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British CS Majors Doing Badly In the Jobs Market 349

An anonymous reader writes "British CS majors do badly in the job market — with, four years after graduation, a higher than average (for college graduates) unemployment rate and fewer returning to higher education. Brit CS majors also do badly immediately after graduation. No similar U.S. figures exist reports the Computing Education Blog."
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British CS Majors Doing Badly In the Jobs Market

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  • I get job offers weekly that offer to pay me ~$60/hr throughout the U.S.. Seriously, I can throw a dart at the map and find a job. I am a recent graduate of 2010. I had a job 2 weeks before graduating, and I was by no means an outperforming student. 2.7 GPA.

    • by lucm ( 889690 ) on Thursday September 08, 2011 @02:06AM (#37336686)

      > I get job offers weekly that offer to pay me ~$60/hr throughout the U.S

      No you don't. What you get is calls from headhunters, like everybody in IT. These are not "job offers" but merely opportunities for you to submit your resume. And the 60$/hr is the going rate for those opportunities, not what you personnally are being offered.

  • So only a few of them are becoming Apple CEOs?
  • by Manip ( 656104 ) on Thursday September 08, 2011 @02:12AM (#37336718)
    As a UK CS grad, let me say that there are far too many unemployed I.T. people at the moment, many of which have a decade of experience. You want someone who knows your system already rather than someone you need to train up to that standard.

    The UK is broadly speaking a service industry country which means we can support lot's of I.T. people in good-times, but also means we have a lot of excess employees when the economy goes tits up.
    • by Spad ( 470073 )

      It doesn't help that most of the supposed IT people that I interview are woefully inept when it comes to anything above desktop support work. Even the staple (Windows) exam questions like "What are the 5 FSMO roles" or "How would you recover a failed domain controller" or even "What are the stages of name resolution" usually result in blank stares. Once you start getting into more complex questions such as the pros and cons of running different systems in virtual environments they mostly just give up entire

      • CS in the UK is for people who seem to know nothing about computers ...

        They are the people who cannot program, manage networks, or do tech support ... they are therefore the first to lose their jobs

        I suspect CS in the US is a different course and includes all the useful skills the employers need

      • by rgviza ( 1303161 )
        maybe you should specify "MCSE required" in your ad. I'm an engineer that doesn't know squat about windows 7, has barely a grasp on nt domains etc. FSMO? What is that? Is that some kind of fancy z-rated tire?

        My area of expertise is linux software development. I know how to talk to LDAP (the underlying technology of windows domains) but as far as which buttons to push in the oujia board known as windows to make something happen? Pfft, you'd be better off asking a desktop support wienie. You need me to make a
      • by AuMatar ( 183847 )

        Because those aren't CS questions- those are sys admin questions. CS isn't training to become a sys admin, it's to become a programmer. You wouldn't hire a mechanical engineer who designs a car to fix it, you don't hire a CS grad to run your network.

    • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 ) <mojo@world3.nBLUEet minus berry> on Thursday September 08, 2011 @03:29AM (#37337048) Homepage Journal

      I had that problem too but managed to build up a body of example code I could show to potential employers. It was all open source or personal projects, but it demonstrated that I knew what I was doing. Employers love that because usually they have to take a chance based on interview questions alone.

      • by swright ( 202401 )

        As an employer, of a tech team of nearly 20 who's actually hiring now as well I would very much like to agree with AmiMojo.

        The single biggest contributor to whether we will hire someone or not is whether we are convinced that they are actually really good.

        Qualifications and degrees to NOT say that. Having a shiny last job does not say that.

        What says it is two things;
        - code we can see that is good, whether from our aptitude test or code that you wrote and can show us (legally, without breaking NDAs)
        - an ob

    • Whilst what you say may be true about IT support where the market was flooded long before the unemployment rate started to rise in the recession, what you say absolutely isn't true of software development. I find IT support recruitment to be rather sporadic though, there's so many good people out there who can't get jobs, and so many bad people that have jobs. I find companies desperately struggle when it comes to recruiting good IT staff- it's a blaggers industry, and those who are best at blagging get the

    • It always surprises me when fellow CS people or engineers say stuff as if there is no other way.

      I would say that any software system is sufficiently complex to rival any legal system or medical system.

