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Is Computer Science Still Worth It? 434

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the was-it-ever dept.
prostoalex writes "Is it a good idea to go into Computer Science? Yes, there are certainly pending labor shortages as Indian companies outsource to the United States, but speakers of Stanford Computer Forum generally agree that it's a good career choice. From the article: 'To ensure job security, students must learn business, communication and interpersonal skills, Vardi recommended. The personal touch will become as important as technological expertise, he said. "There are jobs galore," agreed Suzanne Bigas, assistant director of the Stanford Computer Forum.'"
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Is Computer Science Still Worth It?

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  • by From A Far Away Land (930780) on Wednesday November 08, 2006 @03:52PM (#16774793) Homepage Journal
    It's great being a CS degree holder. You can sometimes get flexible working hours, decent benefits, and an ungodly low level of sunlight in the year. Given the carcinogenic effects of solar radiation these days, coupled with toxins in diet softdrinks, it's probably best that white collar workers live and work indoors though.

    Work for talented programmers will never end. But work for programmers in general will not be as common in the coming years when everyone and their dog can make a website on My Space.
    • by Medgur (172679) on Wednesday November 08, 2006 @03:56PM (#16774909) Homepage
      Computing Scientists are not all Programmers. Not all Programmers are Computing Scientists.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        Thanks for clarifying. I guess I should have mentioned I have a CS degree but don't currently program in my job. The programmers I know, who I finished school with, ended up going back to school for more, one in software engineering instead. They are both gifted programmers, but couldn't find a job they wanted where they wanted a couple years ago.

        And we'd have a lot fewer crappy websites out there [I'd guess] if more programmers had CS degrees. Not that we should regulate something like that...
        • by Marxist Hacker 42 (638312) * <seebert42@gmail.com> on Wednesday November 08, 2006 @04:32PM (#16775585) Homepage Journal
          If we had more programmers with SE degrees we'd have fewer crappy websites. A CS degree doesn't give you the engineering knowledge neccessary to keep your code clean or your site loading fast.
          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by Michael Wardle (50363)
            Software Engineering teaches you the disciplines of proper planning, estimation, design, and quality assurance.

            It does not give you the knowledge necessary to keep your code clean or your site loading fast. That's programming knowledge!
        • by zerosix (962914) on Wednesday November 08, 2006 @06:08PM (#16777187)
          I'm a software engineer and currently getting my CS degree part time. Frankly there are two aspects to websites, The apperance and the backend. Not very many programmers are good at apperance, ie colors, ect. While I hate creating websites I do like writing backend components for websites(ASP, PHP). Frankly, I wouldn't even consider creating a webpage programming from the fact that it's not required to use anything other than HTLM for a webpage and still have it be well a webpage. Simply knowing HTML does NOT make you a programmer.

          So if by crappy you mean design, I don't think a degree in computer science will help. If you mean crappy as in functionality, a degree in computer science might help.

      • by AVee (557523) <slashdot@aveBLUEe.org minus berry> on Wednesday November 08, 2006 @04:42PM (#16775775) Homepage
        Computing Scientists are not all Programmers. Not all Programmers are Computing Scientists.

        Indeed, and seeing the average quality of commercial software at the moment it seems to me that the demand for Programmers is far higher then the demand for Computing Scientists...
      • by gosand (234100) on Wednesday November 08, 2006 @04:46PM (#16775815)
        Computing Scientists are not all Programmers. Not all Programmers are Computing Scientists.


        THANK YOU. I was about to post the same comment. But let me expand on this concept that people don't seem to understand (especially programmers).


        We need more CS people in general. Why? Becuase the CS degree will give people a decent technical background and understanding of computer related technology. I would much rather have a project manager with a CS degree than a marketing degree or communications degree. But I have yet to see one. Programmers tend to think that the only thing you need is a good programming staff. While that will get you pretty far, there are many other pieces of the software puzzle besides programming. I have been doing software testing and QA for 13 years. I made the choice to go down this path instead of programming. However, many programmers think that I am somehow some kind of "failed" programmer. And no, ex-programmers don't make the best QA people, no matter what Google thinks.


        I think that the more people we have in the software industry with CS degrees, the better. I guess I had better qualify this with the statement that I have no real idea what CS degrees these days are like, I got mine back in '93. There was only 1 software engineering class, the rest was math, hardware/circuits, or programming. I hope that these days they have added more to the curriculum that deals with the process of developing software.
        (taking a few writing classes wouldn't kill you either)

        • by ChodeMaster (773739) on Wednesday November 08, 2006 @04:57PM (#16776053)
          I think that the more people we have in the software industry with CS degrees, the better. I guess I had better qualify this with the statement that I have no real idea what CS degrees these days are like, I got mine back in '93. There was only 1 software engineering class, the rest was math, hardware/circuits, or programming. I hope that these days they have added more to the curriculum that deals with the process of developing software.
          In answer to your implied question...

          I did a bachelor of engineering in software engineering (finished last year), and I found that a significant portion of the degree was focused on the various processes of software development, including things such as project management (as well as a significant amount of mathematics, electrical engineering, programming and computer science subjects).

