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Education United States

U.S. Students Shun Computer Science, Engineering 1141

n9fzx writes "The San Jose Mercury News reports on a study by the Computing Research Association which finds that 'Undergraduates in U.S. universities are starting to abandon their studies in computer technology and engineering amid widespread worries about the accelerating pace of offshoring by high-technology employers.' Enrollment in those fields has dropped by 19% in the past year alone." Update: 03/24 23:40 GMT by CN : jlechem wrote in with a related story: "Wired News has a story about how American companies are outsourcing not because of cheap labor but because of the American school system not being up to snuff. In a report by the AeA, they contend that American schools don't teach enough math and science anymore."
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U.S. Students Shun Computer Science, Engineering

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  • pessimism (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Incoherent07 ( 695470 ) on Wednesday March 24, 2004 @07:27PM (#8661969)
    I'm a freshman in college this year, and I'm still going to major in computer science... the idea being that in 3 years the economy will be out of the toilet.

    And a second dot-com bubble would be nice, but it won't happen.
    • Re:pessimism (Score:5, Interesting)

      by snakattak ( 592921 ) on Wednesday March 24, 2004 @07:30PM (#8662007)
      Probably won't happen. I was a freshman for the same thing 4 years ago, and now i'm lucky to find work down at the local grocery store. I suggest you switch to something more lucrative. I really don't blame the students in the article either. Its a shame too.
      • Re:pessimism (Score:5, Insightful)

        by zymurgyboy ( 532799 ) <> on Wednesday March 24, 2004 @11:24PM (#8663773)
        Grandparent, don't listen to the parent. Study what you find interesting. Then find a job and adapt what you enjoyed learning about to the job you get.

        You might get a job as a patent lawyer, where you'll have to adapt what you learned in your comp. sci. cirriculum to your real-life job.

        I majored in math and work in IT now. I shunned all comp sci offerings while I was at school, but I loved math while I was there. I've worked at aquiring skills a typical comp sci person has straight out of school, but you know what, I've got a big advantage over a lot of them because of skills I learned studying math, logic and basic problem solving. Basic abstract reasoning skills are far more important than specialized knowledge.

        I'd do it exactly the same way if I had to do it again.

        This is the problem with IT anyway, and probably the reason for this []. Too many people have been studying it because they can make bundles of cash when they get done.

        Bzzzzt. Wrong!!! Do what you love, the money will come. Anyway, it won't matter so much if it doesn't as long as you love what you're doing.

        If people are flocking away from engineering and comp sci in droves, I say GOOD, since they're probably the ones pricipally motivated by the perceived economic advantage of it anyway! Maybe we'll get someone to come out with a degree in one or the other that cares about something other than the paycheck for a change.

        Education should be and end in itself, not a means to an end.

        • Re:pessimism (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 24, 2004 @11:45PM (#8663938)
          I've got a big advantage over a lot of them because of skills I learned studying math, logic and basic problem solving. Basic abstract reasoning skills are far more important than specialized knowledge.

          Logic, abstract reasoning, problem solving, and mathematics are the "specialized knowledge" taught in CS. Heck, CS is basically a branch of applied mathematics.

          I think you're mistaking CS with Software Engineering. Either that, or your uni's "comp sci offerings" were really Software Engineering courses in disguise, which isn't all that uncommon, unfortunately.
          • Re:pessimism (Score:5, Interesting)

            by zymurgyboy ( 532799 ) <> on Thursday March 25, 2004 @12:13AM (#8664139)
            Logic, abstract reasoning, problem solving, and mathematics are the "specialized knowledge" taught in CS. Heck, CS is basically a branch of applied mathematics.
            I didn't mean to say that it wasn't. In fact, that's more or less what I discovered when I realized how much I like IT. It's what drew me to it in the end.

            What's interesting is the lack of these basic skills in so many people I've encountered with CS degrees in my working life.

            It's downright shocking, even, how unadaptable some of these people are. Many BS in CS people I've worked with spent all their time learning (insert programming language of choice here) and failed to learn the basic lessons programming teaches. It seems like a lot of these people missed the forest for the trees, which is part in parcel to the point I was driving at.

            As for loving what they do, in my IT department of ~50 people, I'd say a scant 15% of them are interested enough in what they do for a living to work on something related but outside the scope of their actual 9-5 required teching. I couldn't be happier that I've found something I like enough that when I hang it up for the day at the Windows shop, I want to go home and mess with my Debian box, or hack an XBox, or read advisories on, or post on /. or whatever.

            Seems like most of my colleagues can't punch out fast enough so they can forget about tech for another day.

            It's lame, and sort of sad.

            • Re:pessimism (Score:4, Insightful)

              by BlackHawk-666 ( 560896 ) <> on Thursday March 25, 2004 @05:25AM (#8665439) Homepage
              This is a disturbing trend I am seeing more and more these days. It used to be that you only ever met other nerds who were well into their comp. sci. and related stuff (games, martial arts, roleplaying). Nowadays, the places I work are full of disinterested people who are only doing it strictly for cash. They often don't even *own* home machine(s), and those that do shun broadband saying "the last thing I want to do is switch on a PC when I get home". This is like having a doctor who isn't interested in health and medicine.

              Typically these people are also low grade programmers. Since they're not interested in the *art* of programming they never try to learn new techniques, languages and OSes. They drag their heels whenever a product they aren't trained in is mentioned, thus everything is written in lowest common denominator i.e. VB, MS SQL, ASP.

              Personally, I just wish these fucktards would get out of the game and leave it to the people who actually enjoy it for a living since I'm sick of dragging their sorry asses around on a project.

    • Re:pessimism (Score:5, Interesting)

      by ciroknight ( 601098 ) on Wednesday March 24, 2004 @07:34PM (#8662051)
      I'm to be a freshman in the fall as well, and I'm still going to Major in Computer Engineering, but only because I want to do something that I truely love, and really don't care about the pay. The truth is these jobs are going over seas, and they're moving quickly, but as we've seen with most of these job fluctuations, they tend to be short term (think: NAFTA and the like...), and they tend to stablize themselves quickly. Worst comes to worse, I'll move to India ;)

      I think the biggest reason today that jobs are shifting overseas is simply the costs of running a redundant business. Very few companies are actually innovating these days, and those that are, do their work in the good ol' USA because of strong patenting laws (yes, too strong, we know..) and the like. Those same companies are offsetting the price of innovation by reducing the cost of tech support, sending it offshores to cheaper labor. I think the best way to get out of this is simply a change in buisness model; too many buisnesses are worried about the upfront costs as compared to the long-range profits to be gained, and are getting downright greedy and stingy when it comes to money...

      Basically, the economic structure of America is changing. Don't like it? Move. Or stay here and adapt.
      • Re:pessimism (Score:4, Interesting)

        by WaterTroll ( 761727 ) on Wednesday March 24, 2004 @07:44PM (#8662189)
        Very few companies are actually innovating these days, and those that are, do their work in the good ol' USA because of strong patenting laws

        Take a look at US Steel. The executives went for profit and not development. They slowly became outproduced by Japan, which focused on technological development, not boosting profits and pocketing the money. When they knew the steel industry was headed for bust in America they layed off all of their workers, and looked elsewhere for profitable investments. Take a look at the steel industry in Germany. Laborers and executives fight for equal say in where surplus labor capital goes to, mainly not in CEO's pockets but rather the companies development. Toyota is also a good example, which assures lifetime employment. This does not mean that all companies in the US screw their employees when they see profit, or that other countries have across the board better social protection, either. But looking at the past does provide some insight.
    • Re:pessimism (Score:5, Informative)

      by trompete ( 651953 ) on Wednesday March 24, 2004 @07:40PM (#8662119) Homepage Journal
      It took me 6 months to find my first job in programming, and I got that one through networking. I'd spend my next few years making friends in high places and doing internships if I were you. Sending out 1000 resumes doesn't mean shit. Good luck.
  • by Stephen Samuel ( 106962 ) < minus author> on Wednesday March 24, 2004 @07:28PM (#8661975) Homepage Journal
    The computer Science Facility won't be bulging at the seams any more, and the people going in will be mostly people who are genuinely intereested in the computer science field.

    This might actually result in a higher quality crop of students in the next few years.

