday May 15, 2014 @06:39AM (#47007379) Homepage

    When electricity was new, a LOT of people were bitten by the bug. Electrical tinkering was everywhere. You don't see that so much now. Occasionally you will see something interesting, but those individuals who still have an interest in it are rare. For most people, electrical devices and electricity are just a part of life.

    Cars and roads and all the things that make civilization are all the same in this respect. And computers and all that? Moore's law is dead. The excitement is dead with it. More and more it is just business and daily communications and the like. It's not rare, novel or unusual and therefore not interesting to the masses.

    We're witnessing the maturing of an industry. It will remain important, but the players will be fewer. And seriously, when was the last time you saw people lined up outside of CompUSA to buy the next version of Windows? That's literally decades ago and things have seriously gone downhill since that time. It's all normal and common infrastructure now.

    It kind of makes me wonder what the next great technological wonder will be and how everyone will jump on it the way we all did with computers over the last what? 30+ years? We're kind of due for it.

  • by mrchaotica (681592) * on Thursday May 15, 2014 @07:23AM (#47007557)

    For a LAN technician job, a network systems administration degree clearly counts as "related" to a CS degree. Therefore, this is a situation where blatantly lying on your resume is ethical (just explain once you get to the interview).

  • by jbolden (176878) on Thursday May 15, 2014 @07:41AM (#47007629) Homepage

    Network System Administration is a trade. Computer Science is an academic discipline. Those aren't related degrees or at least shouldn't be. A computer science undergrad degree I'd expect the person to be familiar with ideas from history / philosophy of science about the limits of positivism. I'd expect them to have taken theoretical math courses. I'd expect many of their programming courses to be in languages which teach them about computer languages not in practical computer languages. Languages like Oz are good for Computer Science while Network System Administration I'd want C, Java... In short I'd expect them to be prepped to go to grad school. On the other hand I'd have no expectations that they have any particular skills to a meaningful extent. Network System Administration I'd expect skills but not necessarily an education suited for academic work. Narrowly focused and more practical.

    Now. Don't get me wrong 95% of employers want the Network System Administration degree not the computer science degree. But in the abstract they aren't equivalent at all.

  • by mrchaotica (681592) * on Thursday May 15, 2014 @08:00AM (#47007689)

    That's because there aren't that many Stanford grads, and the companies are too fucking stupid to open dev offices in places outside Silicon Valley where the rest of the good CS grads are (e.g. CMU/Pittsburgh, GA Tech/Atlanta, etc.)

    Valley companies see a "shortage" because the rest of us aren't idiots and therefore realize it's not in our interest to accept 300% higher cost of living for 20% higher pay.

  • by gander666 (723553) * on Thursday May 15, 2014 @08:54AM (#47007989) Homepage

    Agreed. In my experience, physics majors tend to be excellent programmers, better than many CS majors. Perhaps it's because they're mostly just smart a heck, and that matters more than having taken a bunch of CS courses.

    As a physics degree holder, I would counter that. Yes, we are really good at algorithms, and the like, but without a lot of re-education we make terrible developers (I am not one, but I work with a dev group that has 3 PhD Physicists). They write cool code, but are fuck-all at doing error checking, bounds checking, and other mundane things that are important in production environments. Physicists would rather spend hours grooming their input data than have their code do some reality checks.

  • by walterbyrd (182728) on Thursday May 15, 2014 @09:11AM (#47008137)

    > Let me check... nope, I seem to still have a job, so you're not quite correct.

    I guess, as long as there is one job left in the US then everything is just fine.

  • by Ryanrule (1657199) on Thursday May 15, 2014 @09:31AM (#47008301)

    His degree is a diploma mill fake degree.

  • Re:I have tried (Score:4, Insightful)

    by c (8461) <beauregardcp@gmail.com> on Thursday May 15, 2014 @09:44AM (#47008399)

    The whole concept that a single wrong letter could mean the difference between success and 200 error messages just made them ask, "You do this all day?"

    shrug Some people just can't hack jobs where attention to detail matters. A missing semi-colon in software isn't much less messier than an accountant misplacing a decimal, or a millwright putting an extra turn on a depth wheel, or a carpenter cutting an inch short.

  • by meta-monkey (321000) on Thursday May 15, 2014 @09:51AM (#47008451) Journal

    Mod this man up. He knows what he's talking about.

    Not even related to computer jobs, I would not want to be working for a for-profit company in the US, at all. The pendulum has swung so far in the direction of capital and away from labor that people are basically slaves these days. The management squeezes you for every penny, no raises, no bonuses, doing the work of three people they've already laid off, because they know you'd have a hard time getting a job elsewhere. All the while conspiring to depress your wages through illegal collusion ala Steve Jobs and crew or through H1-B immigration. And it's not because they're evil (although they are frequently evil) it's because their job description demands it. They are required to "maximize shareholder value." You don't maximize value by handsomely rewarding employees, you maximize value by squeezing the maximum performance you can out of them for as few dollars as possible. If they don't, the shareholders will fire the CxO or just dump the stock.

    I'm very glad I work for a non-profit organization.

  • by ljw1004 (764174) on Thursday May 15, 2014 @11:35AM (#47009403)

    I think we saw it 20 years ago with VB and Delphi and similar RAD products. It democratized business computing, allowing every hotel to have a computerized checkin system tailored to its needs, every X business to have a Y system.

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