          The Comp Sci students I know did a fair amount the software process work also, though somewhat less, and less project management, though this is probably a function of the fact that their degree is a year shorter, and has more electives (they could do some of the extra software process & management subjects the software eng students did as electives).
        • by DuckDodgers (541817) <keeper_of_the_wo ... m ['aho' in gap]> on Wednesday November 08, 2006 @05:09PM (#16776259)
          My software engineering degree required a lot of presentations, a handful of written papers, and a lot of discussions on software development models, good design procedures, formal verification of code, testing practices, and so forth.

          Now that I've been in the workforce 5 years, a lot of what I learned is very valuable. But for the first two years out, most of it was useless - I needed a background in actual application development at the low level in the trenches. I had the Computer Science, but no programming foundation to build it on - fine if you want to do testing or management, crap if you wanted to actually design and program.

          Smart colleges should offer courses that cover bug tracking, source control, learning how to find the information you need in technical documentation, and especially how to read other people's code. Give a class a 50,000 line application with 20 or 30 known, non-trivial bugs in it and spend the semester showing them how to find the bugs. Give a class some applications which have very poor code reuse and show them how to break out common code into separate libraries which are easier to document, track, and debug. etc... etc... After getting my MS in Software Engineering, I was like a mechanic who could diagram the variable valve timing in a Ferrari but couldn't change a tire.
          • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 08, 2006 @10:35PM (#16779955)


            To me that sounds like the kind of territory that technical colleges/polytechnics should be covering. University is where you go to learn the science behind the discipline - if you want to cover the practical applications then I suggest you are looking in the wrong place.

            The day universities shift their focus to creating ready-made programmer automatons for the business market is the day your C.S. degree becomes worth less than the paper it's printed on.

            Computer science *should* be about karnaugh maps and logic optimisation; about algorithms and data structures; about mathematical proofs and combinatorial logic; about compiler theory & design; about all of the things that give a person a grounding in the basic fundamentals of the discipline.

            Suggesting that it should be reduced to a basic preparatory course for "life in the business world" involving little more than bug fixes & refactoring is missing the point entirely. Those are things that you pick up later - things that anyone with the proper grounding should be able to learn with little or no trouble at all.

            At the end of the day, computer science/programming in general is one of those subjects that no one person is ever going to be able to understand in it's entirety. Just when you think you're at the top of your game, someone releases a new library/language/compiler/interop technology/whatever that shifts the boundaries again. Having a good grounding in the underlying theory gives one an immeasurable boost in ability to keep up with these changes.

            I would argue that a graduate with a computer science degree that has a basis in unchanging mathematics & the fundamentals of computer science is going to be much more valuable to an employer in 10 years than someone who has a more practically focussed 'diploma' who has been taught little more than how to find & fix bugs in a language that could potentially be obsolete.

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by creimer (824291)
        Sorry, I didn't take enough philosophy to understand your sentence. I was too busy being god while root during my college years.
    • I think that the biggest problem is that people are going out recruiting Computer Scientists to design their software, when actually what they want are Software Engineers.

      Looking at my university's curricula, the engineering course seems structured so that engineers learn a lot of skills that the computer scientists don't seem to:

      • design for manufacture
      • systems design
      • ergonomics
      • project management
      • microeconomics

      All the things that are vital for the sort of high-level roles that corporations seem to b

  • by Golias (176380)
    My degree is in Music Education, so naturally I work as a programmer these days.

    I guess that means you could put me down as a "no."

    Although for some people it's the best choice.
    • Re:LOL (Score:5, Insightful)

      by 2nd Post! (213333) <gundbear@pacbe l l .net> on Wednesday November 08, 2006 @03:59PM (#16774955) Homepage
      You confuse computer science with computer programming.

      That is like confusing music theory with music composition, something I would hope you would be aware of.

      Computer science deals with algorithms, complexity notation, predicate calculus, proofs, and grammars, most of which you will not pick up by just being a programmer.
  • Other fields? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 08, 2006 @03:53PM (#16774811)
    Is studying philosophy worth it?

    Yes, if you love it.
    • Re:Other fields? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Golias (176380) on Wednesday November 08, 2006 @04:04PM (#16775065)
      Is studying philosophy worth it?

      Yes, if you love it.


      And no, if you don't.

      If somebody is even asking the question whether it is "still worth it", one assumes that they are not in it for love.
    • by jimbolauski (882977) on Wednesday November 08, 2006 @04:04PM (#16775079) Journal
      philosophier was a good paying career untill they closed the philosophy plant, now it's a degree people get so they'll have the grades for Grad, Law, or Medical school.
    • by jedidiah (1196)
      OTOH, if you pile on all of these BS requirements for computer science you're going to mutilate the profession to the point where there really isn't much point in bothering with the computer science part anymore. If I wanted to be a Kiyosaki wannabe, that's the career path I would have chosen. If I were any good at "soft skills" I could make remarkably better money and be more valued in the corporate food chain by AVOIDING engineering of any sort.

      You quickly reach a
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by cucucu (953756)

      Is studying philosophy worth it?