    • by joeware ( 672849 )
      I went to a state university that had a top computer science and engineering program. They didn't let a lot a people each year. Quite a lot people that loved computers probably got bumped by people that just wanted to work with computers for the money. Now, they probably got bumped because they weren't the best computer science students also, but they genuinely wanted to work with computeres and couldn't get a degree at their university of choice because of the craze.
    • by Rick and Roll ( 672077 ) on Wednesday March 24, 2004 @07:43PM (#8662175)
      I sure hope that's the case. I am about to graduate with a Bachelors degree in Computer Science and am taking my Capstone course. Two of the four people on our team actually know how to program, and the others don't. I just had a guy in the class with me (on another team) ask me how to check that the last four letters of a string are .xml in Java. He had about five or six nested loops (and he's on his sixth year of C. S.)

      I also had a senior C. S. student ask me how to remove a directory in UNIX. Both she and her teammate trying to help her had no concept of present working directory. You can only imagine how ignorant they are about networking, compilers, etc.

      We had two classes, Algorithms and Operating Systems, where our longest projects were two pages of really easy code (e. g. the Bounding Buffer problem with threads). Only once in Algorithms did we have to use loop invariants to show that our code worked, or compile and test our code. A lot of this was due to how little grasp of understanding these students have.

      I do not, when I get in the field, want to work with people who are this incompetent.

      Don't know the new CS majors here well enough to see if they're genuinely interested, but I hope to God they are.

      • by chialea ( 8009 ) <chialea&gmail,com> on Wednesday March 24, 2004 @08:04PM (#8662402) Homepage
        programming is not the be-all and end-all of computer science. I know some brilliant theorists who can't code well, but have made startling contributions to the field (and to your daily life).

        but hey, all the crypto people wear black leather and sunglasses all the time, so it's ok if they don't program, since they're cool.

      • by dasmegabyte ( 267018 ) <> on Wednesday March 24, 2004 @09:00PM (#8662850) Homepage Journal
        Just to play devil's advocate for a second...a lot of people who work in software and are genuinely talented don't understand working directories, networking or compilers. You don't have to. In fact, if you were to learn every nuance of every aspect of computing before you could start writing software, you'd be a fairly crummy programmer when compared to somebody who just learned what he had to.

        I know an AWFUL lot about SQL, but I find I don't write as succinct and usable statements as some of the neophyte SQL people I work with. I have had a hatred of cursors and unions, so i try not to use them, but cursors are often easier to understand and thus easier to maintain.

        My point is, a senior programmer doesn't have to know what a working directory is, or how to remove one in an arbitrary operating system. She just needs to know how to find out, and to retain the knowledge once she gets it. Seems like she has that down pat.
      • by sacrilicious ( 316896 ) on Thursday March 25, 2004 @01:45AM (#8664714) Homepage
        " I just had a guy in the class with me (on
        another team) ask me how to check that the
        last four letters of a string are .xml in Java."

        That's easy, please allow me to enlighten y'all as to the most optimal way to achieve this. Lie back and learn, youngsters. Just compile and execute the following tiny code snippet, and success is yours. This code takes nice advantage of some of java's more powerful features, like exception handling and code flow. Can't believe such a small amount of code gets the job done? Disbelieve not!! (Note: due to the heavily optimized nature of the code and its use of industry standard best-practice coding patterns, it may only be possible for advanced java veterans to understand fully; please do not attempt mods to the code if you are not fully versed.)

        bool endsInXML( String inString )
        Char[] theCapitalXMLChars = { 'X', 'M', 'L' }; //we need both cases to catch any combination thereof
        Char[] theLowerCaseChars = new Char[ theCapitalXMLChars.length ] + ( 'a' - 'A' );
        for( int i = 0; i theCapitalXMLChars.length; ++i )
        theLowerCaseChars[ i ] = theCapitalXMLChars[ i ];

        verifyTrailingChar( '.', 3, inString );

        for( int i = 0; i theCapitalXMLChars.length; ++i )
        verifyTrailingChar( theCapitalXMLChars[ i ], theCapitalXMLChars.length - 1 - i, inString );
        catch( UnexpectedCharException e )
        verifyTrailingChar( theLowerCaseChars[ i ], theCapitalXMLChars.length - 1 - i, inString );
        catch( UnexpectedCharException e )
        return false;

        return true;

        class UnexpectedCharException extends Exception
        public UnexpectedCharException() {}
        } /*
        * Here's the real heart of this code. This tight little routine
        * is the workhorse that does all the down and dirty stuff. I first
        * hacked together a prototype of this kind of concept during my
        * PhD comp sci years... but rather than patenting it, I released
        * it to the world as prior art (power to the people!!!)
        void verifyTrailingChar( Char inChar, int inTailOffset, String inString )
        int theIndex = inString.length();
        Char theCharToCheck;
        while( true )
        Char[] theStringChars = inString.getChars();
        if( inTailOffset == 0 )
        theCharToCheck = theStringChar[ inTailOffset ];
        if( theCharToCheck != inChar )
        throw new UnexpectedCharException();

    • by sprekken ( 623464 ) on Wednesday March 24, 2004 @07:57PM (#8662339)
      One thing to remember is that the college population is not made up entirely of 19 year old HS graduates. Many of them are older gen Xers who dropped out of college back in the nineties in favor of getting a job in the booming tech industry.

      Granted a lot of those people were wannabe hacks that didn't know shit about computers, but got a job anyway because basically *anyone* could get a job back then, but some of us knew which direction was up at least - having been programming computers since the 80's - and just wanted to bypass the stupid educational system that was taking WAY too friggin long to finish. Many of these people (myself included) decided after the bust to go back and get that elusive degree, only to find out recently that it ain't going to do a damn bit of good so why bother?

      Many jobs in IT today do stipulate that the potential employee have a college degree with X number of years experience, but most of those (and many others) will accept "equivalent experience" as a substitute for the degree. The only place I can see this being an issue is for government contracting (you are on a lower pay scale w/o a degree), and possibly places like MS, IBM, and Sun... but who the fuck wants to work there anyway?

      People in my position could go back and finish a degree, and then possibly get an advanced degree, but I'm getting older and starting to burn out writing code for someone else. In the next few years I will be starting up a business or two anyway and I doubt that a CS degree will help with that.

      Anyway, I guess that I would like to have that piece of paper that says I actually finished the program, but realistically thinking it just isn't worth my time anymore.

    • by doktor-hladnjak ( 650513 ) on Wednesday March 24, 2004 @08:04PM (#8662407)
      The computer Science Facility won't be bulging at the seams any more

      This is something the article doesn't really mention at all. From the late 90s into the peak of the bubble (and then really even a bit after its collapse), enrollments skyrocketed. The author makes it sound like a 19% drop is the end of the field as we know it. I don't know how much enrollments increased during the boom, but I'd hazard to guess that there may still be more people studying CS now than in the mid-90s.

      • by RickHunter ( 103108 ) on Wednesday March 24, 2004 @09:41PM (#8663162)

        Speaking as someone more interested in the theoretical side of CS than coming out and getting a grunt coding job...

        Its about time enrollments dropped. A lot of people taking CS seem to be taking it because they wanted to make a quick buck. Half aren't even interested in computers, and of the other half, about a third aren't interested in learning.

  • Excellent (Score:5, Insightful)

    by FreemanPatrickHenry ( 317847 ) on Wednesday March 24, 2004 @07:28PM (#8661982)
    Excellent. Maybe these departments will start to be populated by students who actually have a passion for computer science (in its actual definition), not those who simply want to graduate with a working knowledge of VB and C++ and make their way into the world of "software engineering."
    • Hear hear (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Catskul ( 323619 ) * on Wednesday March 24, 2004 @07:34PM (#8662057) Homepage
      Maybe all the tards will finally leave CompSci and stop wasting the time of everyone else who actually wants to be there. Im sick of students who cant even code coming up through the system because they dont really care and have cheated their way as far as they have come. They are overcrowding the program and ruining the name of universities who would otherwise have impressive graduates coming out of their programs.
    • Re:Excellent (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Unnngh! ( 731758 ) on Wednesday March 24, 2004 @07:43PM (#8662177)
      Do you need a CS degree to write a new module for an accounting application, to write a chat program in VB, etc.? Probably not.

      Should you need one to get a job doing this type of thing? Definitely not.