      Doctors go through years of general medical school. After that, they really can't do anything serious. To actually 'operate', they need years of residency training with an expert in their field. Only then can they actually operate. Once they get their niche specialization, they are paid very well just for

      • I think it's because the general attitude towards CS is that we're like plumbers. Once you take the computerin' class, you know everything that goes on inside a computer. When's the last time a plumber said to you, "Sorry, my area of expertise is sinks. I can't fix your toilet."? The general public (including the hiring class) just don't understand that.

  • We don't recruit many people here, maybe 5-6 grads a year into an IT department of 80, but find ourselves wading through hundreds of applicants, most of whom can't score above high-school level in the numerical and verbal reasoning SHL tests that we ask them to do. Personally, I think we're doing something wrong in our recruitment, but after a 6 month recruitment programme we only ended up with 3 out of 6 grad positions unfilled this year. That's for a £25,500 a year job in Berkshire.

    • The problem may be that you give people numerical and verbal reasoning tests. You are employing a human for a set of complex tasks, not measuring a robot to see if its arms fit a slot. The tests confirm nothing more than an interest in primitive puzzles and/or having practiced stupid recruitment tests, whittling out the most creative or intelligent who are either unable or unwilling to jump a few meaningless hoops.

      Since my 18th year I have given myself a rule to not consider any position which requires a ge

  • Wait a minute (Score:5, Informative)

    by Sits ( 117492 ) on Thursday September 08, 2011 @02:51AM (#37336866) Homepage Journal

    The article says that CS unemployment is (5.1% unemployed) is worse than unemployment for all courses (3.8%) for grads from 06/07 four years later. However a larger precentage of the CS cohort (81.5%) were in full time employment compared to all grads (73.2%).

    So things are tough for all grads and many are not going into full time employment in any subject...

  • by the_raptor ( 652941 ) on Thursday September 08, 2011 @02:55AM (#37336874)

    The reason is probably because having a CS Major over qualifies you for most jobs in IT. CS is great if you are going to be designing and building systems, but most jobs in IT are maintenance. The problem is modern governments who think that they need to push more people to get degrees to have highly skilled high tech workers. That makes as much sense as requiring electricians to get degrees in electrical engineering.

  • is the problem... some tosser in Parliament got it so that companies could get around our foreign labour restrictions by allowing companies to set up offices in places like India and then bring in Indian staff on secondment for a year before rotating them out for other secondees...
  • by Ice Tiger ( 10883 ) on Thursday September 08, 2011 @03:24AM (#37337006)

    I work in a senior IT position for a large UK company and we basically don't hire UK IT people for development, everything gets offshored to India.

    Don't agree with offshoring as it leads to delays and higher costs but am not surprised by this study as high level management in the UK tend to see developers as bottom rung and equivalent exchangeable units so a guy in India has a lower unit cost per hour than a guy in the UK.

    • Not sure if the culture is similar in the UK, but in the US managers really couldnt give a fuck whether the long term costs are higher or lower, whether the product ships on time etc. They arent paid to care, their objective is solely to make themselves look good for as long as it takes to get a huge undeserved bonus then jump ship before it sinks.
    • by Malc ( 1751 )

      If it cost more financially, it wouldn't happen.

      It can be much more inefficient and exact a personal cost on the Western managers running it, but delays are often management error. Some expectations about what can be achieved and when need to be reset, whereas new things are also possible.

  • Perhaps across the board things aren't so good, but at the institution I graduated from (University of Bristol), most everyone from CS I've seen since I graduated 2 years ago has a decent job, or is now studying for a PhD.
  • social engineering (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Hazel Bergeron ( 2015538 ) on Thursday September 08, 2011 @03:37AM (#37337086) Journal

    50% of jobs in the UK are obtained through networking. The proportion gets higher the higher you go. (I get the impression that this is certainly true at the higher levels in the US but there is much more "competition on merit" in the job market or whatever you like to call it there - or at least competition based on the interviewer liking the interviewee on paper and at interview rather than having known him for a few years prior.)

    Computer science types are not very social.

    The economy is shit.