      Yes, if you love it.


      If you studied philosophy you would know that the sentence "studying X is worth if you love it" is a tautology [wikipedia.org].

      • by Ithika (703697) on Wednesday November 08, 2006 @05:16PM (#16776399) Homepage

        If you studied philosophy you would know that the sentence "studying X is worth if you love it" is a tautology.

        I disagree. I love sausages. Studying sausages would entail learning how they are made. Studying how sausages are made is said to put you off them for life. Hence, not necessarily true.

    • I studied philosophy as well as literature. Now I work in IT.
      I certainly make more money than any philosphy/lit. graduates that I know.
    • Re:Other fields? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by dubbreak (623656) on Wednesday November 08, 2006 @04:51PM (#16775917)
      Yes, yes, yes. Do NOT repeat NOT go into a field you are not interested in. There is no point in going into CompSci for the money at this point, even with the possibility of labour shortages. I am a few months away from gradding with a major in CSc and my best recommendation is: don't do it unless you love it. I know too many students that hate programming, and generally dislike everything in the field other than playing with computers. They got into it because they thought it would be easy and pay well. If you sound like one of those people, don't do it, you'll hate doing the degree and when you are done you won't want to work in the field for the amount of money you are going to be starting at (which will be low since as an unmotivated student your abilities will be lacking to say the least).

      Do go into computer science if:
      • you love math (I don't mean you did well at it in HS, I mean you enjoyed it and would learn more on your own)
      • you have programmed and found it fun and interesting (not you tried it and thought it was easy, or did pretty good in some course)
      • you are a strong problem solver

      If you want to make money, go into business. Sciences are best suited for people who love the science and aren't worried about the wage. If you aren't sure, take a few courses first year in different areas and see what inspires you.
  • by Marxist Hacker 42 (638312) * <seebert42@gmail.com> on Wednesday November 08, 2006 @03:54PM (#16774829) Homepage Journal
    If you depend on private industry- job security to these idiots means 2 years and you're out searching again. So what if there is plenty of opportunity if you never vest into your vacation time, let alone any other benefits? So do what I did- tell private industry to go learn to program their own computers and join government instead- where at least you can be assured you'll have a job tomorrow.

    After 2001, I'll never trust the stock market or private industry ever again. Driving a truck is better than doing IT work for idiots.
    • Well said, and that applies to many industries with faux job-security and benefits. You have to go with an organization or government you can trust to honour a pension and a commitment to their employees. If you're a really good programmer, you can probably make a go of it on your own doing freelance work. Working for yourself, or at least being able to work for yourself is an important survival skill.
      • by Marxist Hacker 42 (638312) * <seebert42@gmail.com> on Wednesday November 08, 2006 @04:06PM (#16775135) Homepage Journal
        If you're a really good programmer, you can probably make a go of it on your own doing freelance work.

        I tried that between 2001 and 2003. What you need for that isn't good programming- it's good business sense and a fair amount of ESP. You need to be a good enough judge of character to know who will pay their bill and who won't when you present that final invoice. Far too many failed to pay that final invoice- and no business can survive a 50% decrease in revenue in a single month unless you were independantly wealthy going in.

        Unfortuneately most programmers- me included- went into this because we *don't* have good interpersonal skills, otherwise we would have been playing sports in high school instead of messing with computers.
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by ZeroExistenZ (721849)

          . Far too many failed to pay that final invoice- and no business can survive a 50% decrease in revenue in a single month unless you were independantly wealthy going in.

          My programming teacher always warned for this; he uses *always* some sort of timebomb (after a certain period completely de-activating the software) for his clients, certainly when they're known to not pay. After he received his payment for the last bill he sends out a patch, with "minor fixes" while actually removing the timebomb.

          I'm not i

          • It also doesn't apply in any open source situation, or for that matter, even in a closed source but non-closeable language situation. For instance- any web application it's easy to pay the kid down the block to remove the time bombs.
  • No.

    Do something applied.
  • If you enjoy it. If you're getting into it for the money you'll probably be better off getting a business or BCIS degree. So many of the CS students when I was in school just wanted to get into 'computers' and hated to code. Ridiculous degree choice under those circumstances.
  • and now more work for me

    oh wait.. damnit
  • Yeah (Score:5, Insightful)

    by bahwi (43111) <incoming AT josephguhlin DOT com> on Wednesday November 08, 2006 @03:55PM (#16774859) Homepage
    Yeah, it's still good, you just have to add that twist. Biology seems to be popular these days, business, marketing, others like that sure are helpful. Straight computer science? Well, you'll probably be just a code monkey. Learn statistics if math is your thing, we're always looking for people who can turn numbers into useful statistics, but program it to make it flexible. You don't have to have a double major, not that that ever hurts, but a minor or even a few electives.

    VoIP stuff seems to be a big thing, especially in developing countries(ever wanted to travel?), learn codecs, learn how to program codecs, learn how to hack Asterisk and SipX and some of ht eothers, play with Asterisk@Home.

    Oh, this isn't an Ask Slashdot? Sure looks like one.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Morphine007 (207082)

      Straight computer science? Well, you'll probably be just a code monkey.