      Should you need a CS degree to design automobile software, space shuttle software, large distributed programs, the next generation networking protocols, etc.? Yes, but you should probably have a masters/phd or a lot of proven experience in addition.

      The purpose of a CS degree has been lost on me personally, I don't think most major institutions are providing what anyone really wants or needs.

    • by wfberg ( 24378 ) on Wednesday March 24, 2004 @07:49PM (#8662257)
      Excellent. Maybe these departments will start to be populated by students who actually have a passion for computer science (in its actual definition), not those who simply want to graduate with a working knowledge of VB and C++ and make their way into the world of "software engineering."

      Ah yes. The exciting world of Software Engineering.. Why become a doctor and save lifes, why be a stockbroker and make millions, why even think about being an international man of mystery who has to fight of women with a stick, when you can get a CS degree and spend the next 40 years of your life programming banksoftware in a cubicle?

      Oh, and next Friday... is Hawaiian shirt day... so, you know, if you want to you can go ahead and wear a Hawaiian shirt and jeans.
    • Re:Excellent (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Monkelectric ( 546685 ) <slashdot@monke[ ] ['lec' in gap]> on Wednesday March 24, 2004 @08:11PM (#8662465)
      I went to UC Riverside where CS is taught as an engineering major -- that means you have to do a full course of engineering, single/mutlivariable calc, statistics, differentials, physics, chem, EE, materials, statics, we designed processors, we wrote compilers, wrote an NNTP client/server, we did everything. In fact, you weren't allowed to take CS10 (C language) without a semester of calculus! Not a glamor school, but a good solid education.

      It was insanely difficult, and as an experienced programmer whose contributed significantly to several major OS project and started two of his own, I nearly drowned. The graduation rate was 30%. Even then a lot of people who could only be described as dildos made it through.

      I was *appalled* one day when a friend called me from la sierra university down the street, he was having trouble with one of his assignments, "Did I have a minute?" His assignment -- write a program that converted Celsius to Fahrenheit. Specifically, he was stuck on the algebra of the situation. He didn't understand the equation 9/5x+32.

      That being said, these corporations are full of shit, these people are quickly weeded out. Look through the smoke screen. There is a pool of talented engineers working at Walmart and living with their parents, if they're having trouble finding them they aren't looking.

    • Re:Excellent (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Jacer ( 574383 ) on Wednesday March 24, 2004 @09:11PM (#8662925) Homepage
      Software isn't really engineering. They don't have to take engineering exams be certified hackers. Sorry to be an ass, but it's true. In computer engineering, we did circuts, and writing code in assembly to run on those IC, naturally we started with easier languages, java, C++, then went on to kernel development before hitting that, but building hardware is engineering, not writine a program that sends all of this month's inventory to a different file to compare it against last months. Or putting up the latest website with fancy widgets.
    • The problem (Score:4, Insightful)

      by KalvinB ( 205500 ) on Wednesday March 24, 2004 @10:07PM (#8663351) Homepage
      is that you can't just take computer science and come out knowing how to program. Maybe some universities are better than others. If you're not programming on your own time and putting out real demonstrations you're wasting your time with comp sci. I've been very unimpressed with the program at my Uni so I'm cutting out the middle man and switching to getting a secondary education teaching degree in math instead. A degree is a degree when looking for a programming job. It's experience that means anything. And I'd rather teach programming.

      I don't need a piece of paper to tell me I know how to program. Certainly not a $16,000 piece of paper. I could buy a car, and the books and teach myself (like I've been doing for 16 years) for that kind of money and do just as well or better.

      The students who excel in programming in reality don't need the university. There are those who teach themselves and those who need to be taught. Those who need to be taught will fail in programming because you never stop learning. You can't be a follower and be successful in that field. And if you're the kind of person who can teach yourself, you don't very well need to spend thousands of dollars for someone to teach you.

      And in the case of my physics classes I'm paying them quite a bit of money so I can teach myself. Literally. One day a week I'm expected to show up in class and the teacher isn't there. It's just a TA who doesn't say anything. You're just supposed to sit there and work a stupid little workbook of the likes I havn't seen since elementary school. Which is really annoying. And needless to say, I've not been attending. I don't play stupid little games.

      The problem isn't that there isn't enough math and physics being offered. It's that it's not being taught.

  • by sulli ( 195030 ) * on Wednesday March 24, 2004 @07:29PM (#8661994) Journal
    • That is actually very true. I used to work at a law school and there were a lot students there that had Computer Science degrees and Engineering degrees. They are now after the new money making job, Patent Attorneys.
    • by Tackhead ( 54550 ) on Wednesday March 24, 2004 @07:48PM (#8662231)
      > lawyers

      And that's the problem.

      If kids were getting out of CompSci and CompEng but taking up ChemEng and Bioinformatics, we'd rule the world.

      Unfortunately, that doesn't seem to be happening.

      Given that it's pretty hard to get out of the US public school system with an awareness of something as central to biology as the theory of evolution, the probability of the US turning out a good crop of bioengineers and doctors is rapidly dropping.

      The reason high-tech jobs are being outsourced is because there are fewer high-tech skills being taught domestically. Universities at the undergraduate level have become what "high school" used to be -- a piece of paper that says you've got the minimum skills and education necessary to participate in the economy.

      If we ever needed proof that Douglas Adams was right, we have it here. We're a society of lawyers, the marketing executives, the telephone sanitization technicians, and the rest of the Useless Third Of The Population that crashed here from the "B" Ark. Ayn Rand got it wrong -- in our world, unlike Atlas Shrugged, the men of the mind can't go on strike, because they're already extinct. We're a load of useless bloody looneys.

      • by xtal ( 49134 ) on Wednesday March 24, 2004 @09:16PM (#8662973)
        The reason high-tech jobs are being outsourced is because there are fewer high-tech skills being taught domestically. Universities at the undergraduate level have become what "high school" used to be -- a piece of paper that says you've got the minimum skills and education necessary to participate in the economy.

        I have an EE degree. Mechanical and Electrical Engineering at any Canadian University anyway are much more difficult than any other undergraduate program on campus - to the point where it is foolish. I imagine the situation is similar in the US. Part of this is because you can't dumb down engineering - there are professional review boards that make sure that doesn't happen. Engineering has actually changed very little - same math people learned 50 or 100 years ago - but if all you want is a degree, you'd have to be insane to literally beat yourself stupid for 4 or 5 years.

        Most of the people in the program I took got NAILED by the math. I had a rough time, but I did OK, mainly because I can teach myself things - Profs don't help much if there's 100 people in your class, they can't. Enrollment went from 180+ my first year to a graduating class of about 40, same as it's always been.

        One interesting thing though is once I understood the math, it was like some light went on in my head, and it wasn't that hard anymore. I struggled with basic mathematics early on, and I really don't know why. Why is math drilled into people's heads as "hard"? I know learning STUPID USELESS DRILLS in grade school is something that the education profession should be UTTERLY ASHAMED of. Why do students not learn about set theory and relationships early on? We have these wonderful machines for drawing math - math is all about pretty pictures, really - teach students THAT instead.

        On a practical measure, why should a student go through hell.. (sleeping on floors so you'd wake up for 8:30 classes, 2-4 labs per week, my last year I had 75+ pages of assignments due EVERY week plus labs!) - when you could just go do arts instead, then study law, and have a good time? There is no guarantee of a good job any more if you slug it though.

        It's good for me in engineering now - I have had no problem finding work as an embedded systems / hardware guy, not many people can program with only an oscilloscope to debug. :) Even now there is lots of work. It makes me wonder where as a society we are headed, though - Many of the people I have worked with were not born here, and this is more and more the case as I move up my career and get to more difficult and advanced projects.

        What's going to happen in 50 years, when all these other countries realize maybe they don't need to pander to a nation of marketdroids and attorneys?

        Interestingly enough - engineering is one of the most democratic and fair programs - when you do a page of calculus to solve a kinematics problem, it's either right or wrong. Unfortunately, if it's wrong, there isn't much to work on.

        Oh well. I know I'm busy.

  • It had to happen (Score:5, Insightful)

    by DarkFencer ( 260473 ) on Wednesday March 24, 2004 @07:29PM (#8661996)
    Most of the people getting out are the ones who were just going into it for the money. They thought that Computer Engineers/Programmers/etc were going making tons of money no matter what. That time is long gone.