    "People can design a programming language and operating system but don't know the idiosyncracies of the Java API!!!" has nothing to do with it. An intelligent man can learn any imperative language quickly and program well, being much more cost-effective in the long run. It is a mark of a mediocre firm to have an insecure interviewer who cannot handle that the person he may be taking on might have better cognitive abilities, so he dismisses him because he can't roll off an optimally compact/write-only Perl script from the top of his head. The better firms will challenge you with theory (not "write a quicksort" but "let's explore this paper") and ideas ("how can we improve...?").

    That is all.

    • I get the impression that this is certainly true at the higher levels in the US but there is much more "competition on merit" in the job market or whatever you like to call it there - or at least competition based on the interviewer liking the interviewee on paper and at interview rather than having known him for a few years prior.)

      Nope. This is totally dependent on boom/bust cycles. When IT is in a bubble any monkey with a resume can get a job. When the economy is in the toilet, like it is now, then you're back to nepotism. Of course, we're still hiring lots of H1-Bs, even though many skilled IT workers went into other careers they're not happy with and would be glad to jump out of if there were jobs available. I do keep hearing IT is doing well again, but I'm not seeing the millions of jobs. Then again, I'm living in bumfuck nowhere

    • by Nursie ( 632944 )

      "50% of jobs in the UK are obtained through networking."

      Evidence or STFU.

      I'm sure there's a bit of an exclusive club atmosphere at the very top, but the rest... I don't believe you for a second.

  • I graduated a couple of years ago, and of the class of ~300 there were only ~10 who really seemed to know what they were doing -- people were reaching the final year of the Java-based course without knowing the difference between classes and objects, for example; and the university was dropping the "hard" modules like "how compilers / interpreters work" in favour of more "hello world in PHP" :-(

    I'm *really* glad that I got lazy with the course, and spent my time writing my own code -- having a portfolio w

    • having a portfolio with a wide variety of open source projects has done more for my employability than anything else

      I'm out of IT now (teaching instead :-) ), but when I was a programmer my portfolio was gold. It needn't take all that long to do. Work on a project in your spare time for a while, take pieces of code out of it and document why you did what you did. Because I was an XP coach for several years, on my own open source projects I did a kind of mini planning game complete with iteration plans, velocity, etc, etc. I included some of these in my portfolio as well. I got more feedback about that than anything

  • I graduated this summer with a BSc (Hons) in Computing. It was just by a hair, as I was a bit of an idiot with my project work and my documentation was terrible. Regardless of that, before I even had my results in I had been offered two different jobs, one for a Web/ecommerce shop and one from a digital media agency. I took the one at the ecommerce place, but the company went near bankrupt after two months (didnt see that coming...they hired another guy same time as me, saying they were doing really well.
  • I've just graduated from Computer Science from a good British university. It was a good university in the rankings and is well known and I worked very hard and achieved a good degree. As a result, I've had a lot of job offers with very good salaries for a fresh graduate position (£30k to £45k) and had to turn down quite a few and pick the one which was most interesting and enjoyable to me. Finding a job hasn't been hard at all. The same applies for the rest of my year and my friends, all had goo

    • tl;dr Oxford or Cambridge?

      • by Spad ( 470073 )

        There are plenty of *other* good universities in the UK, depending on your field; Southampton is good for Engineering, LSE for Law, Edinburgh for Medicine, UCL for English, etc.

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          But there is no "good" UK university for undergraduate CS, excepting perhaps Cambridge (and expect a mound of the sort of theory the dilettante technicians on Slashdot eschew). Hell, Oxford is mediocre in terms of actually providing CS education but has going for it the good name and the safe bet that a graduate will have been sufficiently challenged.

          Engineering, law and medicine have clear professional standards which universities can aim to attain. CS is not a profession.

          I can speak English but I can't sp

          • by Nursie ( 632944 )

            What on earth are you blathering about?

            Academic standards for CS are high at a variety of UK universities. Hell, Tim Berners-Lee (You know, invented the Web) is part of the CS faculty at Southampton. Imperial College is academically brilliant at pretty much all technical and scientific disciplines.

    • by martin ( 1336 )

      yup we need more detail on the Comp Sciences split - Computer Studies, IT, Business computing, Computer games != Computer Science
      I know several Computer Studies courses you can pass without getting anywhere near writing code or understand programming at all.