      I'm not sure where you guys all went to school, but it sure wasn't where I'm at.

      All the comp sci guys that I went to school with (including meself eh) ended up being roughly equal parts code monkey and mathematician. Not as good at coding as a software engineer (though some were better...) and not as good at math as a pure math geek (though, again, some were better...)

      Is my university that different, or are people just going by casu

  • There ARE tons of open jobs in IT, so you should have no problem finding a job if you get a Computer Science major. However, whether or not a CS major is a good idea is really dependant on what you want to do with your degree. If you want to be a software engineer and cut code exclusively, there is probably no better major than Computer Science. But if you want to go into Project Management, start your own business, become a system admin, or become a consultant, then there other options that may be bette
  • IT = boom and bust (Score:4, Interesting)

    by the eric conspiracy (20178) on Wednesday November 08, 2006 @03:56PM (#16774903)
    IT is a boom and bust field that will gradually decay in its value as the technologies it is based on mature.

    The business cycle drives investment in IT so it should be regarded as a cyclical industry just the way any capital intensive business is. As growth in IT technologies peter out (Moore's law hockey-stick growth) inevitably flat-lines as technologies hit their limits growth will fall to the same growth as the economy as a whole. Like the railroads, utilities etc.

    If you are 50 or so and are looking to make a career change IT is not a bad choice - it will probably be a sound field for at least the next 10-20 years.

    But for somebody who is just entering college I think that other fields, particularly anything associated with health care are better opportunities. They will surely offer careers with better sustainability than IT.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by instantkamera (919463)
      Or you cool go the IT in health care route...
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Alomex (148003)
      IT is a boom and bust field that will gradually decay in its value as the technologies it is based on mature.

      Sure it will, but we still have at least another 50 years to go before it has fully matured. Look around you at all the things that aren't yet computerized or are shoddily computerized. This should tell you how much farther we have to go. Things that ought to be fully computerized but aren't:

      Every light switch in your home.

      The microwave oven (you should enter the desired temperature as in lukewarm, w
  • Experience degree (Score:3, Informative)

    by abigsmurf (919188) on Wednesday November 08, 2006 @03:57PM (#16774917)
    Having recently graduated, I simply can't find an IT related job. There are few positions available with experience here and those that are have 40+ applicants. They couldn't care less about my Computer Science qualification, without experience around here, if you lack experience, you're lucky if you can get a £6 an hour data entry job.

    What was that about degrees being worth the extra tuition fees because of higher wages Mr Blair? So many people are getting degrees now that they've stopped being the ticket to a good, high paying job that they used to be.

    Not that I'm bitter and twisted or anything...

    • Yeah it sucks, but I personally know the jobs are out there. Pick up what work you can, keep being interested and you will expand your knowledge beyond that of the CS grads who are just in it for money.

      I think that CS, like anything, is always worth it (in more ways than one) if you are genuinely interested.
    • by TheRaven64 (641858) on Wednesday November 08, 2006 @04:32PM (#16775583) Journal
      Where abouts in the UK are you? And what classification of degree did you get? By the time I graduated (from Swansea) I had had several job offers, quite a few from local companies and a few from England. Eventually, I decided to turn them all down and go back into academia, but if you can't get a job in the UK with a CompSci degree I would guess one of the following applies:
      1. You got a poor quality degree (either from an institution with no reputation, or a low 2.2 or lower classification).
      2. You haven't done anything interesting with your time at university (join / run any student societies, etc).
      3. You haven't taken the opportunity to get any work experience (most universities run summer placement programmes, if you can be bothered to sign up).
      You get out of university what you put into it. If you're just there to get a piece of paper, you will just get a piece of paper and it won't be much use to you.
  • by Malakusen (961638) on Wednesday November 08, 2006 @03:57PM (#16774921) Journal
    India outsourcing to the United States? That's, um, actually pretty funny. And good news also, since I'd like to go into a Computer Science related field, but was wary of it previously as I already have an AAS in Electrical-Mechanical Engineering courtesy of the Air Force, and it didn't seem like there was a lot of money or jobs in Computer Science anymore. If that trend is changing, I might give CompSci another look when I get out, but I'm leaning more towards Computer Forensics then IT at the moment.
  • need good people (Score:5, Insightful)

    by flynt (248848) on Wednesday November 08, 2006 @04:00PM (#16774979)
    I think there's always room for good people in CS. If you're a type who goes to Stanford/MIT/others and gets a degree in CS because you love learning about computational processes and have a natural drive and curiousty, my guess is that there are plenty of firms willing to hire you.

    If, on the other hand, you want to learn CS to get a 'good job' after school, and end up going to a second-rate university where they teach you specific software instead of abstract ideas, you might not have such a good future after college.