    Hopefully this in the long term will mean those who graduate in CS/CE/EE/etc. will be much stronger then some of my classmates have been (class of 2002 in Computer Engineering here).
    • Re:It had to happen (Score:3, Informative)

      by Drakonian ( 518722 )
      I think we should try to keep things in perspective. I am going to be making more in my first job out of university (Computer Engineering, graduate this year) than most school teachers will after 5 years. Do I make as significant a contribution to society as teachers? I'd say definitely not.
  • Shocked? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by taernim ( 557097 ) on Wednesday March 24, 2004 @07:29PM (#8661998) Homepage
    Is this much of a surprise? All the newspapers talk about the continuing layoffs and/or low employment in the CS fields. Why would any smart college-bound student go into a field where there are already thousands of qualified people who are unemployed? I count myself lucky to have survived (thus far, knock on wood) with a decent job in the field.
    • Re:Shocked? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by KingOfBLASH ( 620432 ) on Wednesday March 24, 2004 @07:40PM (#8662130) Journal
      Is this much of a surprise? All the newspapers talk about the continuing layoffs and/or low employment in the CS fields. Why would any smart college-bound student go into a field where there are already thousands of qualified people who are unemployed? I count myself lucky to have survived (thus far, knock on wood) with a decent job in the field.

      Why would anyone go into the humanities, get a PhD in history and figure they could get a job as a museum curator, when it's well known that there are many, many, many qualified candidates vying for a small number of low paying positions. The answer is, for the love of the thing, and because a degree functions (mostly) as a screening tool for HR Managers. The people who major in sociology get jobs just like the people who major in other fields

      • Re:Shocked? (Score:5, Interesting)

        by cheezit ( 133765 ) on Wednesday March 24, 2004 @07:54PM (#8662310) Homepage
        Take it from someone who got on that track only to get off again (after getting my MA in history)...the folks who stick with the low-paying humanities track literally *can't* do anything else.

        That might be because they love it so much, or it might be because they have such raging personality defects that they realize tenure is the only way for them to survive. There's a lot of dysfunctional people in academia, and not just cute eccentricity either. Narcissism and backstabbing the likes of which corporate America rarely sees....
  • This isn't new (Score:4, Insightful)

    by marleyboy ( 174610 ) on Wednesday March 24, 2004 @07:30PM (#8662006) Homepage
    People must be starting to realize that to pursue it means to continually shift and change. I dropped out of the IT field because education was inadequate, and the constant curve was ridiculous to keep up not only in terms of material to know, but also in terms of hands-on experience needed. That, and there's no decent jobs to be found.

    Was it challenging? Sometimes. But what's the point to a challenge? I'd rather pursue passions.
  • Oversupply (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Zeinfeld ( 263942 ) on Wednesday March 24, 2004 @07:31PM (#8662012) Homepage
    It is not surprising given the current oversupply. Nobody goes into comp-sci for the money any more, like they did in the dotcom craze. That is a good thing, good IT professionals are well paid because they are valuable. If you don't have the apptitude and interest do something else.

    The other problem is that most of what is taught in comp-sci these days is not so great. There is a tendency to focus on algorithms (get them out of a book) rather than how to contribute to building large projects that work.

    • Re:Oversupply (Score:4, Insightful)

      by agslashdot ( 574098 ) <> on Wednesday March 24, 2004 @07:41PM (#8662142)
      what is taught in comp-sci these days is not so great. There is a tendency to focus on algorithms (get them out of a book) rather than how to contribute to building large projects that work.

      Its very sad you feel that way. I graduated with a Masters in Computer Science and the most valuable thing I took away from there was Algorithm Design.

      You say - get them out of a book.
      Lemme ask you, how do they get into the book in the first place ?

      See, that's what Computer "Science" is really about. Ask Dr. Knuth - the father of Computer Science, whether algorithms are important or software engineering is ? He's written 3 tomes on algorithms, none on software building.

      Making large projects work should technically not even be in Computer Science. Its mostly a management skill ( soft-skill ), so put that in "Information Management", "Software Engineering", "Information Technology" or several other related ( but different ) majors. Leave the science ie. algorithms, in computer science.

      • Re:Oversupply (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Zeinfeld ( 263942 ) on Wednesday March 24, 2004 @08:07PM (#8662435) Homepage
        Its very sad you feel that way. I graduated with a Masters in Computer Science and the most valuable thing I took away from there was Algorithm Design.

        Great for you, I have a doctorate from Oxford on applications of formal methods to massively parallel systems. Watching Tony Hoare prove Quicksort correct using Z is kinda useful and interesting but not because you are likely to invent an algorithm. I don't think I have ever worked on a project where algorithm performance was a major problem. Sure there are stupid choices (like the database package I once tested that used bubblesort).

        You say - get them out of a book. Lemme ask you, how do they get into the book in the first place ?

        Well probably Knuth or Hoare thought it up. Offhand I can't think of a really interesting algorithm since quicksort.

        Its like the difference between arithmetic and problem sets. The ability to manipulate abstract algebra is an interesting and somewhat useful skill. I can hire people with that skill by the boatload (sic). What I want is people who can map from the concrete to the abstract and back again. About one comp sci student in ten that I interview is capable of that.

        See, that's what Computer "Science" is really about. Ask Dr. Knuth - the father of Computer Science, whether algorithms are important or software engineering is ? He's written 3 tomes on algorithms, none on software building.

        Actually that was the point of the extended books on the TeX documentation - which I have read and discussed with Knuth when I was working on adding math markup to HTML. It is not an algorithmic problem, its a representational one.

        Making large projects work should technically not even be in Computer Science. Its mostly a management skill

        Again you miss the point, I am not looking for robots who I have to spoon-feed problems to. I am looking for people who can take a set of requirements and an outline architecture and make it work with existing code. I don't want someone who can't use the code manager, or writes code that only he can understand.

  • Great! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by DarkBlackFox ( 643814 ) on Wednesday March 24, 2004 @07:31PM (#8662015)
    I'm fortunate to be employed in IT, especially because I love what I do. However, I know a number of people who jumped on the IT bandwagon thinking it was easy work for great pay. As they find it becoming harder to find a job, and those that do find dwindling pay, these people are abandoning IT in favor of things they really enjoy doing. This is a good thing, because it means a less saturated job market, and those who remain stay because they at least partially enjoy what they do, which generally implies an increase in overall quality of work.
  • In UK (Score:4, Informative)

    by rokzy ( 687636 ) on Wednesday March 24, 2004 @07:31PM (#8662017)
    here there's a massive plumber shortage and even people with PhD's are retraining.

    Is this the beginning of a blue-collar revolution? Do you think its time to crack open each others skulls and feast on the goo inside?
  • by jmt9581 ( 554192 ) on Wednesday March 24, 2004 @07:33PM (#8662033) Homepage
    I think that the people who are truly interested in computer-related fields won't change their major solely based on job outlook. This might mean that a lot of people with marginal interest in computers will consider other fields, which I think is a good thing for the industry.
  • by Shivetya ( 243324 ) on Wednesday March 24, 2004 @07:35PM (#8662064) Homepage Journal
    The numbers haven't really changed in many years. Just like the fact that the current unemployment rate isn't much different than the last Administration.

    The economy of the US churns more jobs PER MONTH than are out sourced. When we had the big tech boom we had more jobs than people! Guess where we got them filled? The current focus is simply politics as usual.

    Want a good article with some straight views on the subject? tm l

    As for the decline in students. Good, CS doesn't mean fast bucks, booth babes, and games. Its a JOB. JOBS in the CS field are just like many others, they are work. If you are out sourced and haven't scored a job within 6 months something is wrong. Move, change careers, or realize that there ISN'T a job beneath you. Lastly, most people I know who are out of work that bemoan outsourcing lost their jobs because of their own actions.

    • by FreshFunk510 ( 526493 ) on Wednesday March 24, 2004 @07:45PM (#8662197)
      My point of view...

      The numbers aren't hocus pocus. I majored in CS and graduated several years ago. Just from personal experience, the unemployment rate is very real. The loss of jobs is very real. When I graduated in 2000, 100% of my friends had steady jobs. After the crash, 90% had lost their jobs and some had gotten new jobs. This not an exaggeration.