  • by abigsmurf ( 919188 ) on Thursday September 08, 2011 @04:22AM (#37337334)
    After being unemployed for 9 months as a Comp Science grad, here's my experience of a typical job ad:

    Junior Web admin - £18,000

    Required Skills:
    HTML, CSS, PHP, Javascript, AJAX, Java, Apache, SQL, C,, ASP, Active Directory, Microsoft Small Business Server, our obscure CMS, Photoshop, Flash.

    2 years experience a must!

    If the impossibly long list of skills doesn't put off the graduate (some of which are impossible to learn on your own due to the setup they need), the experience they require will do (should be illegal to advertise a junior position as requiring professional experience). Companies are completely unwilling to take on staff and help them gain the skills they need. They way all those skills, which only an experienced dev will have, then they want to pretend it's an entry level position so they can pay a highly skilled job the same as they pay people who answer telephones and type data into spreadsheets.

    There are companies which do offer genuine on the job training and proper graduate jobs, mostly large tech companies, but these literally get hundreds of applicants ( show application stats which is especially soul destroying). Meanwhile all the other companies which make no effort on this front moan to the government that there's a skills shortage (which they're one of the causes of) and try to get them to attract some Eastern European developers and the problem gets worse.

    But then, I'm a bit bitter as I've ended up as the sole web developer in my company (who's earning £16,000 a year after 3 years) and is currently on the verge of losing my job as it's going to be outsourced to Bulgaria. Of course they haven't told me this yet but I've overheard phonecalls they didn't want me to hear, I've been pulled off of active development work and have been doing heavy documentation work and reports on improvements needed. Guess they think I'm stupid and haven't noticed. Perhaps I am stupid for not leaving, just worried that I'll spend another 6 months on the dole which would bankrupt me this time.

    ... Wow, this turned into a really long post...
    • Perhaps I am stupid for not leaving

      You're not. Wait for the redundancy pay and then, in your next interview, you can tell them that you were made redundant from your last position. I've always found interviewers are sympathetic to this.

      I know what you mean though. In my last job, my boss was such a prick that he still made me sit in on a call on my last day to give my opinion on a project that I wasn't going to be involved in in a few hour's time because they'd outsourced it and given me my notice. Incredib

      • It is almost always better to move to another position while employed, because it doesn't give the hiring party a clue that you are desperate. It really impacts your salary otherwise at a lot of places and the redundancy pay rarely compensates, unless you are at the end of your career - not at the start.

        Start looking for another job right now, while there is no hurry and you don't need to accept the first thing that gets offered. Also, moving out before the axe falls feels much better than getting replaced

    • The 'required skills' of a lot of job specs always make me laugh with their massive list of requirements. I don't honestly understand why they do it because you'll never find someone with all those skills. They'd do much better if they put one or two 'required' skills at most. I recently changed jobs (senior level) and didn't have ANY of the required skills. Yet still got the job because I could demonstrate that I could learn them in the first two weeks' effort and after a month be far more valuable than so
      • The 'required skills' of a lot of job specs always make me laugh with their massive list of requirements. I don't honestly understand why they do it because you'll never find someone with all those skills.

        Just guessing: If you reject someone who meets all the requirements in favor of another applicant who has something useful you weren't expecting, then they might accuse you of discrimination. So list everything you might conceivably base your decision on. Of course, anti-discrimination laws are a great idea - in a parallel universe where HR departments adopt them in spirit. Back in this world, HR departments interpret them in the most paranoid and defensive way possible and try to turn recruitment into a qu

    • (who's earning £16,000 a year after 3 years)

      Oh man, after reading further above about the guy on £30-45k I felt my £23k was a bit lousy.
      Wait for your severance package and look for something in higher pay. Where are you based? The going starter rate for graduate developers here is £20k

      • South-East. Suprisingly sucky for graduate jobs as Brighton has 2 major universities flooding it. After being on the Dole for a long time, I had to take whatever I could (I actually got this job applying for a general office job but my boss noticed my CV was very techie and he gave me a development job instead).

        That said, at least I've now got a nice long list of skills through this job. Nicest skill I've learnt was Drupal development. Comparitively uncommon (not taught in unis) yet highly sought after a
    • by Spad ( 470073 )

      My favourite was ~3 years ago when all the jobs I was applying for were demanding 3+ years experience with Windows Server 2008...