    I'm sure both types of students attend all universities CS departments, don't get me wrong. I think your attitude going into it is what matters most, if you love CS and work hard, I bet you'll be just fine. If possible, don't choose your major based on what's in fashion, do what you want.
  • CS != IT (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 08, 2006 @04:00PM (#16774983)
    Pls stop confusing Computer Science ie. a science of computing ( just as Physics, Astronomy, Chemistry, Geology are sciences of their respective disciplines ) with IT ie. Information Technology, a trade with fluctuating job prospects.
    eg. The real-estate situation in the US is currently a bust - doesn't mean you should rethink becoming an architect, which is a seriously long-term proposition. However, you SHOULD rethink applying for a real-estate broker's license, since short-term is your concern.

    • by jedidiah (1196)
      Having a genuine theoretical CIS background is of tremendous benefit in a "mere IT" environment.

      Actually understanding what you do it and why you do it is generally rather useful.

      BTW, computer science is more accurately described as a fork of mathematics rather than the natural sciences.
  • by Da Fokka (94074) on Wednesday November 08, 2006 @04:00PM (#16774995) Homepage
    I can't speak for other parts of the world, but in the Netherlands IT is one of the best sectors to be in. Frankly, I have a hard time understanding all the people on slashdot talking about how shitty a job in IT is. Maybe things in the states are totally different (for one thing, the wages are even higher than here in the Netherlands). But there is little reason why IT could not be a pretty good career choice. Of course, there are some things which might help you along:

      * Work on your social skills. It's not accurate along the board, but many people think that every IT specialist lives in his mothers' basement. Be sociable and this prejudice might turn out to be an advantage.
      * Keep on learning. It's fun but it's also an investment in yourself. In few sectors knowledge is as volatile as in IT. Make sure you keep on top.
      * Find an employer that fits your personality. Don't expect flexibility from a megacorporation and don't think small businesses will be able to buy you education.
      * But most of all: Make sure you're doing something you like (most of the time). A great salary is of little use if you hate the work. If you enjoy your work, you'll be able to go the extra mile which will pay for itself in the long run.
  • Is physics worth it? I don't see a huge market for physics PhD's outside of academia. So clearly physics is a worthless pursuit.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by TheRaven64 (641858)
      To me, one of the best things about a CompSci degree is that it makes you qualified to be a generalist. Things like graph theory and game theory, which are near the core of computer science, are applicable to an enormous range of problems.

      Get a degree in CompSci if you find that kind of problem interesting, and you'll spend three years having fun. Once you have the degree, you can do pretty much whatever you want with it.

  • What I am doing (Score:5, Interesting)

    by br00tus (528477) on Wednesday November 08, 2006 @04:05PM (#16775105)
    I dropped out of college in 1992, began working in IT in 1996, and began going to school at night or on the weekend this year. I got a 4.0 for my class in the spring semester, and so far I have very good grades for the two classes I'm taking now.

    It used to frustrate me that I didn't know how to program C decently but I rectified that starting in 2002. I was going to start by reading The Art of Computer Programming and realized how much MATH there was, and how it would be in assembly, so I did a "shortcut" and read K&R and Code Complete and did things that way. Of course, there are no real shortcuts, and the right way to do it is learning the math and the assembly language and going like that.

    This is just something I want to do. I want to stand around all those code gods and be like them (in the sense of coding and skill, not necessarily everything else). There's the old cypherpunk slogan "Cypherpunks code" and one way of learning to code is to just write code, but I want to have a track where I'm doing it the right way while I'm on the second track of actually writing stuff now.

    I also find biology interesting and may take a minor (or double major) in that. I don't think I'll worry about job security much with a bachelors in Computer Science and Biology. Or even a Masters. Or Phd. I think one step at a time though.

    One thing though is I want to do this. I would do this even if there was no material reward. I think that is something to think about. It would be nice if I could make more money, or get a job doing less braindead stuff, but if all that happened would be that I would know enough to contribute to the Linux kernel, or some free software projects which I like, that would be enough for me. After doing mindless BS wage slave stuff all day, it's nice to go home and do my own work where I can actually do what I want, even if I make no money at it. If I could make a living doing that stuff, so much the better, but I would go crazy if all I did was cog-in-the-machine mindless nonsense all day.

  • by l4m3z0r (799504) <kevin@uber[ ]le.net ['sty' in gap]> on Wednesday November 08, 2006 @04:15PM (#16775287)

    I'd recommend forgetting about a CS degree, computers are on their way out.

    For a degree thats always in incredibly high demand.

    English.

  • My path (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Himring (646324) on Wednesday November 08, 2006 @04:15PM (#16775289) Homepage Journal
    I didn't have a clue what I wanted to be. Everything interested me, so I got a B.A. in liberal arts: majored in Eng Lit. Minored in classic Greek. Lots of history/philosophy. Got a full scholarship to grad school and got a masters in philosophy.

    By this point, I thought I would be a professor. The thing is, to support myself I did computer work throughout. I finished my masters to find myself full-time employed in IT. Until I could figure it all out, I kept doing IT work and got promoted twice. I'm now a senior engineer specializing in IT security and regulatory compliance. I wear many hats in the area including policy writing.

    I'm near 40 now and still waiting to find out what I'll be when I grow up....

    Never had a single computer class in my life or received a certificate.

    I enjoy Linux, coding & walks in the park in the evening....