      I guess you can't exactly say these job losses were caused by outsourcing as it was the dot-com crash. That said, jobs are being created but not much in tech.
    • by the eric conspiracy ( 20178 ) on Wednesday March 24, 2004 @07:49PM (#8662256)
      the US churns more jobs PER MONTH than are out sourced.

      In a macro sense that is true. However in the engineering professions unemployment is at an all time high, and is higher than the overall average which includes people who never graduated 6th grade.

      Over the course of my career as an engineer, unemployment in my profession rarely reached 2%. Now it is 7+%. It just doesn't make economic sense to me to invest the time and energy without the return.

      Of course if you have other reasons, all the power to you. But don't kid yourself about what you are getting into from an economic perspective.

    • by amplt1337 ( 707922 ) on Wednesday March 24, 2004 @07:54PM (#8662306) Journal
      The economy of the US churns more jobs PER MONTH than are out sourced.

      The economy of the US churns out fewer jobs PER MONTH than the estimated population growth.

      The census estimates [] indicate an estimated total growth of about 26,000,000 people between 2000 and 2010, which (assuming a linear progression, which might actually be reasonable seeing that our primary driving force behind population growth is immigration these days) amounts to 223,000 new persons per month. Per the Bureau of Labor Statistics there were net 21,000 jobs added to reported payroll in Feb. (latest statistics) which is seen by most as a "recovering" figure compared to, oh, the previous eight to eighteen months.

      Not to mention that changes in those reporting rules now mean that a "McDonalds Certified Culinary Engineer" is now considered an equivalent "job" to one in the skilled manufacturing sector.

      I'm glad you feel very sanguine about the situation, however. Keep up the cheerleading.
    • The unemployment rate is different from the rate of those out of work. Many people have given up(bad) or gone back to school(good, but not the best way). That is why the unemployment rate has gone up and then back down quickly, because when people quit looking they are no longer "unemployed" but simply "not working."

    • by demachina ( 71715 ) on Wednesday March 24, 2004 @09:12PM (#8662935)
      Hate to point this out but you are citing propaganda from a right wing think tank, the CATO Institute. It was founded by the Koch family among others who own one of largest energy companies and polluters in the U.S.

      The Koch's are best friends with the Bush family and huge backers of George W.'s reelection campaign. One of the elder's in this family had a little fling with Anna Nicole Smith.

      One of the CATO directors is, or at least was, Rupert Murdoch head of the Fox network and their right wing propaganda news network.

      These people have a vested interest in trying to downplay the consequences of outsourcing. The Cato Institute and the Bush administration are 100% pro big business and pro wealth. They are 100% indifferent to the welfare of the U.S. middle and lower classes, you know the people that work for a living, except they want Bush to get reelected so they NEED to churn out this crud in the hopes people will believe it and still vote for him. I'm assuming you must be upper middle class aspiring to the upper class or just dumb to believe it. The Bush administration has put out rosy labor projections every year they've been in office and NONE of the jobs they promised would be created by cutting taxes for the rich have been created. Correction they have been created but they are being created in China and India.

      The current rush to outsourcing is unprecedented in U.S. history. It is the product of a perfect storm, cheap container shipping, cheap telecom, collapsing trade barriers and the opening of China's economy and its massive, cheap labor pool. Couple that with the fact U.S. labor has been priced out of the global labor market by years of inflation, prosperity and declining education. This is not a transient anomoly to dismiss. Its an accelerating trend. It is either naive or deceitful to contend that its business as usual and its nothing to worry about. It was not so long ago that the U.S. trade deficit was $50-$100 billion dollars and we were concerned. It is now $500 billion dollars and exploding. The U.S. simply can't sustain this hemoraging of cash indefinitely. The multinational corporations on the other hand don't care. You see they are for the most part now truly multinational, headquartered in the Caribbean and manufacturing wherever they can find the cheapest labor. If the U.S. craters they will just sell goods to the newly affluent Chinese and Indians, its a bigger market than the U.S. anyway and they are just now aspiring to by all the things American's already have. The execs and share holders will probably still get rich unless the Chinese and Indian execs manage to fox them too. Whatever happens they will be living in gated communities or the Caribbean and will be largely indifferent to the fact most American's are going to be pushed in to poverty in the next couple of decades. Most American's simply cant compete head to head with workers in China and India without working for what are poverty wages in the U.S. Maybe they could take solace in service jobs that have to be in the U.S. but the Bush administration is eager to launch a jobs program for Mexican labor to insure those jobs will also go to the cheapest possible labor. So you are going to have to train a very select class of jobs to make a good living in the next couple of decades, lawyer or an MBA heading for a position in a multinational are probably the best bets.

      The Chinese economy ia already at 6 trillion and is expected to eclipse the U.S. and EU, now at a little over 10 trillion, in another 10-20 years. I doubt its going to take that long myself.

      There has been a real loss of more than 2 million jobs under the Bush administration which hasn't happened since the great depression. It can be attributed to the overmployment of the bubble and 9/11 but there is simply no way the U.S. economy is going to create good jobs again with the current ru
  • Smart Kids (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Featureless ( 599963 ) on Wednesday March 24, 2004 @07:36PM (#8662073) Journal
    University costs a lot of money, so much now that you really have little choice but to make your investment count.

    Sad as it is, if I am objective about it, I would have to discourage young people I know from going into the discipline myself. Even if computer science has a future in this country at all, young people today can only look forward to the long, painful and endless contraction of the domestic market for these jobs.

    Software engineering is especially vulnerable to offshoring - much more so than previously decimated domestic industries. There are no tarrifs and no transportation costs. This is freer trade than most had previously dreamed of.
  • by BlueLlama ( 526533 ) on Wednesday March 24, 2004 @07:36PM (#8662081)
    Yes, applications to US Universities are down in EE and CS, but you'll find the biggest drop was in international student applications. Recent restrictions on international students have made the US a painful choice for higher education. I think this facet of the enrollment drop has been glossed over for the most part in the media. I was unaware until I spoke with some people in my EE departement's graduate admissions office. Granted, exporting jobs causes some of this, but let's take a look at all the causes.
  • by bcronin ( 187041 ) on Wednesday March 24, 2004 @07:37PM (#8662092)
    Good. When I was a CS undergrad at UC Berkeley a few years ago during the boom, the department was inundated with people who were just out to make a buck. When it came time for computer science, most of them couldn't have cared less. Finding project partners was a real pain, since most people didn't have much genuine interest in the subject--they just wanted to get their degree and immediately move on to a $70K job.

    Maybe departments like Berkeley's will get back to being populated mostly by people who have a real interest in the subject...
  • Trite but true... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by mbrother ( 739193 ) <mbrother.uwyo@edu> on Wednesday March 24, 2004 @07:37PM (#8662093) Homepage
    Do what you love and the money will follow. While I think this is just an appropriate example of market forces at work, job markets can be hard to judge (I have degrees in engineering, physics, and astronomy and the job market was supposes to be great when I started, turned out not to be so much later). There will be jobs for the excellent and hard working in pretty much any field they enter. If you're just chasing the jobs, please rethink your major, unless you want six figures and a company car with a BA in philosophy. Really though, be a life-long learner and a good human being and you'll probably get by OK.
  • by amplt1337 ( 707922 ) on Wednesday March 24, 2004 @07:37PM (#8662097) Journal
    And people still have this freak perception that most college kids are puffed-up and dumb.

    We just have to acknowledge that the majority of the IT industry was in it because it was, well, the "it" industry of the '90s, with huge salaries and cool toys.

    Besides, it's the low-level support/code monkey jobs that freshmeat grads usually get hired for -- except these days those kids are hired in India, so people of my generation recognize that we'll never even get a toehold.
  • by ENOENT ( 25325 ) on Wednesday March 24, 2004 @07:40PM (#8662125) Homepage Journal
    When I'm the last person on Earth who know how to debug a C program on AIX, ALL SHALL BOW BEFORE ME!!!!