      Being an IT graduate sucks unless you either have connections or, like me, got lucky and found a decent contract agency who were willing to put some effort into finding me a suitable job; after a year of on and off short-term contracts arranged by idiots, where I learned nothing, this agency managed to find me a Helpdesk role that quickly migrated to a Server Admin role that put m

    • If you're interested in work in London, you've got a reasonable grasp of Java and you love web development drop me a line ( j s h i e l l at yazino com). We're a small company so we can't currently manage people entirely sans experience, but a couple of years + passion may well do the trick and we're happy to train to fill in the gaps.

      And we're desperate for good, passionate web developers.

    • by QX-Mat ( 460729 )

      I'm thankfully employed having spent over a year on the dole. If you're worried about your job now, it doesn't change much. To succeed and change jobs interviewers expect the impossible despite experience (Q: You know about static assertions? A: Yes I use them to guard external APIs [and why]. Q: How are static assertions implemented in a cross platform manner? Q: Ugh I er use them. I've not written my own handlers. I've not had time to research that - I've got deliverables and I'm relied upon.).

      Things aren

  • From what I can see this data include Computer Studies and Computer Science, These are diff degrees in the UK. You can quite easily get a Comp Studies (esp from a ex-poly) without touching a line of code and just know how to drive Photoshop. dreamweaver etc.

    The data needs more detail to split out a proper Comp Sci degree from the Studies degrees

    • And neither includes Information Science, which is what you get taught elsewhere. Seriously: naming a study Computer Studies is asking for trouble. Give it a better name and include rigorous math. Computer Science is a big red sign telling everyone "vocational studies, not a real academic subject". Small wonder you don't get Ph.D's.

      • by Nursie ( 632944 )

        Computer Science is a big red sign telling everyone "vocational studies, not a real academic subject".

        *cough* bullshit *cough*

        Computer Science where I studied (Southampton) included mathematics, formal proofs, compiler engineering, neural networks, AI, optimisation theory, computer vision and a whole bunch of other academic studies. And there absolutely are Ph.D's in it.

        CS is a rigorous academic subject in a lot of places. Your wires are crossed somewhere.

  • by ledow ( 319597 )

    As someone who graduated from a UK university (Maths primarily, CS second, part of the University of London) and works in education, I'll tell you why.

    - The people who enter CS degrees have zero CS experience or knowledge when they join. Blame the A-Level's and/or CS being "playing with computers" in their eyes. On my courses, I didn't meet a single person who'd programmed for themselves (i.e. something other than a fill-in-the-blanks coursework) before they started university. I was sitting there spotti

    • It will all depend on the university, but for the one I went to, I'd disagree fundamentally with pretty much all of what you said (apart from the what-they-learned-at-school section, which most people didn't take at GCSE/A-Level anyway because they saw it was worthless - they did 2xMaths and Physics instead with a 4th Science generally). Half of the CS course was maths. Not watered-down maths for CS students, Proper, rigourous maths (I'm talking as a maths grad here). And if you couldn't hack it you were la
      • Same here - any university that doesn't teach you mathematics first, is a failure. And the name "computer studies" has a lot to do with that. Call it "Information Maths" or Information Science and expectations will change.

  • by Joe_Dragon ( 2206452 ) on Thursday September 08, 2011 @09:50AM (#37339462)

    Like plumbers, HVAC, and electricians a lot of work is hands on or keeping a in place systems running, and classes loaded with theory do not give the skills needed to do the hands on part of the job now it may help on the high level design of systems but in meany places you are better off working your way up and starting with the skills needed for the hands on part and maybe getting the high level theory later on. Now some theory nice but most colleges classes are to theory loaded for low level jobs and they have way to much math for them as well.
    Also what does art history and music filler classes help you to be a better IT guy, plumber or electrician?

    Now IT should have a apprenticeships system maybe mixed with a tech school and after you have the base skills and did some real work then you can move to maybe a MBA if you want to be a manager.

    Also you can keep the old CS system or parts of it in place for people who want to go just for the higher level stuff but still even then doing a apprenticeships first then going back for the high level skills if you don't want to do the hands on parts is still better then just doing 100% class room.

No extensible language will be universal. -- T. Cheatham