  • Learn to sell (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ClosedSource (238333) on Wednesday November 08, 2006 @04:20PM (#16775371)
    As a professional software programmer for over 20 years, I'd advise anyone who wishes to still be programming professionally in their 50's to spend a summer selling used cars. Being able to sell yourself will be much more important in the later years of your career than your technical knowledge will be.
  • This is really the only question you need to answer. The job market shouldn't be a big factor in your decision making. If you find computers fascinating, you will easily learn everything you need to know to land a good job, with or without a CS degree. You will also find getting the degree a very worthwhile and even fun pursuit. If not, don't bother. Even if you make it through the degree program, if you're not interested in computers you will quickly get sick of any job you find.
  • "There are jobs galore," agreed Suzanne Bigas

    Just because there are "jobs galore", doesn't mean they're jobs worth taking.

    Based on the stream of migrant farm workers flowing into the US from points south, there are "jobs galore" in agriculture as well.

    The issue isn't raw numbers, its ROI. Given the $10,000's now required for a 4 year degree, the course of study one undertakes now must be considered wrt whether it will lead to a reasonable return. At prevailing salaries, its not certain that CS is t

  • by g1zmo (315166) on Wednesday November 08, 2006 @04:23PM (#16775419) Homepage

    I'm tired of {system-,network-,db-} administration, programming, and every other trade skill getting equated with Computer Science. CS is a branch of theoretical mathematics and has very little to do with anything you can sit in front of, type into, click on, or reboot. And I don't mean this as a (serious) troll. I just hate to see the term misused, much like engineers cringe when they hear the building maintenance staff referred to as 'engineers', as in "we'll have an engineer bring some buckets up to put under that leak in the roof."

    /End of Friendly Math Snob Rant

  • And thats away from from the coasts where a buck goes further. Plus its still lots of fun after many years.
  • Four years ago, I was determined to earn a CS degree. Up until last year, three years into my CS degree, I realized that my efforts were going to be moot. So I made the best move I could have: I changed direction and headed for a joint-major with Business.

    Now, a year later, I quit University and decided to pursue my own work. I had been PHP freelancing for several years, earning enough money to put food on my plate. Two years ago, however, I was struck with a brilliant idea for a program that I would spe
  • If youre intellegent enough for a CS degree there are a score of other options available which offer better long-term career prospects for far less effort (long term I suspect most MDs put less than 50% of the time into retraining that a good IT worker does). I would advise anyone to only take CS if youre actually serious about CS academically. If not be prepared to put up with having to retrain every 2-4 years, be made unemployed at a moments notice based upon the whims of PHBs/the economy, have your sala
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by aliabadi (1018798)
      "Seriously, until IT has its own professional body that REQUIRES IT workers to be qualified/certificed in the same way as other professionals, its a career to steer clear of." Unless you graduate from a non-ACM acreditted school, CS does have a professional body that does require university graduates to be qualified/certified by taking certain courses and passing a field entrance exam that is just like any other engineering field..
  • Can't really speak for other countries but in canada its generally good.

    You can use this website to find the trends for an occupation you wish to find info about...

    http://www.labourmarketinformation.ca/ [labourmark...rmation.ca]

    for instance....
    a Programmer in Toronto (Ontario)
    http://www.labourmarketinformation.ca/standard.asp ?ppid=84&lcode=E&prov=35&gaid=9219&occ=2174&job=&s earch_key=1 [labourmark...rmation.ca]
  • So, the way it works is India outsources jobs to the US, because there are shortages in India, and the US outsources to India, because there are shortages in the US, so India oursources those jobs to the US, because there are shortages in India, so the US outsources to India, because there are shortages in the US, so India oursources those jobs to the US, because there are shortages in India, so the US outsources to India, because there are shortages in the US, so India oursources those jobs to the US, beca
  • Too vague (Score:4, Informative)

    by mmmmbeer (107215) on Wednesday November 08, 2006 @04:45PM (#16775811)
    The concept of an "IT" job is way too vague to be useful. IT has long since split into various disciplines (eg. hardware guy, code monkey, dba), and now those are subdividing even more. While there isn't that much difference between being an oracle dba vs. a mysql dba vs. a mssql dba, there is a big difference between being a java/c#/c++ coder vs. being a site builder, and a huge difference between being a site builder vs. a dba. The differences in these fields are reflected in what CS (or related) degree (or job skills) one might want to pursue. The real question(s) ought to be "Is <specialization> Still Worth It?"
  • WTF? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Palshife (60519) on Wednesday November 08, 2006 @04:48PM (#16775861) Homepage
    Is this supposed to suggest that we're somehow "done" with computer science? Application is great and all, but it has basis in constantly evolving theory, just like in any basic science.

    Don't be fooled. Application is important, but try doing your physics homework without understanding the underlying theory and see how far you get. If you want to be respected in the industry, and if you want to find a lifetime in computer technology fulfilling, get a degree in computer science.

    If your career aspiration is "high paid code monkey," then ignore this post.
  • I was sure I wanted to be a programmer/computer scientist when I was a sophomore in high school. After taking the classes, I decided I didn't want to really do that all my life (in fact, I didn't want to do it at all) and switched to a math degree. Math opens up some more options since it is arguably the most broad degree you can get in the sciences.