  • wonder why (Score:5, Insightful)

    by djupedal ( 584558 ) on Wednesday March 24, 2004 @07:40PM (#8662128)
    Undergraduates in U.S. universities are starting to abandon their studies in computer technology and engineering

    Employment Opportunity []

    Technical Support Assistant

    Education: Two Years of College, Associates Degree or Equivalent Experience

    Required Skills/Experience: Customer Service, Phone Etiquette, Basic HTML, Photoshop and/or similar graphics programs, must be comfortable with Internet Protocol and Web based Software Applications

    Compensation: $10.00/hr
    • Re:wonder why (Score:5, Interesting)

      by galgon ( 675813 ) on Wednesday March 24, 2004 @08:26PM (#8662582)
      It's funny, I graduate last year an Ivy League Institution with a degree CS and I would be more then happy to have that job. At least then I wouldn't have to be searching for a job in the retail sector. I have a $160,000 education and yet I can't even get a job selling computers at circuit city.
  • by the eric conspiracy ( 20178 ) on Wednesday March 24, 2004 @07:41PM (#8662137)
    Joe was an engineer. He worked hard, studied hard and took pride in his work. He was also faithful to his wife, raised two children to be solid members of the community and attended church every Sunday.

    Finally after a full life Joe died in his sleep one night.

    On awakening he found himself facing St. Peter at the Pearly Gates. Peter looks in his book, and finds that Joe is not in the Authorized list. He looks at Joe and says, sorry!, pulls the trapdoor lever and Joe starts falling. Joe yells "Wait there must be some Missstaaakeeee".

    A few hundred years later God is auditing the Big Book and finds that Joe should have been listed as Authorized. We, he goes on a rampage, thunder and lighting, assorted Vengeful God stuff. After calming down God picks up the cellphone and rings up the Devil.

    God: Hey Dev, remember Joe, that Engineer I sent you a few hundred years ago?

    Devil: Yeah, I sure do. I want to thank you for sending him down here. He's got the A/C fixed, and we now get broadband and digital cable. He's now working on beer-on-tap. Whatta guy!

    God: (Pissed Off) Hey! You have got to send him up here. He should have never been sent down to you. He belongs up here.

    Devil: Yeah Right. Finders Keepers. No way am I letting him go!

    God: (Really Pissed Off) I'LL SUE!!!

    Devil: (ROTFL) HA HA Where are you getting a lawyer HA HA.

    - -

    So that's where we are heading. A country of lawyers where the A/C and cable doesn't work. Not a pleasent prognosis.

  • by shemnon ( 77367 ) on Wednesday March 24, 2004 @07:43PM (#8662171) Journal
    I would have to echo the sentiment that this isn't as dire as it seems. I was in CS from 92-93, 95-96, and 98-00 (I have an alergic reaction to large amounts of unsecured debt) I noticed in the 98-00 timeframe that there were a lot of students in CS that plain old dind't belong there, and quite frankly would have (and for one I saw was) happier elsewhere.

    Seeing the dot com bubble and microsofts valuation many incoming studens thought that it was spelled $oftware and Computer $cience, when they are really interested in Bu$ine$$. I mean if you want money go to business school, you don't have to graduate. Then there is the "plug and chug" crowd can now see there is more stability in the Engineering disciplines. There is no drop from the hard sciences because "anything that needs to put the word science in it's name isn't a science". As for the others... well it's only a 19% drop.

    People who are truly passionate about computers programming, algorithms, languages, etc. will still do Computer Science, and in my last school stint it was a minority (as far as being passionate) in the overloaded senior level classes. The down side is there seems to be a strong gender correlation to being passionate about CS. For of the femenine persuasion when they are passionate about something it tends to be in the liberal arts/musical/medical side of things. (and when I say medical it's more the RN/NP side than the MD side: passionate != stupid WRT insurance liability).
  • by rwash ( 16296 ) on Wednesday March 24, 2004 @07:43PM (#8662176) Homepage
    I think the reason for the exodus of computer science isn't as much to do with the money as it does the challenge of the work. Bright people like interesting work. Being a code monkey gets old real quick. And most of the computer science programs out there are focusing too much on being a code monkey (or at least that's what the students want out of those programs).

    These bright people are realizing that computer science isn't the way to get into the interesting jobs. There were many really cool jobs out there during the dotcom boom. But people mistakenly thought that the cool jobs were had by the programmers. They didn't realize that the programmers were the factory workers of the current economy. The cool jobs were the people coming up with the new ideas, trying to make things work. Some of those people were programmers, but they didn't need to be and many weren't.

    People are realizing that code monkey does not necessarily mean a cool job, and as such are trying to get into more interesting professions. Now, code monkeys are definately needed, but that's what offshoring is for. But there are many routes to take that can lead to cool dotcom-like fun jobs that aren't programming, and many programming jobs that aren't fun.

    Having said that, I feel into the same trap. That's why now I'm currently in a CS PhD program, doing interesting work because I decided that being a code monkey would be boring in the long run.
  • Pros and Cons (Score:3, Insightful)

    by rusty_razor ( 635173 ) on Wednesday March 24, 2004 @07:44PM (#8662185)

    Personally, I think it's great. I'm an undergraduate in CS right now, and it's amazing how many people I encounter that know and care only a little about the field. I witness rampant academic dishonesty daily, and a general ``who cares'' attitude among my peers, save for a select few.

    I've met several people who rely on others excessively (through forums, or in person) to function as a computer scientist. It's troubling when you are asked to help someone with their software, only to discover horrible gaps in their basic CS skills. I've encountered the most awful design flaws in software, written by grad students! Imagine a large Java program, that could have been rather elegant (for Java) using proper OO design... except the program is written completely static! Or, for example, a large if-then-elseif block that looked like it came out of the BASIC days!

    Even worse, before I was asked to help, this individual wasted lots of other people's time requesting very basic code that anyone could figure out after spending a bit looking through the Java API. Developer forums can be an excellent resource, but they can also be abused, to the detriment of many helpful individuals.

    I honestly believe that the CS discipline is clogged with people who see only dollar signs, not hexadecimal.

    On the flipside, less CS enrollment may mean researchers have less options when selecting grad students. Given the large amount of current CS grads, I think it will be some time before there is any shortage of skilled research talent.

  • Current observations (Score:5, Informative)

    by JohnsonWax ( 195390 ) on Wednesday March 24, 2004 @07:48PM (#8662239)
    Not all engineering is suffering, but the computer and EE areas certainly are. Civil, chemical, biomedical, mechanical engineerings are strong and growing.

    I've talked to a number of executives of engineering firms and they indicate that offshoring is not really a major trend. Yes, it is impacting some areas very heavily such as support, but for programmers and engineers, it's a rather minor situation, and the good engineering/programming jobs are likely to always remain local to the company.

    The weak job situation for most programmers is not due to offshoring, but rather to simply a lack of jobs, and the fact that the peak of students entering computer majors was around 1999/2000, so they are graduating in highest numbers right now - there's simply more demand than supply. The Merc and other publications are hollaring 'offshore' at the top of their lungs, and unfortunately some people can only hear what they hear the loudest.
  • by tstoneman ( 589372 ) on Wednesday March 24, 2004 @07:52PM (#8662286)
    This flies directly in the face of comments by Carly Fiorina, Andy Grove, and other CEOs that
    outsourcing will end up helping this country by exporting the "menial" jobs out to 3rd world countries. In the same breath, they say that the US needs to invest more in high tech in order to maintain their competitive edge.

    Their comments are just bullshit, because as the US starts outsourcing their entry-level jobs to India, it leaves no jobs for graduating students. Why would a student pay $80k+ for a degree in which they need to compete against someone making $200/month?

    By outsourcing our entry and medium level jobs to 3rd world countries, it is simply compounding our high-tech problem by creating zero incentive for new students to pursue careers in high tech. Because there is no new blood entering these professions, more jobs and more experience is being put into the hands of these 3rd world countries, and countries like the US and Britain end up losing. It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, and then these CEOs turn around and say, "Well, we said that the US needed to invest more, but they didn't. And because they didn't, we're going to move all of our development to India." It's the fact that they care more about their bottom line over the health of their company and their countries that will cause this problem.

    This is a clear indication that the outsourcing strategy has already had a pronounced effect on the US, and is damaging to its competitiveness in high tech.

  • by craXORjack ( 726120 ) on Wednesday March 24, 2004 @07:56PM (#8662328)
    Ohio State's Zweben is optimistic about the continued need for technology graduates in the marketplace, and said the American university system offers unparalleled excellence at the graduate level.

    When I was in grad school most of the stipends and scholarships were being given to foreign students. It bothered me then and now that my tax money and my tuition money was being used to educate people who aren't Americans. I will admit that many of them worked very hard at studying though and made top grades but I honestly don't think they were any smarter than American kids. They just didn't have anything else to do. Being in a foreign, money and sex oriented culture what else could they do with their time? They were like Fez from the 70's Show.

    How much longer can grad school here stay 'excellent' if all the jobs go overseas? Not long I think. The high level tech jobs will follow and then the multi national corporations will make their donations to universities near their manufacturing and research facilities not way over here where education costs a fortune.

  • by Detritus ( 11846 ) on Wednesday March 24, 2004 @08:12PM (#8662466) Homepage
    If the job situation continues to deteriorate, the effects can be more than just getting rid of the dead wood. The field of Aerospace Engineering was nearly destroyed by the massive cutbacks in military and NASA spending during the 1970s. Everyone read stories in the newspaper about highly-skilled engineers driving cabs and losing their houses. The follow-on effects wiped out many academic programs. Most of the best students went to other fields where the job prospects were not so dismal. NASA now has a severe demographic problem with its workforce. Many of its best people have died or retired, or will do so in the near future.
  • by Blittzed ( 657028 ) on Wednesday March 24, 2004 @08:15PM (#8662492)
    I am a lecturer (what you would call a "professor" in the US) at an Australian University and enrolments in computer science at all Campsuses across the country are down here too. Some of the comments people are making here are very interesting, and it puts an interesting spin on things. Most of the faculty were asking the question "What are we doing wrong, and what can we do to get these students back?". When the real question should be "What can we do to improve our courses for the students that we do have now?".

    When the drop in enrolments first started to appear, it was shored up by running industry training courses, like MS and CISCO. This is all well and good, but these are training courses, not University subjects: they don't teach students to think and question. I am not having a go at this type of training, but saying that running it at a university level is inappropriate.

    I totally agree with the comments about the reduction being those who were only in it for the money. One of the units I teach contains, wait for it... actual science! This scares the crap out of some stuednts and they even ask "Why do we have to do this? When do we get to play with the toys?". They have no interest in learning how it works, they just want to be trained in how to do it. As an educator, it makes you fairly disheartened. Fortunately, there are still those students who are keen to learn and show an interest and ask questions, and with numbers reducing, these should be on the increase.

    The one good thing about numbers dropping off is that, as people have commented here, the ones we get in now should be more interested in learning, and we can get rid of the trend towards running training, and get back to educating people to be thinkers.

  • by Durandal64 ( 658649 ) on Wednesday March 24, 2004 @08:30PM (#8662614)
    There is a definite de-emphasis on math and science in American schools. In the name of bleeding-heart liberalism, everyone now has to take multiple hours of world culture classes, which, for those of us in technical (read: the difficult ones) majors, those takes up a lot of time that could otherwise be spent on real work, like programming, math and science homework. I don't oppose the idea of requiring American history, government and the like at American schools, but classes like "world music" shouldn't be general education requirements.
  • by nikko ( 158280 ) on Wednesday March 24, 2004 @09:48PM (#8663216)
    Wow, imagine that-- students making rational decisions. So of course policy makers should be worried.

    Let's see, you can:

    a) Work your ass off for 4-5 years in, what is usually, a very difficult academic program. Then you can, if you are super lucky, find an engineering job where your employers will work you to death. You will live under the cloud of being reminded that your salary is 5X higher than those equally talented people from 3rd world countries, any one of which could be brought in on a moments notice to occupy your chair (h1b, L1), should you stumble. Of course, since there is an near infinite supply of technical labor available to US companies, you will have zero salary mobility. Well, ok I'm exagerating, you won't have *zero* salary mobility-- you'll have some *nagative* salary mobility, which is what is currently happening to most of the engineers I know.

    As you get older, if you are stupid enought to not switch careers, your peers will not get older with you. You will constantly be surrounded by 25-30 year old 3rd world engineers, as management continuously rotates in "fresh blood". Better not even think about having a family and working sane hours. All of your peers will be virtual slaves (h1b and L1 visa holders) who are forced to work up to 80 hours/week without any extra compensation for the overtime. That's because non-resident "guest" workers wouldn't dare complain about any request made of them from management-- if they did, they would be on the first boat back to Katmandu!

    Then if you manage to survive to your mid-thirties as a practicing engineer, it's time to start thinking about a new career. Except for a handful of superstars, there is no such thing as a 40+ year old software engineer in the United States. You are regarded as a fossil by age 40. Just when your friends in other fields such as academia, law, medicine, business, are reaching their peak earnings and career potential, your career will be winding down. If you are lucky, you can maybe make the jump to management. However, you'll be at a competitive disadvantage against those who started earlier on the business track. In fact, those who skip the engineering altogether and go straight to business school are much more likely to get jobs managing engineers than engineers rising through the ranks. That's because US companies don't not require engineering degrees for the vast majority of their engineering management positions.

    b) You can go to medical/dental/law/business/plumbing school. You will not have to perpetually compete with 25 year olds from China. That's because all of these "professions" are protected by guild systems. How many doctors hop off a boat from Bangalore to immedidately start practicing medicine in the US? Precisely 0.0. That's because it's illegal to practice medicine, law, or plumbing in the US without the appropriate guild credentials and licensing. That's because these professions are protected by powerful political lobbies that would never allow their golden egg laying geese to be killed.

    In these professions you will have a *career*. There will be a recognizable career trajectory that can actually last past the age of 40! You can spend time with your family, have people work for you, have time to date.

    Tough choice.
  • by Overzeetop ( 214511 ) on Wednesday March 24, 2004 @09:58PM (#8663283) Journal
    If they say it isn't about the money...then it is.

  • by rice_burners_suck ( 243660 ) on Wednesday March 24, 2004 @10:56PM (#8663576)
    I hate to say this in this forum because I know that a lot of readers here are liberals, but some are so far left that they can't see straight anymore, so hopefully they'll read this differing conservative viewpoint and reconsider their position. After all, liberals like to advocate being tolerant of others' opinions, yet many tend to be quite intolerant when anyone disagrees with them. Ok, here goes:

    In a report by the AeA, they contend that American schools don't teach enough math and science anymore.

    In my opinion, schools have been placing too much emphasis on liberal social issues. For example, children are being taught gay issues on school time that could instead be spent teaching them how to succeed in life. (I won't say whether or not I am gay. It's none of your business.) I simply think that this subject is completely off topic in the academic environment.

    Schools need to get their act together. English class (or whatever language is spoken in your part of the world) should be about spelling, grammar, punctuation, proper use of a dictionary, etc. Currently, English class is an excuse to read and write about liberal social issues.

    The way math is taught should be overhauled, because too many students are turned off from it and grow up barely able to balance a checkbook. In fact, basic accounting, a subject that could be considered math, should probably be taught, because children are increasingly growing up very irresponsible financially, and getting into a lot of debt before they get their first "real" job.

    Sciences should also be a focus. Physics, chemistry, biology, space sciences, geology, and many other sciences should be taught. Keep kids in school for an additional hour if you need to. It'll keep them off of drugs, alcohol, cigarettes, sex, and other problems.

    An area that is currently lacking in public schools is business classes. You don't have to teach anything complicated. Just basic people skills, how to believe in yourself, how to get results. This will go extremely far in most children's futures.

    And MOST IMPORTANTLY, schools should offer art classes, auto shop, printing shop, wood shop, metal shop, sewing, acting, music, computer programming, sports, drama, computer animation, and any other "elective" that someone could dream of. (This is not an exhaustive list, only the first items that came to my mind.) And the BEST equipment and instructions, and plenty of time, should be provided for students. These are the subjects that let kids' imaginations grow. These are the subjects that get students interested in school and keep them interested in the boring academic crap. All you need to tell a kid who is an animation fanatic is that "all those other classes are what make you really good at animation." Even if they have to cut funding to the aforementioned boring stuff, and have 80 students in each English class, the auto shop should be better than Jesse James' wildest dreams. And *everyone*, not just property owners, should pay equally for educational taxes. The burden on property owners will be less, thereby causing rental prices to drop, while the revenue for schools will climb.