    My advice would be to use caution when choosing a major and then decide what you want to do after you've sampled a bit of everything.
  • What will enrich you? What will make you grow? What will form your mind in a manner that will be condusive to a lifetime's development?

    What is your passion (other than human flesh and financial gain)?

    Wherein lies your natural curiosity?

    Are computers a means to an end or is there intrinsic beauty?

    Are you naturally curious as to the workings of the universe, philosphy or merely in pursuit of a first-class ticket to a PHB's personal entourage?

    Can you tell that I listen to too much BBC Radio 4 and watch t

  • I still maintain that Computer Science/Technology is an awful field or career to go into. Now I'll admit, I had it a little easier since I studied up more so on the technical aspect and not networking/IT. So while IT jobs were being taken by people in India, you still needed a physical person in America to say, fix your PC or upgrade it.

    I was wrong. For every 1 job that opens there are like hundreds of potential candidates in any city. And that's just assuming you meet their requirements. So just to get a
  • Do what you want (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Kirby (19886) on Wednesday November 08, 2006 @05:12PM (#16776307) Homepage
    A career is going to take up the bulk of your time for the bulk of your life. You damn well better like what you do. If you do, if you really enjoy thinking about CS problems, then do it. You'll have energy and passion, which usually mix with experience to form competence, and that leads to money.

    Everyone told me not to go into CS, that it was dead, when I graduated from High School in 1992. When I got my CS Degree in 1996, everyone was scrambling to get into this dot-com thing. Then, four years later, everyone was getting out again. Don't make career decisions based on fashions and trends like this.

    If what you enjoy is actually just making money, and that's a perfectly fine thing to enjoy (if not really geeky), go into business. Minor in CS, and then become a project manager with an aspiration of management. Lots of room for business people, particularly ones who actually can understand the technology, and they get paid well too.

    If you just want to be lazy, and do the minimal work to get the maximal money - forget about it. You'll be mediocre at whatever you do. If you're lucky, you can get a soul-crushing job, blend into the background, and collect a paycheck. Soul-crushing CS work pays better than average, but damn, you've made a serious mistake if you're going this route.

    I'll reiterate the formula, even though it's obvious: Passion leads to Competence leads to Money. It's very hard to be competent at something you don't care about, and the odds of making money if you're not competent go way down. Some passions are harder to find regular work in than others, but if that's what you want, that's what you'll be best at, so go for it. There's almost nothing as awful as being bad at your job.
  • by Mori Chu (737710) on Wednesday November 08, 2006 @05:20PM (#16776473)
    Computer science is a wonderful field. If you like algorithms, solving challenging problems, or crunching interesting data, you can find it in this field. You don't have to sit in a cubicle all day, you do get to work with other people, and yes, you can work on real problems that matter in the real world. And, believe it or not, diversity in CS is on the rise; it isn't a white boys' club any more.

    I teach introductory CS at the University of Washington. In our course we scan through the IMDB top 250 movies, examine historical popularity of babies' names, search for codons and amino acids in DNA sequences, parse maps and topological data, compute weather stats, analyze Myers-Briggs personality testing data, and solve other exciting problems.

    Best of all, there are still a ton of great jobs waiting for graduates with computer science degrees at exciting companies. UW's students routinely end up at Google, Amazon, Microsoft, Intel, IBM, Nintendo, and other great places. CS jobs pay great salaries compared to most other fields! Most of the grads I keep in touch with are living very well at a young age.

    Go check out UW's computer science videos on YouTube, which talk about what this field is, and follow several women in our department as they go through a day in their lives at work after graduating:

    http://www.youtube.com/profile?user=UWCSE [youtube.com]

  • It's Great (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Apreche (239272) on Wednesday November 08, 2006 @05:50PM (#16776979) Homepage Journal
    I have a CS degree. I've got a high paying job. I found out I'm actually being paid way below average for my profession and location. I'm looking for another better job. There are plenty of them available, and they pay a lot. The key to being successful at CS is twofold. One, don't suck. Lots of people get CS degrees, but they actually don't give a crap about software. The people in college who code in their spare time for fun are the ones who succeed. The rest end up handling tech support calls. The second trick is to not insist on living somewhere crappy. You pretty much have to go to a major metropolitan area to get a job. You can't sit in hicksville and complain there aren't any programming jobs.

    One other trick to being successful as a software engineer is to learn technologies in high demand. If you learn Ruby on Rails your chances of finding a hot job are pretty low. You might find work at a startup here and there, but that's about it. If you learn the J2EE platform, relational databases and all the associated stuff you are almost guaranteed to find a high paying job. Go look around on job sites, pretty much everyone is looking for Java Enterprise developers, but the supply is way low.
  • In short? Yes... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Gunfighter (1944) on Wednesday November 08, 2006 @06:08PM (#16777211) Homepage

    ... because once you master discrete mathematics, you're {s, e, t}. Careful though, because if you don't pay attention and concentrate on what you're learning, you'll end up with Ø.