    Billions upon billions of dollars are allocated for the currently useless schools, and the administrators probably jack most of it. This money should be used for constructive purposes. If you disagree, then wait until Mexico gets its act together and people start sneaking the other way across the border.

    The liberals amongst you are probably horrified at this point.

  • Let's see.... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Greg_D ( 138979 ) on Wednesday March 24, 2004 @11:44PM (#8663926)
    Computer Science has more to do with mathematics than MIS. MIS students can't program worth a damn. 4 year degrees are supposed to take 4 years to complete....

    And people wonder why we're losing jobs to Indians. Look, I have a CS degree. I'm also a recruiter. I know both sides.

    The sad fact of the matter is that CS grads are not qualified for most positions and won't get more than a glance by most recruiters. Voila, in the real world, money is the bottom line, and I'm not going to make money off of a pimple faced geek who thinks that configuring Enlightenment to run transparent windows on a Linux box is the epitome of coolness.

    You want to get a job when you graduate? Prepare earlier. Get an internship. Do some real research. If you're looking to get a certification, save your money. Certs mean NOTHING without experience (although Oracle and Cisco certs can get your foot in the door). Learn how to write resumes and prepare for interviews. If you do all that, you might have a chance at landing a job.

    Even still, you'll be bringing a knife to a gunfight. I know PhDs who have gotten grants from NASA to develop algorithms who can't find work right now. Sooner or later, geeks will learn that the only reason they're employed is to facilitate business. Instead of getting that MS in CS, get an MBA. Pay to get trained by some of the corporations that produce the software that most companies use. SAP. Peoplesoft. Oracle. Webmethods. Lawson. JDEdwards. Manugistics. You've already spent thousands on a piece of paper that says you labored through a bunch of classes. Spend a few grand more and position yourself to make A LOT of money so that you can spend time doing what you like.

    Very few people get to write software from scratch nowadays. You'll be much happier in the long run if you get a job that pays well and is well respected than one that you think you'll like but gets you treated like a spare.

    Your life is what you make of it, but the world is what it is. Successful people make it work to their advantage.

    As for me, I'm working a day job making a nice living (and if you resent recruiters, you have no idea how risky the job is), and do some remote consulting from home on the weekends. Going back to school with a fat wallet in the fall to get an MBA/JD. I'll be much happier working 45 hours a week at 300 bucks an hour as a financial planner/estate planner while coding on the side than working 45 hours a week for someone else to maintain their code.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 25, 2004 @05:03AM (#8665386)
    Sure, outsourcing is not to save money. It's to gain access to better educated engineers. Yup. And, I have a bridge to sell you, too.

    OK, I'm in hardware, not software, so my experience may not be 100% typical for Slashdot readers. And in my field, it isn't India, but rather China and Taiwan where all the jobs are going.

    I work for a Fortune 100 corporation, whose celebrity CEO is a huge and very public advocate of offshore oursourcing. And, she's notorious for laying off people by the thousands.

    The last project I did (before quitting my division in disgust and completely changing job functions) was a design that I was instructed to outsource to China. I needed a staff of about 12 engineers. I was given only four and told to make do, without schedule or scope slip, and to use a Chinese outsource vendor in lieu of a more complete engineering staff. The corporation told me which exactly vendor to use. I had essentially no degrees of freedom.

    To cut a long story short, the program was a disaster. Almost every single task that the outsource vendor did, had to be re-done in house to get it done right. The outsource vendor was incompetent, dishonest, and outright unethical. Oh, and in case you're wondering: the outsource house was one of the big name-brand Chinese houses, not some fly by night operation.

    My tiny team pulled out all the stops, made unbeleivable efforts, sacrificing their private lives, and somehow managed to pull it off, with minimal schedule and scope slippage. They succeeded not because of the help they were getting from the outsource vendor, but rather despite the "help" they were getting.

    After the product was launched, it came time for management speechifying and self-congratulation, and what happened? Our mid-level managers declared the outsource model to be a huge success, thereby meeting their objectives and collecting their bonusses!

    My team dispursed to the four winds in dusgust, some leaving the company, some transferring to other job functions, but none ever willing to go through another similar program again.

    So, while this comment is admittedly based on a sample size of one, it's a pretty representative one -- big, famous silicon valley corporation using a well known, large name-brand outsource vendor to replace two-thirds of an R&D team.

    And in this instance, there is absolutely NO WAY it was done to gain access to better-educated engineers. The quality of the outsource engineers was pathetic. It was done to save money, plain and simple. I happen to beleive this case is typical of what's going on throughout the high tech industry. I know of many other examples that are just as clear cut, although once again I stress that I'm talking about Hardware/China, rather than Software/India.

    One more observation. The company DID save money, so in that sense, it WAS successful (for some narrow definition of the word). But only because of the behavior it elicited from the engineers on my team. I'd call it a triumph for short-term cost-saving without regard for long-term consequences. We bust our butts to help the company out of their bad management decision. Could this model produce such a "success" a second time? No way! You can only abuse people this way once. Businesses are trying to make this sort of practice S.O.P., but it won't work. Sooner or later, they'll have abused and burned out all of their best people, and then youy REALLY will have to depend on the Chinese outsource house. Then, we'll see how successful the model really is.
  • by theonetruekeebler ( 60888 ) on Thursday March 25, 2004 @09:04AM (#8666105) Homepage Journal

    After dropping out from college in 1990, I wound up with a computer job, then a better computer job, then an even better computer job, then, in 2000, a computer job with a startup that was so market-responsive that they realized that keeping programmers on staff was diverting money from their marketing budget, so they laid most of us off in mid-2001. By late 2001, nobody was hiring. In early 2002 I fled to Denver, took a job selling motorcycles, and got married. My spouse has convinced me that I should quit work and go to school full time; after all, you can't get hired anymore without a CS degree.

    Now it looks like the job's not going to be there anymore, degree or no. And you know what? I don't want the job anymore. I can't see myself being sixty years old and still trying to wrangle code into submission in the face of a customer's false requirements and artificial deadline. Oh, I wouldn't mind settling down as a system or database admin, but if I never wrote another line of C++, I'd be happy.

    So I want a job I can still do when I'm old, one where an analytical mind, good writing and oral presentation skills, and halfway-decent social skills are in demand. And since I'm sick and tired of typing IANAL on Slashdot, once I graduate, I'm taking my BS in CS and applying to law school. I'm already an anal-retentive twit; why not get paid for it?

    Working with computers has taught me how to design and manipulate complex systems of rules. What is the law but a complex set of rules to be navigated? What is a contract but a specification document?

    When you're in court, the scariest thing you can see at the opposition table is a calm old lawyer who looks like he's been sleeping well lately. I'm not twenty years old anymore, too stupid to value a good night's sleep. I'd rather be seventy and looking forward to half a day at the office than fifty and wondering how the hell I can get out of a career that burned me out two decades ago.

    I hope for your sake you didn't bother reading this. I respect programming, I really do. I can remember a day when I got a big woody at the chance to code something. Not anymore. Tastes change; passions change. And sometimes the way you find meaning in your work, well, that's got to change, too.

  • Try again... (Score:4, Informative)

    by LilMikey ( 615759 ) on Thursday March 25, 2004 @09:51AM (#8666344) Homepage
    I went to a top 50 college and majored in 'Mathematical Computer Science' getting a Math minor along the way... I'm still at the job I interned at during college -- and it's not because I like it. There are people I graduated with (2 years ago) that are still unemployed and many more that settled for webby, sysadminy scripting jobs. Not to say anything bad about those jobs however they don't exactly take advantage of a mathematical background.

    You can bitch all you want about these damn kids nowdays not getting their math and admittedly, there are CS programs that completely underexpose their students to math (to say nothing of non-applied math diciplines) but correlation != causation. The jobs aren't there for the appropriately trained.
  • by lorcha ( 464930 ) on Thursday March 25, 2004 @10:43AM (#8666793)
    American companies are outsourcing not because of cheap labor but because of the American school system not being up to snuff. In a report by the AeA, they contend that American schools don't teach enough math and science anymore."
    I have been on and seen a number of projects with an offshoring element and I can tell you that in all of those cases the offshoring was done for cheap labor, and the quality of the work produced by the offshore teams was invariably horseshit. At least it was cheap horseshit.


There is one way to find out if a man is honest -- ask him. If he says "Yes" you know he is crooked. -- Groucho Marx