    Sorry... couldn't resist. On a more serious note, I started on the BSCS path at Virginia Tech over a decade ago and had to stop a few months into my sophomore year. Now I'm enrolled in ASU's [americansentinal.edu] BSCS program after not doing a lick of calculus for 10 years, and the math is kickin' my arse. It's true what they say: if you don't use it, you lose it. My advice for aspiring CS gurus is definitely "stick with it once you start." Picking up the pieces years later to continue your education can be a little mindblowing.

    I'm actually quite comfortable w/ my IT career. I've been self-employed since 2002, and I've done everything from custom programming to network administration and project management. Picking up my CS degree is something I decided to do because I want to do it, not because I need to do it to get a better job. For me, CS is still worth it because I want to take my programming and software engineering skills to the next level. I've been programming since I was 8 years old, and I feel like I've hit a plateau in my programming skillset. The one thing I want to develop from my CS studies is how to put all of the little pieces I've learned over the years together so I can contribute to the development of larger, more complex software projects. Perhaps I'll even try to start cranking out some Linux Kernel modules or something.

  • No (Score:4, Interesting)

    by bill_kress (99356) on Wednesday November 08, 2006 @06:36PM (#16777515)
    No, it's never been worth it. If you are trying to decide what to do, and think that maybe you'll try programming--just save us all a lot of time and effort and do something else.

    How come you never see people saying "Should I go into Painting", or "Maybe I'll try Music as a career". When it comes to careers that are art, including programming, If you don't KNOW that's what you are going to do, then you're just not going to do it well enough to make anyone happy.

    When you wonder why virtually all software is buggy, full of delays, poorly designed and shoddily implemented--it's generally because someone is doing a job rather than creating art.

    So then this is one of those cases where "if you have to ask, the answer is NO".

  • I work in IT now... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by mattsday (909414) on Wednesday November 08, 2006 @10:37PM (#16779979)
    I did CS and loved it. I loved the MATH (that's what it majorly is), I loved the programming, I loved having long hair and never shaving... I loved the whole degree. It was a fantastic degree and heightened my experience at university doing the stuff I love...

    HOWEVER, who seriously does a degree with the mindset, "This is what I'll do for the rest of my life"? Few I think, especially those looking for a career. I graduated two years ago and my life has taken me out to Amsterdam to work for a large IT company, back to my home (the UK) and I write this now in San José. I'm 23 and I spend most of my time travelling the world. What am I doing? Technical sales...

    It's not math, it's not programming... it's not even software engineering. It's not anything I did at university. The Indian and Chinese guys have that covered here. They're also better at it than I'd be. What I've got was learned in the bars, at the sports clubs and on the phone begging for more money to continue my degree (and buy more beer). That's something you can't teach someone in India to do... How to work with people in the states. This means no disrespect, but someone born in India isn't likely to come to the US and wow with his people, presentation and linguistic skills. Someone born in the UK isn't going to move to the US and understand the local people.

    It's a people-focussed world. Your degree is a ticket. Make it relevent to your overall goals, but focus on the other special experiences university has to offer.
  • by Tablizer (95088) on Wednesday November 08, 2006 @11:22PM (#16780323) Journal
    Whether it is a "good" career or not, there are three features that one must be willing to accept:

    * Risk - It changes, offshores, onshores, downshores, upshores etc. more often than most careers.

    * Cyclical - Generally IT has had a 10-year cycle of boom and bust

    * Change - Things change all time, and one has to spend time to keep up. Factor this into education costs (including time). If you don't like change, skip IT.

    * Agism - Generally age is not rewarded in IT

  • by j.leidner (642936) <leidner AT acm DOT org> on Thursday November 09, 2006 @06:47AM (#16782897) Homepage Journal
    > Is it a good idea to go into Computer Science?

    In theory, every science is equally commended, because whatever
    the topic if you study it hard enough you are sharpening your mind.
    It is not so much the facts that are the asset worth acquiring, but
    the methods and transferrable skills: exploration, fostering curiosity,
    systematic learning, absorbing new ideas, exercising dilligence and
    persistence, self-management to meet deadlines.

    Whether you do that in philosophy, law, linguistics, biology or
    computer science is up to what you think is fun and available to you.

    Having said this there are also practical concerns, such as getting
    a job, but in my view you should put your interest first, then success
    will follow. People who go for subjects selected via their "career factor"
    rather than their vocation have less fun and are often second class.

    Computer science _does_ have an advantage over other fields: if you look
    at its definition, it's the study of systematic problem solving. This
    means that you can actually apply the methods you'd be learning in
    your classes very well to real life (how to do efficient shopping,
    how to pick the best insurance offering etc.). Complex problems are everywhere
    nowadays, and who would be better equipped to tackle them than he or she
    who has studied their systematic solution?

    Sometimes I think politicians should be computer scientists or statisticians,
    because most of them were never taught how to _systematically_ solve problems.

    If you decide to go for it, make sure that you focus on data structures,
    algorithm desig and other disciplines as opposed to gathering "IT knowledge"
    because the latter will be outdated soon.

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